IT Testing Best Practices and Tools For MSPs

IT Testing Best Practices and Tools For MSPs

July 14

I learned some interesting things while reading InterTech’s Top 15 Worst Computer Software Blunders. These mishaps, a few of which have previously been covered here in the Recovery Zone, stressed that seemingly simple design flaws can literally be a matter of life or death. From the system glitch that wrote off 8500 living hospital patients as dead, to the software bug that cost 28 people their lives in an Iraqi missile strike, the biggest takeaway was a staunch reminder of why IT testing best practices exist in the first place.

Far too often, we make the assumption that we don’t need to test a given system just because …

  • We paid top dollar for it.
  • The vendor’s a major player and guarantees our satisfaction.
  • It’s just too darn time consuming.

Ironically, these assumptions are commonly made in technology surroundings, where IT consultants, teams and leaders have been known to make any and every excuse why ongoing quality assurance isn’t a part of their operations. Then, when disaster strikes and the system doesn’t work like expected, they get to wishing for a time machine. IT testing methodologies are abundant and encompass a number of key areas, including:

New Software Systems

Any new system should be thoroughly tested before being permanently added to your network. An “Installation Was Successful” confirmation doesn’t automatically guarantee a seamless user experience from here on out. Testing is vital to not only affirming that the new system works, but ensuring that it works harmoniously with existing systems on the network.

Security Applications

We often don’t relate security technology to the functional and operational aspects of our business. However, both can be jeopardized in the event that security is compromised. Malware, network attacks, and hacking tools grow more sophisticated by the day, so testing on an ongoing basis is the only way to make sure your security systems continually deliver the best possible protection.

Building Systems

Whether you operate from a small office or world-class data center, your facility needs a certain set of features in order to provide a rock-solid IT environment clients can depend on. The systems driving these features should be included in a comprehensive testing regimen. Service providers must employ sound strategies that determine when fire suppression systems, building alarms, and cooling equipment needs to be serviced, upgraded, or replaced.

Backup Copies

So you practice backing up like its part of your company’s religion. That’s what you’re supposed to do, but at the end of the day, your backup plan is only as good as your recovery strategy. When it comes to implementing IT testing best practices, MSPs should target policies that account for restoring backups and every single change that takes place. StorageCraft’s ebook Don’t Let a Disaster Be Your First Backup Test contains some valuable information that can be useful in assembling your own backup testing policy.

Redundant Components

Like backup and restore elements, testing redundancy is essential to maintaining a productive and reliable workplace. The goal here is creating an environment that simulates failures in your systems and they’re supported components. Designing a comprehensive strategy is very challenging here because your tests need to be as realistic as possible. That plan should be a key cog in your facility’s disaster recovery program.

IT Testing Tools For Your Toolkit

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Whether you want to identify potential faults in your infrastructure or make sure new applications and systems run reliably on the network, you need a way to effectively monitor and diagnosis the situation.

Here are some tools that will help MSPs make on the aforementioned IT testing best practices:

Virtualization Manager

Virtualization makes it possible to do some very cool things. Among them is creating an environment ideal for testing software, updates, and special configurations before rolling them out on live systems. With a handy hypervisor at your disposal, you can spin up a copy of an existing OS in a virtual environment that allows you to determine whether new updates or configurations are stable enough for the main system.

Stress Tester

We probably all agree that virtualization is pretty neat. Hopefully we can at least compromise on the notion that it takes a toll on your hardware. The more processes you run, them more stress you put on your machines in terms of crashes and stability issues. Tools like HeavyLoad run strenuous tests to gauge how critical components such as hard drives, processors, memory, and graphics hold up on under memory-intensive loads.

Software Tester

Virtualization can provide the platform, but developers need genuine testing tools in order to properly assess the stability and reliability of applications. Software testing encompasses a broad range of criteria, but at the basic level you can expect features such as the ability to setup and run custom tests, track bugs, and generate easy to read reports. These tools are available in on-premise and cloud-based formats for web and desktop apps alike.

Security Assessment Utility

Tackling security in a proactive manner is the most effective way to uncover vulnerabilities and simplify the dubious task of patch management. Of course it helps to have the right tools at your disposal. Luckily, there are a wide variety of security testing tools available for both Windows and Unix-like systems. These utilities are available in the form of network analyzers, port scanners, and password crackers to name a few categories.

Sure, it sucks, but testing is a necessary evil of IT. The stress and frustration you experience in keeping up with IT testing best practices suddenly blossoms into relief when those efforts lead to status “disaster averted!”.