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Load Testing for the Mobile Age

Photo by Jan Vašek. Courtesy of StockSnap.io

As we all know, load testing matters.

It’s one thing for an application to work for 10 customers, and it’s quite a different thing for it to perform well with 1,000.

What many companies aren’t aware of is that testing is important for more than just your on-premises applications.

The growth of cloud applications means you have to pay attention to performance even when you’re not hosting inside your firewall.

An even bigger issue that many people still haven’t recognized is the growth of application access via mobile devices: Smartphones and tablets.

Wireless Tests Differently than Wired

The wired world has been well understood for years. Load testing can incorporate estimates of latency for global testing because the knowledge of the internet improves the predictability of tests.

However, wireless access adds a new set of issues that many IT organizations haven’t considered. For instance, response through a busy cell tower in a downtown area could be much slower than access from a suburban location.

Multiple generations of mobile devices are in use, each capable of different access speeds and even weather can have an impact on performance.

Load Impact helps you by focusing on the critical issues in mobile performance:

  • Network Delay: How fast a single data packet can travel from A to B on the internet. Today, it is more or less dependent on the physical distance between the two machines communicating and the speed of light in a fiber optic cable
  • Network Bandwidth: How many bytes can be transferred each second between A and B on the Internet. This is dependent on the lowest available bandwidth on any physical link on the route between A and B. How much bandwidth is available on a physical link depends, in turn, on the transmission equipment used and how much other traffic is currently using the same link
  • Packet Loss: How large a percentage of transmitted packets get lost in transit. Congested physical links or routers may discard packets. Packet loss today is in most cases very low, but for radio links (mobile, WiFi) or for heavily congested links it can be substantial
  • Jitter: The variation in network delay. Some delay-sensitive applications have ways to work around situations where they encounter high network delay, but if jitter is high and it causes one packet to take 100 ms (for example) to travel from A to B while the next packet takes 10 ms, that makes life a lot harder for the application (in that example, packet #2 would arrive before packet #1)

Why does that matter?

Take, for instance, many of the new active graphics used on web pages. A change in latency – from 2ms (broadband) to 400ms (3G network) – can cause a page load time to go from 1 second to 30 seconds.

You need to be able to test how pages react under different scenarios to ensure that you respond to mobile users in a way that enhances their experience.

It’s not just Applications: Websites and Search

The user experience isn’t only an issue for your current customers. Internet searches matter and the better you can provide prospects with information the better you can fill your lead funnel. That means optimizing your web pages, not just for once they find you, but for search engines.

As mentioned in a Load Impact March blog post, Google is now using the speed of response for a web site in its search rankings. Load testing is critically important for companies who want a first-page ranking to drive a lot of visitor traffic. Along with a general position on web site speed, Google is paying attention to how well sites are optimized for smartphones and tablets.

Google’s Jerry Dischler, Vice President, Product Management, AdWords, pointed out that there are more Google searches on mobile devices than on standard computers in 10 countries, including the US. That’s one reason web searches from mobile devices now are ranked on adaptability for mobile, including performance.

People are using the web more and more to find information and they’re doing so while one the go. If you aren’t testing your web site’s performance in the wireless world, you’re likely missing out on business.

Integrated Load Testing

Notice the focus on mobile? Yes, it is very important, but that doesn’t mean hardwired connectivity is going away anytime soon. Every avenue of access can impact another.

For instance, if a smartphone has a poor connection to a database and has key information locked from access, how many other customers will be delayed while that single mobile user accomplishes a task?

You need to ensure that mobile and wired load testing is done together, to provide true load testing for the real world.

Summary

The balance of access to searches and website access is clearly tilting toward mobile customers.

Meanwhile, more and more applications are running on the same devices. Mobile testing must be incorporated into the development cycle in order to ensure that users, regardless of how they reach you, have good user experiences and so your own teams can do their jobs wherever they may be.

About the Author

David A. Teich is principal consultant at Teich Communications, a technology consulting and marketing services company. Teich has worked in the business of technology for more than three decades, and he has experience in marketing, sales, professional services, development and operations.

Through Teich Communications, Teich provides strategic marketing, product positioning and writing services designed to help small and midsize technology vendors better understand and communicate the fit between their products and market needs.

In addition to his industry experience, he has an undergraduate degree in business computing from Texas A&M University, a master's degree in computer science from Stanford University and an MBA in marketing from Pepperdine University.

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