How to Create a WordPress Staging Environment
A staging environment consists in an exact replica of your website, that is not public, and thus it will NOT be visible to your users - It will only be available offline, for your own use.
The main purpose of having a staging website is that you can make changes to your entire website, before actually making everything public and visible to your users.
"Isn't an Offline Page Enough?"
Nope. It's not enough. Because, on a page you can modify the content and/or the styling ONLY for the page itself.
If you make some changes to the theme options, for example, or you deactivate some of your plugins, then, other pages (that are already published) could be damaged by these actions.
In this way, a staging website allows you to make changes to your live website without ruining the experience of your users.
How Can You Set Up a Staging Website
Here's how you can set up the staging environment in the shortest time possible. You have a couple of options and you can choose the one you see fit:
1. Staging Through Your Host
This is probably one of the easiest ways to set up a staging website. Some hosting providers offer staging solutions for you website. In this way, all you need to do is check out if your hosting provider offers this solution.
How can you find that out? - Simple, if you access your hosting provider's website you should find any information about a staging setup - If they offer one. For example, if you're using WP Engine, you can find this tutorial article in their support section.
2. Create a Separate Host Staging Website
This is a solution you could use if your hosting provider DOESN'T offer a staging website option. One of the softwares that you can use if you're in this situation, is WP Stagecoach.
They allow you to create a staging website with one click, make the changes you want, and then copy the changes back to your live site, also with only one click.
The newly created staging site will be password-protected, and you can undo the changes if you encounter any difficulties or simply change your mind after copying the changes to the live site.
3. Staging Website Using a Plugin
Then, there's always the option of using a simple WordPress plugin that you can simply install and activate on your website. The main benefit of using a plugin is that you are provided with the familiar WordPress interface options, within which you can make all the customizations.
All-in-One WP Migration
This is one of the plugins that we have tested and recommend you use for the setup of the staging environment.
It is one of the most downloaded staging plugins, with 500.000+ installations. Also, it has a 4.9 star average rating, from 3.210 reviews in 2017!
In order to download and install this plugin, all you need to do is access the WP Admin Dashboard, then go to Plugins > Add New:
And then, all you need to do is type in the name of the plugin on the search field from the right hand side:
Duplicator is, arguably, the most well-known staging plugin among WordPress users, with 1+ Million active installs and a 5 star average rating, from 1.282 reviews in 2017!