Reasons Why You Should Be Using A Staging Environment in WordPress Development

In this article, see the reasons to use the test and staging environment tool in WordPress development and its benefits

By Claudio Pires
Updated on June 19, 2023
Reasons Why You Should Be Using A Staging Environment in WordPress Development

Have you ever modified a client’s WordPress site, and it crashed? You may have updated a plugin or tweaked code in a template, causing your site to crash. As professional developers, we want to avoid this. What do we do then? In this article, see the reasons to use the test and staging environment tool in WordPress development and its benefits.

Rather than making code changes or updates to the live site, you want to test your changes in a staging environment. You can use it from there to safely make tests and other changes before going live, avoiding issues.

Reasons for Using WordPress in a Staging Environment

A staging environment is typically hosted on a private subdomain of your WordPress site and used for building and testing. You might want to use it like this:

First: a blank canvas where you can create a new site or pages to add to an existing site. That way, your work can’t be seen by your clients, managers, or anyone else who wants to have a say in due course until you’re ready to share it. A mirror of a live website where you want to test a new WordPress, plugin, or theme update. Updates are first performed on the staging site. After confirming that there is no problem, it can be operated on-site.

Second: a mirror of the live website is created when you want to implement code or design updates. This is especially useful when writing a new feature and worrying about the repercussions if something goes wrong. Live site cloning saves time in developing a similarly structured WordPress site from scratch.

Finally, a platform for doing website pre-launch for QA and testing. Team members, clients, and other project stakeholders then receive a link to the provided review site’s front end, a place to test new coding techniques.

Benefits of the WordPress Staging Environment Tool:

  • A staging environment usually provides a safer coding practice.
  • You can have privacy while creating and updating your website without being stolen by many eyes.
  • Even if something unusual is injected into the code, it won’t bring your live site down or prevent full access by WordPress admins. It will negatively affect you and your clients (visitors will notice the case).
  • Using a staging site saves you the time you would otherwise have to spend fixing a white screen of death or other problems caused by cowboy coding on a live install.

Active website search rankings are protected to prevent bots from visiting broken, offline, or migrating websites and sending mixed signals. As a result, the staging site is meant to maintain the integrity of the live site displayed to visitors.

To set up a mirror of your WordPress site in a staging environment, use one of three options: the manual method, a managed WordPress host, or a WordPress plugin.

Use one of three methods to set up a mirror image of your WordPress website in your staging environment: the manual method, working with your managed WordPress host, or using a WordPress plugin:

Managed WordPress Hosting

While the manual method has you working within the control panel and SFTP to set up a staging environment, another option outside of WordPress will do the same. However, this one requires much less work on your part.

If your website has a managed WordPress hosting plan with one of these providers, you’re in luck: Most managed WordPress hosting plans with the providers above come with one-click staging or pre-made staging areas. All you need to do is log into your hosting account and instantly create a password-protected staging site on your server.

Your WordPress host will also be able to save backups of your staging site, so you won’t have to worry about losing progress or “breaking” the test site without a quick way to reset it.

This option makes pushing updates from your staging site to your live server equally easy. Just one click, and your staging environment is up and running. 

By WordPress Plugins

For those of you who would like an option between this two – one that requires less work on the server and doesn’t require the cost of managed WordPress hosting–use a WordPress plugin. I recommend two options here; the difference concerns your comfort with setting up WordPress Multisite.

Without Multisite: All-in-One WP Migration Plugin: All-in-One WP Migration is a plugin with multiple uses. It works as a backup plugin, as a migration plugin, and even as a test plugin. But let’s focus on how to use this for staging.

  • Install and activate the plugin on your WordPress site. Go to the All-in-One WP Migration menu on the sidebar and click “Export.”
  •  Click on the “Add” button. In the Find and Replace boxes, enter the name of the live site as the “Find” and the name of the staging subdomain as the “Replace.” (This assumes you already created a subdomain for staging from your control panel.).
  •  Then, select Export to File. Click on the box to save it to your computer.
  •  Next, log into the WordPress installation for your staging environment (the one on the subdomain you created). Install the same migration plugin.
  •  Click on Import.

Upload the saved file to your computer. Click “Proceed” when you see this warning. That’s all. You now have a mirror image of your live website on your staging subdomain. You must reverse the process to push your staging environment and any changes to your life.

Cloner WordPress Plugin

There’s also the option to set up your subdomain on a Multisite network. One of the greatest benefits of creating a staging environment this way is that your live WordPress site and its private, non-indexable staging subdomain remain within your WordPress installation. So you don’t have to go back and forth between your control panel and different WordPress instances to manage both. 

The Process:

  • Activate Multisite (if it isn’t already).
  •  Back up you’re Multisite with Snapshot.
  •  Apply a new site to the Multisite network for your staging subdomain. Under the subdomain’s Info tab, uncheck “Public” and save your changes. You’re only going to want your admins to be able to see the site.
  •  Install Cloner on your Multisite network.
  •  Navigate to the Plugins menu and select Settings for Cloner. You can decide which parts of your Multisite subdomains are cloned from here. Save your changes.
  •  In the top admin bar, hover over My Sites > Network Admin and select “Sites.” Find the live website you want to copy, hover over it, and click “Clone.”
  •  If you have already set up the subdomain for the staging environment, choose “Replace existing Site” and find the name of it in the search bar. Otherwise, create a new site on the network.

Finally, don’t forget to check “Discourage search engines from indexing the cloned site.” Then, click “Clone Site.” If you want to replace the subdomain with the live site’s content, go ahead and bypass the warning message. So now you are ready to start working on your staging environment. All settings, files, and databases mirror what exists on the live site. 

Therefore, you must reverse the process to move the staging environment to the live server. No need to create new websites or subdomains. Clone the subdomain to the live site once you have client approval or verify that updates are ready.

Reasons for Using Staging Environment Manually

The manual method is simple enough:

  • Save a backup of your WordPress site.
  •  Create a subfolder on your WordPress site.
  • Install a fresh copy of WordPress.
  • Copy the files from your current site to this new WordPress installation.
  • Copy the database from your current site to this new installation.
  • In your control panel, create a subdomain where this staging site will be located. 

Conclusion About Staging Environment WordPress Development

Think about how much time you can save in the future by using the staging environment tool in your WordPress development workflow. So, hopefully, this article on the reasons for using the test and staging environment tool in WordPress development and its benefits has helped you.

Claudio Pires

Claudio Pires is the co-founder of Visualmodo, a renowned company in web development and design. With over 15 years of experience, Claudio has honed his skills in content creation, web development support, and senior web designer. A trilingual expert fluent in English, Portuguese, and Spanish, he brings a global perspective to his work. Beyond his professional endeavors, Claudio is an active YouTuber, sharing his insights and expertise with a broader audience. Based in Brazil, Claudio continues to push the boundaries of web design and digital content, making him a pivotal figure in the industry.