In many situations, including ongoing environments, it’s necessary to test Dynamics GP. You may want to test configurations, customizations, new processes or numerous other items. However, you don’t want to hurt yourself by changing your live environment and making changes from which you cannot easily recover. This article will offer some methods for creating test environments.
The sample company provides a set of data usable for a variety of purposes. The good news: It may already exist on your system, as it is frequently created when Dynamics GP is implemented. Therefore, getting access may be a matter of security rather than some of the tasks involved with other test environments, which we’ll discuss later.
Because Fabrikam already has data, it is a good place to test and learn the system because you don’t have to perform any configuration; the configuration has been done for you. If new users need to learn the basics of entering vouchers, for example, they can use a training guide or user guide to practice entering data.
Another advantage of Fabrikam is the ability for you to install modules from Microsoft and other companies for testing without the need for registration keys. For example, to test a module such as Mekorma MICR, you can install it in Fabrikam. You’re then able to learn the module without affecting the live environment. Should you decide not to use Mekorma MICR, you can simply uninstall it and recreate the sample company data—a function in Dynamics GP Utilities—to return to a fresh set of data.
One other function of Fabrikam is the ability to restore a copy of live data over it. By restoring a copy of live data on top of Fabrikam, you can still test software without registration keys or learn the software using your own data; the company is still treated as a sample company by the system.
One disadvantage of this company is any modules requiring Dynamics GP Utilities to create tables will affect all live companies. If you aren’t sure you’re going to keep that module, you may not want to update all of your companies with new tables, views, etc.
You can always refresh the Fabrikam company by launching Dynamics GP Utilities and selecting the option to re-add Sample Company Data.
A Test Company
Instead of using Fabrikam, many organizations choose to create a new company database using Dynamics GP Utilities and restore a copy of their live company over the test company. Using this method, you could create a test company for each live company. This provides one or more companies with your data, but for testing purposes.
Note: When creating test companies, make sure you perform the steps outlined in KB 871973.
This method of testing software is one of the most popular. It is frequently used to test software configurations prior to going live. You can then copy configurations and master data to the live database using the Professional Services Tools Library or SQL scripts.
This test environment, however, suffers from the same malady as Fabrikam. Any software that relies on Dynamics GP utilities for implementation will affect all live companies. However, it is a very good environment for testing processes and configuration of modules to be used.
Separate SQL Server Instance
Installing a separate instance of SQL Server enables you to set up all databases in a separate environment on your SQL Server machine. You can copy your DYNAMICS and other databases to this separate instance.
To connect to the separate instance will require one or two items on the workstations:
- You’ll need a new ODBC DSN to point to the separate instance. Create the DSN just like the one you have for the live environment, but with an obvious name. When the user gets to the login window, he or she can select the new ODBC DSN from the server drop-down list.
- You may need to install another instance of GP on the workstation. If you’re planning to test new modules or updates for the test instance, you won’t want to update the GP installation that uses the production instance of SQL Server. You can install multiple instances of Dynamics GP on your machine. Each one will have a name. You could create an icon on the desktop and name it TEST or something similar.
This type of test environment can be useful when you need a completely separate environment but don’t have the hardware or means to use a virtual environment.
Physical Test Machine
If the resources are available, creating a completely isolated test environment on a separate machine can provide a great way to test new versions, processes, configurations, service packs and other changes. Users can log into the machine and use Dynamics GP on it. You can also install another instance of Dynamics GP on your users’ machines, as discussed above, and let them connect to the test machine.
This environment is becoming more popular for live environments as well as test environments. Many companies are choosing to do away with racks of servers in favor of a few more powerful servers running virtual machines. Each machine acts like a physical machine but is contained in one or more files. An application such as Hyper-V or VMW is used to open the files and enable users to connect and use them.
While tools like Hyper-V and some VMWare editions can be costly and require a lot of setup, there are free tools available for download and use. The tools would not provide a good production environment but they do provide a great test environment.
Microsoft’s Virtual PC and VMWare’s Player are examples of free applications. In a recent situation, we used VMWare Workstation, a $200 application, to create a virtual environment running Windows Server 2003, SQL Server 2005 and Dynamics GP 2010. The client wanted to test the upgrade from 10 to 2010 to ensure the data would upgrade and reports and integrations would work. We were able to install Dynamics GP 2010 on a workstation and connect and use Dynamics GP data in the virtual environment.
We’ve presented a number of options and reasons for creating test environments for Dynamics GP. A number of these options are free or you already own them. Some options, while not free, still provide you an environment that can save you money in the long run. By testing the system, you can be more sure of your choices.
For more information on how to create a test environment, contact BKD’s Microsoft Dynamics GP Support Center.