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Let’s Get SaaS Testing Started: Specifics, Scope, and Success Factors

Software Testing Director, ScienceSoft


It’s not surprising that a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) model enjoys ever-growing popularity, as SaaS providers can quickly and easily deliver their software to numerous tenants all over the world, provide their customers with cheaper software maintenance in comparison to on-premises solutions, and still offer varied configuration and customization opportunities that facilitate software user adoption rates.

Still, 30% of SaaS providers report to be unsatisfied with their SaaS solution’s ROI due to high customer churn rates. To make your SaaS product continuously attractive to tenants, you should ensure its sleek functionality and usability, consistent reliability and security. And here’s where thorough SaaS testing comes into play. Although the main testing types for SaaS stay the same as for on-premises software, their prioritization and implementation have certain peculiarities.

In this article, we’ll share expertise gained with years of software testing practice to shed light on SaaS testing specifics, scope, and success factors.

SaaS testing

SaaS specifics

No matter whether you only plan to develop your SaaS application, get started with it or already offer software via a cloud by now – continuous testing is relevant. Predictably, the earlier you start with SaaS testing, the better. Still, if performance, functional, regression or security issues have already wreaked havoc on your solution’s ROI and popularity among clients, a proper test strategy may help you to right the ship and avoid SaaS-specific problems in the future.

Here are some SaaS specifics that should determine your approach to testing at the different stages of the solution development and implementation.

The before-release concern

Scalable cloud resource consumption. Tenants primarily appreciate SaaS for its ability to quickly and easily scale the number of users up and down. For this, many SaaS providers use auto-scaling cloud tools. Such tools help you to save money by launching cloud resources only when they are required and terminate them as soon as they aren’t but only if their functioning is healthy and the scaling settings are optimal. Simply the fact that you utilize such an auto-scaling tool doesn’t make you immune to non-optimal spends on cloud resource consumption.

The after-release concern

Frequent and quick software updates, upgrades, and bug fixes. With SaaS, new features are released once a month or at least several times a year. Additionally, you should rapidly react and quickly fix all software defects detected by tenants, as SaaS subscribers expect reported bugs to be fixed within several hours or, in a worst-case scenario, days. Thus, your test team can easily get stuck between rigid testing deadlines with an avalanche of test cases to validate both new features’ smooth operation and the intact functioning of basic SaaS functions after the amendments and bug fixes.

Before- and after-release concerns

Multi-tenancy. Multi-tenant architecture is highly popular among SaaS providers as it simplifies software maintenance and helps to save finance due to the reuse of the same cloud resources by different SaaS subscribers. Still, multi-tenancy may cause serious issues.

During a pre-deployment stage, it’s vital to ensure that tenants’ sensitive business data can’t be shared across different SaaS subscribers and their users can’t have inappropriate privileges. Otherwise, you’re likely to bear significant fees and hardly measurable reputation loss caused by the tenants’ business data leakage.

After deployment, as the number and diversity of your tenants grow, you may face some other complications. For example, you may need to improve APIs’ flexibility to satisfy the integration needs of your new tenants or make your SaaS solution compatible with modern web browsers new subscribers may prefer. The failure to adapt your SaaS solution to different tenants’ actual requirements will result in a low user adoption rate.

Configuration and customization opportunities. These options help tenants to tune your unified SaaS solution to their specific business logic. However, if your configuration and customization opportunities or their specifics combinations don’t function in the way they are supposed to, you should get prepared for an increasingly high churn rate.

Besides, after the SaaS solution becomes available for tenants, and they come up with actual configurations and customizations, the later can also be easily damaged by ongoing bug fixes and the solution’s regular amendments. So, your tenants are likely to fly off the handle and quit your software after their thought-out and intricate configurations and customizations get collapsed after a bug fix or update.

SaaS testing scope

Not to let SaaS specifics transform into burning issues, a test lead should develop a comprehensive and balanced test plan. The test plan should include all testing types required for on-premises solutions still with regard to SaaS specifics.

