WordPress Staging Sites a what, why and how to guide

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What is a staging site?

A staging site is an exact copy of your existing WordPress site.  It has all the content, the same configuration, the same login details it’s just on a different URL.  They can be created on a sub domain, e.g. staging.yourdomain.com or as a directory within your existing site, e.g. yourdomain.com/staging.  They don’t even need to be called staging – the name can be anything you like.

Why would you need a staging site?

There are lots of reasons why you might need a staging site.  For us the most important reason is updates.  Some of our client sites are huge, either on an e-commerce front or simply very, very busy sites.  Updates cannot cause issues with these sites and so we use staging sites to test the updates prior to either pushing the changes to the live site or repeating the update process carried out on the staging site to the live site.

Does your host provide staging sites?

Most serious WordPress hosting providers will include staging sites and will have simple, one click options to clone a WordPress site from live to staging and staging to live.  But what happens if your provider doesn’t?

Manual or Plugin?

As with everything WordPress there is a plugin for that, or you can do it manually.  Although I will cover what you need to manually copy over your WordPress site as always I do not see the point in spending a whole of time and effort doing something that a developer has painstakingly automated for me.

Manually creating a staging site

There are 2 parts to a WordPress site, firstly the files including the WordPress Core, any plugin files, theme files and any media you have uploaded and secondly the database that holds all the data.  Both components need be extracted and moved to complete a successful migration.  Doing this task manually, without a plugin will require access to your control panel, FTP access, access to PHPMyAdmin or similar.

Steps for a manual migration

  1. Login to control panel
  2. Access PHPMyAdmin
  3. Export database
  4. Compress database
  5. Setup FTP access
  6. Download the public directory
  7. Access PHPMyAdmin
  8. Import database
  9. Search and replace old URL with new URL
  10. Setup FTP access
  11. Upload all files to new site

That’s not to mention provisioning a new site….

Phew!  A whole load of work!

Use a Plugin!

Here at RocketWP we use a mixture of the All In One WP Migration and the built in features in Plesk.

All In One WP Migration

If you want to create a totally separate site but your host does not provide a simple solution an easy way to create a staging site is to use All In One WP Migration I use this for migrating client sites between providers as well as creating staging sites for our agency support package clients on their own dedicated staging server.  Click below to find out how:

Easy Migrations with All in One WP Migration

Plesk

Plesk has some fantastic features for WordPress designers and agencies, hence why we host all our sites on servers powered by Plesk.

The clone feature in Plesk can be used to create a staging site, either as a sub-domain, in a sub directory or even on a totally separate domain.

When you are ready to copy the data back you can either clone the data the other way, or if you need to be more selective you can use the copy data feature.  A must for e-commerce and/or busy sites where content, comments, orders and other data may have been changed while the staging site was being updated and these changes can not be overridden.

Create WordPress Staging Sites with Plesk

Local Staging/Development Sites

You can also create a local staging site on your pc or mac using All In One WP Migration and Local By FlyWheel.

If you want to find more on this we have a great blog on WordPress Development environments where we cover exactly this.

Click the button below to see how to setup a Local WordPress Development server using Local By FlyWheel

WordPress Local Environment with Local By FlyWheel

Final Words

WordPress staging sites are a must if you’re offering a professional service.  Staging sites are there for testing, they can break without causing headaches.  One word of caution – if you use a staging site for an e-commerce site, member site or a site where changes will be made while you’re making changes to a staging site you need to be more careful when pushing changes back.  You either need to manually make the same changes or use a paid for plugin such as WP-Staging so you can exclude the parts of the database that may have been updated.

The leave it us option

There is one final option – leave all the work to us!  Our agency support package means that we do all the heavy lifting for you.  Our package comes complete with a staging server – dedicated to your needs too – so no more utilising live resources for development, design or testing.  Interested?  Click the button below.

Yes! I'm interested!

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