Creating a website without any technical hassles becomes easy by using WordPress. 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 issues.
It doesn’t 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.
What is website staging and why do 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.
Benefits of website staging
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 staging website.
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.
Some hosting providers also offer a free staging environment. You can check here the best WordPress hosting with staging environment. The easiest and the best method of staging is through a plugin.
Changes you can make in staging website
- 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.
Now before we let you know the best free and paid WordPress staging plugins for your website, we will let you know the features that a good staging plugin should have.
Features a good staging plugin should have:
- It should be 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 in staging-related infrastructure.
- Must have zero impact on your live website even with multiple staging environments.
Best Staging Plugins for WordPress in 2024 (Free and Paid)
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Now let’s check the details of each WordPress staging plugin.
List of Best WordPress Staging Plugins for 2024
With over 70,000 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.
Features WP Staging:
- 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
WP Staging plugin is available in both free and premium versions. The premium version of the WP Staging plugin starts from $8.17/mo (or $98/year) for a single website with 14 days money-back guarantee. You can also get a free version from here.
Features of WP Staging Pro version:
- 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.
It is available only with the premium version. WP Stagecoach is a one-click website staging solution for any WordPress website. This plugin has some known incompatibilities. So if you are going to buy then check these incompatibilities from here. You can try this plugin for free for 5 days.
Features of WP Stagecoach:
- 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
- It works as a plugin on any web host server
The WP Stagecoach plugin starts from $99/year for one WordPress website.
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.
Features of Duplicator:
- 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
Features of Duplicator Pro:
- All features of free version
- 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
The paid plans of the Duplicator tool start from $49.50/mo for 2 websites with 14 Day Money Back Guarantee. You can also get a free version from here.
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.
Features of BackupBuddy:
- 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.
The BackupBuddy plugin starts from $99/year for a single website with 30 days money-back guarantee.
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 all these features, it is one of the best WordPress staging plugins.
Features of BlogVault:
- 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.
It is available in free and paid versions. Paid BlogVault plans with an inbuilt staging feature start from $89/year for a single website with 30 days refund policy. You can also get a free version from here.
For today’s complex website networks, testing any changes or updates before integrating them into the live website is very important. For WordPress websites, the best 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.