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Why you need to load test your website

Jen A. Miller | June 19, 2014
There are multiple approaches to load testing your website, but one thing is certain: Organizations that fail to see how their sites will handle sudden surges in traffic do so at their own risk.

If you want to make sure your company's website is ready for a large dose of visitors - right at launch, during a registration period, or just at times when you expect more traffic than usual - then proper load testing will make sure your site keeps operating smoothly.

Load testing is the practice of bombarding your website with traffic to make sure it will stay up and running at a time when a lot of visitors will be hitting the site. It's like a stress test. If your website fails, you can make adjustments to make sure that failure isn't public, or you can bulk up your servers to prepare for the next time you expect a shot of traffic.

Load testing matters because any website failure is a bad thing - especially when it happens at the exact moment that a lot of people try to access your site at the same time. Examples abound, including crashes during Chicago Marathon registration in 2013 and, this year, during live streaming of the Academy Awards on ABC and True Detective on HBO.

These instances cause public relations nightmares. The Chicago Marathon even fired the firm that was running its race registration at the time of its crash.

Remember, Load Testing Predates the Internet
Firms used load testing even before the Internet became an everyday part of our lives, says Andy Podgurski, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the Case School of Engineering at Case Western Reserve University. In fact, it was considered good practice for telecommunications and other systems, he says," because programmers and analysts often underestimate the loads that the system will have to handle in the future."

Load testing came to the Internet almost as soon as it entered the public sphere. Podgurski recalls IBM commercials of the late 1990s and early 2000s mocking "visually attractive ecommerce sites that generated a lot of customer interest but couldn't handle the transaction load and so lost business."

The same is true today, albeit without the mocking commercials. Alon Girmonsky, CEO and Founder of Blaze Meter, a load testing cloud service that can test up to 1 million concurrent users at a time, says that retail makes up a significant sector of its clientele. Retailers use load testing to make sure that their websites and mobile sites can handle holiday shopping on days like Memorial Day or Black Friday.

"Every month, you have something. Load testing can be used to validate a certain event, a sales event or anything you do on your website," he says.

"Load testing is part of the general term of performance," Girmonsky adds. "It's the ability to test your back end and make sure that, whatever you do, whatever you develop, all that money you invest, it will not fail when you need it the most."


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