  • Functional testing. This testing type normally includes build verification, components’ integration, and system testing, and takes the majority of the pre-release testing time. But with SaaS solutions, it becomes even more comprehensive, as it will validate not only the solution’s default functions but also numerous configuration and customization opportunities and their most predictable use cases.
  • Performance testing. Before a multi-tenant SaaS solution is released, a test team should validate that it supports the required number of simultaneous users. Besides, they should verify that software response time, memory, and CPU utilization live up to the solution’s requirements. Test engineers also check the solution’s proper functioning under expected, stress, and continuous load. Additionally, test cases validating the proper functioning and tuning of your auto-scaling tool shouldn’t be missed during performance testing activities.
  • Compatibility testing. The SaaS model presupposes a solution to be fully functional in different web browsers preferred by your tenants. So, cross-browser compatibility testing is required. At the same time, designing and testing your SaaS solution so that it will be fully compatible with all possible browsers and their versions seem hardly feasible. To come up with an adequate list of browsers that will comprise your SaaS product’s target environment, BAs should consider the following information: user stats on what browsers and their versions are the most popular, newly released browsers, and the browsers based on the same kernels (with them, you won’t need to test each browser separately).
  • External API testing. API testing is relevant for before- and after-release SaaS testing. It checks whether your solution will be smoothly integrated with the rest of a tenant’s enterprise software or other third-party applications. While executing API testing, test teams validate the correctness of APIs’ input and output parameters, expected response time, and that the changes introduced to APIs don’t result in the SaaS solution’s general malfunctioning. When your SaaS solution is released, it’s a good practice for a test team to re-check APIs’ functioning after all the changes introduced to them.
  • Usability testing. To contribute to your SaaS solution’s higher signup and customer retention rates, its usability should never be neglected. During usability testing, a test team validates the logical and convenient arrangement of UI elements, content layout, and the number of usage steps. Test engineers can rely on conventional usability standards and metrics, for example, ISO 9241-210:2010. But for SaaS usability testing to be most beneficial, UX specialists and BAs can also carry out tailor-made UX research comprising specific demands and preferences of your current and potential customers as well as the UX level offered by competitors.
  • Security testing. SaaS security testing should include a number of different testing activities. First, multi-tenant SaaS solutions require rigorous role-based access control validation for you and your customers to be sure that their sensitive business data is securely preserved and available only to appropriate users. Secondly, SaaS security testing should check whether software is resistant to DoS and XSS attacks, SQL injections, and whether its data and cookies encryption and decryption function properly. This way, vulnerability assessment and penetration testing are applied. Having the results of comprehensive security testing, you can mold your workflows to comply with OWASP recommendations and GDPR requirements.
  • Backup and recovery testing. Such common issues as connection loss, server or software crash, problems with software migration, a non-optimal software update or a tenant’s customization can make you and your tenants turn to a software backup copy to roll back to the previous version and restore data. According to a relevant disaster recovery strategy, backup and disaster recovery testing should be performed both before and after software release (at least, annually).
  • Regression testing. SaaS regression testing tends to be complex and time-consuming. Regression testing comprises test cases validating functional, performance, usability, compatibility, and security features that may be influenced by software changes. Both core SaaS functionality and numerous tenants’ configurations and customizations should be validated. Still, regular regression testing after all updates, bug fixes, and software migration is the most serious contribution to the SaaS solution’s consistent quality, stable performance, and uninterrupted functioning.

SaaS testing success factors

Let’s see what can help your test lead to develop a thought-out and comprehensive SaaS test strategy and plan to address the potential SaaS problems and cover all the required testing types.

  • Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) methodology. If your SaaS solution hasn’t yet gone live, it’s a good practice to turn to the CI/CD methodology of software development. It allows software features and amendments to be delivered frequently and in small portions. With the CI/CD methodology, a higher number of bugs can be found during testing of SaaS solutions. According to the “Release early, release often” concept, fewer defects leak into the production stage, if companies come up with frequent and small releases. The reason for this is that the CI/CD methodology presupposes continuous functional testing and all-encompassing regression testing, which is an integral part of the software life cycle.
  • Risk-based testing. To ensure SaaS testing works for your business needs, a test team can turn to risk-based testing. According to this concept, test cases that validate software features that are most critical for tenants, where bugs are most likely to appear, and possible defects can cause the most damage and financial losses (like data leakage, damage or loss), are regarded as a top priority. This way, the functions most critical for business are less likely to be missed out from the SaaS testing scope.
  • Test automation. A balanced ratio between manual and automated testing can help testing teams provision sufficient test coverage, meet strict iteration deadlines, and quickly validate critical software functions after updates and bug fixes. As a result, you can achieve optimal testing ROI. Repeatable, long-running, and data-intensive tests are ideal for test automation. Thus, performance and cross-browser testing, as well as some regression and API test cases and vulnerability assessment can be automated. However, usability, penetration, backup and recovery testing, and the validation of the solution’s new functions should stay manual.
  • A proper testing environment. To minimize the number of missed bugs, SaaS testing should be conducted in a staging environment. The staging environment allows test teams to fully validate software functioning, security, recovery, and performance while preserving the production environment intact.
  • Service virtualization. Different external dependent components of the system (like tenants’ enterprise software or databases) often can’t be reached each time it comes to the validation of their integration with the SaaS solution under test. So, when external system components are unreachable, the dependencies can be simulated for manual and automated end-to-end tests to run smoothly. This helps not to stopper SaaS testing and keep up with iteration deadlines. Service virtualization is particularly relevant for API, performance, and functional testing that validate possible configurations and customizations.

SaaS testing takeaways

SaaS testing is a continuous process that is aimed not just at the pre-release bug detection but a solution’s constant improvement and sustainable functioning. The SaaS testing scope includes basic testing types also relevant for on-premises solutions, for example, functionality, performance, usability, compatibility, regression testing, and more. Still, these testing types should be implemented with regard to SaaS specifics, such as scalable cloud resource consumption, the need to regularly and quickly update the solution, the ever-growing number of customizations and configurations introduced by multiple tenants. Finally, the CI/CD methodology, risk-based testing, a relevant staging environment, service virtualization, and optimal test automation can help you to set up the SaaS testing process properly.

With 34 years of experience in testing, we will help you ensure your SaaS solution’s smooth and sustainable functioning.