The test-lab plan is designed to help you prepare your testing strategy, basing it on a realistic scenario. In a test environment, you definitely need a realistic scenario that simulates your production environment. By preparing this scenario, you can verify your assumptions and uncover problems while optimizing the design. In doing so, you are verifying your plan and reducing your risk of errors and downtime.
Depending on your environment, you may even spread your test environments across numerous physical or even geographical locations. Several elements influence the type of lab that you choose, such as physical space or environmental limitations, budget, time and staff available for building the lab, existing labs, corporate culture, and the project's or corporation's goals. Based on the previous elements, you have two types of labs to choose from — an Ad Hoc lab and a Change Management lab. The Ad Hoc lab provides specific project testing. After the project ends, the equipment can be redeployed, used for a production environment, or returned to the vendor. The total cost of ownership (TCO) for an Ad Hoc lab varies, depending on the number of projects that you need it for, but the equipment can be redeployed, essentially keeping the TCO low. The Change Management lab presents a permanent environment. At first glance, you may think that the TCO for a permanent lab would be greater than that for the Ad Hoc lab, but if you view it across projects, the cost of a permanent lab is likely to be more reasonable. Ad Hoc labs are hard to track, and financial accountability is diluted. Change Management labs can be used in the following test environments:
♦ Network upgrades
♦ Service packs and software patches
♦ Business application compatibility
♦ Desktop configurations
♦ New hardware platforms
♦ Administrative and support processes
♦ Client computer management tools
In determining what model fits your goals, if circumstances (such as your budget) seem to dictate an approach other than the one that you consider the best, try to come up with creative ways to support your solution.
After you make the decision for the correct lab model for your environment, make sure that your lab simulates the full environment. You need to prepare a list of information about your environment that helps you design the lab. This list can include your current or new logical and physical network design, features that you want to explore and evaluate, administrative tools to explore or evaluate, and service packs, server drivers, and server bios that you need to configure and test.
This list needs to be able to grow, depending on your own test-lab needs. After you compile your list and determine your test-lab design, focus on documentation. We know that this is hard to do, but it can prove essential and helps keep lab users current regarding design changes. Testers can use lab descriptions and diagrams whenever they design test-case scenarios to ensure completeness in the testing plan.
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