If you read my introduction, you won’t be surprised to know that one of my favorite TV shows is Holmes on Homes. Holmes on Homes is an HGTV production where Mike Holmes goes in and repairs construction jobs that have gone south. A lot of times he finds substandard work, work that does not meet the minimum code requirements i.e. Uniform Building Code. Well, if there was a uniform building code for SharePoint farms, it would include a few things that some people tell me they don’t have. One of those things is a Test Server.
I used to think that I didn’t need a test server. I thought I could get by with building test sites under my department’s site, or, if I really wanted to get serious, I could create a separate content database for testing. I was wrong. One day, I made some changes to the configuration of a third-party web part I was testing. The changes were accepted, but they didn’t seem to work; I made a note and planned to return later. Unfortunately, when I returned the page failed to load. A few well crafted URLs later and I had deleted the offending web part and my department site returned to action. That’s when I realized we needed a test server.
If you are using SharePoint for ECM, the above example isn’t even the worst case scenario. You may be imagining disasters resulting in lost documents, but I am thinking about something a bit more subtle. Consider a workflow, developed without proper testing, that is occasionally causing a simple mistake; say the wrong value being set in a column. When you discover that error, you will fix the workflow and then go back and edit the incorrect entries. Whoever does the editing is now associated with the document. That association may have to be explained at some point, perhaps in conjunction with a discovery order.
A test server need not be an expensive undertaking. Your test server can be virtualized, or like our test server, it can run on a fairly inexpensive workstation. The point is, we have a server where we can try out trial copies of web parts, and applications. Also, I have a content database on the test server where I can develop and test workflows and code that I develop. My Systems Administrator loves our test server. By using our test server, he has perfected his ability restore and upgrade SharePoint – there’s nothing like destroying a server and recreating it to make you feel good about your backup strategy.
Testing the technology we rely on to keep our business data, store our business documents and exchange information with our customers, should be standard procedure. Testing should also be a first class operation; it should be able to be conducted without limitation, for the appropriate length of time and without risk to production documents. The minimum requirement for testing would include a separate test server.
#sharepoint #testing #ECM