What is a Staging Site?
When would you need to create a Staging Site? What does it do?
A staging site is effectively a clone of your current, live website. It is created to allow you to work on your website without any downtime or risk to the live site. Once you have finished editing and testing the staging website, you "merge" the staging instance with the live website.
Why were staging sites introduced?
Before the invention of staging areas for websites, you may have noticed the problems this incurred in the past. Have you ever visited a website only to be greeted with the following words? "Website maintenance in progress, please come back later". That really isn't a good sign in these I want it right now days. If your site is down at any point due to maintenance, not only will that person leave but they will go to your competitor.
Why would I need to use a staging site?
There have been instances where plugin developers have released significant updates that have caused issues. Whenever a large update to a plug in is released, I would recommend creating a staging instance of your website and updating the plug in there.
If you have any issues whatsoever, you can contact the developer support or test things until you find the problem. Only when you feel comfortable that everything is stable should you update your main website. You don't want huge issues appearing on a live site, especially if you have a lot of traffic or a membership site.
You may want to add lessons to your membership site or do some tweaking to the styling. There may be other issues that appear that need working on "in the background" as not to break the live site. Basically, any time you are unsure if what you are doing will affect your live website, create a staging website and work on that first.
How does it work? What do I need to do?
Most of the better web hosting companies now give you a free staging area. However, only a few right now, including WPX Hosting who I use on all my sites, allow a simple one click "merge" once ready. This means that when you have finished working on your cloned, staging website, you simply click the merge button and the staging site overlays the old website in minutes.
You are able to fully edit, test and tweak your website until it is 100% ready to go. This all happens with minimal downtime and is the reason I went with WPX Hosting (as well as their incredible support, they respond within 30 seconds...every time)!
5 Steps to creating a staging site in WPX Hosting
The following is the process for creating and merging a Staging Site with WPX Hosting. Your hosting may not provide a free staging or merge option so please check before purchasing your web hosting package.
1. Login to WPX, go to WordPress Hosting
Log into your WPX Hosting account, go to "My Services" and click on "WordPress Hosting.
2. Click "Manage Service"
3. Go to "Websites/SSL"
4. Click "Create Staging"
Once you click "create staging" you will see a pop up appear. Search for the website you wish to clone from the drop-down menu and click "Deploy staging instance". Double check you have the right website before going ahead.
It will only take a few minutes to set up your cloned, staging website. Once ready, your new domain for working on will be staging.mydomain.com instead of www.mydomain.com. You will log in using the exact same details as your main site but PLEASE ALWAYS make sure you are logged into your staging site and NOT your live site when making changes.
Because of this, I would 100% recommend using a seperate browser entirely for working on staging sites. I recommend Google Chrome for best results but always check to make sure you are working on the staging website.
5. Click "Merge To Live"
It is quite normal to feel incredibly nervous at this stage. I remember when I merged my first website, I had thoughts of all sorts of things going wrong. However, after doing this many times, rest assured that WPX are 100% reliable and you have nothing to worry about. Staging websites have been a godsend for me. It makes updating websites hassle free.
Remember that every time you create a staging website at WPX Hosting, it takes up one website "slot". Make sure you have one available before trying to create a staging area. It is also worth creating a staging site when you want to:
It is always better to err on the side of caution until you become more experienced with WordPress. However, in reality the process of creating a staging site, working on it and merging it with the live website is a piece of cake with WPX!
Final Note: Any new blog comments or Post/Page changes on the Live Site, since the Staging version was created, will be kept and only the other changes made on the Staging version are added to the Live website. Very cool.