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Software Testing Environment

August 19, 2016
software testing environment, software test

Testing is an integral part of SDLC. It ensures that an application is functionally rigid and strictly adheres to the specifications provided by the client. But to completely understand the scope of the application and meet the expectations of the client, the application must be tested in a software testing environment that resembles the production environment. And this is the reason why testers should emphasize on replicating the production environment.

This article would explain the need of test environment, setting up a test environment and list the possible challenges and best practices.

What is Software Testing Environment

Software test environment is a setup, that mimics the production environment. The environment is supported by recommended hardware, software and network configurations. Such environment is used by testers to test a program or application before it can be shipped off on a production environment.

Software Testing Environment are never generic. Such environments are configured keeping in mind the application under test. Once a developer has completed the creation of a module, they test it in a similar environment, which is known as the test bed. Once the module is verified by the developer and provided to the QA, they test it on the test bed, also known as the software testing environment. To ensure a stable build, a complete round of testing is performed on the software testing environment with proper test data.

Setting up the Software Testing Environment

After requirement gathering and test case creation, the software testing environment is set-up so that QA team can start with testing. Setting up the test environment requires a combination of different hardware and software. Some of the crucial items that QA team looks out for are:

  • Database Server Every application requires a standalone database for handling different operations. But the selection of a database is decided by the client on the basis of their personal needs and requirements. So the testing team must ensure that the software testing environment compromises of the same database as mentioned by the client. This would help prevent future database issues when the database server is upgraded on the production environment.
  • Front end environment – Front end development environment used by developers should be set up accordingly so that developers can attend to change requests and upgrades at a faster pace.
  • Client OS – If the application under test is a mobile application, it is most likely to be OS dependent. So the test environment used to test the application must have the supported OS. 
  • Compatible browsers – Web Browsers are very important while dealing with web based applications. Every client mentions a specific or a list of browsers that they want their application to be supported on. Some of the most widely used and recommended browsers for web applications being, Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari, and IE. Note: When it comes to installing browsers for a test environment, the browser version is of utmost importance. So along with browser type, version too need to be verified.
  • Required hardware & network configuration – Performance of the application might be impacted by processing power of the system. So a test computer should be allotted on which the test environment would be configured. Also, a suitable monitor needs to be chosen that supports the operable resolution of the application. Also, the Internet, LAN and WiFi networks need to be configured based on the application requirement. 
  • Reference documents – Reference documents if present, can be very helpful during the setup phase. This ensures faster and precise environment setup. 
  • Test Data – Every application can accept a variety of data inputs. But there are a certain set of data which best suits the purpose of the application. Such valid and legitimate data set provided as input to the application is known as test data. To ensure that proper testing and track the right defects, it is necessary to test the application on the test environment with such test data.

Test data can be gathered by copying data from the production server. Once copied, the Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is replaced with logical, yet non-personal data. Copying personal data might create privacy issues. Hence, such data should be retrieved after prior consent from the client.

Test environment setup is a crucial task and needs to be performed in tandem with test planning. Setting up the environment would require the help of developers, testers, and system administrators.

Maintaining the Test Environment

Every application needs to be upgraded from time to time. These upgrades come in the form of patches. So before any such build is rolled out, thorough testing is performed. For this reason, the test environment has to be updated and maintained as the application matures. Some of the test environment management functions are:

  • Monitoring past environment and making necessary changes to the hardware, software or network configuration.
  • Retesting issues on the updated environment which were encountered in the past build.
  • Archiving previous application versions and keeping track of environment changes.

Some companies create their own test environments, while others outsource it. To strictly adhere to the mandated test environment, every company follow their own or external standards.

What are the Challenges in setting up a Test Environment

Even after successfully configuring a test environment, teams have faced a number of practical challenges. Some of the commonly encountered ones are:

  • Remote environments – When test environment is setup in a different geographical location, the only way for testing teams to access it is by taking remote connection of the machine. In such cases, testing team has to rely on the system administrator present at the test environment site, to resolve any discrepancies. If the test system experiences downtime or is shutdown, there is nothing the test team can do other than contacting the concerned authority.
  • Too much time to setup – Given the complexity and enormity of an application and recommended specification, test environment setup, can take up a lot of time and resource.
  • Sharing the test environment – If different projects within an organization have similar environment configuration,  they can perform testing on the same system. And to successfully do so, teams must plan their testing properly. If not planned, testing schedule of different teams might conflict.
  • Complicated test configuration – Certain applications demand one of a kind environment. Configuring such a system requires detailed reference documents. But if such a document is not in place test environment setup can turn into a tedious process.

If software testing environment setup is not done properly, the testing results and logged defects might not be accurate. Let’s assume, the installed software version on the test environment doesn’t match the application specification.

This will lead to defects which are not actually present on the production server, and also create defects which exist in the production environment but not on the test system. Such circumstances can waste a lot of valuable time and resource.

Best Practices to Maintain a Test Environment

Given the intricacies revolving around setting up and maintaining a test environment, configuring the software testing environment should be done with utmost care. Some notable best practices are:

  • Thorough understanding of the application under test.
  • Educating developers, testers, and system administrators about the specific requirements of the software testing environment.
  • Valid licenses for installed hardware and software.
  • Scheduled maintenance of the software testing environment.

 

Arindam Bandyopadhyay is an automation tester with over 5 years of experience in software testing. While during the day he juggles between Eclipse and spreadsheets, at night he lets his fingers do the talking as he writes about anything and everything his paradoxical mind desires.

About the author

arindam bandyopadhyay author

Arindam Bandyopadhyay is an automation tester with over 5 years of experience in software testing. While during the day he juggles between Eclipse and spreadsheets, at night he lets his fingers do the talking as he writes about anything and everything his paradoxical mind desires.

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