How To Build A WordPress Staging Site

WordPress staging site

Something I recommend if you are experimenting with new themes or plugins is a staging site. In this post I’ll share how to build a WordPress staging site.

What Is A Staging Site?

A staging site is a clone of your live site, in a development area where you can experiment with changes without it impacting on your live site.

Staging sites are also know as sandboxes or development sites.

It will be an exact clone of your live site but will use  a separate database and set of files from your real site.

The point of a staging site is that you can throw in a new theme or a raft of new plugins without the worry that it will crash your live site.

Staging sites are very common in corporate IT environments, but have not trickled down to the owner of small business sites, which is a shame, having a staging site where you can test changes can save a lot of heartache from crashes.

Making A WordPress Staging Site

There are three main ways to create a staging site, they are

  • Using a host with staging capabilities
  • Staging Plugins
  • Manually Creating One

Using A Host With Staging Capabilites

The new breed of WordPress managed hosting companies are increasingly offering staging solutions.

For example I use WPEngine and they have a one click staging feature.  I ask for a clone of my current live site to be made, and their automated processes go off and make an exact duplicate at http://ibraininc.com/

This is probably the easiest (but not cheapest) way to create a staging site for your installation.

Costs – starting at $29 per month

Staging Plugins

If your hosting does not offer a staging solution, the next method to look at are the staging plugins out there.

One that I have encountered is WP Stage Coach.

This plugin clones your site onto their infrastructure so it is completely separate from yours, you then make your changes there and when fully tested you can push those chnages back to your live site.

Cost – from $4 per month

Manual Build

The cheapest but most labour intensive would be to build a manual staging area.

You can install the site into a subdirectory of your current site e.g. yoursite.com/staging or create a new sub domain staging.yoursite.com and install your cloned files there.

I wrote a step by step process in this post Building A Development Environment so I’ll not rehash those steps here.

In essence get a copy of the Duplicator plugin, clone your site and move it to the appropriate place. Run the installer that comes with Duplicator and a new site is built.

I recommend you create a new database in your hosting control panel to keep all data separate.

Cost – $0 just some of your time.

Making Your Staging Live

Hosting staging site and WP Stage coach pull your live site into staging area at the click of a button, and then push it back to live, with the new changes again at the click of a button.  This makes it incredibly easy to keep your development and live site aligned.

For the bootstrappers, using a manual build you will have to reverse the process, take your new duplicator files push then to your live environment and make your changes live, this is why methods 1 and 2 appeal to less technical site owners.

Wrap Up

If you site is mission critical, making changes in live is not a bad idea, consider build a WordPress staging site and make your mistakes there not in live.

Photo Credit: Brian Rinker via Compfight cc

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