How To Set Up A Staging Site

03/12/2018

Overview

A Staging site is a clone of a live (production) site. It's usually not accessible to the public, and is used to test updates and changes before deploying to the live site. Having a staging site is an important process that allows you to experiment with redesigns and updates to your site without affecting the live site.

You may have heard of the terms 'staging service' and 'staging environment'. Staging services are commonly offered by hosting companies, and essentially, this is just an automated method of creating a staging site and pushing the changes back to the live site.

Finally, you could also use a local install as a staging environment. It is still just a copy of a live site which can be then updated or changed without it affecting the live site. You could then use a plugin to transfer it back to the live domain, or move it back manually.

The Benefits Of A Staging Site

  • Provide a safe space in which you can experiment and make changes to your site before making the changes live.
  • Provide the opportunity to catch errors and bugs without putting your site at risk.
  • Usually relatively simple to set up.
  • Can be set up online or locally (depending on your preference).

The Drawbacks Of A Staging Site

  • It takes longer to update your website (as you need to test changes first).
  • Web hosts often charge more for a staging site service (although you can always set one up locally).
  • Staging sites may not be exact replicas of a live website (caching is not usually enabled on a staging site).

How Does Licensing Work For A Staging Site?

According to the Envato licensing terms and conditions you need a license per domain install of the theme. If you want to set up a single Staging site you can do so without the need for an additional license. It is however, required, that the Staging site is not publicly accessible and requires the person viewing it to log in to access it. This can be achieved by using a coming soon plugin, .htaccess restriction or similar.

Staging Services

Some hosting companies offer a 1 Click Staging Service. This is typically an automated process, where you click a button to duplicate the site, and click another button once you have worked on the site, to push the changes live. There is a lot of variance in how hosting companies implement this feature, and on some hosts, it's a manual process usually only available on the higher level hosting plans. Check with your hosting company to see if they offer this feature. It's not that common yet, but this is a high demand feature that many hosting companies are rolling out.

This is a great service for beginners, as it doesn't require you to understand how to move sites manually, and is generally a much quicker and easier option. Below are a few links to hosting companies offering staging services in some form or other.

Staging Plugins

Staging sites can also be created through the use of plugins. There are dedicated premium staging plugins, free staging plugins, and migration and transfer plugins that can also easily create a duplicate site. Please read our How to Migrate your Site with Duplicator and How to Migrate your Site with All-In-One WP Migration docs for more information on that process, or see the links below to some of the more popular staging plugins.

Local Staging Environment

As mentioned at the start, you can also easily create a local staging environment. To do this you need some sort of local WordPress installation (see How to Set Up a Local WordPress Installation on Your PC or How to Set Up a Local WordPress Installation on Your Mac for more info on that.)

Once you have a local install, you can use a migration / backup plugin like Duplicator or All-In-One WP Migration to transfer your live site to your computer, and then move it back again, once you have made your changes. This is a bit more of a manual process than using a staging service, but this should not cause any issues for an experienced WordPress user.

Links & Resources

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