Everything You Need To Know About Stress Testing Your Software

Timothy Joseph
Timothy Joseph | May 25, 2021
Everything You Need To Know About Stress Testing Your Software

Stress testing is a type of testing that verifies the reliability and stability of software applications. The goal of this kind of testing is to measure the error handling capabilities of the software to ensure that it does not crash under extremely heavy load conditions.

Let us consider two scenarios where website traffic may increase:

  • During an online sale or holiday season, a website can experience a tremendous spike in online traffic.
  • When a blog site is mentioned by an influencer or news outlet, then the website can experience increased traffic.

It is imperative to stress test a website to ensure that it can accommodate spikes in traffic, as failure to do so will result in a loss in revenue and an inconsistent brand image.

To summarize, the following can be listed as some of the end goals of running a software stress test:

  • A stress test helps to analyze which type of user data (if any) is corrupted
  • The test helps to determine any triggers that signal risk
  • It helps to identify any hardware features that can affect software endurance
  • Stress test helps predict failures connected to high loads

Load Testing vs Stress Testing

Load testing and stress testing in software are both types of performance testing. In fact, QA teams examine similar performance behavior within the product by leveraging cloud and load testing and running stress test automation with stress testing tools.

However, it is important to understand the differences between these two categories as well. Let’s start by looking at the definition:

  • Load testing: Assesses software performance under expected loads, both during regular and peak conditions.
  • Stress testing: Assesses software performance beyond peak conditions to define the system’s load capacity.

While similar in nature, there are key factors that differentiate the two. This comparison chart highlights key distinctions between stress testing and load testing.

Validates performance of product under expected load conditions
Reviews system performance under loads beyond normal conditions
Ensure the application performs as defined in the service level agreement
Ensure possible system failures won’t result in security breaches, data leaks or other disastrous results
Load test software analyzes response time and the system’s breaking point
Stress test software analyzes error handling, security threats and memory leaks
The system’s breaking point
Beyond the system’s breaking point
Extended periods of time
Short periods of time
Running multiple projects from one server
DOS attacks, unpredicted outages

Types of Stress Testing

There are different types of stress testing methodologies that can be used within your development cycle. These include:

  • Distributed Stress Testing: All clients linked with the server are tested. The server distributes a set of stress tests to all server clients and tracks the status of each.
  • Application Stress Testing: This type of test detects defects related to network issues, performance bottlenecks and data blockages and locks.
  • Transactional Stress Testing: Tests take place on the transactions occurring between applications. This type of stress test helps refine and optimize the system.
  • Systemic Stress Testing: In this type of testing, multiple systems on one server are tested. QA testers can uncover issues where data from one software blocks another software.
  • Exploratory Stress Testing: Unusual parameters are tested here, including:
    • High number of concurrent users attempting to log into the app
    • If the product’s database shuts down when it is accessed from the front end
    • Large amounts of data is submitted into the database all at once

How To Do Stress Testing

We at QASource recommend following these steps to get your stress testing strategy on track:

  • Planning the Stress Test: Gather the system data, analyze the system and define the stress test goals.
  • Creating Automation Scripts: Write scripts for test automation and generate test data for each test scenario.
  • Executing Scripts: Run tests and store stress test results.
  • Analyzing Results: Review your test findings and identify any bottlenecks.
  • Tweaking and Optimization: Fine-tune your system by changing configurations and optimizing the code to meet desired benchmarks.

Examples of Real-World Stress Testing Scenarios

It’s hard to create strong stress tests without understanding real-world examples that can apply to your software product.

These real-world examples should provide you more clarity beyond a general stress testing definition -that way you know how to apply stress testing in software to your QA testing checklist.

  • Results on Education Websites: Peak load is often exceeded for academic websites whenever grades or application results are posted online, particularly on certain days of the year. Stress testing can find the breakpoint of the application, analyze its behavior and identify its recoverability in instances of crashing.
  • Product Hype for eCommerce Applications: Flash sales, new product releases, and sales-driven events - all these instances in eCommerce attract more users than peak periods within a short time frame to your software product. Knowing that your application can handle the spike in traffic and user activity is what stress testing is all about.
  • News Websites Following Breaking News: One viral story can crash a news site. An application that undergoes regular stress testing can be prepared for unpredictable moments of increased user activity within your system.

Recommended Tools for Stress Testing

A great place to start planning your stress tests is by reviewing these testing tools.

  • LoadRunner: As one of the industry leaders among performance testing tools, LoadRunner offers a free community version and supports 50 virtual users load tests.
  • Apache JMeter: Considered one of the most popular performance testing tools, Apache JMeter is an open-source tool that requires more attention when learning the tool in comparison to other free and paid testing tools.
  • NeoLoad: This paid tool features drag & drop, recording support of Selenium scripts and helps in faster load test script creation.

Advantages of Stress Testing

While there are key differences between load testing vs stress testing, it’s smart to include both approaches in your QA strategy. With a strong QA strategy, you can expect to see these advantages when stress testing:

  • You Prepare Your Team for Worst-Case Scenarios: Stress tests let you know which kinds of failures can cause the most damage to your system as well as those that are likely to happen within your application. This awareness increases your team’s focus on the planning phase so that your team knows what to do should these bad situations occur.
  • Maintain Project Stability: The goal of stress testing in software is to provide insights and warning signs that help check for (and protect your system from) potential memory leaks and common bugs. Developers can better protect software from bots, scripts and DOS-attacks after stress testing. Since stress tests uncover the system’s vulnerabilities, your team can strengthen your product’s security before deployment.
  • Contributes to Contingency Plans: Stress tests detect a wide range of issues, from deadlocks and synchronization bottlenecks to race attacks, data incoherence and concurrency issues. All this information provides a solid foundation for scalability and contingency plans. 
  • Identifies Application Recovery Under Stress: A system’s true behavior is exposed during stress testing, allowing insight into a variety of metrics tied to potential system damage, including:
    • Memory consumption
    • Processor utilization
    • Network usage
    • Disk utilization
    • Failed/succeeded transactions
    • Deadlocks
    • Contentions
    • Thread allocation

Are you looking for stress testing services but need help managing the process independently? Partner with a QA services company like QASource. Our team of testing experts specialize in a variety of automation testing services with years of experience performing stress testing for applications across domains. Let our experts guide your team through the process of implementing stress testing within your QA strategy so that your application always performs strongly under stress. Get a free quote today.


This publication is for informational purposes only, and nothing contained in it should be considered legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out of this information and encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.