#Tech | 15 min read | Updated: 8/16/2022

Software Code Audit: Why Do You Need It and How To Make It Effective

Updated: 8/16/2022
, Project Lead
15 min read

Once upon a time, we met one of our startup clients who had lots of issues with the code structure and architecture. Our team analyzed their code. During the software code audit, it appeared that the issues were so major that the project could barely live for 3 months, while the release was planned in 6 months. 

Sounds scary, but code audit services did help. We detected the product issues and fixed them in time. At the end of the day, the product lived. and was developed into an MVP that could be represented to the customers and investors. 

However, if a code audit had been performed earlier, the whole product development process would have gone more smoothly, quickly, and cost-efficiently.

What is a software code audit and when should you use it?

A software code audit is a thorough code review. It aims to analyze the project’s architecture, core technologies, and tools. As a result, it’s possible to see whether it will work well for the business.

A good code audit service helps to:

  • find out-of-date tools
  • determine the security risks
  • discover inappropriate development practices

A code review can help to avoid deeper problems in the future. It allows upgrading the quality, maturity, and maintainability of a product.

How do you know whether your code needs an audit? And when is the best time to perform one?

It is recommended to conduct a code audit if you have:

  • an old product that is likely to be outdated or obsolete
  • noticed some performance issues
  • see that something affects your product’s work, but you don’t understand what
  • haven’t conducted a code audit for over 6 months

As a rule, a code audit service may include: 

  • Current technology stack and architecture examination
  • Security vulnerabilities analysis
  • Code quality check
  • Performance and scalability check
  • Potential maintenance issues detection

At Sloboda Studio, we think a software code audit is important for any product development. It ensures the code is clear and the project is ready to be delivered.

Software Code Audit includes

5 Types of Software Code Review

Types of software code review can be differentiated by their goals. Very often it’s not necessary to check the whole product. It takes too much time and effort. Sometimes, all is needed is a check separate parts of the product.

The main types of software code review are: 

  • Manual
  • Front-end
  • Back-end
  • Security review
  • Infrastructure review
Code review service: 5 types

Manual code review

A manual code audit gives the first and preliminary expressions of the code structure. A manual code audit helps with an understanding of whether the code is written according to the common coding standards.

Code review service: manual review

The manual review gives code auditing benefits for both MVP and full-featured product:

  • For MVPs. A manual code audit allows us to check whether the chosen technologies and tools are suitable for further growth and scalability. The issues are detected and their severity is assessed. Now, it becomes easier to distribute the workflow more effectively. Often, after an audit, everything appears to be in order. Then the confidence in high-quality code allows startuppers to be more persuasive. Especially when pitching the product to investors.
  • For mature projects. A manual code audit detects some outdated tools, technologies, or approaches. All of these may slow down product performance.

Front-end code review

Frontend code audit helps to detect the issues connected with the parts of the code that are responsible for friendly user experience. 

During this type of code review, the experts pay particular attention to things such as general performance and responsive design.

  • Website performance audit. Nowadays users are not inclined to wait. If a website is too slow, visitors will just leave. Plus, website speed is one of the most important ranking factors for search engines. It’s worth checking image and font sizes, unneeded files, or messy code structure. All of this and more can affect the website speed. The performance audit mainly helps to find the reasons for the speed issues and the ways to fix them.
  • Responsiveness. Over 50% of traffic comes from various non-web devices. Lots of websites are designed mostly for web users. And even websites with responsive design may have a number of issues. The second point is SEO. It’s been a few years now since Google started working on mobile-first indexing. That means Google predominantly uses the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking. Therefore, the better your mobile responsiveness is, the higher Google will rank your website in search results. 
Software Code Audit: front-end review

Backend code audit

A back-end code audit estimates the general code complexity. It helps to check whether it’s stable enough and capable of handling any potential security risks. The auditors pay particular attention to issues like outdated tools, technologies, and code structure.

  • Out-of-date tools. It’s required to check whether the code has any outdated tool or technology under the hood. For example, an outdated Ruby on Rails gem may cause difficulties with any further upgrades.
  • Code structure. Apart from tools and technologies, it is worth checking the code structures itself. A perfect code should be written in accordance with common standards and patterns. Otherwise, you’ll never know what issues you may face and when. Such an inspection shows which aspects should be fixed to enhance product reliability.

