IT departments today spend a lot of time testing and evaluating their applications for any errors or potential security issues that could cause problems. Indeed, in today's digital-first world, any problems in these solutions could lead to costly downtime, or worse, leave you exposed to data breaches.
But while applications are a top priority for many, have you also considered the safety and security of the networks and hardware they're running on? IT infrastructure is critical to the success of any business' digital strategy, yet misconfigurations and defects in this area can often lead to major unforeseen problems if they aren't adequately monitored and tested. This may be especially true in solutions like cloud environments.
So what do you need to know about infrastructure monitoring and testing to make sure your business is running smoothly and avoiding disruption? Read on for your guide to successful testing.
What does infrastructure testing involve?
The first step is to establish exactly what infrastructure testing should cover. This is a wide-ranging term that encompasses parts of the network including operating systems, hardware platforms, data management and storage solutions and internet platforms, in addition to end-user applications.
Failures in any part of these complex and interconnected systems can lead to knock-on effects throughout an IT network. This can result in downtime or data breaches, and in some circumstances, it may not be immediately obvious where the root cause of the problem lies. This can mean delays in getting back up and running.
Infrastructure testing aims to prevent these issues by ensuring every part of the process is acting as intended. It works by examining any code that reads configuration values throughout the IT framework and compares it to the intended results.
It can also be used to ensure a company is complying with essential security policies and isn’t vulnerable to exploits or other hacking techniques that can be used to gain access to a network or exfiltrate data. External infrastructure penetration testing focuses on network-level vulnerabilities and can give you essential insight into parts of your business that traditional defences may not be able to protect.
Potential issues that can be identified by penetration testing include:
- Missing security updates
- Outdated software and operating systems
- Weak passwords
- Encryption flaws
- Poorly-applied security policies
The benefits of a successful infrastructure testing program
Undergoing a thorough infrastrastructure testing process can bring many operational and security benefits.
By ensuring that any vulnerabilities are identified and corrected before an attack hits, you can protect yourself from financial and reputational damage. On a day-to-day level, end-users can benefit from a more stable, reliable system. While this is essential for firms that deal directly with customers via digital platforms, it also benefits many internal processes.
Amongst the most important results of an effective testing system will be a drop in the number of production failures. This means less downtime and consequently a reduction in financial losses.
This reduction includes both the cost of lost business during the time key systems are offline and the expenses related to identifying and fixing the issue, not to mention the post-incident steps taken to ensure there are no repeats.
A more reliable, stable environment also gives end-users and developers alike confidence in the system, which allows for easier scalability as professionals will know the fundamentals of the system are solid. This also means reduced timescales for development cycles, making the business more able to respond to a changing environment.
When should you be running infrastructure testing?
Infrastructure tests need to be a regular part of any development process. To be effective, there are a few key points where they should take place, though in general, you should consider running these any time there are infrastructure-related changes to a system.
Common examples of when new additions to a network should require an infrastructure test include:
- Development of new patches
- Updates to the operating system
- Upgrades to databases
- Implementation of new tools
- Security fixes
- Memory upgrades for servers
In addition, you should also perform these tests whenever support for new devices such as desktops, laptops or smartphones is added to the network, as well as when any new third-party software tools are adopted. It’ll be vital to ascertain that these additions integrate well with the existing infrastructure and aren’t creating any new vulnerabilities.
Key challenges firms must overcome
There will, however, be a few common challenges that will need to be overcome to make infrastructure testing successful. First and foremost, you need the right team. If you don't have a skilled group of professionals dedicated to this area, you're likely to lack crucial knowledge and strategies.
You should also work to ensure your team is able to easily communicate and follow standardized procedures for building and maintaining test environments. A lack of consistency can often lead to important issues being overlooked.
Ultimately, effective testing is all about reducing risk - the risk of downtime, the risk of security breaches and the risk of high expenses. Devoting time and resources early to an effective testing regime can offer a major return on investment by ensuring all aspects of your business' network are safe, secure and able to cope with anything that's asked of them.