Okay. To be fair, having staging services will save any WordPress site owner from major headaches. And I know that I have learned a lot of lessons regarding staging over time.
But it is even more critical for online stores because it’s your business, your storefront, and you don’t want to have to suddenly close the doors.
Think of it this way. When you have a brick-and-mortar shop, you do repairs and upgrades. Maybe you are upgrading your lighting system. Well, you probably have the option of doing this during your closing hours rather than peak time.
Now consider upgrading that plugin on your site. Typically your online store is open—or at least available— 24/7. If you click on that upgrade and things go sideways, a down site can cost you some major losses in sales.
What is Staging?
Most managed WordPress hosting services include staging. Not all, but more and more are adding it as a feature.
What is means is that you can move your live site into a staging area. In this area you can change stuff. Test stuff. All without having to worry about your site going down by either upgrading or adding a plugin, theme or new WordPress version. If it blows up, you can just start over by moving it into staging again. No harm done. Then when all is cool, and everything does work, you can move it from staging to replace your live site, or go ahead and make those changes on your live site.
Often this is all done with just a few clicks and very little time.
The other piece of this is that staging is also great for building that new site. Each host will work that part a bit differently, but it can, again, keep you from having to build it live on a server if that is what you normally have done.
For the sake of simplicity, let’s stick with working on your existing site. (Note: if you are a freelance developer or designer, check out the deal that WPEngine has for you further down in this post.)
An Example of Hosting with Staging
A lot of hosts that I recommend offer staging, but for this post I will be showing you how it’s done at WPEngine. (This is where we have our site).
First you will see I have two simple choices. Moving my live site to staging or deploying staging site to live.
If I choose to move it from live to staging, I get this warning before I move on:
Now the thing here is if you do not want to lose your last staging version, you can go into your backups and either be satisfied with the most recently daily backup, or create a new one. The cool thing here is that you can back up not only your live site on WPEngine, but also your staging site.
Going back to where we were, if you choose to proceed, you will get this message:
Once it is done and you refresh the page, you can go to your site in staging and do whatever you need to do. It’s that simple.
What If My Host Doesn’t Having Staging, and I Don’t Want to Move My Site?
If your site, or your online store is running like a dream on your existing host, no, don’t move just for staging. In fact, my friends at WPStagecoach have the perfect service for you in this case. And chances are good it will work with your existing host. You can learn more about them here on this post.
Developers: Want a Free Staging Site at WPEngine + a Suite of Tools?
Going back to that notion of not only using staging for updates and changes, but also for developing new sites, staging is huge. Not only will you get one-click staging, but they are offering a suite of tools free to developers including automated migration and copying common WordPress builds. Also, you get automated backups and Git Integration. And as long as you refer one customer every 3 months, you’ll get your own free hosting. Sweet, huh? You can apply here.
Save Yourself Some Headaches
Back to your online store or site. You can see that staging can be a lifesaver. If you are looking for a new host, check out WPEngine or if you need something a bit more lower cost, check out GoDaddy, or SiteGround, all who also offer staging with their WordPress managed hosting. Of course if you have your own preferred host, see if they offer staging. And if your current host does offer you a staging site, and you haven’t taken advantage of it, I would suggest next time you update or make some changes to your site, be on the safe side and take advantage of this great feature.