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What is Load Testing?

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When your software development project is nearing completion, there’s one test that’s essential to understanding its readiness for deployment: load testing. This type of performance testing allows you to determine how your web application will behave during normal and peak load conditions, as well as its breaking point (should it occur below the peak load condition). At its core, load testing is used to confirm that your web application meets your intended performance goals or objectives, which are frequently identified in a service level agreement (SLA).

More users than ever before are relying on web applications to access products or services, load testing is critical in validating that your application can function properly during realistic load scenarios. Not only does load testing mitigate the risk of your software failing, but it also mitigates the risk of your users becoming frustrated with application downtime and abandoning it altogether—which could affect your company’s bottom line.

If you’re unfamiliar with load testing or getting ready to perform your first one, this guide is here to help. Below, we will break down just how load testing works, as well as how you can successfully perform a load test and different load testing tools to consider.

Load Testing

How does load testing work?

Through specialized testing software, load testing places a simulated “load” or demand on your web application to ensure it remains stable during operation. During a load test, testing software will measure the capacity of your web application via transaction response times. If your app features extended response times or becomes unstable at a certain level of simulated traffic, your software will have likely reached its peak operating capacity—which means a solution to this software bottleneck needs to be addressed and implemented.

With load testing, development teams can easily measure and analyze things like:

  • Throughout rates, especially those required to support peak load conditions.
  • Resource utilization levels.
  • Hardware environment performance, such as CPU and RAM.
  • Load balancer performance.
  • Concurrency issues.
  • Software functionality errors under different levels of load.
  • Software design flaws.
  • How many users the application can handle before breaking.

Load testing helps developers identify issues like system lag, slow page load times, or crashes when different levels of traffic are accessing the application during production rather than post-launch. A load testing example would be a tax preparation company evaluating their web application load performance prior to peak income tax filing season and the traffic spikes it causes.

How do you perform a load test?

Performing a load test starts with identifying your web application objectives, as well as selecting a load testing tool that best suits your needs. Below, we will break down the steps you should follow to successfully incorporate load testing into your performance testing initiatives:

  1. Identify web application objectives: As the first step in the load testing process, it’s important to identify the anticipated scope and volume your web application will have. Ask yourself what critical functionalities should be tested during production, such as response times, resource utilization levels, and maximum user load. This will help you create clear guidelines that will inform the testing process.
  2. Outline user journeys: During this step, it’s important to outline how your users interact with or navigate through your web application. If applicable, lean on monitoring data from any application performance monitoring tools (APMs) your organization might use. This will help you focus on key application processes and performance metrics during your tests.
  3. Select a load testing tool: Be sure to choose a load testing tool that is easy to use and scale, provides accurate results, and seamlessly integrates with other tools your organization uses. While there are several load testing tools on the market, OpenText™ Performance Engineering supports load testing for the widest range of protocols, technologies, and application environments, as well as allows high-scale tests to run using minimal hardware.

Load testing best practices

Once you have your load testing tool selected, you can begin the actual testing process. A few of the most important load testing best practices to consider include:

  • Consider the end-user experience every step of the way: This means you should create realistic test cases or scenarios (both positive and negative) based on different deployments, browsers, and devices. Also, remember that real end-users are oftentimes unpredictable, so try to keep variability in mind when setting up your load tests.
  • Establish realistic benchmarks: Run initial tests to establish accurate performance benchmarks. You can also leverage data you already have in your APMs to establish benchmarks, such as user-driven data like browsers and devices or system-based data like Time to First Byte (TTFB). If certain app functionalities deviate from their benchmarks, you will have a better idea of what areas of code developers need to focus on.
  • Run load tests early and regularly: Running load tests early and regularly—rather than waiting until your software development project is nearly complete—can help developers source and fix coding issues quickly throughout the entire web application production lifecycle.

Load testing vs. stress testing

Load testing and stress testing are part of the software performance testing process—however, each one focuses on different areas of web application performance. While load testing is used to determine how your app will behave during normal and peak load conditions, stress testing is used to determine how your app behaves beyond normal or peak load conditions, as well as how it responds when it returns to a normal state.

Easily deploy load testing with the LoadRunner Family

For co-located testing teams, use OpenText™ LoadRunner™ Professional. It simplifies load testing and can help identify anomalies faster. For large-scale load testing, we offer OpenText™ LoadRunner™ Enterprise—which allows globally distributed development teams to collaborate on load performance testing from a centralized dashboard. In addition, we also provide OpenText™ LoadRunner™ Cloud—a highly scalable cloud-based load testing platform that eliminates the need to deploy and manage physical infrastructure—and OpenText™ LoadRunner™ Developer, which allows developers and development testers to embrace shift-left performance testing.

Learn how Performance Engineering products can benefit your performance testing process today.