Basics of Using Environment Variables For Small Business Solutions

environment variables

marketing plan templateBusinesses can use environment variables to safely store data, keep them encrypted, allow special privileges and enhance the overall security.

Environment variables are variables that help you understand how your program is going to run. They are created and used by your operating system, and understanding them will let you know how the device will operate.

But in recent times, environment variable solutions are being used for many small businesses. Some small businesses have a hard time expanding. But, by using environment variables, they can operate much smoother and get out of challenging situations.

What Are Environment Variables?

A lot of people do not know what are environment variables or what purpose they serve.

For starters, an environment variable is an object on your computer that contains editable values. This value is used for software programs installed in Windows or any other operating system.

Environment variables work as pathways and help the programs determine which directory the files should be installed to, where the temporary files should be and how to find the user’s profile setting. These variables can help change, run and maintain the environment that the programs run on. Hence, the name environment variables.

To visually see what and where they are, open the terminal in your operating system. If you are on Linux and macOS, you can simply type “env,” and it will print out a bunch of variables. The entirety of these variables can be called the environment.

If you are on windows, you will have to go to the system and security option in the control panel, click on advanced settings, and finally, down below, you will find the environment variable option.

Each variable has a name and a value. The point of these variables is to communicate to programs how the machine is set up and sometimes to control the program’s behavior. It can also quickly tell you which users are logged in, what the home directory is, and several other things. For beginners, managing and understanding environment variables can be difficult.

However, there are companies like that can help efficiently manage your environment variables. They also provide built-in version controls and keep all your security codes safe.

What Is A Small Business?

Small businesses are corporations, partnerships, or sole proprietorships that are privately owned. They require fewer employees and staff than a typical business.

The term ‘Small’ does not mean that the business is small or has small revenues. Although small businesses do have smaller revenue, that is not the reason for the name. There are different policies in different countries that classify a business as a small business. For example, in Australia, according to the Australia Fair Work Act 2009, a business is small when it has fifteen or fewer employees.

But according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, a business is small when it has five hundred or fewer employees. Therefore, it appears,, that businesses are measured based on their employee number, not by their revenue, shipments, sales, or assets.

How Does Environment Variables Help Small Businesses?

At first look, environment variables may seem insignificant but there are plenty of useful functions that are important in running a business or a company.

For small businesses, the main advantage of using tools and codes like environment variables is to gain an advantage in security measures.

Environment variables or .env files are used to store sensitive information like credentials for your software or apps. This is especially useful if you are running a small web development company.

The information you can keep secure is typically the ones you do not want to end-users see. API endpoints, API keys and database login, and similar data fall under this category.

For instance, if you are managing a team of 5 developers, you can host the .env files or environment variables in an S3 bracket to keep them secured. You can later use that for CI/CD pipelines. This way, the developers can easily download the dev env files if and when they change.

You can manually change the access point and only allow it to the dev env files for security purposes.

Allow Specific Privileges

The environment table is used by a specific owner or the entire team. You can use it to create a separate application to use the environment variables. The best part is that you can assign users specific levels of privilege. Meaning, not everyone will have the same level of access. You can use this to improve the digital safety of your small business.

But you do not need separate privileges or requirements to access the environment variable value table because it is connected directly to the variable definition table.

Automates Notification

Notifications are automatically sent and displayed whenever an environment variable does not have an appropriate value.

This acts as a useful reminder and ensures that the components work properly depending on the variables. It allows customers to input the variables and values safely as well.

Easy Configuration Of Application

Applications can sometimes be difficult to configure, but environment variables make it easy to configure. For instance, you can use a package like dotenv to access and use the frontend environment variables of an application. You can also use it to record backend and frontend applications.

This allows you to move data from the source code to the variable and name it as a .env file.  However, the working procedure may differ based on the operating system, microservices, or the application type.

Final Thoughts

Understanding the concept of environment variables may be a bit difficult at the start, but once you get the hang of it, it will surely help you in scaling up your business. Experienced web developers learn both the concept and the proper way to use them, which separates them from inexperienced web developers. After all, it is not always about how to use it. Sometimes it is more important to know when and where to use it.

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Editorial Staff

This article was written by editorial staff.