Testing as a service (TaaS) is an outsourcing model in which testing activities associated with some of an organization's business activities are performed by a service provider rather than in-house employees.
TaaS may involve engaging consultants to help and advise employees or simply outsourcing an area of testing to a service provider. Usually, a company will still do some testing in-house.
TaaS is most suitable for specialized testing efforts that don't require a lot of in-depth knowledge of the design or the system. Services that are well-suited for the TaaS model include automated regression testing, performance testing, security testing, application testing, testing of major ERP (enterprise resource planning) software, and monitoring/testing of cloud-based applications.
TaaS is also sometimes known as on-demand testing.
How does testing as a service work?
Essentially, TaaS is when an organization hires a third party to perform testing procedures that would traditionally be performed in-house. Organizations purchase testing tools, testing software and infrastructure from providers, often on a pay-per-use basis. TaaS may refer to one piece of the testing procedure, such as a platform, a combination of software and infrastructure, or the outsourcing of an entire department. No matter the form TaaS takes, it involves a provider assuming some portion of the organization's testing responsibilities.
TaaS may be used for automated testing processes that would manually take longer for in-house staff to complete. It can also be used in situations when the customer organization doesn't have the resources to carry out testing themselves. The resource may be time, money, staff or technology. TaaS may not be the appropriate option for organizations that require highly in-depth knowledge of the company's infrastructure.
There are various types of TaaS with their own specific procedures, but in general, TaaS will operate in this way:
- A scenario and environment are created to do the test. For software testing, this may be referred to as a user scenario.
- A test is designed to evaluate the company's response to that scenario.
- The test is run in the secure test environment provided by the vendor.
- The vendor monitors performance and evaluates the company's ability to meet goals laid out in test design.
- The vendor and company work together to improve the system or product being tested to improve future performance and results.
Types of testing as a service
There are several different types of TaaS that apply to different sections of an organization and occur at different parts in the lifecycle of what is being tested. These types include, but are not limited to:
- cloud testing, in which cloud services used by the company are tested, such as software as a service (SaaS) applications;
- application testing, in which an application the company is developing is tested;
- regression testing, in which new software features are tested to make sure they haven't negatively affected existing feature;
- performance testing, in which the product performance is tested;
- functional testing, in which the functionality of a product is tested, and may include more specific types such as graphical user interface (GUI) testing and user acceptance testing;
- Quality Assurance (QA) testing, in which the vendor helps the company ensure that a product -- often software -- meets specified requirements before release;
- penetration testing (PTaaS), in which the vendor tests the company's security fortitude against cyberthreats by performing mock attacks;
- load testing, in which the vendor tests the expected usage volume of a piece of software;
- unit testing, in which specific pieces of code are tested -- often, code that is suspected to be weak is tested first;
- GUI testing, which involves testing and evaluating the user-facing side of an application;
- disaster recovery testing, in which the vendor tests a company's ability to respond and recover from an incident or outage; and
- service-level agreement (SLA) adherence, in which a SaaS application is tested for adherence to the agreement.
Cloud testing, functionality testing, performance testing and security testing are broader categories of TaaS types that more specific test types fall under. For example, PTaaS is a specific type of security testing, and user acceptance testing is a specific type of functionality testing.
Testing as a service features
Some common features of a TaaS platform include:
- a SaaS portal to execute tests and access test data;
- on-demand automated test labs;
- application diagnostics and monitoring for the application being tested;
- a metering function to track the resources used and their costs;
- shared hardware to minimize resource contention; and
- a test library with configurable parameters and descriptions of user scenarios.
Testing as a service use cases
The main reasons for using TaaS are as follows:
- need to complete quick, one-off tests or special testing outside of the ordinary routine;
- need for unbiased testers with limited business domain knowledge;
- lack of skilled personnel or resources necessary for testing;
- tests include repetitive simple tasks that otherwise are a time drain for in-house employees; and
- need to avoid overhead infrastructure costs.
Below are some example TaaS use cases:
A company may hire a vendor to penetration test their network. The vendor delivers automated testing through a SaaS delivery model that allows end users to view test data in real time, as opposed to more traditional methods of pentesting in which the test results were only available at the conclusion of the process. Users can take those real-time results and reference a library of remediation instructions to improve security.
A company may hire a vendor to test their existing disaster recovery plan. Many disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) vendors offer DR testing as well. Often times, companies tend to neglect disaster recover testing because it does not directly generate revenue, and IT teams are often stretched thin dealing with other issues such as growing data volumes and complex IT environments.
A company may use an on-demand workforce like Amazon Mechanical Turk to digitally crowdsource feedback on website usability, design or performance. The company can post simple tasks that Mechanical Turk contractors pick up and complete for a small payment (usually a few dollars per task). Turk is useful because it draws from a very large pool of contractors that provide feedback and real human interaction with a company's platform or product. It's also granular -- done on a task-by-task basis -- so it is good for performing rote tasks as needed.
Benefits of testing as a service
The main benefits of testing as a service are the same as the benefits of using any service or outsourcing. They center around the fact the company paying for the service does not have to host or maintain the testing processes and technology themselves.
The main benefits of TaaS include:
- Reduced costs. Companies don't need to host the infrastructure or pay personnel. No licensing fees or personnel fees.
- Pay as you go pricing. Companies pay for only what they use.
- Less rote maintenance. In-house IT staff will have less rote maintenance work.
- High availability. TaaS providers typically offer 24/7 service.
- High flexibility. Companies can easily adjust their service plan as their needs change.
- Less-biased testers. A third party with limited knowledge of the product or company is performing the test. In-house employees do not influence the test.
- Data integrity. The vendor sanitizes test data and performs tests in closed environments.
- Scalability. TaaS offerings can be adjusted to suit the size of the company.
Testing as a service vendors and products
Below are some of the top TaaS vendors in 2020 and the services they provide:
- Amazon Web Services (AWS). Has both native QA tools and a marketplace where users can select from a variety of third-party testing tools.
- LoadStorm. Supports cloud-based load testing for mobile and web apps.
- Neustar. Offers do-it-yourself QA tools that allow developers to test website traffic capacity prior to an application's launch, so they can eliminate bottlenecks.
- Oracle. Offers automated application testing services, load testing and functional testing services.
- Qualitest. Offers performance testing, security testing, mobile testing, SAP testing and test automation.
Deciding what testing to outsource
Organizations considering TaaS should evaluate their business and IT needs and choose a provider accordingly. TaaS, whether it involves consultants, outsourcing, or pay-as-you-go software and infrastructure, may not be the best solution for some businesses. For example, some smaller businesses may have more specific testing needs that require special skills or knowledge of that business's unique infrastructure, making in-house testing preferable over an outsourced or subscription testing route. If the tasks involved in a specific testing process are simple, time-consuming or resource-intensive, hiring a TaaS provider may be the best option.
Some providers' TaaS offerings come in bundles, with multiple services combined in one offering. Others offer individual options and may have a specialization in one type of testing. Organizations should also consider whether a combination or singular option is more appropriate and avoid purchasing a bundle where some of the services go unused.