Staging Environment: What Is it and Why Is it Important?

Software Development
Staging Environment: What Is it and Why Is it Important?
Article by Jelena Relić
Last Updated: June 27, 2024

Software and applications go through different testing stages during the software development process before they are ready for actual use. Each phase has a specific purpose and ensures that the software works as intended and is high-quality. One of them is the staging environment.

This article explains the staging environment definition and compares it with other phases in the software development lifecycle. We’ll also discuss its importance and benefits.

What Is Staging Environment?

A staging environment is a copy of the production environment where software or applications are tested and evaluated before being released to end users. Although it mirrors the production environment as is its replica, the staging environment is not accessible to the public. It acts as a safe space between development and production, where developers and testers can check the software's performance and make necessary adjustments before it goes live.

By using a staging environment, development and testing teams can:

  • Replicate the production environment's software, hardware, and configuration, enabling testers to simulate real-world conditions and ensure the application's quality.
  • Test new changes before deploying them to production, reducing the risk of errors or issues that could affect end users.
  • Validate the application's performance and functionality, ensuring it will work well after deployment to the production environment.

The staging environment shares similarities with testing, QA, and production environments; they all have a significant role in various software development methodologies. However, they are entirely different processes with distinct characteristics that set them apart.

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Staging Environment vs. Production Environment

Although they have some similarities, the staging and production environments are two different phases in the software development process.

The staging environment is like a practice run for the software before it goes live. It's the final testing ground where developers and testers carefully check software performance, functionality, and compatibility in a realistic setup and fine-tune it to ensure it works well. The staging environment is isolated from real users, ensuring testing activities do not disrupt the live production system.

The production environment is the actual live environment where the software or application is deployed, and real people use it in their daily lives. This environment requires high stability, performance, reliability, monitoring, and maintenance to resolve any ongoing issues.

Summary: While the staging environment is for testing and refining the software, the production environment is where people use it in everyday activities.

Staging Environment vs. Test Environment

The staging and test environments are entirely different processes, but both are necessary for a successful production.

As we’ve explained, the staging environment resembles the live version of the software, except for the most recent updates. It mimics the production environment, including all requirements and configurations, deploying software updates to a live-like climate, and ensuring nothing breaks.

The test environment focuses on testing specific changes made to the source code. It does not require a complete replica of the live environment and often involves working based on assumptions about how the software will function. It validates individual components or functions of the application.

Summary: While the staging environment closely resembles the production environment and is used for final checks on the whole application, the test environment focuses on testing individual components or functions without requiring a complete replica of the production environment.

Staging vs. QA Environment

The staging environment tests and validates the software under conditions that closely resemble real-world usage. It is critical to make necessary adjustments and obtain final approvals before deploying the software to production.

The QA environment is comprehensive quality assurance testing where various activities ensure the overall quality and functionality of the software. These activities may include integration testing, performance testing, security testing, and more. The QA environment validates the software and ensures it meets the defined quality criteria. It typically occurs earlier in the software development process, allowing for thorough testing and identifying any issues before the software progresses to the staging environment for final testing and deployment.

Summary: While the staging environment focuses on final testing and approval before deployment, the QA environment is dedicated to comprehensive quality assurance testing. It occurs earlier in the development process, covering various testing activities to ensure the overall quality and functionality of the software.

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Why Do You Need a Staging Environment?

A staging environment provides a setup that closely resembles the production environment. It allows developers, testers, and stakeholders to test the software under realistic conditions before it goes live. 72.3% of tech professionals spend half or more of their time on resolving incidents, which can be avoided if this testing solution is implemented.

A staging environment helps identify and address issues or bugs before end users face them. This is important because 88% of users abandon apps because of bugs and glitches. Improving the overall quality of the software before it reaches the production environment improves its efficiency, faster response times, and a better user experience (UX).

Without a staging environment, you could risk deploying unstable or faulty software to the production environment, resulting in user dissatisfaction, operational disruptions, or financial losses. The staging environment acts as a buffer, allowing for thorough usability, integration, compatibility testing, and performance optimization before releasing the software to end users.

Staging Environment: Final Thoughts

A staging environment is an important component of the software development process. It replicates the production environment, allowing for comprehensive testing, adjusting, and validation of the software before it goes live. Closely mimicking the real-world setup helps identify and resolve potential issues, ensuring a smooth and reliable UX.

When selecting a software development company, ensure they incorporate a staging environment in their software development lifecycle process. This phase ensures that the software undergoes thorough testing under realistic conditions, reduces the likelihood of issues, and provides a smooth UX. It also showcases the software development company’s dedication to delivering high-quality, reliable, and successful software solutions.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main benefits of having a staging environment?

The main benefits of having a staging environment are:

  • Thorough testing and performance optimization before software deployment
  • Identifying and resolving issues before reaching the production environment (end users)
  • Validation of software updates and changes in a realistic setup
  • Risk mitigation by reducing the chances of deploying faulty software
  • Positive UX

What comes first, UAT or staging?

The staging environment usually comes before User Acceptance Testing (UAT) in the software development process. The staging environment is a pre-production environment where the software is thoroughly tested, refined, and validated before it reaches the UAT phase.

Once the testing in the staging environment is over and the software is validated, it is deployed to the UAT environment. UAT is the final testing phase, where end-users or client representatives test the software to ensure it meets their requirements and expectations.