What is a test environment?

By | September 21, 2021

According to BEAUTYPHOON, the test environment describes the entirety of the software and hardware components that are used to test applications, websites or applications. The testing environment includes physical components such as client and server as well as virtual components such as the operating system and software.

The test environment (also known as the testing environment) consists of hardware, software and middleware. Applications or websites are subjected to a detailed test on these components under various conditions.

The setup of the test environment represents a kind of copy or replication of the actual system. It exists separately from the applied system in order to detect possible errors or negative effects in good time and to avoid these occurring on the production system.

The test environment plays an important role in the development of software and other applications. In the run-up to the release of a system, possible errors can be avoided from the outset through exact tests. Depending on the application, test environments are also known as test beds.

Characteristics and requirements of a test environment

In order for a test environment to fulfill its purpose, it depends on certain basic principles. In particular, it is relevant that the test and production environments are as separate as possible. Under no circumstances should the test environment or the applications to be tested damage the productive environment.

This spatial and functional separation from one another is also known as a sandbox. The testing environment is completely shielded from the production environment: there are no network connections between the production environment and the various areas and development steps of the test environment.

Another prerequisite is the greatest possible technical identity of the test and production environment. The two environments should be as similar to each other as possible. In this way, all conceivable requirements and problems in the context of the technical implementation should be recognized and resolved during the test. This should enable a test under the most realistic conditions possible. In practice, for economic reasons, it seldom happens that both of these requirements are met in full.

Test environments differ significantly depending on the technical basis, the requirements or the size of the company. Simple office applications on PCs usually only require a simple test infrastructure. Large companies with complex IT infrastructures, on the other hand, place significantly higher demands on the planning, setting up and operation of test environments. This goes hand in hand with a high level of organizational coordination effort between several people involved.

Objectives of using a test environment

The test under realistic conditions pursues several different goals in the development and optimization of applications or websites. On the one hand, a high quality of the digital products should be guaranteed. The focus is on factors such as security, user-friendliness, data integrity and design. Another goal of the test environment is to coordinate with the special needs of customers or users, especially in the B2B area.

The goal of cost reduction can also be pursued with test environments. Bugs or system crashes can result in costs that can be avoided with a comprehensive preliminary test. Once a test environment has been set up, it is associated with advantages in terms of cost efficiency, which affects the entire life cycle of the applications. The effort of everyone involved in the development and maintenance process can be reduced considerably through the clever use of a test environment.

Functionality and practical implementation of the test environment

The specific test methods used in the testing environment depend on the respective development goals. For example, the task area of ​​agile software development relies on several sandboxes in the test environment, including one sandbox for quality assurance , one for testing, and one for demonstrations. There are also other test models, for example prototyping , scrum , the spiral model or the waterfall model .

Furthermore, the implementation differs depending on the requirements of the organization or other customers. The larger the company and the more complex its IT infrastructure, the more demanding the task of implementing a test environment. Since all those involved require precise coordination, it may be necessary to set up a Test Environment Management (TEM).

For example, it is often necessary to test an application for several operating systems at the same time. These systems either have to be simulated within a testing environment or several test environments have to be implemented, which requires additional resources.

It has therefore become established in practice to implement testing environments mostly using reduced infrastructures. These require less memory or other resources than the actual productive systems used. For example, a virtual system can be hosted instead of a physical server. The use of emulation software continues to be widespread in the implementation of testing environments.

When it comes to testing websites, subdomains are often used. These are suitable for ensuring the required separation between the production and test environments. Here too, however, the principles apply that the test and production environments should be technically as similar to one another as possible. Depending on the test objectives, the demands on the infrastructure are very different. In practice, each test environment must therefore be created individually and precisely.

What is a test environment