It’s no secret that WordPress websites are becoming more complex by the day. With each plugin we install, another layer of intricacy is added. This, of course, boosts our chances of running into problems when performing routine software updates.
This is part of the open-source bargain we accept with WordPress. You get a magnificent collection of plugins that do all sorts of things. But they all come from different developers. With that, the chance that two disparate parts won’t play nicely together is always in the back of your mind.
That’s what makes a staging site such a great resource. It’s an exact copy of your WordPress website that runs independently from your “live” version. This allows you to test updates and other changes to your site without disrupting availability.
It is important to test any new changes and updates before apply to your live site. It can prevent some unexpected errors and downtime. We use a staging site to create a testing environment.
A staging site a duplicate copy (or ‘clone’) of your live website. It allows you to do customizations, tests new features, installs a new plugin, and more without affecting the live site. Your website visitors won’t be interrupted while you are working on the staging site. Some staging site setups even allow you to push the changes to the live site.
In this article, you will learn some WordPress staging plugins (free & paid) that easily create a staging site for the testing environment.
1. Duplicator (Free)
Duplicator is another popular WordPress migration plugin like All-in-One WP Migration. It creates a package file and installer for easy website restoration on a blank site. Need not have an existing WordPress installation on the target site.
- Install Duplicator plugin
- Create a new package using Duplicator
- Download the installer and package file
- Upload installer and package file to the target site (subfolder, subdomain, or domain)
- Run the Duplicator installer to restore website
The free plugin has over 1 million active installations and 5 stars ratings. The Pro version supports scheduled backups, cloud storage, multisite, cPanel integration, and more.
Duplicator enables you to:
- Move, migrate or clone a WordPress site between domains or hosts with zero downtime
- Pull down a live site to localhost for development
- Transfer a WordPress site from one host to another
- Manually backup a WordPress site or parts of a site
- Duplicate a live site to a staging area or vice versa
- Bundle up an entire WordPress site for easy reuse or distribution
- Perform a full WordPress migration without struggling with messy import/export SQL scripts
MIGRATE WORDPRESS AND RUN WORDPRESS BACKUPS
Duplicator creates a package that bundles all the site’s plugins, themes, content, database and WordPress files into a simple zip file called a package. This package can then be used to easily migrate a WordPress site to any location you wish. Move on the same server, across servers and pretty much any location a WordPress site can be hosted. WordPress is not required for installation since the package contains all site files.
IMPROVE YOUR WORKFLOW WITH PRE-BUNDLED SITES
Duplicator lets you make your own preconfigured sites to eliminate rework. Instead of manually configuring your favorite theme, set of plugins or content over and over, now just configure a single site and bundle it up into a Duplicator package. Once you have the bundled site, you can migrate the WordPress site over and over to different locations to instantly create many preconfigured sites!
Duplicator Pro takes Duplicator to the next level with features you’ll really appreciate, such as:
- Scheduled backups
- Cloud Storage to Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Amazon S3, and FTP/SFTP
- Multi-threaded to support larger web sites & databases
- Migrate an entire multisite WordPress network in one shot
- Install a multisite subsite as a new standalone website
- Database and user creation in the installer with cPanel API
- Connect to cPanel directly from installer
- Email notifications
- Professional support
- … and much more!
2. WPSiteSync for Content
Where WPSiteSync for Content differs is that it’s really only for the actual content of your site. So it’s not a solution for those who want to build a staging site in an automated way. But if you plan on testing new content on your staging site before rolling it out to the public, this could be a big timesaver.
You can pick and choose the content you want to sync between sites, including pages, posts, images, PDF files, and custom field data. The premium version handles custom post types, WooCommerce products and more.
The WPSiteSync for the Content plugin was specifically designed to ease your workflow when creating content between development, staging and live servers. The tool removes the need to migrate an entire database, potentially overwriting new content on the live site, just to update a few pages or posts. Now you can easily move your content from one site to another with the click of a button, reducing errors and saving you time.
WPSiteSync for Content is fully functional in any WordPress environment. We recommend using DesktopServer, but it is not a requirement.
This benefits the Development Workflow in more ways than one:
- Real-Time LIVE Sync eliminates data loss such as Comments.
- Saving development time with No files to backup, download, and upload.
- Limit mistakes copying and pasting.
- Client Approval on Staging site is now Faster and Easier than ever.
- Getting paid before Project Delivery is even Easier!
