As wonderful as WordPress is, there are times when updating a theme or installing a plugin goes horribly wrong. To avoid this, it pays off to have a testing environment where you can test out the changes before applying them to your live WordPress website.
This is known as having a staging website and in this post, I’ll explain what staging is and share the best staging plugins for WordPress.
What Is Staging
Staging is the process of creating an exact replica of your WordPress website that is not publicly accessible and any change you make, has no effect on your live website. It’s a great way to test a theme or a plugin before installing them live on your site as well as to test theme, plugin, and WordPress updates to make sure there are no conflicts and that you won’t face the White Screen of Death.
How to Create a Staging Site
Now that we’ve covered what staging is, let’s take a look at how you can create a staging website.
Take Advantage of Your Hosting Company
Many reputable hosting companies such as SiteGround, Flywheel, and WPEngine offer one-click staging sites. Before anything else, take a look around your cPanel and see if there is an option to create a staging site. If you don’t see one, consider hopping on a live chat with your host and asking them if they offer this feature.
As with anything WordPress related, there is a number of staging plugins that allow you to quickly create a staging website where you can test updates, code changes, plugins, themes, and anything else that you plan to add to your site.
Four Best Staging Plugins for WordPress
Below, you’ll find the four best staging plugins for WordPress. I’ve included their main features and pricing plans so you can easily choose one that’s best-suited for your staging needs.
The first plugin on the list, WP Staging, is a cloning and staging plugin. You can use this plugin to create a clone of your website in a subfolder of your main WordPress installation, including an entire copy of your database. Main features of the plugin include:
- Fast migration and cloning process
- Admin-only access to the staging website
- Supports and works on all main web servers including Apache, Nginx, and Microsoft IIS
This plugin can be downloaded for free from the official repository although it’s worth mentioning that the plugin does have a pro version with additional features which include:
- WordPress migration and cloning of WordPress multisites
- Choose a separate database and select a custom directory for cloning
- Clone your website into a subdomain
- Specify certain user roles for accessing the staging site
- And more
The pricing for the premium version of the plugin is available in 4 tiers:
- Personal – the personal plan allows you to install the plugin on one site and comes with a year of support and updates. Price for this plan is $89/year.
- Pro – with the Pro version, you can install the plugin on up to 5 sites and the price is $139/year.
- Developer – this plan allows you to install and use the plugin on up to 30 active sites which is suitable for web designers and developers who are starting to get some traction with their business. Pricing for this plan is $239/year.
- Agency – the last plan is best-suited for large and established agencies as you can use and install the plugin on up to 100 active sites. The price for this plan is $499.
WP Stagecoach offers one-click staging of your current WordPress website. The plugin claims not to overwrite your database as it uses a unique database merge functionality rather than the overwrite feature. Key features include:
- One click staging site creation and one click push updates
- Offsite staging setup so your staging website is completely separated from your live site
- The ability to password-protect staging copies to prevent unauthorized users from seeing them and accessing them
- Selective migration that lets you choose which updates to push live to your site
WP Stagecoach is a premium staging plugin that’s available in four pricing tiers.
- Freelancer – allows you to install the plugin on up to 10 websites and you can use it on your customer websites as well as your own. Pricing for this plan is $12/mo or $120/year. This plan does not include priority support and you have to pay an extra $55 if you want their help with manual imports.
- Business – allows you to install the plugin on up to three websites that you own so this plan is not recommended if you’re a web designer looking to use this for client websites. Price for this plan is $20/mo or $200/year and it includes priority support and free manual imports.
- Agency – this plan allows you to use the plugin on up to 75 websites, both client and your own. If you have a well-established web design business, this is the plan that you should look into. The price for this plan is $45/mo or $450/year. It includes priority support and gives you a reduced price for manual imports that starts at $25.
It’s worth mentioning that each plan comes with a 100% money-back guarantee.
WordPress Staging Plugin by BoldGrid
WordPress Staging Plugin by Boldgrid makes it easy to create a staging site in one click. You can also install an entire WordPress website with a single click to be used as a staging area. Some of the key features of this plugin include:
- The ability to deploy changes to your live site with a single click
- Easy testing of WordPress core, theme and plugin updates on a staging area
- The ability to easily modify code and test the changes
- One-click updates to live site
WordPress Staging Plugin is a premium plugin that’s available as a part of yearly subscription to all of BoldGrid’s services and plugins. The price for the subscription is $60/year. It’s worth mentioning that you can give this plugin a test run as a free demo trial is available. This will allow you to create your own demo installation of WordPress in the cloud where you can test all of BoldGrid’s services and plugins.
The last plugin on this list isn’t a staging plugin per se but I had to include it as it offers a neat feature that basically stops emails being sent from your staging website. When you create an exact replica of your site, WordPress and WooCommerce will still send notification emails from the staging site.
Needless to say this can get quite tedious. While you can certainly manually prevent this from happening, Safe Staging plugin makes the whole process a lot easier.
All you have to do is define your production url in settings and copy your site to your staging environment. Once it’s setup, the staging site won’t send any emails. This plugin is free to download from the official WordPress repository.
Creating a staging environment for your WordPress website is a great way any changes before deploying them live on your site. You can easily stage your website using any of the plugins mentioned in this article so use it as a guide to select the best staging plugin for your needs.
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