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When users are filling your inbox and voice mail with urgent pleas for help in fixing performance problems on an existing system, it's natural to want to dive right in and start making things better. You might feel that any action is better than inaction. Regrettably, this often leads to more problems than it solves. To do this job right, you must follow a few crucial preparatory steps before you start changing things. Skipping these steps means that you run the very real risk of making incorrect judgments about your problems. You might then construct solutions that fail to address the underlying cause of the performance issues. In certain cases, this makes things worse, possibly by further degrading responsiveness or even damaging functionality. None of this will help your credibility with your users.
This chapter reviews the important steps you should follow before you start your performance testing. The steps are broken down into three major segments. The first segment examines what you should do before you even begin the testing process. This primarily deals with ensuring that the correct software, hardware, and operating system configurations are ready. In addition, this segment discusses the importance of being organized and following a plan before embarking on your optimization works.
The second segment helps you as your testing is under way. Although the most productive system performance experts follow their original investigation plan throughout the testing process, they also understand the importance of exploring new leads in the efforts to improve responsiveness.
The final segment discusses how to translate the valuable insights you learned during performance testing into real-world performance improvements.
If you are embarking on designing and developing a new system, you might wonder if this chapter will be useful for your situation. The answer is a definite yes: Applying the discipline and structure that this chapter advocates during the design process will go a long way toward helping you deliver a responsive system, one that will not need the performance retrofits that plague so many development efforts.
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