A computer network refers to computing devices that are interconnected in a way that they can exchange information and resources. These devices in a network are bound by certain communications protocols while transmitting information through physical or wireless mediums. The building blocks of a network are nodes and links. Nodes are like check-points placed between connected systems. They can receive and deliver information. The link is the medium of connection between the nodes.
The point we are trying to make here is that a network is not a singular entity that exists on its own. On the contrary it is a combination of multiple factors and endpoints. There are a lot of things that can go wrong to impair a network’s performance. A network performance error can be caused by faulty hardware or abnormal usage patterns.
What is Network Testing?
The process in which a network’s performance is assessed using manual techniques and software technologies is called a network testing. Network testing takes into account a network’s strength, performance, quality of hardware, and security into account.
Why do you need Network Testing?
Networks are the foundation for everything digital be it online banking, communications, connected devices, or gaming. Having a network that malfunctions or performs at a lower than expected capacity can cause serious issues, especially to digital businesses.
Network that appear to function as expected may also have subtle bugs that need identification and resolution. These bugs can interfere with one application, or block the entire communication system from carrying the required load.
Network testing is necessary so that you can identify these bugs from time to time and fix them to prevent a network failure, or security issue. In fact, network performance tests are important not only for identifying bugs but also understanding the existing capacity of a network – load bearing capacity, how frequently the devices should reboot, security weaknesses.
Apart from all that, networks are dynamic. Thir components change so do their configurations. It is important to keep up with the evolution of the networks and hence, regular network performance tests are necessary.
How does a Network Performance Test Work?
The goal of a network test is to make a quantitative analysis of a computer network’s performance. The primary metrics tested in a network test are the uplink and downlink speed of a network. What does that mean?
Networks are used to transmit data between endpoints via nodes. The responsiveness of a network when an endpoint user is trying to communicate through it depends on the uplink and downlink speed.
The tester uploads and downloads a data object from the target network to measure certain metrics like download speed, throughput, and message delivery rates.
Common forms of network test include
- Download/upload speed test
- Penetration test (security)
- Network load test
Some of the metrics used to measure network performance include
- Network speed
- Download/upload speed
Things to know before Testing a Network
Networks are built differently for different purposes. It is essential that the tester knows what the network is meant to do before trying to quantify its performance. The following are the things you should know about a network.
- What is the network required to do?
- A tester needs a plan to determine whether the network does what it is supposed to do.
- The testers should know the end users and be able to mimic some end-user activities.
- The testers must have a plan to track the response of a network to their activities.
6 Types of Performance Testing
This is the process of measuring a network’s response time as the workload increases. The load can be interms of number of transactions or the number of users. The test works only if the workload is within the expected capacity of the network.
This form of testing is similar to load testing but the load is pushed beyond the usual working conditions. This test gives the network more transactions than it can handle and the goal is to measure at what point the network fails and also how it performs under pressure.
This is a form of stress testing where the workload is increased rapidly and repetitively for a short frame of time. This is to determine if the network can retain stability during a sudden spike. Just like stress testing, the workload is more than the regular expectation.
It tests how stable the network stays over an extended period with normal workloads.
It tests if the network can handle increasing workloads or dynamic resources. This is done by gradually increasing the workload over a period of time.
It tests the network against a data flooding event.
Similar tests are conducted to test the performance of software. The basic principles are the same for networks and software.
This post explains the mere basics of network testing, and there’s definitely much more to it. Nevertheless, this gives you a starting point if you are out to learn about network performance tests, why they are important, and how they are done.