Testing in production is an essential process to ensure the quality and reliability of applications.

While testing is traditionally conducted in isolated environments, away from the production environment where the software is ultimately deployed, there is a growing trend called "testing in production."

This challenges this conventional approach. This article will break down what testing in production is, its potential benefits and risks, how it is conducted, and how you can get started with testing in production using a platform like ConfigCat.

Let's dive straight in.

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Testing In Production (Your Questions Answered)

What is testing in production?

Testing in production is all about running tests on software applications or features in the actual production environment. This is where real users interact with the system. Rather than developers relying solely on pre-production testing, they can test in production to play out real-world scenarios and identify issues that are unlikely to surface in controlled environments.

Is testing in production a good idea?

Testing in production has its advantages and disadvantages. Let's start with the positives.

This process allows developers to gather valuable insights about application performance, scalability, and user experience in a real-world setting. Testing in production helps identify issues that can only be detected when the software is subjected to genuine user behavior and production-level loads.

And the negatives? As you would expect, testing in production carries certain risks, such as the potential impact on user experience and the possibility of introducing bugs or performance issues in the live environment. In the vast majority of cases, the possible benefits of testing in production far outweigh the risks.

Why run tests in production?

Running tests in the production environment can offer no shortage of benefits for developers.

It enables developers to identify and resolve issues that may only occur under real-world conditions. When developers monitor system behavior, performance, and user feedback, they can gain valuable insights into how their software performs out in the wild.

Testing in production allows you to measure application behavior and performance with greater accuracy, as it eliminates the differences between testing and production environments. You are completely blurring the lines between the two processes. This can help reduce the gap between development and operations teams, successfully promoting collaboration and faster issue resolution.

How is testing in production conducted?

Testing in production is conducted using various techniques. Feature flagging, a practice provided by ConfigCat, allows developers to control the visibility of specific features or code changes in real-time.

When developers selectively enable and disable features for different users or user segments, developers can test new functionality in a controlled manner.

Canary releases, which involve gradually rolling out new versions to a subset of users, help identify issues before a full release. Testing in production also allows developers to set up A/B testing - which allows teams to compare different versions of a feature and evaluate user preferences based on their in-app behavior.

What is an example of production testing?

Let's consider an example of production testing.

Imagine a social media platform that wants to introduce a new commenting feature. With the support of feature flagging, the developers can deploy the new commenting feature to a very small percentage of users and gather feedback.

They can then gradually increase the rollout based on the performance and stability of the feature. This staggered approach allows the team to gather real-time user feedback, identify and fix any issues promptly, and ensure a smooth transition for all users.

The last thing you want to do is release a half-baked feature and have to roll back the entire codebase. This is the stuff of nightmares for developers. Feature flagging solutions can help support consistent user experiences and prevent downtime.

Who performs production testing?

Production testing will typically involve collaboration between developers, operations teams, and quality assurance (QA) professionals.

Developers play a crucial role in implementing feature flagging and other testing techniques in the software codebase.

Operations teams must ensure that the production environment is properly configured and monitored during the testing process. QA professionals contribute by defining test cases, monitoring system behavior, and validating the quality of the software during the production testing process.

What are the risks of testing in production?

While testing in production offers many benefits, it also carries certain risks. Running untested code or features in a live environment can potentially impact user experience, causing disruptions or even downtime.

Then again, it's better to identify problems sooner rather than later - and testing in production supports this. If you release an experimental feature to all users and a problem arises, you will have to roll back the entire codebase.

If effective monitoring and rollback mechanisms are not in place, issues introduced during testing can negatively affect application performance or data integrity. With this in mind, it's critical to carefully plan and execute production testing to minimize these risks and ensure a seamless experience for end-users. The best way to achieve this is through a feature flagging solution like ConfigCat.

How can you get started with testing in production?

If you are ready to get started with testing in production, consider implementing feature flagging using a service like ConfigCat. This allows you to control the visibility of features and collect user feedback before full deployment.

You should start with small user segments or canary releases to gauge the impact and stability of new features. Monitor system behavior, performance metrics, and user feedback to identify and resolve any issues without delay.

ConfigCat is a feature flag service that takes 10 minutes to learn.
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Production Testing: Closing Thoughts

Testing in production provides developers with the ability to gain insights into how their software performs in real-world scenarios.

Using feature flagging, canary releases, and A/B testing, developers can ensure a higher level of quality, reliability, and user satisfaction.

With the right tools at your disposal, testing in production is an effective approach to continuously take software applications to new heights.

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