A lot of useful testing can be performed by a single tester working on a single computer. Indeed, a component of almost every test effort at Beta Breakers is to have a tester spend a good deal of time exercising the software under test on a single configuration. Doing so allows the tester to get a deep understanding of the behavior of the software and root out bugs that only present themselves to the expert user.
However, there are bugs that simply can’t be found if testing is confined to a single system. Compatibility testing – evaluating a product’s compatibility against various software and hardware configurations – is a vital component of every test effort. And essential for thorough and efficient compatibility testing is a well-equipped test lab.
The test lab needs to provide efficient access to popular software and hardware that would reasonably be found on users’ computers. For example, if a website is being tested, the test lab needs to make current and past operating systems, browsers, plug-ins and possibly security suites available. If a video game is being tested, the lab needs to provide test systems that match the game’s minimum specifications, as well as provide a range of processor families and speeds, video card models, levels of RAM and other hardware components. If a mobile application is being tested, the test lab needs to provide devices that are consistent with the target audience and that have various screen sizes and mobile operating systems.
A good test lab is also dynamic and responsive. As new software versions, devices, processors, laptop models, etc, are introduced into the consumer market, the test lab must be constantly augmented so that the lab remains representative of the real world.
In addition to providing the actual systems on which testing is to take place, the test lab must also provide the infrastructure needed by the test effort, such as adequate floor space, high-throughput data lines, wireless access, data plans, and lots of electrical power. The test lab also needs to be well-stocked with accessories such as mice, keyboards, monitors, headphones, webcams, Ethernet cables, power cords, SD cards, charging cables, and so forth.
Keeping a good test lab properly equipped is challenging, but ultimately necessary to provide a proper software quality assurance effort.