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Why Test in the Cloud?

The benefits a cloud-based approach brings are plentiful and are particularly pertinent for QA teams

Cloud services have really captured the imagination. According to a Gartner survey 71% of organizations have adopted SaaS (Software as a Service) within the last three years. Quality Assurance teams, however, seem to have missed the boat, barely leveraging the benefits of the cloud. While enterprises and their so-called "QA Verified" software may be cloud-based, Test Management itself generally isn't.

Advantages of Test Management in the Cloud
The benefits a cloud-based approach brings are plentiful and are particularly pertinent for QA teams. Top of the list for most companies adopting SaaS is the cost-savings. The ability to eradicate setup and ongoing maintenance costs for your QA toolset and data storage is most welcome. Working via a browser means no special software/hardware overhead.

Consider the nature of most test projects and you'll find that they involve disparate groups working in remote locations, often around the clock. A central repository that remains accessible for everyone with solid SLAs (service level agreements) ensuring zero or minimal downtime is a vast improvement over the traditional approach. This increase in reliability comes alongside solid security encryption for peace of mind.

A snapshot of cloud-application benefits include:

  • No on-going infrastructure management, operational or installation costs incurred. Backup and recovery is relatively simpler and cheaper than traditional methods, as service providers offer recovery services;
  • Access to applications is location-independent (e.g., office, home, hotel, airport, customer site)
  • Ability to always run on the latest application release from vendors; thus can quickly leverage new functionality;
  • Subscription-based licensing model requires less upfront investment; no lock-in with any particular vendor.

What to Look for in the Cloud
First and foremost you want your cloud-based test management to enhance workflow and streamline processes for greater efficiency. One of the first things worth considering is integration. Can you integrate your existing bug-tracking software? Are there any plug-ins or browser-based tools that can help generate logs and record screenshots to create clear and concise bug reports? Can you easily import and export documents, deliverables, log files, images and other files? Can you set permissions levels, make bug status changes, and see real-time updates? Does it support automated test scripts?

It's also important to think about versioning and tracking. Every action should be traceable and the ability to revert when something needs to be rolled back can prove to be a real time-saver.

Communication within the team is the key to success in software development. The greater the clarity between developers and testers, the greater the chance of a polished product at the end. It is vital that your test management application has a good commenting system and real-time messaging support. You'll also want to be able to set up email notifications based on specified triggers for different staff members or groups.

Since you're putting all this data (and effort) into a test repository, the ability to re-organize it is also critical. You want to be able to configure and customize reports, filter data, and create metrics to measure progress. Being able to generate a quick snapshot of your team's progress will help you to satisfy the vendor and your own management team.

Besides the obvious functional efficiencies, the following infrastructure reviews are also recommended:

  • Review services offered by competitive cloud service providers hosting the tool
  • Review the security and data encryption measures in place, to prevent malicious attacks on your data
  • Review performance and availability guarantees
  • Review available Control Interface options offered by the provider, to further optimize and configure the tool's deployment

Important Questions to Ask
If you are assessing a cloud-based test management solution, a few questions need to be asked. Make sure you check the SLAs carefully to avoid any unexpected trouble down the line. If you encounter a problem it is the provider's responsibility to ensure that things don't grind to a halt because a server goes down.

Make sure that you ask about encryption standards and security protocols. You need a solution that you can trust, but you may also need to be able to detail those security details for your own clients.

If development is ongoing then ensure that you know what will happen in the event that the vendor rolls out a new version. You should be able to migrate your data easily, if the need ever arises. It's important not to get locked in.

What Are You Waiting for?
QA may be set in its ways, but the potential of cloud-based test management is clear to see. With benefits that range from cost savings to greater efficiency, isn't it about time that you took a closer look? A few cloud-based QA management solutions you may want to check out: qTest by QASymphony, Test Rails, SpiraTest, and Zephyr. Your budget and feature needs will dictate which one suits you best.

More Stories By Mush Honda

Mush Honda is QA Director at KMS Technology, a provider of IT services across the software development lifecycle with offices in Atlanta, GA and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. He has previously played various QA roles at Ernst & Young, Nexidia, Colibrium Partners and Connecture. KMS services include application management, testing, support, professional services and staff augmentation.

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