In the Free Version, WPSiteSync for Contents synchronizes the following:
- Blog Post Text Content
- Page Text Content
- Content Images
- Featured Images
- PDF Attachments
- Taxonomy such as Tags and Categories
- Gutenberg Compatible. Create content with Gutenberg on Staging and Push it to Live, along with all images.
- And much much more
In our Early Adopter Trailblazer Program, you will also Receive:
- WPSiteSync for Bi-Directional Pull (Syncing from Live to Staging)
- WPSiteSync for Custom Post Types
- WPSiteSync for Author Attribution
- WPSiteSync for Auto Sync
- WPSiteSync for Bulk Actions
- WPSiteSync for Genesis Settings
- WPSiteSync for Menus
- WPSiteSync for Bi-Directional Pull
- FULL access to ALL future Premium Extensions
3. WP Staging (Free)
WP Staging is probably the easiest way to create a staging site in just a few clicks. It creates a clone of your website into a sub-folder. In the background, the files and databases are copied. All the links also replaced with the new path.
- Install WP Staging plugin on the main site
- Name your staging site (a sub-folder) and start cloning using WP Staging
- Login to your new staging site. Done.
The free plugins have 40,000 activate installation and 5 stars ratings. The Pro edition supports WordPress multisite, clone into a sub-domain, and copy modifications from staging site to the live website.
WP STAGING FOR WORDPRESS MIGRATION & CLONING
This duplicator plugin allows you to create an exact copy of your entire website for staging or development purposes in seconds.
(Exact time depends on the size of your website)
It creates a clone of your website into a subfolder of your main WordPress installation including an entire copy of your database.
Note: For pushing & migrating plugins and theme files to live site, check out the pro edition https://wp-staging.com/
All the time-consumptive database and file copying operations are done in the background. The plugin even automatically does an entire search & replace of all serialized links and paths.
This plugin works even on the smallest shared hosting servers.
WP Staging can help you to protect your website from being broken or unavailable because of installing untested plugin updates!
Note: WordPress 5.x has been shipped with a new visual editor called Gutenberg. Use WP Staging to check if the Gutenberg editor is working as intended on your website and that all used plugins are compatible with that new editor.
- No SASS service. All data belongs to you and stays on your server.
- Easy to use! Just install it and click on “CREATE NEW STAGING SITE”.
- No server timeouts on huge websites or/and small hosting servers
- Staging website will be available from example.com/staging-site
- Very fast – Migration process takes only a few seconds or minutes, depending on the website’s size and server I/O power.
- Only administrators can access the staging website. Login with the same credentials you use on your production site.
- SEO friendly: The staging website is unavailable to search engines due to a custom login prompt and no-index header.
- The admin bar on the staging website will be orange colored and shows clearly that you work on the staging site.
- All database tables will be duplicated and get a new prefix beginning with wpstg(int)_.
- As default, the staging website will be copied into a subfolder.
- Extensive logging features
- Supports all main web servers including Apache, Nginx, and Microsoft IIS
- [Premium]: Choose a separate database and select a custom directory for cloning
- [Premium]: Make the staging website available from a subdomain like dev.example.com
- [Premium]: Push & migrate plugins and themes to the production website.
- [Premium]: Define user roles that should receive access to the staging site only. For instance, clients or external developers.
- [Premium]: Migration and cloning of WordPress multisite
Note: Some features are Premium. Which means you need WP Staging Pro to use those features. You can get WP Staging Premium here!
- New: Compatible with WordFence & All In One WP Security & Firewall
ADDITIONAL FEATURES WP STAGING PRO EDITION
- Cloning and migration of WordPress multisite
- Define a separate database and a custom directory for cloning
- Clone your website into a subdomain
- Specify certain user roles for accessing the staging site
- Copy all modifications from the staging site to the production website
Change your workflow of updating themes and plugins data:
- Use WP Staging to clone a production website for staging, testing or backup purposes
- Create a backup of your website
- Customize theme, configuration, update or install new plugins
- Test everything on your staging site
- If everything works on the staging site start the migration and copy all modifications to your production site!
4. All-in-One WP Migration (Free)
All-in-One WP Migration is a popular plugin to migrate a WordPress site from one host to another. The fact that it packs the whole site (files & database) for easy migration, make it also ideal to create a staging site.
You will need to install WordPress on the staging site before you can import the All-in-One WP Migration website package file. The staging site can be a subfolder, subdomain, or even a different domain. The maximum website export size limit is 512MB.
