What Test Environments do you need? Dev, Test, Staging?

Types Of Test Environments: Dev, Test, Staging, Production

Agile Software Development methodologies have enabled software companies to release their software more frequently. Unfortunately, this urge to come fast into the market has put the need to test applications almost continuously.

Have you ever thought about how software development companies set up test environments? How many types of test environments may exist? How do they handle all these various environments? Test environment setup introduces many new struggles. For example, creating a scrambled replica of a full production environment is often complicated, and building it manually requires a lot of time and effort from the DevOps or testing engineer.

This post underlines the different types of test environments and throws light on the best practices to follow. The second part discusses how to efficiently manage your test environments, so that you can make sure everybody in your organization is at the same page, and avoid painful utilization conflicts...

Deployment In The Middle Of A Demo

What is Test Environment?

Test cases, once written, need an environment to run. This is called a test environment. It combines hardware, software, database, and network configurations to run tests. A test environment allows the testing team to run the test cases.

A perfectly configured test environment helps to check the quality of the developed features and reduces the risk of bugs slipping into production. Some key benefits of having various test environments provide the following benefits:

  • It offers the necessary setup to run different test cases like E2E, Integration, System, and Load and Performance tests.
  • It provides quick feedback about the functionality and quality of the developed AUT (Application Under Test).
  • It helps to separate the development and testing activities to avoid conflict in executing different testing types.
  • It acts as a replica of the production environment without influencing the actual user traffic.
  • It also boosts the confidence of the QA Team to ensure the AUT behavior will be the same in the production.

Types of Test Environments

Software release involves a rigorous testing process before deploying to its users. Software testing is an integral part to the whole software development lifecycle (SDLC). From a broader perspective, software testing is a multi-step verification process involving several development environments. Each environment has a specific requirement that helps to ensure the software performs as expected before its final release.

It is vital to have an adequate understanding of various testing environments, which is essential in testing the software product. This way, you can bring more valuable products to market in less time. Some of the most commonly used testing environments are Development, Test, Staging and Production.

Development Environment

The developers use this environment to test their developed code. Developers push the work done on the user story to the source code repository. Once the code is pushed, various activities are performed, including deployment, quality check, and unit testing.

In this case, they need a stable development test environment solely used by Dev teams to test their newly developed features before handover to the QA team.

QA/Testing Environment

QA and product teams usually use this environment to perform different testing activities that include manual and automated testing. Testers perform various testing to test the application behavior as per user expectations. Less complex environments can handle functional testing.

But, non-functional testing, like stress or performance testing, needs a special environment to check the application behavior. So, we need a special environment to perform this type of testing.

Staging/Pre-Prod environment

This environment reflects the same configuration as the production environment. The features' functionality is very similar to what actual user experiences on the live system.

The staging environment ensures that AUT is developed per specifications and works without any critical or significant bugs that can harm the users.

Production Environment

This environment is used to deploy the features and updates for its end users.

To ensure the maximum quality of the AUT, we need to execute various tests on the above-listed environments. Having Development, QA, and Staging environment is equally important to test the features on each stage.

Test Environment Best Practices

Some best practices for building test environments help in bringing efficient testing to the development process. The below-mentioned practices apply to a newly developed application and an application undergoing continuous versioning.

  • Implement the feature flag mindset approach that encourages to build of the new features under a feature flag. These feature switches do not affect the entire code base and can be tested by turning it on the same environment without having a major impact on overall functionality.
  • Enforce the automatic setup of environment communication into your preferred channel like emails, Outlook/Google Calendars, Slack, Teams, or others. This will help to fix the error quickly and will prevent test environment configuration gaps.
  • Implement automated testing into your release cycles on the testing environments. This will ensure that nothing major is broken. If there are failed tests, escalate it automatically to the relevant team.
  • Encourage feature testing directly on staging or production environment developed using feature flags. This approach can reduce the overhead involved in testing and save the money used to mimic the production environment.
  • Keep the Test, Staging, and Development environment separate. Developers should not use a testing environment to develop their features, but it should be used to test their developed features.
The Reactions When A Test Environment Is Down

Effective Ways to do Test Environment Management (TEM)

Many good practices surround effective Test Environment Management (TEM). Here are a few for an effective TEM that can make your SDLC much easier than before:

  • Focus on the proper alignment of test, staging, and production environments.
  • Give the proper attention on utilizing automation and CI/CD tools. It gives precise, accurate, reliable, and quick test results that can help make the release decision fast.
  • Place a control to check the test environment usage. If an environment is not used, release its resources so other teams can utilize them. Real-time tracking facilitates effective collaboration and avoids many inconveniences among teams during test environment usage.
  • Pay proper attention to tracking all software versions across various available environments.
  • Place a check to monitor the environment's performance continuously. Implement a way to notify if any of the deployed services fail.

To summarize, Test Environment Management is an essential part of bringing the software quickly to market, and TEM is a suitable solution to speed up software deliveries in the CI/CD process. All test environments like Dev, Test, Staging/Pre-prod are important to have a stable release. This will help eliminate the possibilities of bugs by focusing more on quality in various test environments.

Without proper management, test environments can quickly become messy and unusable. Moreover, following the test environment best practices and using the appropriate TEM tool like Apwide Golive for Jira gives excellent results in the whole SDLC.

6 Best Practices

Check these 6 Test Environment Best Practices to make your TEM process more efficient and deliver better software faster.

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About the author

David Berclaz

After working for large organizations like Deloitte and Nestlé Nespresso, David co-founded Apwide in order to help organizations improve their Test Environment Management processes.