The SaaS model has enjoyed continued growth and popularity over the years for a variety of reasons. SaaS solutions are easy to use, easy to scale, and always available. Consumers expect a lot when they buy into a SaaS solution. Competition is fierce, so not only must the core service be solid, but users also expect sleek functionality, around-the-clock availability, and regular updates. Many consumers integrate SaaS solutions into their business workflows, so security is also a major concern for many consumers. These issues put a lot of pressure on SaaS developers to make sure they have a thorough and effective testing process.
The SaaS Model
There are a lot of good reasons to favor a SaaS model, but there are also some issues that SaaS developers struggle with. 30% of SaaS providers reported that they were dissatisfied with their solution’s ROI due to high customer churn rates. Onboarding new customers is a lot easier with a SaaS model thanks to the ease of accessibility and the lack of a need for an on-premises installation or update procedures. However, those same factors also make it easy to lose customers – if a SaaS solution falls below expectations, there is little to keep paying customers around. Developers must ensure their software is reliable, consistent, secure, and functional at all times. This means having a rock-solid testing procedure that is tailored to the SaaS model.
What Needs to be Tested for SaaS Applications
Although many traditional software testing methodologies apply to SaaS apps, they also come with their own unique challenges. SaaS developers need to embrace continuous testing alongside continuous development in order to keep pace. Relegating testing to the end of a sprint simply does not work when your product is always live and constantly being developed. SaaS customers expect bugs to be fixed in hours, not days. With high customer churn rates, developers need to be proactive about how they approach testing to avoid customers from looking elsewhere.
There are several types of testing that should be applied to SaaS solutions, which include but are not limited to:
- Functionality testing – This involves verifying that your app works as it is intended. This includes cross-browser compatibility testing, regression testing, and reliability testing.
- Performance testing – Validating that your app can support the required number of simultaneous users. This also involves verifying factors such as software response time, CPU utilization, and memory consumption.
- External API testing – In the likely event your app consumes external APIs, you must verify the correctness of input and output parameters for API calls and gracefully handle errors and exceptions.
- Security testing – Multi-tenant apps require extensive role-based access verification to ensure that sensitive business data is only made available to the appropriate users.
SaaS Testing Implementation & Best Practices
Test cycles need to be very short for SaaS apps due to the rapid pace of development and expected turn-around on defects. The answer to this lies in smaller, partially automated test cycles with a shift-left approach to testing. Testing should be continuous in a SaaS development environment, as running monolithic test suites against many small, rapid changes is untenable. How you split test suites into smaller chunks depends on your approach – for example, testing all payment gateways together or testing all checkout components together.
Testing earlier in the development cycle enables developers to get feedback and fix bugs sooner. Running an entire test suite against each commit is impractical due to speed constraints, so testers need to be smarter about what gets tested. Simply tasking testers with writing test cases is inefficient and time-consuming. A risk-based, data-driven approach to testing based on user behavior analysis can help highlight the most critical features to your software and where defects are most likely to cause serious repercussions, such as data leaks. This helps testers to focus their energy on the most business-critical areas of your app.
Service virtualization simulates the behavior of components that are otherwise difficult to properly replicate in a testing environment. This is particularly useful for SaaS apps that often make use of cloud-based services and external APIs. Using service virtualization allows testers to emulate these components and test how they will interact with other components without the need for access to the live service – something fundamental in SaaS apps that utilize lots of micro-services or external APIs to import and integrate customer data from outside sources.
Virtualization can also help with creating a staging environment that faithfully mimics the live environment. This is particularly important for performance and load testing, as it allows you to test your SaaS app against both normal and heavy, simulated traffic conditions. Mismatches between staging and production environments can lead to issues falling through cracks that are difficult to spot until it is too late.