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Test Environment in Software Testing: Complete Guide

A software application undergoes various procedures during the SDLC (software development life cycle). Through these phases software testing is one of the most important phases as it checks for potential errors under the supervision of testers (also called QAs).

However, software testing needs a real environment to execute the tests and check for failures, stress loading, and crashes to gather crucial feedback. For this purpose, a test environment is highly coveted.

A test environment is a controlled setup where software or systems are tested to ensure they function correctly before being deployed to production or released to users. In this guide, we’ll talk about the importance of test environments, the types of test environments and the how-to guides to set up a test environment.

What is a Test Environment?

A test environment is a dedicated setup replicating the production environment, allowing for software testing and validation before deployment to the live system. It consists of the following key components:


Hardware :

  • Servers: Mimic the production servers where the application will be hosted, including web servers, application servers, and database servers.
  • Workstations: Machines used by testers to execute tests and interact with the application.
  • Devices: Real or emulated devices (e.g., mobile phones, tablets or other devices ) for testing compatibility and functionality across different platforms.

Software (operating systems, applications, tools, configurations):

  • Operating Systems: Identical to the production environment’s operating systems (e.g., Windows, Linux, macOS).

  • Applications: The software application(s) under test, along with all required dependencies and third-party components.

  • Tools: Testing tools, automation frameworks, defect tracking systems, monitoring tools, and other utilities required for testing activities.

  • Configurations: Replicating the production environment’s configurations, including settings, permissions, and customiz

Network Infrastructure:

  • Network topology and components (routers, switches, firewalls) that mimic the production network environment.
  • Internet connectivity and bandwidth similar to the production environment for testing web applications and integrations.

Test Data:

  • Realistic test data that accurately represents the data in the production environment, including edge cases and corner scenarios.
  • Diverse test data sets to cover various combinations of inputs, user roles, and scenarios.
  • Mechanisms for securely masking or generating synthetic test data to protect sensitive information.

Importance of Test Environment:

Developers do not release the software to the public until it is completely tested, not even the beta version. To perform the extensive software testing, the tests should be conducted under an accurate test environment.

Test environment is important since it provides a dedicated environment for the testers and isolates the code to examine the applications. Despite being on the same server, the actions performed on it have no impact on the output of the main application interface.

Let’s look at some of the significant advantages of a test environment:

  • Risk Mitigation: The testing environment mirrors the production environment and helps mitigate the risk of deploying faulty software into production environments.

  • Bug identification: Testers can detect and identify the bugs and glitches before deploying them for real-life applications.

  • Training & Demonstration: A test environment gives a parallel interface for training the users with software features in the beta version or without impacting operations. Testers also leverage it to demonstrate software capabilities to stakeholders.

  • Test new features: After the software/ app is released to the public, developers can use the test environment to test out new features and know if it is viable.

Test Environment vs Test Bed

Test environment is often confused with a test bed. However, the Test bed is only a subset of the test environment.
Test Environment covers the entire infrastructure, including the hardware and software setup, network configurations and data configurations for various use cases. However, a test bed is a setup for testing specific components or systems in isolation using test data.

Types of Test Environment

In any SDLC, software testing is out in front with a variation of test environments and different requirements. In this section, we have broadly defined each of these software testing environments:

Unit testing environment:

This testing environment focuses on the individual units or software components. The purpose of testers is to test the unit source code from the large set of codes and test for its stability and functionality.

Testers prefer unit testing environments for various reasons: identifying bugs and simplifying debugging, writing better codes and simplifying software documentation.

Integration Testing environment:

This testing environment tests for the integration of various software modules and checks if they can work together efficiently. These modules include source codes, third-party apps, clients and app servers, and shared databases.
Testers aim to imitate the production environment as accurately as they can to test these integration functionalities. Read our guide on integration testing to know its types and approaches.

Performance test environment:
Performance testing environment puts out the software to test for various conditions and real-world user interactions such as page load speed, stability, reliability, user input response, etc.

Setting up the performance test environment is rigorous and quite expensive since it requires testing on selective infrastructure configuration. For this, testers need various specifications of software & hardware like different RAM, volume of storage, processing speed and more.

Chaos testing environment:

Chaos testing environment aims to test the software applications for stress or specific failures. For example, to test the application’s performance in case of a drastic traffic increase.

Furthermore, chaos testing intends to test the resilience of software for various failures. Like the performance test environment, the chaos test environment needs to be configured for high scalability.

Regression test environment:

It tests for the impact of adjustments made to the software applications. Testers use regression test environments to see if a new feature affects the performance positively or negatively. Or to see that any bug fixes have not impacted the software negatively.

End-to-end testing environment:

That’s like an alpha test environment. After checking for the integrations and performances, testers perform end-to-end tests in a lab or a staging environment to analyze it under certain special conditions. And how it would look to the end user.
This is the final stage before releasing the software for the beta testers.

Beta testing environment:

After approving the end-to-end tests, the software is released to a set of beta users. This is the final stage of QA, where the software is tested for real-world performance.
Suppose a set of users perform an action that results in an unpredictable bug or a failure. Beta testing prevents large-scale user dissatisfaction by releasing it to certain users.
However, it requires a staging environment to be tested and executed.

Key Elements To Perform Test Environment Setup:

A test environment setup requires various elements to perform tests. Rightly said, here are some of the basic elements required:

Database: This is the most important part of software application since it includes the data needed to test a particular software. It includes client-server, mobile and desktop interfaces.

