Think of WordPress, and you think of an easy and user-friendly way to develop a website without technical hassles. However, it’s equally true that every WordPress-powered website is a complex network of website files, customized pages, and various plugins/themes.
All of them work together to provide multiple functionalities to your website. As a result, sometimes making a simple file modification or updating a plugin can go terribly wrong and cause your website to break, crash or face slow-loading time.
That does not mean that you should not make any modifications or updates to your WordPress website. Wouldn’t it be helpful if you could test all your website changes/updates without any impact on the live website that is visible to the world? This is now possible through website staging or WordPress staging.
Through this article, we shall evaluate how website staging can work for your WordPress website, along with 5 of the best WordPress staging plugins that can simplify the process.
In this article, you will learn:
What is Website Staging and Why You Need It?
Website staging is a testing environment that is created as a clone of your live website. In other words, it is a replica of your operational website with all the files, plugins/themes, and even database files.
How does it benefit you?
Simple. It allows your WordPress developers to make website changes, update any plugin/theme, or customize files without worrying about any negative impact of these changes on the live website.
In other words, your live website can continue to operate as before, even as you make significant changes to the website staging environment.
For example, you can develop and test a new website functionality for your customers on the staging website. Once you are completely satisfied that the added feature will work seamlessly with your website, then you can choose to merge the feature on your live website and make it available for your users.
What are the types of website changes that you can make in the staging environment? Here are some of them:
- Test a new plugin/theme that promises to improve the functionality and look of your website before installing it
- Apply the latest updates to installed plugins/themes to check if they are compatible with the rest of your website components
- Try out the latest WordPress version update to check if there are any conflicts or incompatibility issues on your website
- Test any code-related changes that can add functionality, customize existing files, or fix any software bug in the current WordPress installation
- Test the existing website backup files before restoring them to a failed or compromised website
What is the real advantage of website staging?
Changes on your staging website can easily be merged to add more value to your live website or be discarded if they cause any incompatibility issues or website failures.
Some web hosts do provide staging however, the easiest and best method of staging is through a plugin. WordPress staging plugins simplify the entire staging process and are some factors that you must consider when choosing the right staging plugin.
Best WordPress Staging Plugins & How to Choose the Right One
When it comes to the WordPress platform, website owners can choose from a variety of staging plugins that enable them to create a website staging environment for testing purposes. Just like any other WordPress plugin, staging plugins or tools are easy to install on your website. Apart from allowing many changes or customizations on your website files, staging plugins will enable you to test your changes or updates without interrupting your live website.
How do you choose the right WordPress staging plugin for your website?
Here are some features that you must look for in your staging plugin:
- Easy to install and configure
- Security-related features like password management and SSL-based encryption of the staging server
- Merge functionality: To merge the approved changes on the live website, so that the updates and functionalities are quickly available to the website user
- Cost-effective for the business with minimum investment on staging-related infrastructure
- Must have zero impact on your live website even with multiple staging environments
Next, we shall evaluate 5 of the best WordPress staging tools available in the market, including their main features and pricing.
Available with free and paid versions, the BlogVault WordPress staging plugin is primarily used as a complete WordPress backup solution that also includes the WordPress staging feature. Easy to install and configure for your website, it automatically creates a backup of your entire website on installation and activation.
With regards to website staging, BlogVault’s benefits include:
- One-click staging that creates and installs a staging platform for your website in a matter of seconds
- Hosting of the WordPress staging environment on BlogVault’s dedicated servers, thus eliminating any load on your web server and its resources
- Security measures like password protection for the staging site along with blocking of website indexing by search engines
- One-click merging feature that allows you to compare the staging site with your live website and then merge all (or selective) changes to the live website
- Support for merging modified database files to the live WordPress website
Price: Paid BlogVault plans with an inbuilt staging feature start from a monthly plan of $7.4 for a single website.
With over 40,000 active installations on WordPress websites, WP Staging is an easy-to-use plugin that can be used to create a staging website with a few clicks. WP Staging can install a clone or copy of your current website in a separate subfolder of your main WordPress installation.
