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What is a Test Environment? Why is a test environment needed?

Human language:

A test environment - is any space in which software builds, tested, and fixed. This space is a server with test data that allows you to run the test cases you have defined. To truly harness the power of your test cases and testing engineer, having a well-designed test environment is critical. A test environment enables you to create identical environments every time you need to test your product.

It’s the most important tool for a testing engineer in order to have confidence in the testing results because it provides accurate feedback about the quality and behavior of the application under test.

The test environment includes more than just setting up a server to run tests on, such as:

  • Create test data and insert it into the test environment;

  • Set up the database;

  • It also involves hardware and network configuration: Select the right hardware and operating system; Configure the network.

A test environment helps you by providing a dedicated environment for you to isolate the code and verify the behavior of the application.

Test environments are not identical, They often need a different setup for testing different parts of the code.

Before considering what are the main types of environments, let's answer the following questions: How to Organize Multiple Environments for Testing?

How to Organize Multiple Environments for Testing

It’s often difficult to create an exact replica of your production environment. Besides that, manually creating those environments requires a lot of time and effort from the testing engineer. The easiest way to manage your test environments is through automation. By having build and deployment automation in place, you can successfully manage environments. Continuous integration (CI) tools like Jenkins are a great fit for this purpose.

Jenkins is a free, open-source automation server written in Java and is one of the most popular CI tools in the software industry The tool not only helps to automate this deployment process, but it also assists in running test suites.

Who is responsible for it?

The answer is - Test Environment Management - it’s an essential part of software development that facilitates software testing by providing a validated, stable, and usable framework to run test scenarios or investigate defects.

Test Environment Management will carry out the following activities

  • All test environments should be monitored for availability and optimal performance;

  • Cleaning up resources from outdated test environments, deleting or updating outdated environments;

  • Testing environments are assigned as needed to teams or projects;

  • Providing the ability to automate all activities, from provisioning through deployment to data loading;

  • Creating new test environments as necessary;

  • Centralized management of all test environments, including current versions and connectivity information;

  • Coordination of environmental issues and preliminary investigation of issues.

What rules they should follow to create a reliable test environment and then organize proper environment management

  • The most important step is to document all actions. This is key for other users to be able to replicate the environment;

  • Keep all components (server, workstations, etc.) under version control;

  • Implementing a strategy to support the simultaneous release of multiple versions of the same component;

  • Packages are centralized for development, so the deployment packages can all be obtained from a single location;

  • Ensure the environment's stability after every deployment.

Environment Management responsibilities

  • assigning environments to tickets in Jira; webhooks for GitHub and GitLab;

  • getting real-time notifications;

  • making scheduling, planning, and simple environment booking within your research and development teams;

  • using Jenkins allows exporting and updating of deployment and environment information;

  • optimizing IT infrastructure costs.

Challenges in Test Environment Management

Due to distributed teams, numerous environments, and lack of proper management, currently, QA and Dev teams face unstable and fragmented environments.

There is no clear answer about what test environments exist because there may be many of them or none at all depending on the project.

Typically, we have 4 test environments

  • Development;

  • Testing;

  • Staging;

  • Production.

Hence, the logical question arises, why do we need so many of them? Let's take a look into this based on the 4 levels of testing.

Development environment

This is where developers spend time writing the first lines of code and then a QA Engineer tests a very specific part of an application, making a component testing. Recently, the development stage has been overtaken by version control systems: GitHub and its competitors. They essentially host code in public and private repositories in the cloud.

Testing environment

Typically, a test environment meets the minimum requirements for your application to function. In the test environment, the QA engineer run tests for each component and integration them without involving stakeholders, create bug reports, and make confirmation after fixing issues.

Staging environment

A staging environment replicates the production environment that will host the live version of your application. While a test environment is focused on testing individual components, the staging environment is focused on testing the whole application. Staging is when you create an instance of an application that you're confident enough to show the immediate owner, but not the users.

It’s crucial that your staging environment is an exact replica of your production environment. Often, this can be achieved by having very detailed documentation. Basically, the staging environment is a safe playground in which you can test the whole application.

Production environment

In order to guarantee the quality of the end-to-end release cycle as a whole unit, we perform testing, the surest way to know how new features will perform with real users is to test them in production. As an end-user, when you use a web or mobile application, the application is running on a production server.

The main thing you should remember is that there is definitely a need to have both test and staging environments. A test environment is dictated by the component you want to test. There should be at least one production-like test environment with all the necessary connectivity and interfaces to build and run the application, including all required components to test it. These test environments should be available before production goes live.

Life example:

Let's take a look at a simple example of why the test environment is important.

Example: The development team build a function Possibility to make a purchase on the online shop with the Credit Card

The development team builds this functionality, in particular, the developer builds it on the Development Environment, which means using the development server. Why we need it, the answer is simple, while the developer builds something, the QA Engineer is not able to test it at the same time, for that reason we have s Testing Environment, which means using a test server.

Therefore, a developer builds our functionality, and then changes upload to the testing server with the Testing Environment, where the QA Engineer makes testing of this particular component and integration between the other components. Which in our case means setting up test data like test users, and setting up a test credit card. Without testing the possibility of purchasing with a test credit card, we have no way to guarantee that purchases will be made correctly, and therefore possible errors and risks of losing money, which is critical.

After we have tested and made sure that our component works well, we must test it in an environment as close as possible to production, and also show how our developed function works to customers, before the release. For this, we use a Staging Environment, which means a server with a staging environment with conditions that meet a production environment as much as possible. After stage testing is successful, we can release our functionality and test in Production Environment using a server used by real users.


So, if you are asked at an interview: What is a test environment? Why test environment is needed? The best way to answer is:

A test environment is any space in which software is built, tested, and fixed.

This space is a server with test data that allows you to run the test cases you have defined. It’s the most important tool for a testing engineer in order to have confidence in the testing results because it provides accurate feedback about the quality and behavior of the application under test.


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