- Install WordPress on staging site
- Install All-in-One WP Migration plugin on both main and staging sites
- Export main site using All-in-One WP Migration with staging site URL replacement
- Import the website package file on the staging site
The free plugin has over 2 million active installations and 4.5 stars ratings (5000+ 5 Stars). The plugin’s premium extensions support unlimited website size, cloud storage, multisite, and more.
This plugin exports your WordPress website including the database, media files, plugins and themes with no technical knowledge required.
Upload your site to a different location with a drag and drop into WordPress.
There is an option to apply an unlimited number of find and replace operations on your database during the export process. The plugin will also fix any
serialization problems that occur during the find/replace operation.
Mobile device compatible: All in One WP Plugin is the first plugin to offer true mobile experience on WordPress versions 3.3 and up.
NO LIMITATIONS ON HOST OR OPERATING SYSTEM
- We have tested the plugin on the major Linux distributions, macOS and Microsoft Windows.
- Please see the list of hosting providers that we work with.
BYPASS ALL UPLOAD SIZE RESTRICTION
- We use chunks to import your site data. Most providers set the maximum upload file size to 2MB. As the file restrictions are only applied to each chunk, webserver upload size restrictions are bypassed by keeping the chunks under 2MB to easily upload your entire site.
- The plugin does not require any PHP extensions and works with all versions of PHP from v5.2 onwards. This is great news for v5.2 users who are unsupported by many other products.
SUPPORT FOR MYSQL AND MYSQLI
- No matter what PHP MySQL driver your webserver ships with, we support it.
COMPATIBLE WITH WORDPRESS V3.3 TO PRESENT
- We have a comprehensive Quality Assurance and testing process that ensures that the plugin is always compatible with the latest release of WordPress, but we don’t support versions of WordPress prior to version 3.3 (2012)
5. BackupBuddy (Paid)
BackupBuddy is a premium backup plugin from iThemes that supports scheduled automatic backups and store backup files off-site. It includes a Deployment feature, which you can push or pull WordPress staging site’s changes back and forth between the staging site and the live site.
How to setup WordPress staging site with BackupBuddy Deployment
- Install BackupBuddy plugin and make a backup of your Live Site
- Create a Staging site by restoring your backup on a new domain (or sub-domain)
, true);to the wp-confg.php file of your Live Site.
- On the Live Site, goto BackupBuddy > Remote Destinations and select Show Deployment Key at the top of the page
- Copy the given API key
- On the Staging Site, goto BackupBuddy > Remote Destinations and click the Add New option and then select BackupBuddy Deployment
- Paste the API key you copied from the Live Site into your Staging Site
Price: iTheme BackupBuddy price starts from $80/year for 1 site.
Why Backup Your WordPress Site & Protect Your Online Work?
WITHOUT A BACKUP, YOUR WORDPRESS WEBSITE COULD BE LOST FOREVER.
Your WordPress website needs a reliable backup strategy using a trusted WordPress backup plugin like BackupBuddy. WordPress doesn’t include built-in backups, so we built BackupBuddy in 2010 to meet the need for a solid WordPress backup solution.
Even your host backup may not be enough if you experience a server crash. Other WordPress security issues include hacks, malware, user error, deleted files and running bad commands. All of these things can completely wipe out your WordPress site forever. Having a current backup of your WordPress website is critical for protecting your website. BackupBuddy is here to help.
Customize Backup Contents
Not all WordPress backups are alike. Run database, files-only or complete backups, or set up custom backup profiles.
Downloadable Backup Zip Files
After a backup completes, you can download a zip file of your entire WordPress website.
BackupBuddy offers automatic WordPress backup schedules (hourly, twice daily, daily, every other day, bi-weekly, weekly, monthly and more).
Store Backup Files Remotely
Automatically send your backup files to several remote WordPress backup storage locations including BackupBuddy Stash, Amazon S3, Google Drive, Dropbox & more.
Instant Email Notifications
Know immediately when BackupBuddy finishes or needs attention so you can always be sure you have a current and useful backup of your website.
Restore WordPress with ImportBuddy
BackupBuddy includes a tool called ImportBuddy to restore your WordPress site to a previous backup if something goes wrong.
Move WordPress or Migrate WordPress
SAVE HOURS OF WORK (AND WE MEAN HOURS!)
Need to change hosts or domains for your WordPress site? You can do that with BackupBuddy, too. BackupBuddy helps you move a WordPress site to a new host or domain easily. BackupBuddy’s WordPress migration feature is a very popular feature for WordPress developers who build custom sites for clients locally or on a temporary domain and then move the entire site over to a live domain.
