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    Categories: Hosting NewsWordPress

SiteGround Staging – Don’t be a cowboy coder!

UPDATE: The staging feature is available on our GoGeek Shared Hosting plan, which was previously called Semi-dedicated Hosting.

Ever heard of „cowboy coding“? More or less, we've all done it – no time for planning, let alone test website changes, each new upload messing up your CSS, installing an incompatible plugin, doing everything „live“ and visible immediately for all your website visitors to see. After all this, you end up hoping you had a backup.

How about if you could create a development copy of your website for testing purposes with a click of a button? Or be able to quickly publish the new version of the site and replace the old one? That is exactly what Joomla and WordPress users can do with our new Staging feature, allowing clients to easily create staging copies of their sites directly from the cPanel.

The daunting task of website testing:


If you have ever attempted to create a development version of a website for testing purposes,  you probably know that this is not an easy task. Most of the sites and popular open source applications (WordPress, Joomla!, Magento, SMF and many others) nowadays are URL dependent. This means that if your main WordPress site is accessible at:

http://domain.com

and you want to create a staging copy of the site at:

http://staging.domain.com

you will have to reconfigure the WordPress application to use the new address.

This is a relatively easy task for default sites that don't use many extensions or custom themes. However, you still have to create a new database for the new site, copy the existing files, import a backup of the DB, create a new sub-domain, etc. Once you complete all of these steps you must replace all instances of domain.com with staging.domain.com.

This is a cumbersome task and it really is frustrating to deal with unimportant and unrelated sub-problems when in reality your goal is to simply create a testing copy of your site. It gets even more complicated when you have many extensions because some of them may also rely on an exact URL to work as expected. Finally, the most unpleasant part is that you have to follow the very same process again whenever the testing site has to be published and made publicly available.

What is SiteGround Staging and how does it work?

A System Administrators' rule of thumb says that if you have to do a task more than once, it should be automated. Here at SiteGround we believe that this is especially valid for services that directly affect our clients. Our Staging tool allows you to create development copies of your WordPress and Joomla! website directly from cPanel. It does all the magic for you and the final result is a completely separate clone version of your main site.

The most important thing is that the tool actually doesn't replace your „live“ domain with the new one for staging. To be able to do this we created a special Apache module which virtually routes the requests to the correct address. This allows you to concentrate on editing and experimenting with your test site version, without having to think about „how“ to do it. Once you are happy with the results, you can  push the staging version of your site live with a single click. Just to be on the safe side, we also do automatic backups each time you upload a staging version to production.

Right now, the SiteGround Staging tool is available to clients on Semi-dedicated hosting plan only and supports Joomla! and WordPress websites, but we plan to add support for other popular web applications as well. If you are a Semi-dedicated client and need to create a development copy of your site, you can do it right now from your cPanel -> Staging tool.

To illustrate the benefits of the new staging tool, we also drew a funny infographic that you can also brag with in front of your geeky friends. Also, feel free to share your opinion about the new feature in the comments below, we will be glad to hear what you think.

Dima Peteva: A wearer of all possible hats, a project manager by title, a creative enthusiast at heart. Loves all-things Internet, checks Twitter first thing in the morning as an early dose of inspiration then tries to put it all into work throughout the day.

View Comments

    • I am afraid not. However, we will be doing more about our Drupal community this year and I am positive it will soon happen.

  • Staging support for SSL / HTTPS SiteGround

    Your Chat Transcript on 25/03/2016
    Leonardo: Is staging now working with HTTPS?
    Dobromir N.: yes you should be able to install SSL lets encrypt for your staging website

    • Sorry for the misundertanding, the staging tool does not yet support SSL. We are in the final testing phase and hopefully it will work through SSL by the end of the next week.

    • I am afraid that this is a stock image and since we're not the author, we can't really allow you to redistribute it because of the agreement we have with the real author.

  • We wanted to implement https using Let's Encrypt but first wanted to test on staging.

    Unfortunately our DB is > 100 MB so unable to create a staging environment.

    So we manually duplicated the live site into a subdomain and called it staging1.livesitexxx.com

    When I let's encrypt this subdomain and try to access the subdomain through https:// I am getting a "Your connection is not secure" error.

    Any idea what I should be doing to fix this?

    • You're including resources from an unsecure location. Make sure all images and files are included through https to fix this error.

  • Hristo, just rereading the threads. The staging did not work at all when I pushed to live (ssl).
    I had a siteground support agent put some code into htaccess and said that this is a workaround to use when I want to use the staging, as I am on ssl (lets encrypt).
    When I pushed to live, the site was exactly as it was when I went in.
    I just enquired now with your technical whether staging is working ok for ssl sites.
    And was told this:
    Unfortuntely, our Staging Tool does not work with SSL. You would need to disable this portion of your site while working in this environement.

    Could you please consider updating this post as to how we are supposed to use staging for ssl sites. Especially as the drive is for all to go https.

    (I actually upgraded to use the staging... but also bought the ssl certificate... which unfortunately has meant that I have never had any joy with this).(also wanted to use it as a backup area- I like something I can see, as I know nothing about databases etc.)

    • The staging tool does work with SSL :) You should give it a try again. Just issue a new certificate for the staging subdomain (that's super easy and free with Let's Encrypt now) and it will work as a charm. That workaround you mention was a bit old way to handle it while we were updating. Furthermore, you don't have to use the same certificate for the live site and the staging copies, just use Let's Encrypt for the staging and it should work right out of the box!

  • This staging feature is a nice idea but doesn't really work. Lots of us on gogeek will be using Cloudflare i suspect. Whilst i can create a staging copy i can't access it because of a DNS error message. It seems it wants the domain to point to Siteground and not cloudflare. Is this something that can be resolved by adding the staging domain to cloudflare too?

    • The staging tool works by crating a subdomain of your site which is impossible when the NS records are pointed to CloudFlare. I am afraid that there isn't an easy workaround for that. You can always make a manual staging copy of your site though.

  • HI,

    The staging feature sound nice.

    I am a designer but not a Web Developer. I would like to redesign all my site (built in Wordpress), so I would like to check if using the staging tool is possible. My site has a WildCard SSL certificate, but I am not using CloudFlare.

    • Well, if your old site is not WordPress, you can simply build the new one in a separate folder and once ready switch the live one with the newly designed site. Once you do that, you will be able to create a staging copy of the WordPress installation and continue developing it using the full power of the staging tool.