Software Testing: A Never-Ending Adventure
Author: Kostas Papanikolaou
Software Testing: A Never-Ending Adventure
Testing a product, system, or service, is one of the most integral aspects of its development and publishing. If proper testing is not conducted, serious issues might arise, that may lead to monetary or even operation problems. This can lead to disastrous results for the said product, system, or service. When talking about Software Testing, all of the aforementioned types of offerings are included. Products, systems, and services in the digital era, rely on software. Imagine faulty software implemented on an aircraft. One or more computers handling sensitive information such as payment details and personal data. In the first case, we are talking about human lives, while in the second case, we are talking about a data breach and possible monetary distraction.
Software Testing has several different types, and certain principles characterize it:
Software Testing is potentially infinite since all testing is a sampling process. For every non-trivial product, there is an unimaginable number of parameters with a great number of possible values. How does one know they are testing the important values? Unfortunately, we are not able to test everything. Even when it comes to Software Testing, there are unpredictable events that might lead to exploiting an unknown bug or weakness.
A few things we know that Software Testing isn’t, are:
- A bringer of quality increase
- Fixed and Unimaginative
- Vital for Project Success
The more complex is a software, the more complex the process of testing it becomes. Moreover, the quality of the software is not increased when testing is conducted. Testing is essentially never finished since the “perfect” software has not been developed. Roughly put, in technology anything and everything can be exploited by something new.
Types of Software Testing
There are several types of Software Testing, each one serving a different purpose. If we attempted a literal, definitive listing of tests, we would have to write entire books. There are more than 100 types of Software Testing available. Each new possibility of an exploit in a software, sets the foundations for a new type of testing to be developed. However, some types of Software Testing are considered quite important. They have been around for quite some time, being the failsafe for millions of applications. We will take a quick look at those and what they offer:
These are low-level tests, conducted close to the source of an application. They test individual methods and functions of the classes, components, or modules used by software. Unit tests are in general cheap to automate. They can be run very quickly by a continuous integration server.
Making sure that the different modules/services used by an application work well together are vital for software. Integration tests verify that by testing several aspects. They test the interaction with the database or check that microservices communicate properly with each other.
This is where Software Testing becomes part of the business world. Functional tests are the ones that focus on the business end of an application. They test the requirements and verify the output of an action. However, they do not check intermediate states of the system when being performed. Functional and integration tests are often mixed-up. The difference lies in the fact that a functional test would expect to get a specific value from the database as defined by the product (i.e. software) requirements. Integration tests are there to verify that the user can query the database.
The more important something is, the more expensive it gets, usually. End-to-end testing is quite expensive to perform and can be hard to maintain. However, it is vital for any application, since it replicates a user’s behavior with the software. That way, it verifies that various flows work as they should. This can be as simple as loading a web page or logging in. End-to-end tests may also include more complex scenarios, like online payments, and more. Usually, companies have a small number of end-to-end tests automated. They rely more on cheaper types of testing like unit and integration, to discover possible breaking changes in their software.
Similar to functional tests, acceptance tests are used to verify that software satisfies the business requirement set. Acceptance testing requires the entire application to be active, and they replicate user behaviors like end-to-end tests. However, acceptance tests go deeper and measure the performance of the application. They reject changes if certain goals have not been met.
That type of test is pretty much self-explanatory. Performance testing has been created to test the behavior of software when it is under significant load. Performance tests help understand the stability, availability, and reliability of an application. Quite high in cost both to implement and run, they are not used often. However, their results allow users to understand whether an application will be degraded or not, should new changes happen. An example of performance testing includes observing response times when executing a high number of requests.
The main goal of smoke tests is to ensure that the main features of an application are working as they should. Smoke testing consists of basic tests that check basic functions. They are usually used after a new build of the application or after deployment. In the first case, they help decide if more complex tests can be conducted. In the second case, smoke tests ensure that the application runs properly after deployment.
Software Testing, as noted in the introduction of this article, is vital. It is the foundation of all applications and software ever made, and ever to be made. Different types of tests allow developers to ensure that their applications will have the results they were built to have. They also reassure businesses and organizations using said applications that they will not encounter issues that are covered by the available knowledge of software development, and software protection.
As we also mentioned above, new exploits for software and applications are found each day. These are not necessarily found through malicious activities. Developers all over the world are testing their software and applications, in an attempt to improve it. They try to strengthen its defenses against exploits and its abilities to handle huge workloads and other bugs that might occur. This process is sometimes called patching. During patching, a software developer finds errors within their software/application. They then release fixes or even new versions of it, which resolve these issues. Fixes and new versions are the direct results of Software Testing. They not only allow applications to run better, faster, and more efficiently. They also make the digital world a safer place for everyone. Software Testing is one of the lines of defense against fraud, accidents, data breaches, and more problems.