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11 October, 2017

The Importance of a Test Environment

The Test Environment is an essential part of any tester’s working day, it’s the virtual office that is far more important than any desk, beanbag or bed where the Tester might find themselves working. With a well-built Test Environment, it is possible to simulate the conditions that any system will experience when the testing has been completed and moved from production into live. Many projects will pass code through several test environments before any code reaches live usage (hopefully).

The quintessential image of a tennis player in training is where they have a machine firing balls across the net while they sprint back and forth trying to return the shots wherever possible. By working on the fundamentals of play in a controlled environment, professionals can have confidence in the core skills needed in the sport, this confidence then allows them to focus on other parts of the game that are less easy to control, an opponent perhaps. Similarly, by testing in a confined environment where outside influences on the code are limited, gives those involved in the production of a system confidence that their code works as expected. If the system being tested is going to work in a completely autonomous world where information doesn’t need to be moved to other platforms or systems… Congratulations! You’re done. 

Sadly, real life is never as simple as we’d like and testing code or systems independently of other systems, whilst useful, is not exhaustive and will undoubtedly lead to many issues arising once the code is implemented into a live environment. By moving into another, second environment which contains other systems in contact with the code in production it is possible to test the integration of the new product into existing systems.  For no matter how fantastic your individual system is, be it a fancy new customer portal or a streamlined backend database, if it isn’t compatible with systems that it must work in tandem with then it is redundant. Integration testing is a vital part of ensuring that any system launch is a smooth process with minimal issues.

The purpose of integration testing is to mimic the processes that the system will be experiencing while in regular usage in a live environment. By using a System Test Environment this may also double up as a System Integration environment followed by potentially a UAT and a non-functional/OAT environment.  The testing phases always drives what environments are needed.

One of the most important uses of a test environment is that it frees Testers to modify data without affecting any real-life information, such as when a bank is testing a new transfer system it would be incredibly bad practice to shift money around real accounts to ensure that the new system was working correctly. The freedom presented by a test environment alone should be enough to convince you of their worth in the development process as the scope of testing can be expanded to include both the necessary and the bizarre tests that would otherwise not be possible. Test Environments are imperative in the testing process to ensure that consumer data is safe whilst offering a true reflection of the real-world system.

 

By Jordan Brown, Test Analyst at Edge Testing

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