The Journey to ISO27001 and ISO9001 : part 2

One of the first questions I asked when taking over the development team was “What do you use for version control?” The answer came back – “we don’t use version control”. Instead, a every new version of each application was uploaded into a new directory on the production server, and then a constant in a config file was changed to tell PHP which directory of code to use.

To roll back, just change the value of the constant. Simple?

Not really. This approach gave no way of branching and merging, and one developer was likely to overwrite another’s changes.

After some cursory research, we decided to use Mercurial. All went well. Then, a contractor came in to help us and he insisted that we switch to using Git – we’ve used Git ever since.

I’d recommend the book “A Pragamatic Guide to Using Git” by Travis Swicegood (Pragmatic Bookshelf) to help get started with Git. I prefer command line tools, but for those that don’t there are plenty of GUI front ends for Git – such as TortoiseGit. PHPStorm has Git integration built it.

Once everyone in the team is using version control, you really have to adopt a branching strategy that works for your team. More on that in another post.

As an aside, a now ex-colleague was wrestling with something in Git (probably a fast-forward or some other esoteric feature) and was getting nowhere. In his temper, he blurted out “whoever wrote this Git thing obviously knows nothing about programming”.

The Journey to ISO27001 and ISO9001 : part 1

Over a series of posts, I’ll attempt to document how I managed to get our development workflow independently audited to ISO27001 (Information Security) and ISO9001 (Quality).

To appreciate the scale of the task, I have to cast my mind back to 2011. I was looking for a new job and saw a role as PHP developer advertised. At the time I was nothing more than a bedroom PHP coder, I’d written a few simple web applications using PHP but these were just for fun and certainly nothing to be proud of. In my previous role, I done a bit of web programming using Visual Basic, but I was certainly no expert.

Anyway, I was invited for interview and a coding test. I felt rather out of my depth, seeing professional PHP developers working on applications that a multi-million pound business depended on.

The coding test made me shudder – not because I couldn’t do it, but because of what I was asked to do. I was given a page of tasks to perform and a laptop. I was told to write the code and then to FTP the code to the company’s one and only production server, where I could examine its outputs. So, here I was, someone with no professional PHP experience been asked to write code on the hoof and then upload it to a production server to see if it worked. One of the tests also involved running MySQL queries against a production database.

Anyway, I got the job and started on the long journey to getting the web development processes up to the standards required by ISO9001 and ISO27001.

It became apparent early on that the workflow adopted by the team was to edit code on the production server and see what happened. There was no local development environments on the developers’ PCs, and no test environment. I lost count of the number of times someone tried running an experimental query and we had to then call Rackspace and ask them to stop it running as it was killing the database server.

The first task was to have a dedicated and isolated test environment set up. An old PC was found in the server room and was quickly turned into a basic Centos LAMP stack. Unfortunately, all of the production code had been written so that it only could run on the production server – just copying the production code onto the test server did not work. We had to spend ages setting up reverse proxies as well as changing code so that it was not coupled to the environment where it would run.

We also installed XAMPP on all the developers’ PCs so they could at least run code locally before it reached production.

In summary – production servers are sacred, and cannot be used for testing anything. Get a test environment!