Thursday, 27 January 2011

Database is one of the inevitable parts of a software application these days. It does not matter at all whether it is web or desktop, client server or peer to peer, enterprise or individual business, database is working at backend. Similarly, whether it is healthcare of finance, leasing or retail, mailing application or controlling spaceship, behind the scene a database is always in action.
Moreover, as the complexity of application increases the need of stronger and secure database emerges. In the same way, for the applications with high frequency of transactions (e.g. banking or finance application), necessity of fully featured DB Tool is coupled.
Currently, several database tools are available in the market e.g. MS-Access2010, MS SQL Server 2008 r2, Oracle 10g,11i, R12, Oracle Financial, MySQL, PostgreSQL, DB2 etc.  All of these vary in cost, robustness, features and security. Each of these DBs possesses its own benefits and drawbacks. One thing is certain; a business application must be built using one of these or other DB Tools.
Before I start digging into the topic, let me comprehend the foreword. When the application is under execution, the end user mainly utilizes the ‘CRUD’ operations facilitated by the DB Tool.
C: Create – When user ‘Save’ any new transaction, ‘Create’ operation is performed.
R: Retrieve – When user ‘Search’ or ‘View’ any saved transaction, ‘Retrieve’ operation is performed.
U: Update – when user ‘Edit’ or ‘Modify’ an existing record, the ‘Update’ operation of DB is performed.
D: Delete – when user ‘Remove’ any record from the system, ‘Delete’ operation of DB is performed.
It does not matter at all, which DB is used and how the operation is preformed. End user has no concern if any join or sub-query, trigger or stored-procedure, query or function was used to do what he wanted. But, the interesting thing is that all DB operations performed by user, from UI of any application, is one of the above four, acronym as CRUD.

As a database tester one should be focusing on following DB testing activities:
What to test in database testing:
1) Ensure data mapping:
Make sure that the mapping between different forms or screens of AUT and the Relations of its DB is not only accurate but is also according to design documents. For all CRUD operations, verify that respective tables and records are updated when user clicks ‘Save’, ‘Update’, ‘Search’ or ‘Delete’ from GUI of the application.
2) Ensure ACID Properties of Transactions:
ACID properties of DB Transactions refer to the ‘Atomicity’, ‘Consistency’, ‘Isolation’ and ‘Durability’. Proper testing of these four properties must be done during the DB testing activity. This area demands more rigorous, thorough and keen testing when the database is distributed.
3) Ensure Data Integrity:
Consider that different modules (i.e. screens or forms) of application use the same data in different ways and perform all the CRUD operations on the data. In that case, make it sure that the latest state of data is reflected everywhere. System must show the updated and most recent values or the status of such shared data on all the forms and screens. This is called the Data Integrity.
4) Ensure Accuracy of implemented Business Rules:
Today, databases are not meant only to store the records. In fact, DBs have been evolved into extremely powerful tools that provide ample support to the developers in order to implement the business logic at DB level. Some simple examples of powerful features of DBs are ‘Referential Integrity’, relational constrains, triggers and stored procedures. So, using these and many other features offered by DBs, developers implement the business logic on DB level. Tester must ensure that the implemented business logic is correct and works accurately.
Above points describe the four most important ‘What Tos’ of database testing. Now, I will put some light on ‘How Tos’ of DB Testing. But, first of all I feel it better to explicitly mention an important point. DB Testing is a business critical task, and it should never be assigned to a fresh or inexperienced resource without proper training.
How to Test Database:
1. Create your own Queries
In order to test the DB properly and accurately, first of all a tester should have very good knowledge of SQL and specially DML (Data Manipulation Language) statements. Secondly, the tester should acquire good understanding of internal DB structure of AUT. If these two pre-requisites are fulfilled, then the tester is ready to test DB with complete confidence. (S)He will perform any CRUD operation from the UI of application, and will verify the result using SQL query.
This is the best and robust way of DB testing especially for applications with small to medium level of complexity. Yet, the two pre-requisites described are necessary. Otherwise, this way of DB testing cannot be adopted by the tester.
Moreover, if the application is very complex then it may be hard or impossible for the tester to write all of the needed SQL queries himself or herself. However, for some complex queries, tester may get help from the developer too. I always recommend this method for the testers because it does not only give them the confidence on the testing they have performed but, also enhance their SQL skill.
2. Observe data table by table
If the tester is not good in SQL, then he or she may verify the result of CRUD operation, performed using GUI of the application, by viewing the tables (relations) of DB. Yet, this way may be a bit tedious and cumbersome especially when the DB and tables have large amount of data.
Similarly, this way of DB testing may be extremely difficult for tester if the data to be verified belongs to multiple tables. This way of DB testing also requires at least good knowledge of Table structure of AUT.
3. Get query from developer
This is the simplest way for the tester to test the DB. Perform any CRUD operation from GUI and verify its impacts by executing the respective SQL query obtained from the developer. It requires neither good knowledge of SQL nor good knowledge of application’s DB structure.
So, this method seems easy and good choice for testing DB. But, its drawback is havoc. What if the query given by the developer is semantically wrong or does not fulfill the user’s requirement correctly? In this situation, the client will report the issue and will demand its fix as the best case. While, the worst case is that client may refuse to accept the application.

Database is the core and critical part of almost every software application. So DB testing of an application demands keen attention, good SQL skills, proper knowledge of DB structure of AUT and proper training.
In order to have the confident test report of this activity, this task should be assigned to a resource with all the four qualities stated above. Otherwise, shipment time surprises, bugs identification by the client, improper or unintended application’s behavior or even wrong outputs of business critical tasks are more likely to be observed. Get this task done by most suitable resources and pay it the well-deserved attention.


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