What is a Staging site and How To Set One Up?

What Is a Staging Site?

A staging site is a clone of your live website, hosted on a separate URL (often referred to as a test or staging URL). Typically, it’s the final stop before you launch a new website or implement significant changes to your existing one. On a staging site, you can freely test new plugins, features, and design tweaks without risking your live site’s integrity.

Not only does your live store stay up and running even if you goof up, but you also get to experiment and fine-tune things without confusing your site visitors.

Vital Components of a Staging Site

While your staging environment should closely resemble your live site, there are a few key distinctions to keep in mind:

1.) Domain Difference: Your live site might rock the “” address, but your staging site will need a different domain (e.g.,

Here at We Are AG, we highly recommend using one of the Development Domains that our licensing partner, Freemius supports. You can read more about them from here. Using one of the supported domain in the list will let you use your license keys on staging or development domains without counting towards your site activations limit.

2.) Privacy Mode: Your staging site should be kept private, away from public eyes.

3.) Configuration Details: Depending on your setup, you might need to manually replicate some aspects of your live environment, such as SSL certificates, PHP versions, and other server settings.

When Should You Use a Staging Site?

For minor tweaks like fixing typos or updating product prices, there’s no need to jump through staging site hoops. Make those changes directly on your live site and move on.

However, a staging site becomes your best buddy when you’re:

  • Manually updating plugins, themes, or WordPress core.
  • Introducing new plugins.
  • Enabling significant new functionality within existing plugins.
  • Making major design and content changes to existing pages and posts.
  • Giving your site a complete revamp.
  • Switching payment gateways or making other substantial functionality changes.

Where Can You Host a Staging Site?

Staging environments typically find their home with a web hosting provider, often the same one that hosts your live site. You’ve got a few options here:

One-click Staging:

Pros: Quick and easy deployment from your hosting company’s admin panel. Often includes one-click live deployment. Auto-generates a staging URL, saving you from the hassle of buying a separate domain. No extra costs as it’s usually included in your hosting plan. Collaborator-friendly. Search engines are automatically discouraged from crawling content. Uses a secure https:// connection.

Cons: Some hosts may use plugins for one-click staging that can clash with your theme or other plugins.

Manual Staging with a Web Host:

Pros: You have control over how you replicate your live site to the staging environment. You can choose a custom test URL and any hosting company you prefer. Collaborator-friendly.

Cons: Takes longer to set up and redeploy to your live site. May involve additional hosting and domain registration fees. SSL certificate might not be automatically enabled. Can be more prone to errors. Shared hosting plans may allocate fewer resources for speedy staging.

Staging with Localhost:

Pros: No need for an internet connection while working on your site. Faster site loading during development and testing. Private test site. No extra domain registration or hosting fees.

Cons: Initial localhost setup can be time-consuming and technical. Longer setup and redeployment to live site compared to one-click staging. Manual addition of SSL certificate required. More prone to deployment errors. Limited accessibility for collaborators. Cannot test certain functionalities that rely on an internet connection.
Setting Up Your Staging Site

We’ve got you covered whether you’re creating a staging site with your host, manually, or via a plugin. Below, we outline the process:

Before You Start:

  • Ensure your web hosting meets WooCommerce requirements.
  • Have a staging domain linked to your web host.
  • Gather login details for your hosting control panel and SFTP credentials.

Creating a Staging Site with Your Host:

Many hosting providers offer one-click staging environments, especially in managed WordPress plans. Here’s a general overview:

  1. Access your hosting account.
  2. Find the WordPress → Staging option.
  3. Select your site, name your staging site, and create it.
  4. Customize the staging site if needed.
  5. Start testing and making changes.

Creating a Staging Site Using a Plugin:

If your hosting doesn’t provide staging, plugins like WP Staging, and InstaWP Connect can help:

  1. Install and activate the staging plugin.
  2. Configure the settings and clone your site.
  3. Customize the staging site.
  4. Test and make changes as required.

Creating a Staging Site Manually:

For those who prefer manual control, here’s a basic outline:

  1. Back up your live site.
  2. Copy files from your live server to your computer using SFTP.
  3. Export your live site’s database using phpMyAdmin.
  4. Import the database to your staging server.
  5. Edit your wp-config.php file with staging database details.
  6. Replace root URLs in your database.
  7. Flush your permalinks.
  8. Search and replace live site URLs in your database.
  9. Test your staging site.

Remember: No matter the method you choose, testing your staging site is crucial to ensure everything runs smoothly. It keeps your live site safe and guarantees a seamless user experience.

In the world of website management, staging sites are your secret weapon for a smoother, safer, and more confident web development journey.

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