Difficulties and Efficient Methods for Establishing a Test Bed/Environment:
A common issue for testers is that their reported defects often get dismissed due to environment-related problems or they find themselves reproducing defects over and over for similar reasons. Although the number of reported defects serves as a performance indicator for testers, it’s vital to focus on reporting a larger number of valid defects.
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So, what’s the strategy to accomplish this goal?
Apart from devising different test scenarios and gaining a comprehensive understanding of the requirements, it’s crucial to allocate considerable time for setting up the Test Bed or Test Environment. Testers should also concentrate on developing efficient Test Data for test case planning.
From what I’ve observed in the audit process, the most legitimate defects are discovered when considerable effort is expended in correctly establishing the Test Bed or Test Environment and when the tester thoroughly comprehends the required environment.
The type of test data utilized in the test environment can unveil critical defects in the code/feature being tested, which can dramatically impact the product’s quality.
This article will cover the Test Bed, which entails two stages: Test Environment preparation and Test Data preparation:
Part #1) This section discloses the routine process of setting up the Test Environment, the standard setup issues encountered by testers, and guidelines to remember while creating a Test Bed to circumvent these obstacles.
Part #2) While discussing the Test Bed collectively in this article, it’s useful to shed light on maintaining the Test Environment too. The latter half of the article will concentrate on the second aspect of the Test Bed setup, which implicates the test data and efficient methods to manage Test Data.
With the ongoing construction and testing of software, there’s an increased emphasis on embracing techniques to render the Quality Assurance process clear-cut, efficient, and effective.
Companies undertake diverse quality audits to assess the effectiveness of the testing team and gauge results based on set metrics. These results assist in identifying the status of a team in guaranteeing optimal quality for the tested software.
These reports also offer insights into potential improvement areas based on audit observations.
It’s clear that a pivotal metric for any test team is the total number of opened defects versus the count of valid defects. Hence, it’s vital to understand the foundation of discovering defects. In other words, what constitutes the groundwork on which a defect can be discovered?
Test Bed and/or Test Environment setup is unanimously considered this foundation. Teams establish quality benchmarks to decrease the number of rejected defects due to test setup errors, user mistakes, invalid configurations, or defects originating from unavailable or untested configurations.
Let’s begin by explaining the definition of a Test Bed or Test Environment.
What You Will Learn:
What Is A Test Bed And Test Environment?
Generally speaking, a Test Bed is defined as a developmental environment that allows code or module developers to test their modules without any disturbance from the test team in a controlled setting.
However, a Test Bed is not confined to a development team. From a tester’s or a test team’s perspective, a Test Bed is a platform designated for product/software testing, also known as a Test Environment.
A Test Bed or Test Environment must be adjusted to meet the identified testing objective for the product/software/application being tested. In certain scenarios, a Test Bed encompasses both the test environment and the test data used within it.
Components Of A Test Environment
Each test has particular requirements for a test environment, but generally, a Test Bed or Test Environment includes the required hardware, software, and networking components to meet the necessary configuration for conducting the specific test.
It’s a well-known fact that testers often invest a significant chunk of time dealing with environmental problems, leading to lower productivity and delayed test schedules. Although these challenges may vary between test teams, some are commonly encountered.
Here are frequently confronted challenges:
#1) Remote Environment
Test assets or environments are usually situated remotely from the teams. This poses a common hurdle for test teams since any hardware, firmware, software, or networking problems mandate heavy reliance on the support teams at the asset location.
When an asset requires a firmware or build upgrade, the test team might need support from the support teams in the environment by opening support tickets. This can eat into testing time and cause delays, especially when time zones differ.
#2) Shared Usage between Teams
Often, development and test teams share the same environment assets. Although it’s ideal to have separate development, test, and production environments, it’s not economically viable for most organizations to acquire separate resources for each team.
This leads to shared environment usage by both development and test teams. If team members from both development and testing need to use the same assets simultaneously, conflicts and disagreements can arise.
#3) Inadequate Resource Usage Strategy for Integration
In cases demanding end-to-end testing where two or more components need to operate together, there might be a need for shared resource usage amongst test teams. Inefficient planning in this area can create an unstable environment and conflicts between teams.
A noticeable effect of this is that an issue observed once or twice may exhibit completely different behavior in subsequent runs. If a defect has already been opened for this issue, the development team may not consider it a valid candidate for correction.
