Testing with your own environment vs a shared environment

27 May

I do wonder, within QA among all the different organizations/companies, does QA generally test on a shared (test) environment, or have their own testbed environment to work with, or both?

It may be organization/industry specific, as certain fields/areas work better where you have individual testbeds/environments to work with and some are better with a shared environment. The contraints and decision are often based on:

  • resource efficiency/utilization – will people be more productive testing with their own environment or a shared one? Can the environment be shared easily for testing? Is it easy to deploy & manage the environment individually by anyone or is it easier to manage centrally as a shared environment? Cost to deploy individual vs shared environment
  • corporate policy – what are the organization’s IT policy/policies that affect environment setup for testing?
  • test data setup/sharing, reproducibility of bugs – whether better with individual environment or shared
  • codebase sync of test/release branch code with the environments with scheduling/agile in mind – easier with individual vs shared environment
  • hmm…any others that come to mind?

But what’s interesting to me though, is that regardless of the QA test setup, developers will usually have their own environment rather than a “shared” development environment. Why is that? More productive & effective to develop individually before you merge all code to a central codebase & environment for testing? But I could be wrong with this assumption as I’ve not worked at too many places but so far have noticed devs do get their own environments at the places I’ve worked. So perhaps QA should get their own environments too if devs get their own. A hybrid approach can be useful though, shared use environment and individual testbed environments, so you get the best of both, though it does cost more this way.

What are your thoughts on this? I personally prefer the individual environment or hybrid option. It’s nice to have more control of the environment that you test, as long as you are smart & responsible on how you configure and test the system.

From personal experience I can provide the following insight:

  • if the industry/organization deals with hardware, you are likely to get your own testbed environment to configure & manage & test. There may be a shared environment as well where multiple people use it, perhaps in real world type scenario (e.g. PBX phone system with all organization members having an account, phone, and access to that system to test and use what they build themselves)
  • if the industry/organization is about website and/or web applications/services, you are likely to get a shared test environment, individual might not be likely though is awesome if you do get that. The shared environment may or may not be managed by QA, it could be managed by IT, DevOps, or Release Engineering, etc.
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