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What is QA Environment? | Importance & Best Practices

October 12, 2023Kajal Sharma
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Importance of a Good QA Environment
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Once upon a time, development teams battled a widespread problem: gaining access to a stable QA environment. One of the biggest nightmares of a developer is developing a new software or feature that fails to function in the real world. This is where the exposure to the relevant environments where you can extensively test your code before putting them into production works as a boon for you.

Due to the most significant transformation in the last decade, today’s QA environments are more flexible, effective, and efficient than ever before. And the evolution doesn’t just stop with QA environments; the whole software testing and development industry has experienced a considerable shift of focus. For example, with the uprising of cloud-based software, more agile methods of development, and the combination of DevOps practices, everything is now evolved. Even though nothing has completely changed, we’ve come a long way. Although the QA or test environments are the initial steps, you will still need to run the necessary steps at each stage. Further, ensuring access to a good QA environment will elevate your chances of successful software testing cycles.

Before we get to our core discussion, let’s begin with some basics, such as ‘what is a QA environment‘ and some other basic concepts!

What is QA Environment?

A QA environment, also known as a test environment, is a test setup consisting of firmware, software, hardware, and the relevant network configuration. All tests are run on this test bed, containing all the infrastructure needed to conduct tests.

The goal of the test environment is to resemble the production environment closely. It helps in identifying any errors during the tests. A test bed is a component of a test environment that is specially designed in accordance with the requirements of a certain application. The majority of testing is done right on the testbed. It represents a combination of test data as well as the test environments.

💡 According to a panel of CIOs and a few senior technology professionals, In 2019, quality assurance and testing accounted for, on average, about 23% of the annual IT budget for each firm. (Source)

What’s the Use of a QA Environment?

QA environment stands as the exact replica of the production environment sans the users. So, it acts as the last line of defense between your application and the bugs which usually accompany the new changes. Most of the testing takes place in the QA environment, and it is used by testers to perform functional and non-functional testing to ensure that all the production-like features are working well.For instance, Regression testing takes place in the QA environment, where it checks the existing features do not break due to the addition of new ones. But the most beneficial part of the QA environment is that it allows QA analysts to explore and verify if all the client requirements are met or not. Thereafter, the code is moved to pre-production and then the production environment.

Types of QA/Test Environment

The following are some of the most conventional and fundamental QA or testing environments in a typical organizational setup:

  • Development Environment
  • Production Environment
  • Staging Environment
  • UAT Environment

The Benefits of a Well-Functioning QA Environment

There are multiple benefits of a well-functioning QA environment. Here’s why you should test your application on the QA environment before moving it to production:

  • Offers better product quality as testers check the application for bugs in a controlled environment to ensure that all the issues are fixed before the release.
  • QAs can run the tests easily and quickly without worrying about damaging/affecting the production environment for the users.
  • QA environment helps developers and testers to collaborate and easily work together to remove any issues from the application.
  • Testers can avoid added costs and time in working in the QA environment and moving the changes later to the production environment.

3 Key Reasons to Use Multiple QA Environments

Employing multiple QA environments is imperative for your software development cycle to ensure the finished product is as bug-free as possible before it is delivered to users. Other than this, some additional benefits utilizing multiple environments provides that not only enhance a team’s overall workflow but also aid them in achieving their business objectives:

1. Teams Are Engaged in Multiple Development Activities

A team can work on multiple development projects with the help of various environments. When numerous individuals are working on the project, a distinct environment for every group of people enables the team to remain productive. For example, you can have numerous DEV environments (one for generic unit testing and another for integration testing) and multiple QA environments (such as one for detailed QA testing, and the other two for high-level business testing by non-technical users and performance testing, respectively). This configuration eliminates the need for distinct groups of testers to wait on one another to complete their tasks.

A developer can deliver finished code to QA and carry on the work while testing other code without waiting for the QA to complete their respective tests and free up the environment. Having numerous settings also minimizes lags in the Software Development Life Cycle caused by resource-intensive operations.

2. Both Long-Term and Short-Term Features Can Be Simultaneously Worked-On

A first-mover advantage from launching your product as quickly as possible may significantly influence your bottom line. Using numerous environments when developing software reduces waiting periods for shared resources. Instead of running tests one at a time, it is possible to run many tests simultaneously, accelerating the completion of all tests. Using multiple environments expedites a product’s launch and enables you to respond to customer feedback and adjust the product as necessary. Moreover, a strong QA environment for your customer referral campaign can help ensure that the program is effective and will build positive customer relationships.

3. Services-Reliant Systems

Suppose you develop that depends on back-end services updated by separate development teams. In that case, these teams can need different environments that are structured to connect to the exemplary testing service.

How to Manage More than One QA Environment?

Almost every company employs more than one QA environment for their testing process to ensure that the final product is bug-free and comes with better quality. But do you know how you can manage these environments easily? It is easy to handle all the QA environments you have through a tool that allows you to continue your testing without merging with all the other environments.

Testsigma is a test automation tool that offers testers the capability to run parallel tests and keep the test data separate for different test cases. The tool allows access to strategically allocated space and the test environment during the test execution step. You can use the test environment of your choice when you are creating or editing a test plan. Explore more about this feature here.

Best Practices of a QA Environment

Let’s talk about some best practices for creating an effective QA environment. The following pointers are equally relevant to a brand-new application as a running software that is continuously being updated.