Change Hosts or Servers
Need to move your WordPress site to a new host or server? BackupBuddy allows you to move your entire WordPress site to a new host or server.
Change Your Domain / URL
Need to change the domain name of your WordPress site? That’s easy, too. BackupBuddy handles moving your website to a different domain or URL.
BackupBuddy automatically replaces all the URLs when you migrate a site to a new domain. BackupBuddy even has a tool for replacing other text in your database.
Build a custom site for a client on a temporary domain or locally, and then move the entire site with themes over to a live client domain with BackupBuddy’s WordPress migration.
Make a copy of an existing WordPress website using a BackupBuddy backup to easily clone WordPress. Use your copy to quickly spin up a dev site.
WordPress Staging & Deployment
With BackupBuddy’s Deployment feature, you can set up a WordPress staging site and connect it with your existing site so you can push or pull changes in as few as two clicks.
6. WP Stagecoach (Paid)
WP Stagecoach is a premium one-click WordPress staging site solution that works on any host and does not overwrite the database during import.
The database merging is a unique feature that allows you to push staging site changes to live sites without replacing the live site’s database. WP Stagecoach monitor and keep a database changes log on the staging site. It then “playback” database changes during import to live site.
WP Stagecoach can host your staging site on their server, so you can test the site in an isolated environment, and saving hosting disk space usage. During site import, you can import files, database or both.
Price: WP Stagecoach price starts from $120/year for 10 domains.
7. BlogVault (Paid)
You can troubleshoot for days while e-commerce and other plugins take orders or registrations. Content can keep updating. Our unique WordPress staging plugin uses a ‘database merge’ feature—not an overwrite feature—to ‘push’ your updates live in one click. Never lose your data or re-do your work again!
BlogVault is a premium WordPress cloud backup plugin with a staging site feature. It offers one-click WordPress staging site that hosts on its server. The staging site is password-protected and blocks search engine indexing by default.
BlogVault also handles WordPress database merging when you import staging site changes to the live site. The 1-click Merge feature allows you to compare Live and Staging site, then do complete merge in a single click or selective merge handpick modifications.
Price: BlogVault price starts from $89/year for 1 site.
Avoid these costly, time-eating mistakes when updating a live WordPress site!
- Plugin conflicts causing loss of functionality or design
- Error messages appearing for public users
- CSS overrides being deleted in core plugin files (never do this ‘no-no’!)
- Broken links and disappearing images
- Site going mysteriously ‘blank’ with a white screen
- Loss of ability to login to WP Dashboard or users areas
- Deletion of content you spent countless hours on
- Inability to take payments, registrations or sign-ups
- And so much more!
Fixing issues like this can keep you up all night and ruin your work schedule.
Save yourself the hassle with an affordable $12/month (min.) plan.
No, a backup system is not enough! You need staging sites to solve your site problems, not ‘band-aid’ them!
A backup system is essential. But a staging site lets you work on problems or redesigns in a completely separate environment, away from a functioning site that needs to keep serving customers.
8. ManageWP (Free/Paid)
ManageWP is an online WordPress site management tool. It is free to use for unlimited websites with optional premium add-ons. With the premium backup, it can clone your website to an existing website or another server. It does not offer to host for the staging site.
ManageWP Smart Clone will compare the source and destination files. Skip the same files and clone only the different files and the database.
Price: Free. Requires Premium Backup ($2/month per site) for clone/staging feature.
In minutes set up ManageWP and add your first website.
With one click run all updates and create your first backup for FREE.
Automate your workflow and start saving time.
an effective website is almost always a work-in-progress, and you’ll often want to make periodic changes to its design, functionality, and content. However, it can be challenging to do that without interrupting your visitors’ experience.
While there are a few ways to solve this problem, one of the best is to create a dedicated staging site. This is a carbon copy of your website, which you can use to test out changes, perform troubleshooting, and more. Plus, you can easily push your edits live once they’re ready to go.
In this article, we’ll talk a little more about why you might want to create a staging website. We’ll also show you how you can do this using ManageWP’s cloning feature. Let’s jump right in!
Why You Might Need a Staging Website
Some people put a lot of work into perfecting their websites before making them live, while others put together a site much faster. Regardless of how you initially developed your site, you’ll almost certainly want to make some changes to it over time.
