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Thorough testing of both functional and non-functional aspects of an application has become an essential step in the software development process, and ensures that users get the best version of your product. The software development landscape is moving at a fast pace, the competition is fierce, so a business simply can’t afford to offer a low-quality product.

Like load testing, volume testing is a non-functional type of performance testing allowing you to determine application performance when exposed to a large amount of data or when many people are using it simultaneously. This type of testing is a critical part of avoiding issues under load, like slowdowns or crashes.

This post covers the importance of volume testing and how it fits into your overall software testing strategy, as well as what a volume testing plan includes and how you can prepare your application for it.

Why Do You Need Volume Testing?

Volume testing—also known as flood testing—examines the stability and response time of a system by transferring huge volumes of data, and evaluates a variety of different system components like databases, software, etc.

This helps you determine if a system can handle existing and anticipated data volumes, allowing you to:

Determine your system’s capacity

With volume testing, you can estimate the amount of data your system can handle before it crashes. Being aware of your system’s capacity helps you create scalability plans with accuracy, as you’re now able to make informed decisions rather than educated guesses.

By simulating large amounts of data and processing demands, you’re provided with a much more realistic insight into how the performance of your system.

Identify weak spots in your system

Volume testing pushes your system’s components to their limits and will help identify potential bottlenecks and vulnerabilities in your system. This can be anything from hardware constraints, inadequate memory management, poor database design, etc.

Whatever the case may be, volume testing helps you pinpoint these weak spots during development, allowing you to correct them and prevent them from affecting the user experience.

Test your system’s response time

Volume tests help you maintain a high performance level by keeping your system’s response time within an acceptable limit, despite a possible increased data load.

Numerous studies have shown that users are inclined to click away after just a few seconds, clearly showing the importance of maintaining quick response times.

Prevent data loss

Volume testing is an efficient way of assessing the risk of data loss during high-volume scenarios, either revealing areas where resiliency can be improved, or areas where existing plans need optimization like your data backups.

Data loss can have significant consequences ranging from bad user experience and lost revenue, to regulatory issues.

Develop scalability plans

Volume tests provide valuable information to develop the most suitable scalability plan for your system. They can help determine, for example, whether scaling up is the way to go or if scaling out is a more appropriate strategy for your needs.

Being able to scale quickly and efficiently is important not just for the user experience, but also for the business as poor scaling can result in lost data, and as described above, this can result in lost revenue.

Identify load issues

Understanding how your system behaves with increased workloads will help mitigate system failures and high response time issues before they reach production. Organizations can increase data storage or scale the database to avoid reaching the set limit, therefore managing the data loads more effectively.

Once these issues have been identified, you can work on resolving them through optimizations like resource allocations or a system redesign.

Aside from the above benefits, volume testing—like most other performance tests—can be implemented in a continuous manner, ensuring all the above benefits are present throughout the software development process.

What Is the Role of Volume Tests in Software Testing?

From the previous section it should be clear how volume tests are useful, but where do they fit into the software testing landscape as a whole? The purpose of software testing is relatively simple but extremely important during a software development life cycle (SDLC), allowing you to detect issues that could be detrimental to the quality of your software and addressing them in a timely and efficient manner.

Software testing consists of multiple levels of testing to ensure high quality before a product is released to end-users, with one of these being the system testing level where it’s determined whether the fully integrated application meets the functional and non-functional software specifications.

A subtype of system testing is performance testing, and its role is to evaluate and monitor how the system performs under normal or high-pressure conditions. With performance testing, you aim to detect inefficiencies that can significantly affect the overall performance of your application. Performance testing, in turn, includes a wide variety of testing types, such as volume and load testing. These two types are often confused, but each has a different approach to performance testing and is designed for different use cases.

Volume Testing in the Real World

Although running volume tests isn’t necessary for low-traffic tools, it’s valuable for applications intended to be publicly accessible and expected to receive large amounts of traffic.

Imagine having an e-commerce site with millions of products and you offer an eighty percent discount for all purchases made in the next two days—you’ll want to first make sure that your system can handle the expected increase in traffic.

When you perform tests with the projected, high-volume data, you can adjust your infrastructure capacity to efficiently handle growth, and by extension, you’ll be able to detect warning signs and understand how your system behaves under extreme conditions. Then, you can develop a plan to prevent any vulnerabilities from reaching your users in the production stage.

To make sure the test data is proving useful and realistic, you’ll need to consider tools like traffic replay as a way of capturing data from your production environment.

What To Monitor in a Testing Plan?

The volume testing plan must be created in detail and designed to be as close to the live environment conditions as possible. To achieve this, you should create test cases that cover all the scenarios and use data that accurately simulate the real-life data your application will have to handle.

Here are some of the key metrics you should monitor when conducting volume testing:

Data loss

One of the most important things during volume testing is to check for data loss. Data loss means that data has been damaged or lost, and as a result, it may be unavailable when you request it. By performing volume testing, you can verify that even as your system and database face an increased amount of data, you won’t experience loss. Furthermore, you can confirm that data is appropriately stored in the database and detect cases where data is overwritten without prior notice.

Response time

Volume testing will provide insights into your system’s performance. No matter how much pressure an application is under, it must maintain a high response time level, and exceeding a certain threshold should trigger a system design reevaluation.

Processing time

Having huge amounts of data will consume system bandwidth and impact processing time for other users subsequently leading to a dissatisfying user experience.

Warning signs and risks

Again, one of the goals of volume testing is to analyze how your system responds to high-data volumes and proactively detect signs, like lagging, for example, that could indicate possible downtimes and system failures. Identifying these areas early will give you the opportunity to address any weak spots before they turn into something significant.

How Can You Prepare For Volume Testing?

The first step toward volume testing is to understand your environment by answering questions like:

  • What tools are you planning to use?
  • What is the state of your test and product environment?
  • Under what conditions are you going to run your tests?
  • What database is your system using?

Knowing the answers to these questions will help you create the most appropriate tests for your situation.

The next step is to design test cases that capture your desired metrics while also considering any constraints. During this step, you’ll identify different user scenarios and gather data to simulate real-life conditions, as well as define your metrics. You’ll need to ensure that your test environment is set up properly and ready to go, that your tools are configured correctly and resources are organized.

Now it’s time to run your tests and get your results back. You’ll be able to analyze your findings and make adjustments to your application based on them. Then, you can restart the process to verify whether the applied changes have improved your system’s performance.

The Importance of Volume Testing

Data quantity plays a vital role in any system. Volume testing is used to detect risks like data loss and slow response times that might lead to system failures and a poor user experience. These risks might occur when your system deals with—or is expected to deal with—large amounts of data.

Verifying the load capacity of your application is critical before you release your product, or when you need to scale it up in real time, which is exactly what volume testing helps with. Although volume testing is a time-consuming and complex process, the benefits will often outweigh the challenges. That said, there’s reason to consider implementing concepts to reduce the amount of, or size, of the challenges, like traffic replay.