Often when looking to replace a system, or make significant changes to a system, a university will want to test changes without affecting your live instance of Talis Aspire, and might ask if Talis can supply a sandbox.
This article outlines what a sandbox is; when it’s best used; and when it’s possible (and more effective) to test using your live Talis environment while not impacting the live service.
Talis are committed to making sure that you have the means you need to test the changes you are planning, and will work with you to make sure that your testing requirements can be met.
What is a sandbox?
A sandbox is a test environment, Talis use sandboxes when testing around:
- Branding - during implementation or future rebrands of your Talis Aspire Reading List (TARL) tenancy we will use one of our design sandboxes to apply your new branding to, for you to review and make changes to. The reason we do this in a sandbox is so that your live tenancy is not affected.
- Talis Aspire Digitised Content (TADC) data import - if you are having a data import as part of your setup of TADC, then we will first put the data into a sandbox environment. This is an area in which you can review the imported data to make sure that it is correct before loading it into the live environment.
- Data changes - you could be looking to upgrade your authentication to a newer version but you want to test this first. In this instance, we will give you access to one of our temporary sandboxes that we can set up to reflect your settings but not your underlying data - this way you can test access by logging in.
Talis Aspire and Traditional Testing Techniques
Many IT teams are used to dealing with systems which are installed on university-provided hardware in data centres where access is controlled by the University. This means that as a system is updated or changed in any way, the IT team will want to make sure that those upgrades or updates are not going to have a negative effect on end-user experience.
Often this requires a setup of a test system which is exactly the same as the live system, but which can be ‘played’ with to see what breaks when software updates or system updates are applied.
Because Talis Aspire is Software as a Service (SaaS), the responsibility of upgrading components or installing new software versions is managed for you by Talis Aspire. It’s all part of the service.
So the advantage of a SaaS offering is that you can try out new features or test new integrations on your live tenancy without impact or risk to your live service. Recent examples include being able to try out new list view for students and new edit list functionality with select groups of users. The benefit of testing in this way is that you will see how Talis works with the data as you run your Talis Aspire service
- Iterative releases these are small multiple releases that take place each week, many you are unaware of. These may be small bug fixes, a change in menu text, additional field on a report or a new citation style being added. Others will be customer specific fixes or changes and those customers are alerted to the change directly via support. These releases are Talis wide and are applied to your live tenancy and will affect all customers. Before any release, we do full testing to ensure that it won't have an impact on your tenancy. Any release that changes or improves the user interface are explained and accompanied by a release notice and support article when needed.
- Major releases or functionality changes, depending on the new features, will depend on how they are released and rolled out to your live tenancies. We make a decision at the point that we are working to develop functionality as to the best way of introducing it into the product. Evolution of existing functionality - this is where we are adding new features to the product. These can be rolled out in two way, either you enable for a few users (you choose) and then increase the reach when you are happy with it or you roll out to all users in one go.
- An example was when we redesigned the List View, we enabled you to choose who this was available for so that you could do a controlled rollout at a time to suit your communications to users and timing. This ‘switch’ approach is the way that allows you to see new features in your current environment rather than in a ‘test’ scenario, you see your branding, your data and the new feature.
- Brand New functionality - as brand new functionality is developed and released, Talis will be deciding the best process to get this into your hands.
How do I test using my university’s data?
Some examples of where it might be better to test with live data include (but aren’t limited to):
- Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) or Learning Management Systems (LMS) - we know that many of you like to be able to see how the integration will work if you are moving to LTI or upgrading to a new version of your current system. Talis Aspire Reading Lists is read-only, and therefore you can link to multiple instances of a VLE (eg. we have some customers who have Blackboard and Moodle, or Canvas and Blackboard), in this instance, they need to be able to link TARL to both those environments. The way that the integration in TARL has been set up is so that those multiple "consumer keys" can be created. This means that if you have a test environment for your VLE/LMS then you can point at TARL using one of the "consumer keys" you have created. You can then test without having an impact on TARL.
- Adding a completely new hierarchy. Talis Aspire supports a hierarchy model which means that multiple hierarchies can exist side-by-side. This means that you can load in a new hierarchy alongside your old - as long as none of the codes in the new hierarchy are the same as the old.
Are a team within your university requesting a testing environment, but it’s not covered within the areas raised above?
Raise a support ticket, the Service Team will work with you to understand your requirements for testing, ensuring the right support for your test plan is put in place.