You’ve developed your software. You’ve run all the tests. Now it’s time to deploy your product to a live production environment. But you’re not sure if you’ve done everything you should have to ensure a successful deployment. Moving your product to a live production environment is an important step and a risky one too! A single mistake can cause a catastrophe!
Given there’s so much at risk involved in moving your product to a live environment, it is important to understand certain best practices to ensure a successful deployment. Here are 6 key considerations while moving from a test environment to a live production environment:
1. Make sure the production environment is ready
Before moving from a test environment to a live production environment, it is important to ensure the target environment is ready – running the same operating system, having the same administrative user, the same schema, and the same database as that of the source environment. Any mismatch between the two environments can result in issues. Also, make sure to backup all the necessary files and data and ensure sufficient RAM is allocated for importing necessary scripts and files.
2. Gradually deploy software in phases
Deploying a new software (or even a new release) to production carries a high amount of risk. Therefore, rather than deploying the software to all instances or users at once, deploy the code to a single instance or a fraction of the users first. This can help in detecting any last-minute problems while allowing for a more successful deployment later in a phased manner. Such an approach ensures every change that passes the testing phase is deployed, so working software is always available to the end-users. In addition, use automation tools to trigger deployment pipelines and deploy code in small batches to ensure releases are less risky and issues easier to fix.
3. Consider deploying new code as a configuration change
While moving code from a test environment to a production environment, it is possible to directly deploy it by overwriting old code, so only one copy is present at a time. However, it is also possible to deploy new code as a configuration change. This can be done in three ways: 1) deploying a parallel installation of a new version of code and switching between them with a configuration change, 2) deploying a new version of code with old behavior and switching to the new behavior with a configuration change, or 3) deploying one server for old code and one for the new code and redirecting users from old to new with a configuration change.
4. Embrace automation for error-free deployment
When it comes to a critical task such as deploying in a live production environment, there is no room for error. Allowing automated scripts to do the challenging task is a great option to minimize the chances and impact of error; automation can make deployments repeatable, smoother, and reliable. However, before using automated scripts in a live production environment, test the script locally in the development environment. This can help in the easy deployment of changes while ensuring no steps are missed along the way – such as creating a database or giving the right set of permissions.
5. Leverage Feature Flags to make deployment seamless
Deploying changes or updates to a live environment can be challenging, especially if there is a risk of a service interruption. Feature Flags can help increase the confidence in deployment; by turning off (or on) certain functionalities during runtime – without deploying new code. This allows teams to deploy code, without users noticing the change. Using Feature Flags, deployment teams can enjoy more control while making new features available only to certain groups of users at a time.
6. Continue to test code in production
Although there is a widespread belief that code should not be tested in production, the truth is, testing in a live environment can help detect several potential issues including corrupted (or invalid) data, performance issues, system overload, non-compliance, and more. Despite the risk, it is a good practice to test code even after it has been moved to production. Running tests such as usability testing, A/B testing, regression testing, and real-time health monitoring is a great way to understand issues, improve system resiliency and quality, enhance the user experience, and prevent bad deployments from breaking the system.
Moving code from a test environment to a live production environment is a Herculean task; a single mistake can bring your entire system down. Therefore, it is important to keep these best practices in mind, so you can make reliable and high-quality software available to your end-users – quickly and continuously.