All websites are vulnerable to crashing. You need to look no further than several recent instances in which major company websites have crashed because of high traffic peaks.

  • Target’s website crashed several times as the result of its exclusive, limited-time offering of its Missoni for Target collection
  • Apple’s website crashed due to the high volume of traffic surrounding the iPhone 4S release announcement.
  • Bank of America’s homepage and online banking experienced problems the day after the company said it would start charging a $5 monthly fee for customers who make debit card purchases.

These recent examples demonstrate the need for load testing. Load testing ensures that people using your web site can successfully access the pages and complete whatever kind of transaction they need, regardless of the number of people on the site. There are two important points to make regarding this view of load testing.

  1. What matters most is the customer experience — not what data centers see. This is because customers are geographically dispersed outside data centers, and when they use a computer or other device to access your web site, it introduces additional layers of complexity for the applications to be displayed on your customer’s browser, and for them to send back information or requests.
  2. Customer expectations of a web site do not change during peak usage times — which might occur because of seasonal or event-driven traffic — or during infrastructure changes.

Understanding the Three Types of Load Testing

There are three types of load testing currently available. We refer to them as load testing 1.0, load testing 1.5 and load testing 2.0.

  1. Load testing 1.0 is primarily a legacy method of testing applications inside the firewall. It is designed to tell you about your internal hardware and application performance — how much load can be put on our infrastructure — but it doesn’t tell you anything about the end user experience.
  2. Load testing 1.5 uses pretty much the same set of tools as 1.0, but now we put those tools in the cloud and run them from there. This begins to provide a better view. It is also a great way to reduce costs, and you can start testing beyond the fire wall. But it still doesn’t tell you what the end user will experience.
  3. Load testing 2.0 solutions look at the entire web application delivery chain from the outside in; that is, from the browser back to the data center. The approach looks at how both your infrastructure and end-user experience scales with increased load before you launch new applications, make infrastructure changes or experience a spike in traffic.

Compared to setting up and staffing Load Testing 1.0 test labs, new Load Testing 2.0 solutions are significantly more affordable and cost-effective. Because Load Test 2.0 solutions leverage elastic cloud computing, you can get whatever size test whenever you need it without having to build, staff, or operate a large testing lab.

Load testing is really just a piece of the overall puzzle of trying to get a successful application out to your end users.  At the end of the day, the customer perspective is the goal – build your test from your customer’s point of view.

Read more information on web load testing.