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Production Data vs. Synthetic Data: Which one to prefer for Software Testing?

 
There is a growing interest among QA professionals to use synthetic data production for software testing. This development is triggered by a requirement for data privacy or to meet the requirements accelerated for agile and DevOps environments. However, one of the topmost reasons to utilize synthetic data is to have full control over the variety of data needed for maximizing test coverage. 

While test data has been recognized as a vulnerability for companies that should adhere to privacy laws like HIPAA and GDPR that are intended to prevent exposure of sensitive information. Businesses need to practice meaningful change to accelerate the speed and efficiency of test data provisioning. For this goal, an offshore testing company may prefer synthetic data, which can defeat the threat of revealing sensitive customer information. 

Synthetic test data provisioning has become important in software testing in order to achieve success with the help of AI and different test automation technologies. As a consequence, test data can be the building block for companies that are performing continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD).

 

CHALLENGES IN THE QA PROCESS

How can QA departments simultaneously maximize the speed, quality, and privacy of test data while reducing the cost and complexity that appear with provisioning it?

Organizations are increasingly requiring to discuss the challenge of keeping up with the accelerated speed of development as the bar simultaneously continues to rise for higher quality code and complete data privacy. 

But which approach is more beneficial? What are the trade-offs? How can IT professionals perform the best decision for their environment?

These questions set the scene for a great debate regarding whether production test data or synthetic test data is a safer solution for continuous testing. Here I’ll introduce some essential test data criteria to follow as a basis for comparison between the two. Let’s start by defining our terms more accurately.

 

WHAT IS PRODUCTION TEST DATA?

Production test data is a copy of a production (real-time) database that has been masked to represent data that is important to a test case. Production test data is followed by a test data management (TDM) system to develop, control and use this data. Commercial TDM systems are expensive, so many companies choose to develop their own processes tailored to their needs. 

 

WHAT IS SYNTHETIC TEST DATA?

Synthetic test data does not involve any actual data from the production database. It is artificial data that is produced by a synthetic test data generation engine. Synthetic test data generation reduces the requirement for data masking, as test data can be generated on-demand and without endangering sensitive customer information. Thus, teams can utilize synthetic test data applying a self-service model. 

 

TEST DATA CRITERIA 

There are some factors often used to make a decision between the use of production and synthetic test data. Each factor is necessary to reduce the test data bottlenecks and to avoid the risk of a data security violation.  Now let’s have a look at these crucial test data criterion that can help distinguish between the two:

 

Speed

QA managers require to consider the time conditions for test data provisioning before starting a testing project. Typically, it needs a few days to fulfill a request for test data to help a certain test environment. But what if this time could be considerably decreased from days to minutes? Synthetic test data affects the real-world data and can be produced at a rate of thousands of rows per second. So synthetic test data production eliminates the bottleneck of demanding production data from the team and also eliminates the need to mask the data. This model enables testers to provide their own data whenever they require it and discard it when they have finished their testing. 

 

Cost 

Cost is an essential factor to consider when it comes to creating, maintaining, and archiving test data. Since production data requires to be prepared, maintained, and stored, teams, need a TDM system. So they require to purchase a TDM system and carry its maintenance cost too. However, if synthetic test data is produced on demand,  and there are more cost-effective solutions/tools available now than they were several years ago that can significantly reduce the cost of providing test data. 

 

Quality 

When provisioning production test data, testers have limited control over the quality of data with regard to the factors like age, precision, diversity, and value of data that they require to copy, mask, and subset. Software testing needs various permutations of data with negative test data. Testers may be required to manually transform the production data into usable values for tests. But synthetic test data eliminates the effort that goes into creating a data subset. It is produced on a test data situation and is able to quickly produce data with a complexity that is not possible to be completed manually. 

 

Security 

QA teams also require to consider the privacy implications of the sources of test data. Test data provisioning should eliminate all PII, to avoid the high costs of a data violation. Production data needs data masking, but no masking method is foolproof. However, synthetic test data assure 100% compliance with all security regulations during the testing cycle.

 

Simplicity 

When picking a source of provisioning of test data, QA managers should assure it is easy for the testers to get the data they require for their tests. It should be an easy model that makes quality test data available to anyone at all times.  Synthetic test data generation makes the method simple with platforms that enable real-time test data to be generated on-demand by the QA team. 

 

CONCLUSION

QA professionals are still concerned about the trade-offs. They still require to decide which approach is better and what is the correct choice for their testing environments. The above-mentioned differences can help QA teams operating for an offshore testing company to make a more suitable choice. 

Leverage TestUnity software testing services to ensure speed, quality, and privacy of test data. Connect with our testing experts at TestUnity to know more about Production test data and Synthetic test data in 2021.

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