Test Tenants: A Complete Guide to Lifecycle Management in Microsoft 365

Test Tenants: A Complete Guide to Lifecycle Management in Microsoft 365

By
Josh Wittman
June 16, 2022

When you’ve got a cloud ecosystem supporting hundreds of users across multiple tenants, it becomes very important to ensure that your developmental testing doesn’t disrupt the user experience, cause downtime, or introduce security vulnerabilities.

That’s why it’s a common practice among software engineers to set up non-production sandbox environments for testing new features and deploying experimental code. These environments are usually an exact replica of the production environment, allowing developers to run independent tests without compromising the user experience.

For organizations running on Microsoft 365, this presents an unfortunate challenge because there’s no easy way to replicate your production configuration for testing purposes. This results in disparities between testing and production, which can lead to unwanted bugs and performance issues down the line. 

Thankfully, there’s an easy solution. In this article, we’re going to talk about the best way to set up test tenants that are truly identical to your production environment in Microsoft 365, so that you can conduct your testing without having to worry about discrepancies, and how to move configurations between tenants with an approval workflow.

How to Set Up a Test Tenant in Microsoft 365

A test tenant is a dedicated instance of Microsoft 365 created specifically for testing purposes. It’s not meant for live users and serves only as a temporary environment for conducting developmental testing. 

Setting up a test tenant in Microsoft 365 is quite simple. Just sign up for the Microsoft Developer Program and create a new tenant. That’ll get you 5 Microsoft 365 E5 licenses with access to tools like Office 365 and Azure AD.

In an ideal world, Microsoft 365 test tenants would be an exact replica of your production environment, so that you can conduct usability testing in a practical setup that’s close to your real-world ecosystem.

However, the reality is quite different. Microsoft makes it very easy to sign up for a developer account and create a test tenant, but it does not provide the necessary tools to clone your production configuration to the testing environment

That means any alterations you might have made to the configuration in your tenant will not be carried over to the test environment. You’re left with a test tenant that could be drastically different from the tenants you’ve set up for production use.

The Problem With Microsoft 365 Test Tenants

So, what happens when your test tenants aren’t in sync with the production environment in Microsoft 365? Let’s take a look at the common challenges faced by enterprise developers when trying to set up a test environment on the platform:

  • Consistency: The overarching problem with setting up test tenants in Microsoft 365 is the lack of consistency. You’ve got no way to ensure that your test environment is similar to what you have in production, so any changes you try to carry over from your test tenant can produce unexpected results in production.

 

  • Maintainability: Because of the larger disparity between testing and production, maintaining your cloud infrastructure becomes an ongoing hassle. What works in testing may not work in production, disrupting the experience for the end-user.

  • Security: These discrepancies in configuration can easily expose vulnerabilities in your cloud infrastructure, leading to a host of exploits that can be used to the advantage of hackers and predators. It can also open up compliance issues with regional restrictions and data regulations, which may lead to legal problems.

  • Documentation: Microsoft 365 does not offer a way for you to track changes between production and testing, making it impossible to document anything for auditing purposes. 

  • Recoverability: If you end up testing changes that don’t work out, you have no way to roll back those changes in case of any problems.

Simeon Cloud: Automated Lifecycle Management Controls for Microsoft 365

Simeon Cloud offers a much better solution to lifecycle management in Microsoft 365. It helps ensure proper consistency between your testing and production environments by automating the process of setting up and managing test tenants. 

With Simeon, you can easily compare and align non-production environments with production and move configurations between tenants. All of this can easily be done with just a few clicks and advanced approval workflows. You also get access to detailed documentation and tracking for every single change to individual tenants, allowing you to achieve complete transparency, accountability, and recovery in the event of an issue.

Navigate to the Reconcile tab inside our web portal to have a clear view of any inconsistencies or gaps between your non-production and production environments in M365. From there, you can remediate any differences and approve or reject changes to your production tenant.

But it doesn’t stop there. Simeon Cloud is an end-to-end automation and management solution for Microsoft 365 configurations that also assists with baselines, drift detection, multi-tenant management, automated provisioning, backup and restore, and so on. Looking to automate configuration management for Microsoft 365 for your enterprise? Book a demo today to find out more!