Today I want to discuss a staging environment and why you need to build one. If you already have one please continue reading because may you’ll learn something. However, if you don’t have this environment please continue to read because you need one to test updates and/or changes.
What Is A Staging Environment?
A staging environment is an exact copy of your website or application but isn’t the live or production website or application. Thus, you can test any changes and/or updates without disrupting the performance of your website or application. Or cause extensive downtime because a change or update goes awry. If you do break your testing environment you can recreate it by copying your website or application to the space again.
This environment gives you enough time to test any changes and/or updates in real-time. And when your testing ends you can push the changes and/or updates to your live or production website or application.
Why Do You Need A Staging Environment?
Because if you implement a code change without testing it first on a live or production website you could cause all types of problems. Those problems could lead to downtime, which could cost you money due to lost sales. Or it could result in a lower reputation because your customers think you’re flaky or inefficient. In serious cases, you can lose vital data which you may or may not be able to restore from a backup.
I use a staging environment for my ecommerce website to test updates for WordPress plugins. Mostly because I want to make sure these updates do not break my site. Also, I want to verify the updates do not reduce the security I have in place.
So if a plugin update causes problems with another plugin I can do more testing. Or if I see some general weirdness going on with my test website I know not to update my production website. Thus, I saved myself a ton of time having to fix my website. Also, this environment keeps me from becoming stressed out.
How Can You Set Up A Staging Environment?
How can you create a staging environment? It depends on what framework you use to build and/or host your website.
If you use self-hosted WordPress, check with your web hosting company to see how you can create a staging website there. My web hosting company uses Softaculous to install and maintain WordPress installations, and they made it very easy to create a staging website. Again, check the Help Section or the Knowledge Base section of your web hosting company for assistance.
Now, you can use certain application to setup a local staging environment for your WordPress site. This means your changes aren’t saved to a web host but instead on your computer. If you want to push those changes to your live website, you will have to copy and paste the files, or transfer the changes via SFTP. WordPress has some suggestions listed here. However, you can find more alternatives by searching. One popular application is Local from Flywheel.
You Need Your Staging Environment To Be An Exact Copy
To fully verify that any and all changes and/or updates will not break your live site, your test website must be exactly the same. That means if you have a database on your live site, you need the same type but filled with test data.
If you’re using certain APIs or frameworks, then you need those installed on your staging website too. You never know what change could break an API or require additional updates.
Again, various types of software that creates staging environments can assist you with creating an exact copy.