Continuous testing has become essential for many modern application development strategies, only increasing the need for comprehensive and conscientious test data management. Test data may be collected in large volumes and analyzed for a variety of reasons: to ensure the required functionality of an application, to improve and refine performance, and/or to review how a product functions in a real world simulation. Regardless, once the data is collected, it must then be managed throughout the testing process.
1. Protect the Privacy of Sensitive Data
Companies know that their test information has to be a reasonable reflection of their real world data sets. Consequently, test data often reflects the legitimate data that a company might hold, or may even be directly drawn from the company’s databases. The privacy and security of test data must be retained at the same level as the privacy and security of live data; any personally identifiable information, confidential information or otherwise sensitive information must be secured and only accessible to those who are cleared to view it.
2. Perform Sanity Testing At Regular Intervals
Sanity testing or sanity checking is the process of ensuring that the system is working as it should be, especially after initializing minor changes. The sanity test essentially makes sure that the program is performing the logic that it should. With data, sanity testing may be used to make sure that the data being sent and received “makes sense” within the constraints of the application. Nevertheless, applications should be able to fail elegantly even if inconsistencies are found.
3. Virtualize Rather than Simulating
When dealing with test data, virtualizing an environment is always preferable to simulating it. A virtualized environment is a replica of an environment that the data would be live on, whereas a simulation is only a mimic. Unpredictable things can occur with data when moving from a mimicking, simulated environment to a real world environment.
4. Automate Processes When Possible
The process of automation isn’t just positive for a company’s productivity — it also vastly reduces the possibility of error. By streamlining your test system and automatically injecting data directly into the test processes, you’ll be able to reduce your testing time while ensuring the accuracy of your information. Automated processes can also replicate large amounts of traffic and usage through an application that would not otherwise be feasible. Backup processes should always be automated, preferably with the option to restore them to the live testing environment as needed.
5. Refresh the Data Constantly
Creating a “living” data environment is essential to ensure proper testing. Data should be refreshed in the testing environment both automatically and on a regular basis, making sure that testers are using the most up-to-date information available. Data should always be synced from a centralized location, to avoid any inconsistencies in both the processes and the data — and data should always be introduced into the system in a way that retains the connections between linked information.
Improper test data management can have disastrous and unpredictable consequences. If data is collected incorrectly, it could lead a company astray during the critical process of testing and optimization. If data is secured incorrectly, it could lead to significant data breaches that expose the company, its vendors, its customers and its employees to risk. But by following the above test data best practices, you should be able to glean what you need to know from your test data without encountering any harm.