A code audit is a software development activity undertaken to identify technical debt and minimize it. Technical debt is accrued when a developer or team delivers functionality that is “good enough” for the short-term, while failing to satisfy coding standards and best practices for writing code over time. When a custom software continues to accrue this debt, the codebase can become more inflexible and less maintainable. The costs to maintain the software will skyrocket over time, and eventually prove unsustainable. Not good.


What is a Code Audit? 

black-man-and-woman-looking-at-code-on-laptop

A software code audit is a holistic, thorough analysis of the entire codebase of a project or system, with the purpose of finding:

  • Lack of adherence to an overall architecture
  • Anti-patterns
  • Poor coding practices
  • Difficult-to-detect system performance issues
  • Potential security breaches

Code audits are typically performed by a senior developer who is not the original developer of the application or system.


Why is it Important to Perform a Code Audit?

boy-removing-jenga-block-from-jenga-tower

Simply put, performing code audits will improve and reinforce the quality of your software, reduce development and maintenance costs over time, and ensure your system’s security and stability. Code audits accomplish this by achieving the following objectives:

  • Getting fully acquainted with the existing project structure and functionality
  • Discovering existing and potential bugs
  • Uncovering modern security risks and violations
  • Verifying the current performance and scalability
  • Identifying code reusability and effective coding
  • Assessing the code’s maintainability, as well as associated risks and costs

When Should I Perform a Code Audit?

man-standing-precariously-on-top-of-pole

Code reviews are a healthy, regular, proactive activity. It’s common (and a best practice) to have an integrated, peer code-review process as every line of code is written and submitted.

Code audits, on the other hand, are more reactive in nature and should be performed when the development team finds that the cost for software maintenance is getting exponentially higher. Or that the codebase is becoming increasingly fragile. When a developer writes code for one feature and it introduces a bug in another feature entirely, there’s a high probability that you have a fragile codebase.

This is where our code audit comes in.


What, Specifically, Should I Verify During a Code Audit?

hand-removing-yellow-sticky-note-from-tiled-notes

Here we’ve listed the major concepts you should keep in mind:

Security

Nobody needs to be told the importance of security in this age of regular data breaches. Does your code risk any such breaches and does it handle sensitive data securely? Does the code expose any sensitive information to the public where it may help hackers? The material damages to you and your clients (nevermind damage to your company’s reputation) could be extreme, particularly in financial institutions or the healthcare industry.

Functionality

It’s crucial to identify if your code actually meets the base requirements of your intended features. Does it do what it’s meant to do, and in an efficient way? Is the codebase modularized to allow reusability in future development?

Design

As new code has been added, does it follow the original, established architectural goals and principles of the project? Does it follow appropriate design patterns? Is the code utilizing the latest features of its programming language, so it can be less verbose (thus improving coding efficiency)?

Readability 

Does the codebase follow accepted coding standards and guidelines when naming fields like variables, parameters, methods and classes? Do these names accurately and descriptively reflect what they’re meant to represent? Is the code formatted in such a way that it is legible and understandable to developers who didn’t originally develop that section of code? Is the code self-documenting? Are complex sections of code documented and commented fully?

 Maintainability

Review if the codebase has “staying power”. Check if the developer “over-engineered” and wrote unnecessary code, adding more complexity than you really need. One of the jobs of the code auditor is to help draw the appropriate line between the generic and the specific. Does the codebase include third party libraries that are mature and maintained? Are they using the latest versions of those libraries?

Performance

Imagine making some minor adjustments to your codebase and suddenly your website or app loads a whopping 10 times faster! This is one of the performance benefits of a code audit, and can be delivered by any number of fixes: Does the codebase implement a caching solution for frequently used web pages or screens? Can it handle multiple jobs at the same time utilizing multi-threading? Or are there a handful of inefficient loops that can be eliminated or minimized?


Summary

asian-man-relaxing-in-satisfaction-near-laptop

A code audit plays a critical role in delivering and maintaining a high-quality software product. You’ll raise your development team’s overall awareness on security, architecture goals and design patterns. Just as importantly, you’ll minimize ongoing development costs by identifying (and addressing) issues in your software development process. It’s crucial feedback, measuring the code output quality of your current development team. And finally, it’s the first step towards meaningful, informed course-correction when you have an app whose maintenance and cost is growing out of control.

If your software development costs are on the rise and you find yourself struggling to maintain the stability of your services while trying to add new features – you’re overdue for a code audit. Talk to us to see how you can benefit.

Schedule a Time to Talk