When talking about the location of software testing labs, the terms “offshore,” “nearshore” and “onshore” are likely to turn up. But what do they mean, and how does that information help you choose the right software testing company? These terms are often tied to concepts like pricing, convenience and communication quality, so be sure you understand what kind of software testing company each is referring to.

What is Offshore Software Testing?

Offshore software testing refers to software quality assurance that is carried out by a testing company far away from the United States. Often, it is specifically referring to software testing facilities in India or Southeast Asia, which have a reputation for being less expensive than nearshore or onshore testing facilities.

One reason these software testing companies can offer cheaper pricing is the exchange rate and lower wages required to meet employee’s living requirements. Unfortunately, the financial benefits of globalization also come with a price: time zone and communication problems. When you are calling at 9am to check on software testing progress, in, India it’s almost midnight (or past midnight, depending on your US time zone). That means you need to wait an entire work day til you get a response to your query. Often companies also run into translation issues. Highly technical subjects such as software testing can be difficult to discuss with any finesse in a language you don’t know, requiring you, the software company, or both to invest in a translator.

There’s also one other common problem with getting quality assurance from offshore companies: the amount of expertise involved. Many offshore testing companies will test your software with crowdsourcing, where the experience level of your testers is unsure. There also tends to be a higher turnover, meaning the expertise that testers do earn doesn’t necessarily stay. All of this requires more information and more hand holding from you, the customer.

What is Nearshore Software Testing?

Nearshore is the middle ground between offshore (primarily Asia) and onshore (United States) software testing labs. Nearshore software testing tends to be done in Central America, South America or Canada. Being completely or mostly in the same time zones as the U.S. helps to take care of the time delay between questions sent and questions answered.

Depending on where you go for your nearshore software testing, you might also be able to get around the language barrier. Much of Canada, for example, speaks English just fine, as do several Central American or Caribbean countries. It also may be more likely that someone on your team speaks Spanish or French well enough to act as a translator. Depending on someone to know the language, however, can lead to more problems if assumptions turn out untrue.

One more thing to consider when looking at nearshore software testing labs is the lab country’s laws, certification needs or other relevant legislation. For example, Canada has recently been working to make their nearshore quality assurance labs more attractive to American developers by offering them financial incentives.

What is Onshore Software Testing?

Onshore software testing is outsourced software testing provided by companies here in the United States. The pricing may be more expensive than its offshore counterparts, and either more or less expensive to nearshore companies depending on where you’re looking. Using an onshore software testing company to help with your quality assurance does have a few clear advantages, though.

Firstly, unless you or your testing company is in Alaska or Hawaii, you’re not going to have a timezone issue. Secondly, you’re not going to have to deal with your concerns getting lost in translation. While the U.S. doesn’t have an official language, you’re phenomenally unlikely to find a software testing company that could not, for any reason, work with you in English.

In the end, which sort of software testing you choose depends on your company’s needs and budget. Even here in the U.S. choosing the cheaper software testing company could be risky. Always research the reputation of your potential software testing lab ahead of time and, with a little foresight, you’re likely to be fine.