Using Production Data in Test

Using Production Data for Software Testing

FEB, 2023

by Andrew Walker.

 

Author Andrew Walker

Andrew Walker is a software architect with 10+ years of experience. Andrew is passionate about his craft, and he loves using his skills to design enterprise solutions for Enov8, in the areas of IT Environments, Release & Data Management.

 

 

 

In the world of software development, testing is an essential process that ensures the quality and reliability of a product before it is released to the public. However, traditional testing methods often rely on artificial or simulated data, which can lead to inaccuracies and incomplete coverage of real-world scenarios. To address these issues, many organizations are turning to production data for testing purposes.

Using production data for testing, opposed to Test Data, has many benefits, including improved accuracy and realism. By using real-world data, testers can identify bugs and edge cases that would be difficult or impossible to simulate with artificial data. Additionally, using production data can help validate the performance of a system under realistic conditions.

However, using production data for testing also comes with its own set of challenges and risks. In this post, we’ll explore the benefits and risks of using production data for testing, as well as strategies for mitigating these risks and best practices for using production data responsibly. By the end of this post, you’ll have a better understanding of how production data can be used for testing, and how to do so in a way that protects both your organization and your customers.

 

Enov8 Test Data Manager

*aka ‘Data Compliance Suite’

The Data Securitization and Test Data Management platform. DevSecOps your Test Data & Privacy Risks.

Benefits of Using Production Data for Testing

Using production data for testing has several benefits over traditional testing methods. Here are a few key advantages:

  1. Improved accuracy: Production data provides a more accurate representation of real-world scenarios than artificial data. This allows testers to identify bugs and edge cases that might not be apparent with simulated data.
  2. Realistic testing environment: By using production data, testers can create a testing environment that closely resembles the actual production environment. This helps ensure that the system behaves as expected under realistic conditions.
  3. Cost-effective: Using production data for testing can be more cost-effective than creating artificial data. It eliminates the need to generate large amounts of data manually, which can be time-consuming and expensive.
  4. Faster testing: Production data can help speed up the testing process, and reduce data friction, by providing a pre-existing dataset that testers can use immediately. This can reduce the time and effort required to set up a testing environment.
  5. Valuable insights: Production data can provide valuable insights into how users interact with the system in the real world. This information can be used to improve the user experience and identify areas for optimization.

Overall, using production data for testing can provide a more accurate, realistic, and cost-effective way to test software systems. In the next section, we’ll explore some of the risks associated with using production data and how to mitigate them.

Risks of Using Production Data for Testing

While using production data for testing has many benefits, it also comes with several risks. Here are some of the main risks to consider:

  1. Data privacy: Using production data for testing can expose sensitive user information, such as personal identifying information or financial data. This can lead to legal and reputational risks for the organization.
  2. Security breaches: Production data is often more valuable and attractive to attackers than simulated data, which can make it a target for cybercriminals. Using production data for testing can increase the risk of a security breach, which can lead to data loss or theft.
  3. Data quality: Production data may contain inaccuracies, errors, or inconsistencies that can affect the testing results. This can lead to false positives or false negatives, which can be costly to the organization.
  4. Regulatory compliance: Depending on the industry or jurisdiction, using production data for testing may violate regulatory requirements or laws. Organizations need to ensure that they comply with relevant regulations and laws when using production data for testing.

To mitigate these risks, organizations can implement several strategies, such as anonymization, using data subsets, or setting up strict access controls. We’ll discuss these test data strategies in more detail in the next section. By implementing these strategies, organizations can use production data for testing while protecting both their customers and their organization.

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Best Practices for Using Production Data for Testing

To use production data for testing effectively and responsibly, organizations should follow best practices that mitigate the risks discussed in the previous section. Here are some key best practices:

  1. Anonymization: Anonymizing production data, using techniques like data masking, can help protect user privacy by removing personally identifiable information (PII) from the dataset. This can be done through techniques such as masking, tokenization, or encryption.
  2. Use data subsets or virtualization: Using a subset of production data, rather than the entire dataset, can help reduce the risk of exposing sensitive information. Organizations should carefully consider which data is necessary for testing purposes and use only that data. Alternatively, data virtualization tools, like vME, can create a virtual layer between the application and the data source, allowing testers to create “tiny clones” of their production data in real-time.
  3. Implement strict access controls: Limiting access to production data to only those who need it can help prevent unauthorized access or data breaches. Organizations should implement strict access controls, such as role-based access or multi-factor authentication, to ensure that only authorized users can access the data.
  4. Monitor data usage: Organizations should monitor how production data is being used for testing purposes to ensure that it is being used appropriately and responsibly. Regular audits can help identify any potential risks or compliance issues.
  5. Obtain user consent: In some cases, organizations may need to obtain user consent before using their production data for testing purposes. This is particularly important when dealing with sensitive data or data subject to regulatory requirements.

By following these best practices, organizations can use production data for testing in a responsible and effective way that protects both their customers and their organization. Additionally, organizations can use automation tools that allow for easy anonymization and virtualization of production data, making the process more streamlined and secure.

Conclusion

Using production data for testing can provide many benefits, but it also comes with its own set of challenges and risks. By following best practices, organizations can mitigate these risks and use production data for testing in a way that protects both their customers and their organization. When done correctly, using production data can lead to more accurate testing results and a better understanding of how systems perform in the real world. With the addition of data virtualization, testers have another option to effectively use production data while reducing the risks associated with traditional data subsetting.

Other TDM Reading

Enjoy what you read? Here are a few more TDM articles that you might find interesting.

Enov8 Blog: A DevOps Approach to Test Data Management

Enov8 Blog: Why TDM is so Important!

Enov8 Blog: What is Data Fabrication in TDM?

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