However, altering a live website comes with a lot of potential problems. Depending on the scope of your changes, you may end up temporarily disabling certain features of your site, making specific parts inaccessible, or even bringing the whole thing down.
Visitors who encounter your site in this state aren’t likely to leave with a very good impression. You can close your site off temporarily and put up a maintenance page, but this might mean losing out on some traffic. Fortunately, there’s another option.
A staging website is a copy – or a clone – of your site in its current state. However, this copy is private, only viewable by you and by those to whom you choose to grant access. You can use this to make changes, test out new features, and so on, without affecting your live site or your visitors. Staging sites are also very useful for troubleshooting errors and bugs, or even performing an entire site redesign.
Depending on the tool you use, you may even be able to “push” your changes to your live site once you’re happy with them, saving you a lot of time.
Gitium is a plugin that enables automatic version control for your WordPress site. So you can push/pull from a repository to a live site. What’s nice here is that you can roll back to a previous version of a site if problems occur. But this is a fairly advanced tool and requires the use of the (gasp!) command line. It’s best suited for those who want a bit more fine-grain control over the entire process.
What is its purpose?
Gitium is a WordPress plugin for versioning themes and plugins updates, installs, and removals, along with ninja code edits from the WordPress editor. For example, if you modify your plugin from WordPress, you will be able to access all the changes ever made wherever you have access to Git. Or if you fix a small bug and push it through Git, Gitium will automatically pull and apply the changes you made.
Gitium is designed with sane development environments in mind, allowing staging and production to follow different branches of the same repository. You can also deploy code by simply using Git push.
Gitium enables continuous deployment for WordPress, integrating with tools such as Github, Bitbucket or Travis-CI.
How the idea came up
The plugin appeared as a necessity and as a continuation of Gitfs. Together, they form a system that makes life better for Git-savvy developers, FTP users and, ninja code-editors.
Easy to set up and use
Install it, insert your Git URL, and that’s it!
Preserves the WordPress behavior
This means that, as a site owner, you don’t need to learn anything new. Just use WordPress normally and Gitium will automatically know when you add or remove a plugin or theme, or when you update or change one file from WordPress.
Accountability for the code changes
You can always find out who changed what. Gitium will set the WordPress logged in user as the author of the commits.
Safe code storage
If you have trouble with your site or, for some reason, the code is broken or missing, you don’t have to worry about it, because you can recover your code from Git.
Watch it in action
What makes Bitnami’s solution so incredibly cool is that you can download and install a WordPress package that has everything you need to run the CMS locally on your computer. Unlike most local servers, there is no complicated setup required. This is a great choice for those times when you just want to install something quickly and get right to work. Downloads are available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Oh, and if you’re already running their WAMP, XAMPP or MAMP local server installers, Bitnami has a WordPress module for that as well.
Bitnami native installers automate the setup of a Bitnami application stack on Windows, macOS, and Linux. Each installer includes all of the software necessary to run out of the box (the stack). The process is simple; just download, click next-next-next and you are done!
- Try, test and work with the application in your local environment
- Our installers are self-contained. They don’t interfere with other software on your system
Other Different Ways to Build a Staging Site
Staging sites can be built and utilized using a number of methods. But not everyone has access to the same tools. So which flavor you choose may be more a matter of what resources are readily available, rather than simply going with the easiest solution.
There is no shortage of ways to get the job done, but here is a sampling of some of the more popular routes to a glorious staging site of your own:
Automated Staging Through Your Web Host
This is the Holy Grail in terms of quick and easy setup. Some web hosts, especially in the WordPress space, are offering one-click staging sites that make a copy of your live site. From there, you can test out any changes within the staging environment and, when ready, simply overwrite your live site with those changes.
By far, this is the most preferable solution as it requires virtually no work on your part to use. The only catch is that you need to choose a web host that offers this feature. Otherwise, you’re stuck building your own.
Copy Your Existing Site to a Fresh WordPress Install on Your Web Server
Now we’re getting into some work. This method requires you to create an exact copy of your live site (WordPress files and database included) and place it somewhere else on your hosting account. You might choose to give this version its own subdomain, such as “staging.yoursite.com” for easy access. You’ll also want to make sure that you block search engine requests on your staging site – just to prevent any negative SEO consequences or other snooping.
Building your own staging site can be accomplished manually or with the help of some plugins that will save you some time. The biggest issue with doing everything manually is that there isn’t necessarily an easy way to move data back and forth unless you’re a command-line wizard.