Development, Testing, Staging, Production: What's the difference?

Development, Testing, Staging, Production: What's the difference?


If you were ever close to an application development you may have heard of terms like “test environment”, “dev environment”, or “production environment”, etc. And even if by the name they may be intuitive, there are particularities, processes, and things that happen on each that you should learn.

In this article, we will explore the different environments and some of the processes and ideas around moving a product from the developer’s machine all the way to be available for users.


Types of environments

What is a development environment?

A development environment is where an application is developed. It is usually the programmer’s own machine. The developer has full control of this environment and can install any tool, configuration, or library that he needs.

The application will be running in this environment while the programmer works on it. Usually, there are no restrictions on what developers can do in their development environment. Or at least it shouldn’t in theory, though some companies may limit developers for security and other reasons, which can have consequences in the developer’s performance and ability to deliver.

What is a testing environment?

A testing environment is a place where an application is deployed to be tested by quality assurance (QA) or beta testers. This environment should simulate as much as possible the production environment, but there might be some differences.

The main purpose of a testing environment is for the application to be validated before it goes live to ensure that there are no major issues and it is also used to test that new features are working according to the requirements.

Depending on the product and the company, there may be multiple testing environments at the same time, having testing environments per feature for example.

What is a staging environment?

A staging environment is very similar to a production environment, but it is used for testing purposes before the application is launched in production.

This environment tries to simulate as much as possible the final production environment, so tests in staging are more accurate than tests done in development.

The staging environment should have the same server configuration, database, caching system, and so on, that will be used in production. This way, you can find and fix potential problems before the application goes live.

What is a production environment?

A production environment is an environment where the application is finally deployed and made available to users.

The production environment should have all the necessary components to run the application in optimal conditions. This means that the server should be configured for performance, caching should be enabled, and the database should be optimized for writes and reads.

Production environments are usually more monitored than other environments because they are critical for the business. A problem in production can mean lost money for the company, so it is essential to have good monitoring and logging in place.


The role of DevOps in a world with environments

With the rise of DevOps, the lines between what is a development environment and what is a production environment have become blurred.

Nowadays it is common for developers to work in production environments, with all the risks that this entails. But at the same time, it is also possible to have development environments that are very similar to production.

This is possible because of the automation that is part of the DevOps culture. Deploying an application in multiple environments is now a trivial task, and it can be done with a few clicks or even automatically when certain conditions are met.

The important thing is to understand the risks of each environment and take the necessary precautions. A mistake in production can be costly, but a mistake in development can also have consequences.

In any case, the most important thing is to deliver features quickly and safely, and for that, you need to choose the right environment.


When is security considered in the application development cycle?

Security should always be considered at any stage and in any environment.

This means that developers need to think about security when they are coding, and they should also be aware of the potential risks of the libraries and frameworks they are using.

Additionally, it is important to have a secure development process in place. This includes having code reviews, using static analysis tools, and having a good Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) process.

Moreover, it is essential to have security tests in place for each environment. These tests should be run automatically as part of the CI/CD process, and they should be tailored to each environment.

The practice of combining DevOps with security is called DevSecOps, but, What is DevSecOps?


Conclusion

When all of the development models are used to their maximum potential, companies are in a better position to release higher-quality products that are safer. Furthermore, these models allow you to keep your code compliant.

There are so many regulations to keep in mind and they must all be carefully considered when it comes to launching new applications. One of the main areas of concern involves user data. Developers can use the development environments to ensure that user data is difficult to access.

With so many technical terms and models, it can quickly become difficult for a new developer to understand all there is to know about development environments. However, after reading through this post, we hope that you’re feeling more assured about what the different models are and the purpose that they each provide.

Development environments are simply used by developers to create code, test it, and receive feedback so that they can release the best possible products. The fact that teams can see how their applications will interact with services in the real world before the code is made public is a major benefit that allows you to make changes to improve the product.

Thanks for reading!