The Importance of a Test Environment

A couple of larger support incidents have occurred recently. I thought it might be a good time to touch on the importance of a test environment in larger Information Systems.

Case A: File Transfer Errors

Imagine a scenario where users of your system could no longer access or enter content into your system. Entire business units and processes come to a hault. Invoices can’t be processed, users can’t access vital information for making important (and expensive) decisions.

            With A Test Environment

Support departments can test, duplicate and investigate possible solutions without further affecting your information system. While reviewing logs, making system changes or even bringing the environment down, the production system may remain up and running allowing other functionality to run such as user logins, promoting workflow or accessing metadata.

Case B: Retention Policy and Disposition

In the case of retention and disposition, records professionals are often managing the life of the information. In this case let’s review the managing of retentions where the retention policy which is applied to a very large section of a file plan needs to be changed. We may need to remove and reapply a retention policy that is applied to a large set of data.

            Without A Test Environment

Since we are changing policies on a large number of items, we should probably run (or confirm) additional backups in case the result of the change gives an unexpected result. Without a full test environment to run such a task and confirm ahead of time, we run the risk that the result would be undesirable and there may be a rollback required. This brings down everything and ALL aspects of your information system goes down and no invoice processing can run, no vital information can be accessed and no user can even login.

In conclusion, an up to date test environment minimizes risk, reduces downtime and helps to ensure we get what we want from our very important information system, whatever it might be.