What Is Performance Testing? (With Types and Importance)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published August 11, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Development teams can benefit from frequent performance testing to ensure that computer, software and network components are functioning correctly. Testing also ensures the quality of a finished software or application to help improve customer satisfaction. Understanding performance testing can help you and your development team enhance deliverables and resolve potential challenges quickly. In this article, we explain what performance testing is, why it's important and the steps in the testing process.

What is performance testing?

Performance testing is a technique that development teams can use to evaluate the speed, responsiveness and stability of computer networks, hardware, software programs and applications. It helps teams identify key problems with coding or hardware infrastructure and allows for a more accurate review process. Performance testing also creates firmer quality standards for final products and may reduce performance issues.

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Performance testing metrics

Development teams test their products against several metrics to produce accurate results, including:

  • Throughput: This refers to how much information a system processes over a certain period of time.

  • Memory: This is a system's available working storage space.

  • Bandwidth: This refers to the total volume of data that can move across a network.

  • Latency: This is the difference in time between a request and a response in a system.

Why is performance testing important?

Here are some key reasons teams use performance testing in the development process:

  • Reduce setbacks: Performance testing helps teams identify errors before they release a final product, which can help reduce setbacks, product recalls and costs.

  • Create quality standards: Performance testing helps teams determine the minimum quality standards of individual projects. It can also help establish universal quality standards for businesses or teams.

  • Drive innovation: Performance testing identifies how teams can improve the functionality of software or hardware. This allows teams to learn about market standards and how a product should function.

  • Measure stability: Development teams use performance testing to measure the stability of a program or device under peak conditions, establishing a benchmark for further testing and the limits of a product.

Types of performance testing

There are several types of performance testing, depending on project and system specifications. Here are six common types of performance testing to consider using:

Load testing

Load testing is a measure of a system's response to an increase in its workload over time. For example, if a new mobile application begins with 100 users and gains 1,000 users over time, the system might experience a tenfold increase in its workload. Testing for such conditions can help developers understand how the system performs with a greater or lesser workload and identify potential challenges to resolve.

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Endurance testing

Endurance testing, or soak testing, is a measure of a system's ability to continue operating effectively with a consistent workload. Endurance testing is important because developers might need to change a system before its release to ensure it meets customers' expectations. For example, if customers expect their systems to operate for several hours at a time with a 75% workload, the development team might test the system continuously and improve it until it reaches the customer threshold.

Spike testing

Spike testing is a measure of a system's response to a sudden change in workload, such as an increase in users, traffic or processing tasks. A sudden increase in traffic might require the development team to increase system bandwidth to meet demand without additional downtime. Testing for these conditions helps the developers identify parts of a system that might respond negatively to a spike in workload, which allows them to change those components to meet potential demands.

Stress testing

Stress testing is a measure of a system's performance under abnormal working conditions, such as a decrease in power or connectivity. Stress testing helps developers determine the limits and potential strengths of a system. Development teams can use that information to inform the customer of expected limitations and to further develop any areas of the system that may perform less effectively under abnormal conditions.

Scalability testing

Scalability testing is a measure of a system's ability to scale, or grow and meet new demand. Developers monitor a system's performance during a gradual increase in workload, traffic or network activity to determine if additional development can help the system scale more effectively. As the system grows, its features and core functionality might change, so developers need to determine how scaling affects each system component.

Volume testing

Volume testing is a measure of data volume, or how much data a system can process. Developers often perform volume testing by either gradually increasing the data volume for a system or adding a large volume of data simultaneously. The development team measures the system's response to data and how fast it processes each batch of data to determine the standard amount of volume the system can handle while operating efficiently.

Steps of the performance testing process

The performance testing process comprises the following five steps:

1. Identify the test environment

Consider the type of test environment you can use to create a safe test with integrity. This might include determining the type of test you want to perform, what tools you'll use and who'll participate in the test. For example, if you want to perform a stress test, you might need to choose an environment with tools or equipment that can replicate stress on the system in order to get accurate results.

2. Determine performance criteria

Consider what metrics you want to track during the test, what results a successful test should produce and what results to expect from a failed test. Your criteria should typically match your initial test goals. For example, if you're performing a spike test, determine what your base workload is, how much of a spike you want to produce and how you want to measure the system's response to determine its performance.

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3. Set up the performance test

Setting up the performance test involves gathering materials, creating a plan and notifying the test participants of the date and time of the test. For example, if you want to test software for a sudden increase in users, gather the necessary resources to create an environment that replicates that sudden increase. You can also plan how you'll use the results of the test for further product development.

4. Conduct the test

Depending on your testing needs and parameters, conduct one or several tests and write down your test results. For example, if you're conducting a stress test, you can take notes at each new stress interval to document how the system responds to the increasing workload. You may also consider including other members of the development team to make their own observations for comparison in post-testing.

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5. Analyze results and determine retesting

Once you've conducted your test, you can analyze the results and determine whether your test is successful and aligns with your parameters. You can also determine if there are areas you need to test again in order to achieve more results. For example, if your bandwidth test proves your system can handle standard traffic, consider retesting at higher traffic to determine how the system responds. You can then compare those results with the original test so you have more data.

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