How many Chris21 environments do you need?
Your Chris21 environments refers to the various Chris21 systems you have access to. What I’m referring to here is your ‘non-live’ environments, such as Test and Development. How many should you have and what are their purposes? In my experience having a system of four Chris21 environments is ideal. One of these is your live production environment and the other three are test environments that will be used for testing, upgrades and end of year reporting respectively.
Configure a test environment to match your Chris21 production system
As a minimum one of your Chris21 environments should be a test system that is a faithful copy of your live production Chris21 system. This means a system that is exactly the same version as your production system. You can get this information by logging into Chris21 and clicking Help -> About from the main menu. This will display the version information and should be exactly the same between your test and production systems.
Having a test environment that matches production exactly will allow for accurate testing. For instance, you may want to change the configuration such as a change to one of the settings on the Settings (CFT) form. This type of change will alter a particular function in Chris21 and is a system wide change. Therefore it is always advisable to do this in your test system first and view the results. You can only do this effectively if the version of your Chris21 test system is identical to your production system.
Having your test system setup this way is critical but what happens if you want to install an update or full upgrade to Chris21? If you simply update your test system you will have automatically lost the benefit of having a system that matches your production system. This is where you need a third environment.
A dedicated environment for upgrade purposes
All Chris21 users are required to upgrade their systems prior to the start of a new financial year. Even if you’re not looking to install new features there will still be legislative requirements that will be built into the upgrade and for this reason you need to upgrade.
To manage your upgrades, consider creating a dedicated Chris21 environment for this purpose. As an example you could call this environment DEV (development). With this environment in place you can install an update or upgrade without impacting on your test environment.Therefore, even though you may be in the middle of an upgrade, you will still have access to a test environment that is a faithful copy of your production environment if you need it.
You will find this invaluable should you come across a problem in production and you need to use your test environment for troubleshooting. It is best to leave your test environment in the pre-upgrade version until you have successfully tested your upgrade in the development environment and completed the upgrade in production. As soon as this is done you can then upgrade your test environment to match production.
Create an end of year environment
This one is very important for Payroll staff. When you have completed your end of year processing you will have three copies of your production environment that are backups from various stages of the EOY process.
Payroll will find it very useful to have an end of year Chris21 environment that they can access if required. This will provide access to information that has been cleared by the EOY process. For instance, you may want to run some reports over this data to retrieve information that will no longer be available in your production environment.
Your EOY environment should be created in the pre-upgraded version of Chris21.
This environment will also be useful if you have archived data from your production environment prior to your upgrade. See my blog Chris21 Housekeeping After End Of Year Processing for some more information about this. If you need to restore this archived data then you can restore into your EOY environment.
To sum up, in my experience it is ideal to have three Chris21 environments in addition to your Chris21 production environment. Each environment has a specific role to play – testing, upgrading or reporting after EOY. These environments will ensure that you have all bases covered when it comes to managing the integrity of your Chris21 system.