1. Carry a Feature Management Perspective When Conducting Testing

Consider isolating and testing a single feature instead of changing and testing the entire codebase. This is the philosophy behind feature management, a brand-new group of tools and procedures for the creation and delivery of software that is based on the use of feature flags. Without going into too much detail, testing these minor features in production is the best use of your time. But even if you decide to try these features in the early development stage, such as staging, doing so will still help you.

2. Recycle Testing Resources and Environments

Recycling helps you manage test environments more efficiently and can save you time, money, and effort, in addition to being adequate for the environment. If you decide to perform tests using on-premises infrastructure, make sure you put some work into keeping it in good condition. 

3. Use the Software Development Life Cycle When Performing Software Testing

Similar to how the SDLC model is followed in the software development process, your testing should adhere to a similar methodology or approach. This technique generates a nested loop. The testing phase of the development life cycle is of utmost importance. Adopting CI/CD tools and techniques fosters an iterative approach toward software delivery. As long as bugs are present in your apps, your team will be ready to test them iteratively using the same concepts and efforts.

4. Think of Testing as a Facet of Deployment 

Consideration of testing in the actual production setting is a more contemporary method of managing tests and their environments. This eliminates the presence of too many detached silos containing test data. Additionally, it shortens the time it takes for consumers to see updates on the front end. 

This perspective on updates and the tests that go along with them takes us full circle to the first point we discussed earlier: using a feature management strategy. The process of duplicating QA Environments for the same codebase is long and tedious.

💡 According to research conducted by IBIS World, In 2022, the US testing market was projected to be worth $6.8 billion. (Source)

Challenges of a QA Environment

Any errors in a test of QA environment management could result in additional expenses and time. However, if you have adequately planned and distributed resources across teams, you will be equipped to deliver a high-quality product on schedule with nearly no errors.

1. Thorough Planning for Resource Allocation 

Resource allocation and planning are the most challenging aspects of managing QA environments. Resource allocation and funding are the responsibilities of a test environment manager. Failure to do so could have an impact on the final output. Moreover, inefficient resource allocation occasionally may result in team conflicts, an unfortunate circumstance in any organization.

The ideal approach is to obtain requirements at diverse periods in advance and allocate resources appropriately. 

2. Exhaustive Setup Time

It is a problem that needs to be handled effectively. In some circumstances, especially in cases of integration testing, the setup time is so intricate that it becomes challenging for test teams. The ideal approach is to obtain requirements at diverse periods in advance and allocate resources appropriately. 

3. Shared Team Usage

Using the same QA or testing environment by multiple teams is another challenge. For instance, if developers and testers use the same testing environment at the same time, there is a possibility that the test findings will be corrupted. The best way to handle this problem is by providing teams with test environments. 

4. Budgetary Constraints

This problem frequently affects small businesses. They need more resources to establish test environment management.

As we’ve already discussed above, using the same testing environments by multiple teams can occasionally result in errors and corrupted test results. To obtain reliable test results and efficient testing environment management, a project manager must deal with this problem.

5. Perplexing Test Configuration 

Developing a complex test environment might be necessary for some tests. The test team is in charge of it. You could run into this problem if you need experienced testers who are experts in setting up test environments. Hiring a professional tester with a successful track record is the perfect solution to this problem.

Summary

Now, let’s summarise the concept of “what is a QA environment.” A QA environment is a host or server that enables you to perform test cases following the specifications of the user or software under test. In addition to setting up the host, it integrates the software, hardware, and network setups in a seamless program. It is equally essential to provide the users with a bug-free, fully functioning application.

Therefore, it won’t be wrong to say that the QA or test environment is an indispensable part of a software or application testing process and is frequently utilized by testers to provide users with a better and much more gratifying experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does QA stand for?

Quality Assurance is referred to as QA. As the term suggests, 

Quality assurance refers to the steps and procedures required to guarantee that software products are ready to function in the market in the same manner as they had been intended at the design stage. QA renders it easy to produce high-quality software solutions.

How do you create a QA environment?

Before working on your QA Environment, you must research a few elements and procedures. To create a test environment, it is essential to understand the testing process fully. A fundamental testing process looks somewhat like the steps mentioned below:

  1. Assessment of the Development Plan
  2. Making the Test Strategy
  3. Evaluating the software’s Requirements 
  4. Putting the Software Design to Testing
  5. Development Phase Testing
  6. Recording Outcomes
  7. Software Acceptance Testing
  8. Reporting the Test
  9. Software Installation and Maintenance 
  10. Assessing the Test Success

Now, the question arises how these test processes are managed? This is where a QA or test environment comes in handy. A test environment can provide precise feedback on the application’s functionality and caliber. Let’s attempt to grasp what the components of the test environment are.

How Many QA Environments per Project?

As per the project requirements, you can create multiple environment to run your application before deploying onto the production environment. There is no fixed limit to how many QA environment you should have for every project.

Why do we need a QA Environment?

A QA environment is a controlled space where testers can easily and quickly identify bugs in the software before giving it to the users. It helps to mimic the same conditions as the production environment but does not affect the users.

Suggested Readings

10 Best Web Automation Testing Tools in 2023 

10 Best Incident Management Systems Of 2023 

Top 10 Debugging Tools in 2023

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