A number of companies are taking the hassle of analysing your Web site performance from the customer's point of view.Danny Bradbury reports.
No one likes a Web page that falls over, but very few people like to test software either. Code analysis and load testing can be tedious tasks, for which many development teams are not properly trained.
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A number of companies have launched online testing and performance monitoring services to try and overcome this problem and make it as easy as possible for companies to stop their Web applications from crashing.
One such company is ImagoQA, a UK-based software testing consultancy that has just rolled out two online testing services. Web site Workout and Web site Watchout are designed to handle the pre- and post-deployment periods of Web site development.
Workout is primarily a load testing service, which hits a Web site with queries to see how much it can stand. The Watchout service monitors the performance of an Internet site on a periodic basis. It will be particularly useful for analysing trends in Web site performance, says marketing director Colin Willes.
The company charges roughly £10,000 for the Workout service for a 500-user system, and then £2.50 per user up to 2,500 concurrent users.
Israeli software testing company Mercury Interactive has launched a similar service in the form of Topaz Activewatch, a hosted Web site performance and monitoring service based on its Topaz 2.0 Web application management solution.
A free three-month subscription to the service which will monitor your Web site is available. For the free subscription, register before 30 June at www.topazactivewatch. mercuryinteractive.com.
Good Web site testing isn't just about load balancing, however. Making sure that the code is robust will avoid visitors to the site experiencing user errors, which could be embarrassing for the company, or even pose a potential security risk.
Reasoning Software has just announced an online testing service, which checks out C++, Java and even Cobol code (the latter will be useful for checking enhancements to legacy systems that support a middle tier e-commerce application).
John Rodford, UK managing director for the company, explains that the current testing service is designed to inspect code for crash-causing defects. Customers submit their code on his Web site, where it is inspected against a predefined set of rules. A list of bugs is then returned in two or three days.
The company does not carry out testing for logical errors by using testing scripts, however. It concentrates purely on analysing the lines of code provided.
"Even with the best test data sets in the world, you won't test every data path," he says. "But if you inspect the software early on, you'll get the majority of the bugs in one fell swoop."
Other types of testing, including user acceptance testing and testing logical paths through the system, are a vital part of any software testing process. The company doesn't offer online testing services for other back end systems, such as SAP, which might also support a Web application at the data layer.
Rodford says that software testing becomes particularly important as Web sites change. One prevailing characteristic among transactional Internet applications is that new functionality is being added all the time to reflect changing business models.
"It's a good thing to re-test. When something is inserted, errors creep in," he says. "We offer customers a subscription service, where we inspect so many lines of code a month, or quarter. It's like a mobile phone contract."
Such testing services are invaluable, and will be useful for companies which do not have the internal resources to test applications in-house. Nevertheless, more extensive testing using data sets would be appropriate for any company that is 100% serious about its Internet business.