Network protocol: Different network configurations, required by software and applications. Examples include LAN, WAN, Wi-Fi and others.

Operating system: The program that you load into the computer to manage various applications. Includes a client operating or a server operating system.

Automation testers: Test engineers that use automated testing tools to automate test cases and execution. Also, works on programming, designing and testing the existing software.

Manual testers: Testing out the applications without automated testing tools or scripts.

How to Set Up Test Environments?

After prepping up with the elements for software testing, a stepwise procedure needs to be followed. Software testing involves system admins, developers, and testers performing various actions.
Here are steps to setting up a test environment:

1.Define Test Objectives and Requirements:

Before setting up a test environment, clearly define the objectives of your testing phase and the requirements of your software application. Determine what aspects of the application need testing, such as functionality, performance, security, and compatibility.

2.Set Up Hardware and Software Infrastructure

Make sure to consider your hardware and software infrastructure needs well in advance. For different test environments, you’ll need different servers, databases, network configurations, and operating systems.
After all, the end goal is to mirror the production environment, which could be achieved by using the required hardware and software.

Setting up the test servers requires a virtual machine or a computer operating system. This test server proves to be phenomenal in mirroring real-world configurations.
Similarly, your test server needs a specific address, like an IP address, to connect it with other computers or servers.
During the software testing, the network set up involves:

  • Internet setup
  • LAN Wifi setup and
  • Private network setup By setting up these network configurations, you can ensure that the congestion during testing doesn’t interfere with other tasks.

3. Segment Test Environments

Different phases of testing (development, staging, and production) require different test environments. Hence, each of these environments needs to be isolated from one another to achieve satisfactory results.

4. Selecting and Configuring Tools for various tests:

After jotting down the different test environments, look for the tools and frameworks for various testing types:
There are certain test types in test environments such as:

  • Unit testing
  • Integration testing
  • Performance testing, and
  • Security testing. It is recommended to choose a testing tool that comes with a collective capability of performing various tests in different test environments. This should include the different frameworks and wide functionalities of testing tools.

5. Prepare Test Data

The test data is a crucial step that is required to prepare the test cases. The test data covers a wide range of inputs, edge cases, and boundary conditions to test the functionality and performance of the application thoroughly.
By copying the same data to the test environment as the production data, testers can detect the issues without fabricating the production environment.
6. Develop & Execute Test Cases
Finally, develop comprehensive test cases based on the defined objectives and requirements of the testing phase.
These test cases should cover both positive and negative scenarios, including functional tests, integration tests, regression tests, and stress tests. After developing these test cases, execute them within the test environment using the testing tools and frameworks.

Challenges in test environment setup

Here are some of the common challenges that companies face while setting up test environment:

Insufficient resources:

Testers require various resources like browsers, real devices, operating systems, as well as other software and hardware setups. Though various testers depend on simulators and emulators to imitate real-world tests, that’s still an insufficient resource.
For example, most emulators cannot imitate the real experience of low battery or touch dysfunction. If testers do not consider these factors, there are chances that the app may crash in these conditions.
Hence, a real device can accurately mirror the production environment and be used to test for various conditions.
Of course, companies can’t afford to buy real devices with different configurations and browsers. The costs may also be recurring for updating the system and maintaining it using an in-house setup.

Automating the tests:

Automation is at the heart of software testing. To keep up with the escalations and quick competition in the industry, QAs need to aim for more automated tests rather than manual testing.
However, automated testing is more tech-intensive as it involves writing test scripts to execute the frameworks. Thus, it restricts the usability to only testers with a strong technical background.
Platforms like Testgrid offer seamless automated testing by performing scriptless tests. Even non-tech personnel can leverage low-code testing by using features such as recording and playback.

Choosing the Right Test Infrastructure

QAs often come up with the issue of choosing the right infrastructure for their testing environment. Some software companies prefer an in-house setup with a dedicated server and real devices on-premise.
While this setup is pricier, it is preferred for conducting tests for various use cases, collaborating better and testing various real devices at no additional cost.
Others prefer testing over the cloud through virtual labs without spending on a setup at their workspace.
Again, TestGrid provides different test environments – on-premise, cloud-based and hybrid testing. The on-premise setup is perfect for enterprises, helping them with a dedicated server setup and offering real-devices for testing. Their cloud setup offers a cloud testing environment and automates the testing on 1000+ real devices.

Best practices for software test environment management:

Let’s look at the best practices for setting up the test environment:

  • Define your needs and know each of your hardware, software, network configurations and test data to set up your test environment.
  • Communicate effectively with the testing teams and stakeholders at all levels to maintain transparency. This keeps them updated with any configuration changes or new add-ups to the testing.
  • Allocate the required resources such as CPU, RAM, and devices to ensure a seamless test environment.
  • Set up all the security devices and measures to protect your data. Using firewalls and intrusion detection systems will ensure that only limited users have access.
  • Consistently maintain your test environments to keep them ready when needed.
  • Monitor your test environment consistently to keep up with its performance and address any issues at the initial stage.


Setting up the right test environment is the first step to effectively perform software testing. After all, it is the place where all the tests are going to happen.

Hence, an effective test environment setup and management are crucial in SDLC. If your test environment is faulty, your software testing will have inaccuracies. Even with the right test environment set up, you might face issues such as the need for real devices, automation and lack of resources.

This blog is originally published at TestGrid

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