Infrastructure code review

An infrastructure audit focuses on how the servers perform. At Sloboda Studio, we make sure that the setup is architected securely and servers are running up-to-date so there aren’t any potential security risks. 

An infrastructure audit is also an opportunity to see whether the systems are running efficiently. The infrastructure audit improves site speed. It ensures those servers can deliver as quickly as possible.

An infrastructure code audit helps to optimize the servers and secure space in the cloud. If a product is using more cloud space or servers than are actually needed. Then such a code audit would find ways to reduce some of these expenses.

Software Code Audit: infrastructure

Security code review

The security code audit helps to discover whether there are any security flaws or database permissions. It also helps to detect the security breaches that may lead to data leakage.

Generally, a security code audit helps to:

  • find weaknesses or vulnerabilities in the code
  • avoid additional costs for bug fixing
  • develop a code audit checklist of recommendations of potential issues to be aware of
Software Code Audit: security

4 Reasons to Perform a Source Code Audit for Your Business

So what is the reason to do a code audit? A good code audit can bring great insight into how to create a better product. Or allow upgrading an existing version. Let’s take a closer look at the top five perks of performing a code audit.

Software Code Audit: reasons to perform

Finding weak points

No matter how long your product has existed. Whether it is a startup or an older project. It is possible to find weak points everywhere.

By auditing the codebase, it is possible to discover existing and potential bugs. Or determine outdated technologies that are no longer supported. Or even get recommendations about the technology stack in order to switch to a more suitable software solution.

Defining scalability estimations

When a company is planning to scale its product for the future, it should prepare and make sure there are no potential problems on the way.

At this point, a code audit may be helpful to determine whether your software system can scale up successfully, handle greater workloads, handle updates, and have the capability for future expansion.

Making your product more secure

By now, we all are aware of the importance of data security. Still, not all products are able to secure data from unauthorized access and data corruption.

A weak codebase can affect the security of your product. It may lead to security breaches, vulnerabilities, leaks of personal data, or even fraud; and the developers of this code are the ones that bear the responsibility.

Having checked the code, you will be able to determine and fix all the security issues to make your product safer and protect your team and customers.

Providing a better maintainability

Low-quality code is difficult to maintain. Lots of bugs, security breaches, and other issues. All they take a lot of time and money to correct. Obsolete tools, inappropriately-used technologies, messy code structure, and other code problems make it difficult to update and grow a product for the future.

When the codebase meets modern software development standards, guidelines, and best practices, a product can be maintained with minimal additional risks and costs.

4 Core Steps Of the Code Audit Process

Step 1: Manual code study

Manual testing allows us to understand how the project works, what problems it might have, and how your team should deal with them.

Manual testing consists of checking the website for bugs, business logic and flow, and the source code security audit.

At this stage, we can check how the code is written, how the styles are connected, and if there are any code duplications. We can also correct class inheritances and element names.

We always finish the manual testing phase by checking for internal errors. For example, to detect any problems that may affect the product’s functionality in the future.

Step 2: Automated code study

Automated code review software checks source code for compliance with a predefined set of rules or best practices. It is possible to use automation to check the business logic of the code. It can also look at the main controllers to see whether object-oriented programming principles such as correct inheritance, use of polymorphisms, programming, and objectification patterns are used correctly.

Moreover, it’s worth checking issues typical of a particular programming language; for instance, Java often has problems with garbage collection and memory leaks. These language-specific issues should also be monitored during the code audit process.

Step 3: Check the versions

It is a common case when the codebase appears to be outdated. At Sloboda Studio, we pay particular attention to the versions of the languages, frameworks, and libraries.

In older versions, as many aspects are not modernized. Those outdated versions can (and often do) have vulnerabilities and potential security breaches. For example, there might be no optimization of data transfer, resulting in potential data leakage.

In other situations, outdated code can make it impossible for newer libraries to work correctly. We check older versions so they can be changed to the newest ones for better performance and maintenance.

Step 4: Code audit report creation

We prepare a final code audit report with all the issues discovered in the previous steps. We also add comments to our report explaining the reasons for any critical issues, and if they are needed to be fixed urgently.

