Different types of website performance testing, Part 1: The basics

Posted by Load Impact on Sep 21, 2012

There are plenty of types of testing to keep track on out there, and it doesn’t make it easier that many companies are coming out with their own load testing names. In this series of articles, we will talk about several common types of performance tests that you can carry out on your website and how you can configure your test execution plan to carry out these tests. Note that most of these tips are catered for small and medium enterprises, and might not apply for larger companies.

The basics - What is a performance test, and why should I care?
Let's say you want to throw an open charity party, where anyone and everyone is invited. You want as many people to come, have a great time and hopefully donate some money in the process. You've spent weeks decorating the shop, preparing and sending all the invites and nudging people to spread the word. The response is phenomenal - everyone wants to come! But here's where your problems begin.

Because your gate is too small, your guests are stuck queuing at the front doors. No one was directed to specific parking places, and there just aren't enough staff to mop up the punch that keeps spilling on the floor. The music is deafening the guests in the concierge and one of the staff who is supposed to collect the donations called in sick and a replacement isn't available... The list goes on and on.

The party was a success, yes, but also a resounding failure. One third your guests left before they got to even hear about the charity. A second third felt that your services were both slow and unreliable and went home grumbling about it. The rest of the party had a ball, but could’ve had a better experience.

Sounds familiar? The same thing happens when you launch your website as well. Lots of work goes into sprucing up the decorations, creating advertising campaigns and pushing for your website to 'go viral'. When traffic floods in, however, many websites find that they aren't built for the load and end up failing when it is most vital.

What website performance testing does is that it simulates a party at your shop before the day of the party itself. This allows you to see if your gate (bandwidth) is too little, traffic direction (load balancing) issues are smooth, or if your customer service times (load times) are too long. By load testing, you can save yourself a lot of worry on the day of the party and give your customers a much better experience.

If you've never explored the possibilities of testing your website's performance before, the information might be overwhelming. To understand the whole process in detail, you will first need to learn about the different types of testing you can perform.

Some common types of performance tests are:
- Load tests
- Stress tests
- Endurance tests

Some articles might also talk about
- Configuration tests
- Failover tests
- Isolation tests
These terms serve more to be the goals of the test rather than the method of running the performance test itself.

In following weeks we will have a series of blog posts that will cover each type of performance test and lead you through a more thorough explanation of these load testing goals.

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