Have you ever updated a tiny piece of code on your live WordPress sites only to land on a white screen with a 503 error? Struck by panic, you try a few things to get it back online and now have a broken layout. Not long after, site visitors start dropping witty comments about their experience and you end up taking all the flak along with a hit in the revenue department.
It’s easy to think, what’s the big deal, I’m just updating some code or tweaking some plugin along with a few things on the site. Of course, it all seems harmless, until the day that little update brings everything down. The last thing you or your business need is the frustration and embarrassment of a broken WordPress website!
So, what can you do to ensure that you don’t break your website while making changes to it? A simple rule of thumb is to always use a WordPress staging site for all site updates and changes.
1. What is a staging site?
Simply put, a staged site can be your saviour and act as a clone of your live sites so that you can test out all your updates without impacting your actual site.
Setting up a staging site is easy. On a staging site, you can make whatever changes you want and test new features without the risk of breaking things. Well, you can still break things but at least it will not be visible to your audience as it’s on an offline version of the site. As a result, you can prevent those tweaks from messing up with your live production environment.
2. What makes staging so crucial?
Having a sandbox version of your live site to test whatever you want to – that’s exactly why a staging site is required! Here are some situations where having a staging site for WordPress will prove beneficial:
i. Install new plugins or themes
A staging site will enable you to install and activate a new plugin or theme and find out if it’s compatible with the site’s code before you go live. Even if something does go wrong on the staging site, there’s no need to panic or worry about your live site being down. If on the other hand, you had tried to install a new plugin on your live environment, even the slightest non-compatibility would have caused your site to dysfunction. A downtime or non-working functionality in your site could translate to a loss of sales, reputation and trust with your customers.
ii. Test plugin, theme, and WordPress core updates
It’s a huge security risk if you fail to perform updates to your WordPress plugins, themes and WordPress core files. It is also entirely possible, however, to break your site in the process. This is where a staging site comes to your rescue, and helps you test them out so that you will know if you need to make adjustments beforehand.
iii. Customize themes
Finding a perfect theme is often tough and many a time you may need to add some customizations to a theme of your choice. These customizations, however, need not be compatible with your site’s code. Testing these customizations on a staging site will give you a real feel of how it would look and behave on the live site without its disastrous consequences.
iv. Smooth development workflow
Working with staging and production sites makes your life easy. But pushing changes from staging sites to production immediately, without testing them on a staging site, is risky business. If something goes wrong and your live site breaks, you’ll have to spend time on getting the site back on track, which in turn can result in significant downtime.
Making these changes, while putting your live site in maintenance mode puts a tight time-constraint on the testing time. Instead, you can meticulously test every element in a staging environment, without having to put your live site in maintenance mode. Thus you can enjoy a smoother and linear development process.
v. Security & stability
A staging site is not only beneficial while developing a WordPress website, but it can also be used when improving and updating an existing one. The original site will continue to function normally until you decide to push changes live. This way, not only would your visitor’s experience not be affected, but you will also avert the risk of a site crash. All this while ensuring the security and stability of your site.
3. Dangers of not using a staging environment
Making changes on the fly or pushing updates from staging site to production without testing them first will save you time (or so you might think), but it always comes with a risk. Here are some risks you might have to incur if you avoid staging your site:
i. Your live site can crash
A simple change or update in your plugins and themes could bring your entire site down. Even worse, your search engine ranking could go down or your site could become more vulnerable to threats!
ii. Your site could malfunction
In the event that your website malfunctions, owing to issues like fatal errors, bugs, incompatible themes/plugins, etc., not having a staging site can land you in serious trouble! You will lose out on customers or visitors if your live site is down.
iii. Data loss
Installing a plugin or making changes to the code without first properly testing it on a staging site could cause irreparable damage to your data. If you don’t have a backup (which you should) you risk losing all your data without the means to restore it.
The most common cause of broken links is removing or moving a webpage and forgetting to change internal links. You could also have links to PDFs or documents that no longer exist. Or, you could have links to a third-party page, and not know if they’ve changed the URL or moved the page! Prevent your live site from breaking due to broken links, with the help of a staging site.
v. Increased downtime
When you update your live site with changes such as new themes or plugins, there’s always the risk of the site breaking. You’d have to spend hours debugging, troubleshooting and resolving issues to get your site back in working condition. This could increase the downtime for your live site, and lead to the loss of visitors.
The above points illustrate how crucial a staging site is to maintain the integrity of your live site. There are two ways to set up a staging site:
- Create one through your existing web host.
- Use a plugin to set it up quickly!
There are several staging plugins that come with various features. Ensure that you choose the right option without compromising on your website performance and security. Don’t fall prey to free or premium options without assessing all its features.
4. BlogVault – A One-Stop Solution for your staging needs
BlogVault is the only WordPress Backup Plugin that comes with a free WP staging facilities. Not only will you be able to take daily and on-demand backups to roll back to a previous version in case of any mishaps, but you can also test all elements in the staging environment before you are ready to go live.
Most staging environments use your server resources to set up a staging site. This puts more load on your site and compromises its performance. BlogVault’s integrated staging tool, on the other hand, lets you set up in seconds on its own server. Additionally, the staging site is also password protected for utmost security and safety. You have complete control over who can make changes and access your site. BlogVault will also ensure that your staging site is hidden from Google with zero impact on your website’s SEO.
If you are looking for a one-stop solution for your backup and staging needs,
look no further than BlogVault!