#4) Complicated Test Configuration
The configuration of the Test Bed or Test Environment can sometimes be exceedingly complex. This presents many difficulties as testers need to possess the right skills to understand and configure the environment. Testers may sometimes misconfigure the test bed due to a lack of knowledge base, severely affecting test cases and their outcomes.
#5) Lengthy Setup Time
In some instances, each test case’s setup may be disproportionately complex. This could be owing to the need for coexistent technologies or many components working together during integration testing. Each component must function flawlessly for consistent results, as one component may provide input to the next.
Best Practices For Setting Up A Test Environment
We’ve previously discussed the primary challenges testers face while setting up the environment. Most of us have encountered one or more of these issues at some point in our projects. Since setup challenges are part and parcel of a tester’s job, here are some recommendations for effectively preparing the setup and reducing defects stemming from setup issues.
Tip #1) Understand the Test Requirements in Detail and Educate Yourself
Start with the fundamentals! When the development team hands over the specifications or use case document, the first task of the test team should be to comprehend the requirements and include detailed information about the test environment in the test case document. This analysis helps identify the necessary test environment and configurations.
Conversing with the development team or architects can help in creating a knowledge base, saving execution time and permitting testers to effectively divide their time between simple and more complex tests.
This practice not helps in detecting setup issues early in the cycle but also enriches the test team’s knowledge and avoids superfluous defects. While this practice encompasses most of the strategies to address setup challenges mentioned above, it’s still valuable to mention the other tips.
Tip #2) Verify Connectivity
Ensure that the resources or assets intended for testing are accessible. If systems need to interact with each other, conduct connectivity checks using ping or telnet. If systems are guarded by firewalls, make sure they can clear authentication through the firewalls using Basic Security Options (BSO) and check for any proxies. Launch service requests if systems are not accessible or need authentication.
This is particularly beneficial for remote environments and aids in the proactive identification of resource access requirements.
Tip #3) Check Networking and/or Storage
This tip builds on the previous one and requires some technical knowledge. Verify that the test environment has the necessary bandwidth and Internet connectivity, if required. Check the network topology between systems and resources. If storage is required, check for storage availability and network connectivity. Though primarily an administrator’s duty, having such knowledge is beneficial.
Tip #4) Verify Hardware, Software, and Licenses
Before initiation of execution, verify the availability of the necessary hardware and software. Many times, testers discover during the testing cycle that certain features require higher-level hardware or software/firmware. Hence, it’s crucial to list hardware and software requirements ahead of time.
Upgrades to hardware/software can cause downtime, so proactive planning is essential. Some types of software may need licenses, which require approvals and actions from legal teams and can be time-consuming.
Tip #5) Browsers and Versions
Testing should simulate what an end-user would do. Identify the browsers that need testing and guarantee their installation in the local test setup. Also, decide on the versions of browsers to be used. It’s recommended to begin with lower versions and upgrade to the most recent one to ensure backward compatibility.
Tip #6) Plan Usage of Test Environment
Since test teams generally do not have their own dedicated resources, wise usage of shared resources is vital. If multiple teams need to access the same resources, adopt time-sharing approaches. Assign different time slots to different teams or individuals, allowing for independent testing during common time slots without affecting others.
This can reduce conflicts and ensure a more stable environment for an extended period.
Tip #7) Automation Tools and Configurations
Identify the automation tools and the necessary configurations for automation. Although not mandatory for test readiness, including automation tools and configurations in the setup plan can streamline automation efforts.
These tips offer guidance on ensuring test environment readiness and reducing defects arising from setup issues. Each team encounters unique challenges, and these tips can be adapted and customized according to their specific requirements.
Most of these tips originate from a project where I faced intricate setup issues that postponed testing for almost a year. Implementing these tips has aided me in proactively identifying setup issues and making efforts to resolve them. I continue to use these tips in all assignments, and they have proved beneficial in enhancing the stability of the test environment.
About the author: Sneha Nadig, a Test Lead with over seven years of experience in manual and automation testing projects, penned this article.
In part 2 of this article, we’ll talk about setting up the Test Environment and maintenance procedures, plus offer tips for preparing and managing test data.
In the meantime, feel free to post your questions concerning Test Bed preparation in the comments.