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The software development and release processes are a complex web of tools, procedures, and systems. In a highly diverse space such as the IT industry, developers face the challenge of ensuring their software’s compatibility with different hardware and software environments. This can be done with the help of test environment management.

In this article, let us try to define a test environment and also take a look at some of the important test environment types.

What is a test environment?

For a piece of software to function optimally, it must have supporting structures such as the right hardware, operating system, servers, network, etc. All these supporting units are referred to as a software’s ‘environment’.

When a piece of code progresses through various stages of the software development and release cycles, it inevitably passes through several distinct environments. For example, the operating system and the hardware devices used by one developer to another may vary.

Similarly, when a finished software is released, it is used on different software and hardware environments in the users’ personal computers/ mobile devices.

In simple terms, a test environment is a simulation of the final production environment (the software, hardware, and network most likely to be used by the end users). This is where the software is tested for its optimal functionings and any bugs, defects, or glitches are identified and corrected.

What is test environment management?

Test environment management (TEM) is a practice in the software delivery process which helps the software testing cycle by providing a stable and replicable environment for the testing of software products. The important tasks of TEM include:

  • The creation of new test environments
  • Allocation of test environments to respective teams
  • Test environment maintenance
  • Monitoring the various components of test environment
  • Identifying and resolving the various issues that crop up during test environment maintenance

What are the types of test environments?

In order to test a piece of software in different stages of the development cycle, developers use different testing environments:

  1. Development Environment: This is where the code is written and the actual software development process happens. After production, each unit of the software is tested for bugs. Later, the software is sent for further testing to the successive test environments.
  2. System Test Environment: This is also known as the QA environment as this is where quality assurance tests are conducted.
  3. Performance Test Environment: This is basically a replica of the actual production environment (similar to the environment in the end users’ devices). This is where the software is tested for its optimal performance.
  4. Acceptance Test Environment: This is where the user acceptance tests are conducted. Once, a piece of software clears this stage, it is sent for final release/ deployment.
  5. Production Environment: This is also known as the live environment and this is where the users access the final application.

Why is building a test environment important?

The software testing cycle happens with a single objective: when a software gets released to the end users it must function as intended. As the final production environment can be very different from the test environment, in terms of network, memory, internet speed, software build, and hardware, it is hard to simulate all the complex possibilities in the test environment.

Test environment management aims to overcome this problem by building a test environment as similar to the final production environment as possible. Therefore, a good test environment management aims to improve the quality, reliability, and replicability of the test environments to ultimately shorten the software release cycle.

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