Our experts make the reports more accessible for clients by adding graphs, comparisons, and tables for a better visual description of the current situation.

Software Code Audit: 4 steps

Code Audit Tools We Use

W3C markup validation service

W3C markup validation service can be a tool for manual website testing. It’s a global standard for writing front-end code. It is possible to use this to check the code of any web page.

W3C also allows using browser plugins that show how many errors and warnings your page has.

Scripts for user testing emulation

We use load testing tools that emulate multiple users’ simultaneous actions. Such scripts emulating user actions on a site allow us to perform both load and stress testing. They help to check the system for resilience and flexibility and identify all the possible problems from simulated usage.

Libraries for the statistical collection

How to avoid problems with code quality and relevance in the future? At this point, several libraries that collect statistics can be installed. For example, to check the number of errors in the code. Thus, it would be possible to create a detailed picture of the project code work.

We also use tools such as New Relic, Brakeman, Bullet, and Rubycritic. It helps to check the code and detect issues in the early stages of development.

Software Code Audit: tools

5 Tips for Cost-Effective Code Audit

The importance of an audit is difficult to overestimate, and most entrepreneurs agree. However, some still do not perform a code audit. Some are due to a lack of reliable experts and a lack of budget. At Sloboda Studio, we are sure there’s no need to spend a fortune on a code audit. And we can tell you how.

Offshore code audit 

Your own team may have some kind of knowledge blindness. It’s difficult to notice the mistakes in your own code.

Code auditors are open-minded and can check your code impartially. Or bring more valuable feedback, and reveal additional issues to be fixed.

Create a list of scope

Clear tasks result in clear results. We recommend you to get prepared before start auditing. Create a list of scope that needs to be checked.

Such an approach will help you to plan the auditing process more carefully. And be sure that no serious risk areas may remain neglected. Thus you will spend less time and money reviewing the code and checking all important areas to spend resources more efficiently.

Perform both automated and manual testing

Performing a manual audit is perfect when it comes to determining the issues that are lying on the surface. However, the deeper and more detailed your research is, the better it will be for your product.

Automated testing helps to enable the most effective code analysis. That discovers the deeper issues and provides you with more efficient code analysis. As automated testing allows us to detect issues faster. It makes the whole software code audit process faster and cheaper. Performing both manual and automated testing allows us to detect all the existing errors. So it is possible to fix them now. Therefore, you avoid problems and extra costs in the future.

Audit your code regularly

At Sloboda Studio, we recommend performing code audits regularly. At least once or twice a year.

Review the code periodically during the regular product development process. So you’ll have more opportunities to detect significant issues in the early stages.

Therefore, it would be easier (and, as a result, cheaper) to fix them before they lead you to significant logical issues and security vulnerabilities.

The fact is: the later you discover an issue, the more expensive it is to fix it.

Don’t change your developers at once

While auditing the code of your project, you are very likely to find at least some bugs or structure issues. Whatever these are, don’t be in a hurry to blame your team for the “bad code”. Usually, changing a team is an expensive process. We recommend evaluating the severity of the mistakes before making such decisions.

However, if during the code audit major mistakes were discovered, it may be efficient to hire a new development team to fix the problems and improve the quality of the future code.

Software Code Audit: tips

Our Experience

During the last 11 years, Sloboda Studio has gained great expertise and helped over 200 entrepreneurs with developing, testing, and auditing their products.

Quite often, we meet our clients when they already have products that need to be checked and enhanced with new functionality.

We believe that such projects should start with code audits to ensure the highest quality of the final product.

Lifestyle and Wellness Coaching Project

Our client is a healthcare company that provides opportunities for employees in various industries to learn how to live healthier lives.

We met with the client on an MVP stage of the project, so our team needed to make a number of upgrades and add new features to an existing product.

As we had to work with the existing codebase, it was decided to start with a code audit to discover the possible issues.

During the code audit process, Sloboda’s experts discovered that the project was using one of the oldest Ruby on Rails versions, which increased the risk of data leakage. Thus we decided to upgrade the existing Rails code to make the product more secure and then moved on to develop new features.