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What Is Failover Testing And Why Is It So Important?

WRITTEN BY
Timothy Shim
UPDATED
May 25, 2024

 

In the world of website hosting, failover testing is essential to ensuring that your website remains available and operational in the event of a failure. It involves testing the process of switching over to a secondary system or resource if the primary system or resource becomes unavailable.

 

 

In this article, we will discuss failover testing in depth. We’ll cover its importance, the various types of failover testing, the implications of a failed failover test, and best practices to observe when conducting failover testing.

 

Why Is Failover Testing So Important?

backup infrastructure

Switching to alternate infrastructure is a core part of failover testing. (Credit: Bigstep)

 

The importance of failover testing cannot be overstated, as it ensures that your website remains available and operational to your users even in the event of a failure. This is critical for businesses that rely on their websites for their day-to-day operations, as downtime can result in lost revenue and damage to a company’s reputation.

 

Additionally, failover testing is an integral part of disaster recovery planning and essential for businesses of all sizes.

 

 

4 Types Of Failover Testing

 

Several types of failover testing can be performed, depending on the specific needs of your website and business. The most common types of failover testing include:

 

  1. Manual failover testingManual failover testing is the simplest and most basic method of testing failover. It involves manually switching the website to the backup infrastructure and verifying that it functions correctly.

     

    A human operator typically does this process and requires great coordination and planning. While manual failover testing is relatively easy to implement, it can be time-consuming and unsuitable for websites with high availability requirements.

  2. Automated failover testingAutomated failover testing is a more advanced method of testing failover that uses software to automate the failover process. This method involves setting up scripts that automatically switch the website to the backup infrastructure when an outage is detected.

     

    This method can be more efficient than manual failover testing and is generally more suitable for websites with high availability requirements.

  3. Load balancing failover testingLoad balancing is another method of testing failover that involves distributing website traffic across multiple servers. This is done using a load balancer, which acts as a proxy server between the website and the servers.

     

    The load balancer distributes the traffic evenly across the servers and can also detect outages and automatically redirect traffic to the backup infrastructure. This method is ideal for websites that require high availability and can handle a large amount of traffic.

  4. Network failover testingNetwork failover testing is a method of testing failover that involves testing the network infrastructure. This method is typically used for websites hosted on a shared network or on network infrastructure for connectivity.

     

    Network failover testing involves simulating a network outage and verifying that the backup infrastructure functions correctly. This method is ideal for websites with high availability and complex network infrastructures.

 

 

Implications Of A Failed Failover Test

 

ping test

One point of failure can easily disrupt network services. (Credit: Digi International)

 

Failed failover tests can have profound implications for your website and business.

 

If your website fails to switch over to the secondary system or resource in the event of a failure, your website may become unavailable to your users, resulting in lost revenue and damage to your reputation.

 

A failed failover test can also reveal weaknesses in the website’s infrastructure and failover plan. If the website fails to failover properly, it may indicate issues with the backup servers or the load balancer is not configured correctly.

 

Moreover, a failed failover test could damage the reputation of the website and the company behind it. Users may lose trust in the website if it fails to perform during an outage, primarily if they rely on it for essential transactions or services.

 

Finally, failed failover tests can lead to increased costs for the website owner. If the website is down for an extended period, it may be necessary to bring in outside experts to diagnose and fix the issue.

 

If the website cannot handle the increased traffic during a failover event, investing in additional infrastructure or hosting services may be necessary.

 

 

Best Practices For Failover Testing

 

alteryx

Automated failover testing tools like Alteryx can simplify processes. (Credit: Alteryx)

 

To ensure that your failover testing is effective and successful, there are several best practices that you should follow:

 

  • Define the scope and objectives
    Before conducting failover testing, it is essential to define the scope and objectives of the testing. This includes identifying the systems and components that will be tested, the test scenarios, and the success criteria.
  • Use realistic test scenarios
    The test scenarios should be as realistic as possible to simulate the failure scenarios accurately. This includes simulating network outages, server failures, and other potential failure scenarios. It is also essential to consider the impact of load and traffic on the website during the failure scenarios.
  • Conduct regular testing
    Failover testing should regularly ensure the website’s failover mechanism remains practical and up-to-date. The testing frequency depends on the website’s criticality and the rate of change in the IT environment. Failover testing should be conducted at least once every quarter for high-availability websites.
  • Involve stakeholders
    Failover testing should involve all relevant stakeholders, including website owners, IT teams, and third-party service providers. Communicating the testing plan and objectives to all stakeholders is essential to ensure everyone is on the same page.
  • Document the testing results
    Documenting the testing results, including any issues or failures identified during testing, is crucial. This documentation should include the testing methodology, scenarios, and results. This documentation helps identify gaps in the failover mechanism and track progress over time.
  • Test the backup and recovery mechanism
    In addition to failover testing, it is also essential to test the backup and recovery mechanism regularly. This includes testing the backup process, data restoration, and recovery time objectives. Testing the backup and recovery mechanism helps ensure that data can be recovered quickly in a disaster.
  • Use automation tools
    Failover testing can be complex and time-consuming, especially for large and complex websites. To streamline the testing process, it is recommended to use automation tools. These tools help automate the testing process and provide detailed reporting and analysis.
  • Test during non-business hours
    Failover testing can cause website downtime, which can affect business operations. To minimize the impact on business operations, it is recommended to conduct failover testing during non-business hours. This ensures that any issues identified during testing can be addressed before they impact the website’s availability.
  • Evaluate the results
    After failover testing, it is essential to evaluate the results and identify any areas for improvement. This includes analyzing the testing results, identifying gaps in the failover mechanism, and developing a plan to address these gaps. Regular evaluation helps ensure that the failover mechanism remains practical and up-to-date.

 

 

Web Hosting Play A Part In Website Availability

 

Web hosting companies play a critical role in failover testing, as they are responsible for ensuring the availability and reliability of their clients’ websites and applications. Most web hosts offer various types of hosting plans, including shared hosting, VPS hosting, and dedicated hosting.

 

For shared hosting, the hosting company is responsible for ensuring that the backup systems are in place and functioning correctly. They should also monitor the primary server’s health and proactively take action to prevent failures.

 

For VPS hosting, the hosting company typically provides a virtualized environment with resources allocated to each client. In failover testing, the hosting company should ensure that the virtualization platform has redundancy in place, such as clustered servers or load balancers. They should also test the failover procedures to ensure that the VPS can switch to another server in the event of a failure.

 

For dedicated hosting, the hosting company is responsible for the entire server’s availability and reliability. They should ensure that the server has redundancy in place, such as redundant power supplies, hard drives, and network connections. They should also test the failover procedures to ensure that the server can switch to another machine in the event of a hardware failure.

 

 

Failover Testing Can Help Ensure Business Continuity For Website Owners

 

A failed failover test is a severe issue for websites and their owners. It is essential to conduct regular failover testing to identify and address any issues before they result in extended downtime or other negative consequences.

 

To maximize the benefits of failover testing, it is essential to follow best practices such as defining clear objectives and testing scenarios, testing frequently, documenting the test results, and involving all stakeholders in the testing process.

 

Ultimately, failover testing is essential to website resilience and can help ensure that websites remain operational despite disruptions.