As your WordPress website grows, your career begins to take off, and your sales increase, you might begin to wonder whether editing every element of your website live is a good idea.
And the truth is it isn’t worth the risk.
Most website owners have made the mistake of updating even a small change on their live website only to have everything come crashing down. Oftentimes, the following result is the dreaded “white screen of death”.
But wait, you didn’t touch any code, you only clicked one button, and the built-in theme editor is supposed to be a safe way to make changes to your website. Yet all of your hard work is now lost in the purgatory of WordPress space, creating a much larger issue than you would ever expect to face.
Securing your WordPress website from outside threats is something we at WP Mayor love to emphasize to all of our readers. In fact, we have previously shared statistics regarding WordPress security, plugins designed to beef up your website security, and of course exceptional tips for protecting your website from hackers looking to capitalize on your hard work.
But, what about protecting your hard work from yourself?
Most professionals and seasoned WordPress website owners know that working on a live website is a risky move. In fact, that’s why so many website owners take advantage of editing on a WordPress staging site.
Today we will discuss the various ways to set up a WordPress staging site in order to protect yourself from accidentally crashing your own website. This way, you can easily test website changes without taking your entire website down in the process.
What is a WordPress Staging Site?
A WordPress staging site is a copy of your live website that you can use for making changes to any element on your website without the public seeing it. It is a great place to test things such as plugins, themes, and to check for conflicts, without causing any real issues on your live website.
Then, after testing all of the changes on your staging site, you can easily import the changes from your staging site to your live website. Or, you can simply make the same changes manually to your live website.
Why Use a Staging Site?
By creating a staging site, you can help ensure that your website avoids downtime and stays functional. Let’s look a little closer to some of those benefits a staging site provides website owners:
- You can make changes to your website after thorough testing without having to place your website in maintenance mode.
- It ensures that all changes function properly before presenting them to your site visitors.
- You can troubleshoot website issues you encounter without furthering the problem.
- Visitors will not experience any downtime.
- Conversions, sales, and SEO rankings will remain unaffected because your website will never crash.
As you can see, there are many reasons to consider using a WordPress staging site. However, the question remains:
How do you create a staging site?
Creating a WordPress Staging Site
There are several ways to set up a WordPress staging site. Although each option is suitable for all website owners, it is important you evaluate each choice to find the one you feel most comfortable performing.
Create a Staging Site Manually
This option is for those that are comfortable with MySQL database operations and is not for beginners. However, if you like to get in and do things yourself, and want to keep total control over the entire staging setup, you can create a copy of your website manually.
Here is a breakdown of what you will need to do to accomplish this:
- Set up a staging “subdomain”. This is typically done using your hosting provider or by setting up WordPress locally. You usually name your subdomain something similar to test.yourdomainname.com or staging.yourdomainname.com.
- Create a copy of your website. Copy the files in your wp-content directory and your database via an FTP.
- Import your copied data into the staging site WordPress installation. Upload your copied data to your staging site’s wp-content folder. You may need a migration plugin such as WP Migrate DB to move your database from your live website to your staging site.
After all of this is complete, update your URLs and links in the database if you did not use a plugin to migrate your database. If you did use a migrate plugin, all paths and URLs from your live site will rewrite in the staging site making things much easier for you.
Create a Staging Site Through Your Host
Many managed hosting providers offer one-click staging environments as part of their services. From your WordPress dashboard or hosting account, you can access the one-click staging creation button and automatically create a staging site that is a perfect replica of your live website.
You are then instantly ready to start testing plugins, themes, and new designs without fear of crashing your live website.
If you have WP Engine as your WordPress hosting provider, kudos to you. They offer amazing plans that come with plenty of valuable features, including the ability to create a staging site. WP Engine does an excellent job of detailing how to create a staging environment for their customers. However as a quick overview, here are some of the things you can expect from WP Engine’s staging environments:
- Exact clone of your live site as a staging site.
- Ability to copy staging site, complete with changes, back to live site.
- One staging environment per WordPress install.
- Disabled caching for testing plugins and themes.
Another wonderful managed hosting provider that includes staging environments in their plans is SiteGround. Using the simple Staging Tool to create a copy of your live website, SiteGround provides an easy way to replicate and manage your website for testing purposes. Here are some of the benefits of using SiteGround’s Staging Tool:
- One-click staging accessed via your cPanel.
- Easily backup changes before pushing your changes to your live site.
- Simple restore option.
- 2 options for making changes live – the simple push makes all changes live and deletes changes on your staging site, and the advanced push allows for a compare and contrast between your live and staged sites.
In the end, either managed hosting provider will have your WordPress website running smooth and efficient. And, with the ability to create a staging environment in a simple way, even the most novice of website owners will be able to take advantage of such a valuable feature.
Create a Hosted Staging Site with a Plugin
If your WordPress hosting provider does not provide one-click staging sites, don’t worry. You can still create a hosted staging environment using one of several WordPress plugins. For example, the premium plugin WP Stagecoach is a great option for those who need a staging environment for their website.
Making it easy for you to create a staging site, test and make changes, and push your changes to your live website, WP Stagecoach is the perfect solution for those seeking a simple and easy way to manage a staging site.
Here are some things that WP Stagecoach offers website owners:
- One-click staging, even on shared hosting plans.
- Choose which changes to import to your live site.
- Password protection of staging site.
- SFTP access to staging site.
- No hosting necessary for staged site because it runs on servers.
- SSL enabled on all staging sites.
- Easy restore of all previous configurations.
Staring at $12 a month, WP Stagecoach has multiple plans to suit your individual staging site needs. In the end, this plugin is a budget friendly option for those who wish to have a simple solution for setting up a staging site.
Other Plugin Options
Here are some other comparable WordPress plugins that make creating a staging site easy on all website owners.
- WP Staging. Clone, duplicate, and migrate your live websites to independent staging sites without the hassle of complex configurations. Keep in mind there is no push option for importing your staging site changes to your live website.
- Duplicator. Duplicate, clone, migrate, move, and transfer entire websites from one location to another. It also works as an excellent website back up plugin.
As a website owner, it is important you avoid actively making changes to your live website. Though it may seem like no big deal, and you may have made minor changes a million times, all it takes is one website crash to ruin more than just your day.
Using a staging site will prevent that type of chaos and ensure that any changes you wish to make to your website will be functional and accessible to your site visitors.
In the end, there are many options available for creating a staging site. So, look at the choices above, choose which one will work for your individual needs, and create a staging site today.
Have you ever created a WordPress staging site? How did you create it and what was your experience in doing so? I would love to hear all about it in the comments below!