– By Alissa Lydon, Director of Product Marketing, Sauce Labs

In the classic (and now 27-year-old!) movie The Shawshank Redemption, the character Brooks Hatlen remarks upon leaving prison that the world went and got itself in a big damn hurry. He was referring, of course, to how life in the 1950s compared to life in the early 1900s, but his sentiment – that everything is moving faster and everyone has less patience – is as relevant today as it was back then.

The modern consumer has much in the way of expectations and little in the way of patience. Not only do they expect products and services to be available at a moment’s notice, but they expect the experience of using those products and services to be nothing short of flawless. If that wasn’t enough, they also expect those products and services will be constantly updated with the latest and greatest features.

Should you fail to deliver on any of those expectations, there’s a price to pay and a steep one at that. According to research from McKinsey & Company, 25 percent of customers will abandon a brand forever after just one bad digital experience. Take a moment to digest that. One out of every four of your customers will cease to be your customer if you treat them to even a single bad digital experience. One time your web or mobile application was slow. One time your app didn’t look or function the way it was supposed to. One time you were slow to deliver that new feature. One time is all it takes.

The aforementioned research is specifically focused on digital experiences, but let’s face it, these days, that’s pretty much every experience. Whether they want to be or not, virtually every company in the world is now a digital company dependent on web and mobile applications as the primary means through which they engage current and prospective customers. Certainly, the pandemic has played a role in accelerating businesses’ shift to an all-digital posture, but they were already headed in that direction well before any of us ever heard the term COVID.

A new paradigm for testing and development

Against that backdrop, organizations have had no choice but to rethink the way they test and develop software. The notion of testing as a standalone function conducted entirely at the end of the development process by a dedicated QA team has been rendered obsolete. In the digital age, you don’t have time to wait for a multi-week (or even multi-day) testing cycle, and you certainly don’t have time for the delays that occur when testers uncover bugs at the end of the development process. No, you need to test software the same way you develop it: continuously.

So, what does all of this have to do with the cloud?

In a word, everything.

If continuous testing is now a business imperative (and it is), and you simply can’t meet the combined speed and quality expectations of your customers without it (and you can’t), then a cloud-based testing strategy is essential. Modern testers need a combination of flexibility, accessibility, agility, and scalability that’s difficult if not impossible to curate without the benefits afforded by a cloud-based strategy.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at some of the key factors that make the cloud more important for testers than ever before.

Proliferation of browsers, OSes, and devices

Let’s go back to the basic premise that your customers expect a flawless, high-performance experience whenever, wherever, and however they access your app. Those expectations don’t change based on the device or browser someone is using. The customer accessing your web app via his dusty old desktop expects the same experience as the customer accessing your mobile app via her brand new iPhone 12. That means you have to support it all.

Every version of every device, every version of every browser, and every version of every operating system. That’s thousands upon thousands of potential combinations, and you need to support them every one of them – or risk losing the customers whose combinations you leave out.

Now, you’re certainly welcome to try building and supporting that infrastructure from scratch, but you’re going to need one gigantic device cart to do it, not to mention an army of support engineers to continuously maintain, refresh, and update those devices. The far simpler and more cost-efficient approach is to leverage a cloud-based testing platform. Such platforms are constantly updated with the latest devices and enable you to automatically access all the browser/OS/device configurations you need without ever having to leave the comfort of your office.

Test from anywhere

Speaking of which, even if you’re brave enough to go it alone with your device cart, that cart does you no good if you can’t access it. If we’ve learned anything these past eight months, it’s to expect the unexpected. Modern business resilience plans must account for the possibility that teams are becoming more distributed than ever, and it may not always be feasible or safe to access your device cart promptly.

Resilient organizations are thus prioritizing support for global teams by enabling them with the ability to test from anywhere, and that only comes with a cloud-based strategy. Teams that can access devices and execute their tests in the cloud have built-in resilience against the unexpected. Though we all hope COVID is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, leveraging the cloud ensures you’re prepared for the possibility that it’s not.

Testing at (massive) scale

To harken back to an earlier point, the software development process is now continuous, and testing needs to be as well. It needs to start at the earliest stages of requirements gathering and code development and span the entire development lifecycle, up to and including post-production. It needs to span functional testing, performance testing, visual testing, usability testing, security testing, and more.

In other words, as your digital footprint grows, sooner or later you’ll need the ability to test in parallel and at a massive scale. The most prolific of enterprise organizations run thousands of concurrent tests each day and millions each month.

The infrastructure, computing power, and general expertise needed to execute tests at such a massive scale pose a challenge for even the most heavily staffed and well-resourced organization, to say nothing of those that may have an equally vast digital footprint with only a fraction of the IT resources. This is again where the cloud is at its best and most beneficial.

The immense scalability of cloud-based testing platforms allows testers to increase coverage and achieve parallelization without slowing down development velocity or breaking the department’s budget. This keeps testing from becoming a bottleneck that hampers an organization’s ability to deliver innovative digital experiences at the speed their users demand.

Keeping up with the rush

At the end of that day, that’s really what this is all about – the merging of speed and quality. Businesses can no longer get away with expecting customers to pick two from fast, cheap, and good. (And even delivering just two wasn’t that easy.) Customers want it all. Quality, speed, experience, price, you name it. They’ve gone and got themselves in a big damn hurry. It’s up to testers to keep up. Cloud can help.