Development and Test Environments: Understanding the Different Types of Environments

Almost everyone would agree that software applications have made our personal as well as professional lives much easier and more efficient. There are countless applications built to help us from the time we wake up till we go to bed. But have you ever wondered what goes into building them? And more importantly, how do software programmers know if an application will even function as expected?

Long answer short — testing! Software testing is a critical stage in the system development life cycle (SDLC). Whether developing new software and applications, or performing patching or other updates, testing is performed to ensure the code works properly before it is distributed to users in production.

The surest way to know if a function is likely to break or fail in production is to test it. And to do so, special environments, such as testing and development environments, are necessary.

Types of Environments

Before we dive deeper into the different types of environments in software development, let’s take a step back to better understand what an environment is. Codebots defines a software development environment (SDE) as “a collection of hardware and software tools a system developer uses to build software systems.”

In general, there are four types of software development environments:

  1. Development Environment: This is where application/system development tasks, such as designing, programming, debugging, etc., take place.
  2. Test Environment: As the name implies, this is where application testing is conducted to find and fix errors.
  3. Staging Environment: Here, all the work done in the development environment is merged into the built system (often used to automate the process of software compilation) before it is moved into the production environment.
  4. Production Environment: The last environment in software development, this is where new builds/updates are moved into production for end users. 

Development Environment

The development environment is the first environment in software development that serves as a workspace for developers to perform programming and other processes around software and/or systems development. Techopedia defines a development environment as “a set of procedures and tools for developing, testing and debugging an application or a program.”

What Is a Development Environment Used For?

A development environment is where changes to software code are made. This environment allows developers to work freely on the program without worrying about the impact on end users. Typically, a development environment may exist on an individual’s workstation or “local.” In more complex environments, or where multiple developers are involved, development may be hosted on a server where developers have a working copy of the source code on their machine(s), and any changes are submitted to the repository.

Software developers often use an integrated development environment (IDE) — a software suite with comprehensive functionalities for writing, compiling, testing and debugging a program. Some examples of integrated development environments include Microsoft Visual Studio, Adobe Flex Builder, Eclipse, Netbeans, etc.

Why Is a Development Environment Needed?

A development environment enhances developer efficiency and ensures proper software quality. It helps in streamlining workflows, thereby minimizing the chances of errors, and enables effective management. One of the most important uses of a development environment is that it allows developers to ensure various functions of the application/program work as intended before it is released to users. It allows developers to make any change to the program/code in a controlled setting without impacting users.

Test Environment

A test environment is where the testing teams analyze the quality of the application/program. This also allows computer programmers to identify and fix any bugs that may impact smooth functioning of the application or impair user experience.

A test environment is built by setting aside storage, computing and additional resources required for testing. This may include new devices, physical or virtual, provisioned for testing use cases as defined by developers.

What Is a Testing Environment Used For?

Testing is used to ensure the quality and functionality of the application, identify open bugs and review bug fixes. A test environment allows software developers to check how a code/program will behave in a live environment. The testing environment should closely resemble the production environment since it is one of the last safe places to find and fix environment-related bugs before moving into production.

What Are the Different Types of Testing Environments?

Testing environments are a critical part of the software development lifecycle. These environments enable programmers to conduct several tests to eliminate errors and improve the overall quality of the application. There are different types of testing environments that help analyze various elements of a software program such as performance, user experience, security and more. Listed below are the most common types of testing environments.

Performance Testing Environment

This environment allows developers to measure how fast an application responds to an interaction. Various aspects of an application, such as page load speeds, input processing, stability, reliability and so on, are tested in this environment. 

System Integration Testing (SIT)

The main purpose of system integration testing is to check if all modules, such as code modules, individual applications, and client and server applications, can communicate with each other as per their dependencies. It also ensures shared databases work as expected. 

User Acceptance Testing (UAT)

Acceptance or user acceptance testing is conducted to check if the application meets the business requirements of the end users. This is the final stage of testing. If the features and functionalities of the application satisfy the end user, the application is moved to the production environment. 

Quality Assurance (QA)

Quality assurance testing ensures that the application developed is of the highest quality possible for end users/clients. In this environment, computer programmers test the new software against the previous version to verify that the new product meets the specified parameters. 

Security Testing

This helps developers check the security aspects of a software. These types of tests are performed by specialized testers to examine how secure the software/application is from malicious programs, viruses, threat actors, etc. Testers also validate the authorization and authentication features of the program in this environment. 

Chaos Testing

This test environment analyzes the resiliency of an application by proactively identifying potential areas that could result in application failure or negatively impact end users. This allows development and IT teams to see how the application will perform under pressure or stress conditions. This helps prevent unplanned downtime and enhances user experience. 

Alpha Testing

In this environment, end-to-end testing is performed on an application after all modules have been integrated successfully. The goal of an Alpha test is to ensure the application performs according to the client’s expectations. 

Beta Testing

In a Beta testing environment, the application is released to limited users. Real-world users put the application under stress to ensure the product works as intended and satisfies end-user requirements. This is the last testing environment before the final application is released for commercial use. A staging environment with open access is necessary here.

Setting Up Development and Test Environments With Unitrends

In the testing/development use case, Unitrends enables access to production data via Copy Data Management. Copy Data Management utilizes your backups, imported backup copies or VM replicas to provide access to fully functional production data contained within isolated testing labs. Be sure to configure an isolated testing network prior to building and running any Copy Data Management jobs to ensure they do not interfere with production.

These “Instant Labs” enable you to:

  • Perform update testing
  • Run compute-intensive reporting
  • Perform business analytics operations

In creating the job that builds the lab environment, you can customize:

  • Assets spun up in the test environment (VMs, Image-Level Backups, Replicas)
  • Location of testing environment
  • Resources allocated per instance
  • Boot orders
  • Guest credentials

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