WP Staging plugin is available with both free and premium versions and offers the following staging-related features:
- Fast and easy website migration and cloning functionality
- Admin access rights to the website staging account
- Compatible with popular web hosting servers including Apache, Microsoft IIS, and Nginx
The WP Staging Pro version includes the following additional features:
- Website migration and cloning for WordPress multisite network.
- Option to select a separate custom folder and database for website staging.
- Website cloning on a website subdomain.
- Configuring of specific user roles and permissions for website staging.
- Ability to copy changes/ modifications from the staging site to the live website.
Price: The premium version of the WP Staging plugin starts from $89 yearly for a single website, while the Pro version is priced at $139 annually for up to 5 sites.
Available only with premium or paid versions, WP Stagecoach is a one-click website staging solution for any WordPress website.
Some of the key features of the WP Stagecoach plugin include:
- One-click creation of the staging site along with a single click to push updates on the live website
- Database merge functionality that enables the merging of staging changes on a live website without overwriting the existing database
- Password protection for the staging site to prevent any unauthorized access
- Selective migration functionality that allows you to select specific updates (or changes) to be merged to the live website
- Allows the hosting of staging sites on their dedicated servers, thus enabling complete testing on a separate environment
- Constant monitoring and log maintenance of any database changes on the staging site
- Option to import website files, database files, or both during the merging process
- Works as a plugin on any web host server
Price: The WP Stagecoach plugin starts from a monthly price of $12 yearly that includes up to 10 WordPress websites.
With over 1 million active installations, the Duplicator plugin is a popular website migration tool for WordPress websites. Thanks to its ease of use, the tool is used to clone website content and set up a staging site for any website. Apart from website staging, this tool can be used to handle website migrations and backups with zero website downtime.
Some of the key features of the Duplicator plugin include:
- Migration and cloning of a WordPress website with zero website downtime
- Easy transfer of a live WordPress website from one web host to another
- Easy restoration of all website files on a blank website
- Handle manual backups of a WordPress website in full or partial mode
- Bundling or packaging of WordPress website files for reuse and distribution
In addition to the above-listed features, the Duplicator Pro tool includes the following advanced features:
- Scheduled backups of website files
- Support for cloud-based storage locations, including Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon S3, and Microsoft OneDrive
- Multi-threaded process for managing larger websites and databases
- Migration of a multisite WordPress network with a few easy steps
- Professional support and Email notifications
Price: The paid plans of the Duplicator tool start from a yearly cost of $59 and goes up to a high of $359.
As the name suggests, the BackupBuddy tool from iThemes is a WordPress backup solution that also offers website staging as an integral function. In addition to supporting scheduled backups and offsite storage of backup files, BackupBuddy features the Deployment functionality that allows you to push and retrieve staging site changes between the staging environment and the live website.
Some of the critical staging-related features of the BackupBuddy plugin include:
- Easy deployment of website changes from staging to live website with a few easy clicks.
- Provides the option to transfer database files (all or partial), plugins/themes, and media files.
- Ability to undo any database changes prior to the final deployment.
- Faster file transfer, thus reducing the time required to transfer changes between staging and live website.
- Suited for large websites with constant changes or updates.
- Instant email notifications to alert users about any website issues.
Price: The BackupBuddy plugin starts from a yearly price of $80 for a single website.
For today’s complex website networks, testing any changes or updates before integrating them into the live website is very important. For WordPress websites, staging plugins offer an easy way to create staging sites. You can then evaluate each and every change without worrying about the live website.
Tools like BlogVault and BackupBuddy are more cost-efficient for businesses as they combine staging with other integral functionalities like website migration, backups, and restores. We highly recommend that you check them out and invest in a solution that works best for your business.
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Akshat Choudhary has always prided himself on his ability to teach himself things. Since starting BlogVault, Akshat has transformed his side-project into a profitable venture that is scaling new heights in the Indian startup space. Being a member of the WordPress community for almost a decade, Akshat is keen on understanding the areas where users struggle. Akshat’s core belief behind building any product is making sure the end-user doesn’t need assistance and to assist them in the best possible manner if they do.