Smoke Testing in Depth: A Detailed Guide With Examples

Apr 25, 2022

Imagine you’re baking a dessert. After you pull it out of the oven, you have to check to make sure the dish is done cooking. Otherwise, you could get sick and possibly ruin your creation, wasting time and resources.  

The same idea applies to software testing. Before you submit a product for testing, the software has to go through an initial validation process to make sure it’s stable and free of any bugs or vulnerabilities.  

This initial testing phase, known as smoke testing, is a great way to tell if your core functions work properly. Of course, nobody likes the idea of running extra tests. But while smoke testing may sound like a pain and a waste of time, it’s well worth the effort. Taking this small step can save a lot of frustration down the line and ultimately lead to better products and smoother product delivery.  

With all this in mind, let’s take a closer look at how smoke testing works and how you can start using it in your operations.  

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What Is Smoke Testing?

Smoke testing, or build verification testing, should ideally happen after each new build and before standard software testing. Ideally, it should take place any time you introduce new features to a product. 

While smoke testing may seem pretty similar to standard testing, there are a few important differences. First, smoke testing only applies to a limited number of test cases. Second, you only use smoke testing with valid data. 

It’s also easy to confuse smoke testing with sanity testing. But the two tests serve different purposes. While smoke testing is necessary for assessing stability, sanity testing is more about verifying rationality. Either way, both types of tests play an important role in quality control.  

Benefits of Smoke Testing

Without a doubt, smoke testing can help iron out the kinks in your software and help you build and iterate more efficiently. 

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the benefits that come from using smoke testing in the software delivery lifecycle.  

Find Bugs Early

As the saying goes, test early and test often. Smoke testing is a great way to discover bugs in your software. If you catch bugs before software goes to the testing phase, you can eliminate rework down the line and increase the chances of shipping better software. 

Avoid Wasting Time

In a busy production environment, you can’t afford to waste any time. This is even more important when you’re sharing testing resources.  

Running smoke tests before QA testing is a way of performing your due diligence and eliminating common errors. With the right approach, your team should be able to work much more efficiently. 

Lower Costs

It may sound counterintuitive, but smoke testing can cut costs and contribute to a leaner production environment. In general, errors become more expensive to fix as you move through production.  

Improve Workflows

Performing QA isn’t much fun when projects consistently fail during software testing. Running products through smoke tests can help QA teams streamline testing, leading to greater productivity and smoother workflows. 

Make Better Software

At the end of the day, your main goal is to make better software and maximize profits. Smoke tests prevent small bugs and vulnerabilities from slipping through into production. This results in better software and happier stakeholders. 

Common Examples of Smoke Tests

When you boil it down, there are many different types of smoke testing, which vary based on the specific use case. The three most common types of smoke tests include integration, acceptance, and system testing, which we’ll examine in this section.  

Integration Testing

Integration testing should occur any time you implement new modules in your software. With integration testing, you can test two modules at a time or test all your modules at once.  

Acceptance Testing 

Acceptance testing is necessary whenever you release a build to QA. During acceptance testing, look to verify any new functions in your build to make sure they work as designed. 

System Testing

Running a system smoke test will let you assess performance at the system level. In other words, it lets you see how workloads integrate with your underlying systems.  

How to Execute Smoke Testing

There is no right or wrong approach to smoke testing, and strategies tend to vary from company to company.  

As time goes on, your company will form a unique approach to smoke testing. In the meantime, you can use the following steps to implement smoke tests in your production environment.  

1. Select Test Cases

The first thing you want to do is identify the test cases that you want to analyze. The test cases you select should give you a solid overview of the product’s core functionalities.  

At the same time, you want to avoid testing features that are less important. For this reason, it’s a good idea to be selective about the test cases you run. 

2. Build Smoke Tests 

Once you identify the smoke tests you want to run, the next step is to write test scripts. As a best practice, you should always use a single script for smoke testing. Using a single script increases flexibility during testing.  

3. Run Smoke Tests 

After you create smoke tests, the next step is to run them on your build. Once this is complete, you can move on to analyzing the results. 

4. Make Changes

If the build passes your smoke test, you can pass the product on for functional testing. And if the test is a failure, you send it back for rework. 

Of course, teams often run multiple smoke tests during a development cycle. As such, don’t be afraid to kick a product back to your developers for more changes. 

Manual vs. Automated Smoke Testing

Most of the time, companies start with manual smoke testing. This involves checking to make sure navigation paths don’t negatively impact core functions. If the navigation paths have underlying issues, the software should go back to the developers for further iteration. The process repeats until the software passes inspection.  

Automation typically comes into play later on in the process after you define a set of smoke tests. By automating smoke tests, you can run large numbers of tests at a time and shorten the testing process before the software goes to QA.  

How Plutora Makes Smoke Testing Simple

As you can see, smoke testing is a pretty important part of software testing. For the best results, however, smoke testing needs to run smoothly. After all, DevOps moves quickly, so the last thing you want to do is run slow and inefficient tests. This can act as a barrier to production and lead to pushback from team members.  

To streamline smoke testing, it helps to have an easily accessible library for tracking and managing smoke tests. And this is where Plutora comes into play.  

Plutora offers a one-stop-shop for application lifecycle management data. It essentially serves as a data mart with powerful analytics tools for tracking tests and matching them with correlating user requirements and projects.  

With the help of Plutora, all stakeholders can access tests and data in a single repository. In this light, Plutora can serve as a single source of truth, improving communication and keeping workflows moving forward.  
Add it all up and Plutora is revolutionizing the way DevOps managers and teams approach software creation. For a closer look at how Plutora can help optimize your strategy, request a demo today.

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