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Understanding the Difference Between Staging and Production Environments in Application Development

Last updated on November 24, 2023.

Application development involves various stages and environments to ensure smooth and efficient software deployment. Two critical environments in this process are Staging and Production. Understanding the difference between Staging and Production is crucial for developers and organisations to effectively manage the software development lifecycle. This article highlights the disparities between these environments and their significance in application development.

Staging Environments

A staging environment is an intermediary phase in the software development lifecycle. It acts as a pre-production environment where developers build and test the application before it goes live. Staging mimics the production environment in terms of infrastructure, software configuration, and data. It allows developers to identify and fix any issues, ensure compatibility, and validate the application's functionality and performance.

Key Characteristics of a Staging Environment:

  • Isolated Testing: Staging environments are isolated from the live production system, ensuring that any issues or bugs discovered during testing do not impact end users.
  • Realistic Testing: The staging environment closely resembles the production environment, including the infrastructure, databases, and external integrations. This allows developers to test the application under conditions similar to the live environment.
  • Quality Assurance: The staging environment is used to perform rigorous testing, including functional testing, integration testing, performance testing, and security testing, to identify and resolve any potential issues before deploying the application to production.

Insites allows you to safely test your web application with built-in email notification suppression. Any email that is triggered by your application and would normally be sent to a user is only sent to your configured test email list, with the intended recipient shown in a prefix of the email subject line. This handy feature allows your team to use realistic test data and be confident that when you deploy your application to your production environment, your workflows work as intended.

If you have a large development team, you may want to set up multiple staging instances for a single project so that each developer can work independently on an instance. Then create an instance where developers can merge their code together to review and solve conflicts, along with a separate instance for user acceptance testing (UAT). Careful consideration is required when setting up your development workflow and the advantages or overheads that come with it.


  • All outbound emails on staging instances are suppressed, enabling you to safely test the system without accidentally sending emails to end-users. To receive outbound emails, you must set the recipients from the instance configuration settings.
  • API Notifications are turned off by default, you can enable them by updating the instance configuration settings.
  • You can not add custom domain names to a staging instance.

Production Environment

A production environment is a live environment where the application is deployed and accessed by end users. It is the final stage in the software development process, where the application is available for use and serves its intended purpose. Production environments require careful planning, scalability, and robustness to ensure high availability, performance, and user satisfaction.

Key Characteristics of a Production Environment:

  • Live Application: The production environment hosts the live version of the application, enabling end users to access and utilise its functionalities.
  • Scalability and Performance: The production environment must be designed to handle high traffic and maintain performance even under heavy loads. It requires optimisations such as load balancing, caching, and efficient database management.
  • Monitoring and Maintenance: Production environments require continuous monitoring to ensure availability, identify performance issues, and resolve any technical glitches promptly. Regular maintenance activities, such as software updates, security patches, and backups, are vital to keep the application running smoothly.

Key Differences

These are the most common differences between Production and Staging environments:

  • Purpose: Staging environments are primarily used for building, testing, debugging, and quality assurance, whereas the production environment is the live environment that serves the end users.
  • User Access: Staging environments are typically accessible only to developers and testers, while the production environment is open to the general public or specific user groups.
  • Data and Content: Staging environments contain sample or dummy data, while the production environment holds real, live data generated by users.
  • Infrastructure and Resources: Staging environments have similar infrastructure but reduced resources compared to the production environment, as it serves a limited audience and the associated costs involved.
  • Risk and Impact: Any issues or bugs in the staging environment have minimal impact since it is not accessed by end users. However, problems in the production environment can directly affect user experience, revenue, and reputation.
  • Security and Privacy: Careful consideration should be taken of what data (for example, user information) and who can access it (password or token protected) within each environment.

In application development, Staging and Production environments play distinct and crucial roles. Staging provides a controlled testing ground to build, identify and resolve issues before deployment, while Production serves as the live environment that caters to end users. Understanding the disparities between these environments enables developers and organisations to optimise their software development processes, ensuring a seamless user experience and reliable application performance. By effectively utilising Staging and Production environments, developers can mitigate risks, maintain high-quality software, and deliver exceptional applications to their users.

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