What Is a Staging Environment?

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A graphic of a computer with staging websites.

There are plenty of rules when it comes to coding, like don’t keep a full glass of water next to your computer. But there’s one rule that should be followed above all else: never, never, ever edit a live site. If only there were a place that you could go to mess around with a site where it wasn’t live, almost like a playground where you could tweak, edit, and change to your heart’s content, all without messing with the working version of the site. It turns out that there is such a place: a staging environment.

What is a staging environment?

Simply put, a staging area is a place where you make changes to code and view these changes before publishing. Staging environments are not live, so the only people who can see the changes are those with access to the environment. No changes you make to a site in a staging environment will go live until you publish them, which means you have a safe environment to break and test new functionality.

When do you use a staging environment?

Let’s say you’re working to create new functionality for your site, like a new header image that acts as a carousel. Instead of downloading a new plugin to your live site and causing visual or functionality issues, you install it on the staging environment first. This allows you to work out any problems that come from installation, and ensure that your site is still functioning the way you want it to be.

Staging environments are also useful when adding or taking away new bits of code from your site. As we stated previously, staging environments aren’t live, so you have a perfect spot to break things, fix them, and break them all over again before publishing. This allows you to create better websites for your clients. You won’t be pushing updates that can break and bring down an entire site. You can work out all the kinks on the staging environment.

Are there drawbacks to a staging environment?

As with most things, there are some downsides to using a staging environment. First of all, working on a staging environment takes time. Since a staging environment is itself separate from the live site, you sometimes end up with an interesting coincidence. If you have a team of people who managed your website and one person publishes two blog articles to the live site, these articles to not exist in the staging environment. Instead, it remains frozen in time while the live site changes and evolves. Now, instead of updating just one site, you have two sites to update and maintain (that is, unless your host has a nifty cloning feature).

Another time drain is the fact that you still have to push updates to a live site after making them in a staging environment. After working out the kinks in your staging environment, you have to push these changes to the live site. Depending on how major the changes are, they could take a while to update. It’s important to ensure clients have a reasonable expectation of delivery time when they ‘need changes now.’

Also, unless your host offers a staging environment as part of your plan (Pressable does), you’ll have to pay for an environment to test changes in. This cost can really add up depending on how many sites you want to have updating at once, so searching for a host that offers a dedicated staging environment as part of your hosting plan is essential.

Setting up a staging environment with Pressable

There are two basic ways to setup a staging environment at Pressable. The first will be more helpful if you’re a brand new customer. After logging in, you’ll have to create your first site in my.pressable. If you have an existing site, go ahead and migrate your site over with our migration plugin. Tada! You’ve got your staging environment. After your migration is complete or your new site is finally built, it’s time to add your domain settings and put your site into production, taking full advantage of the global CDN, caching, and architecture of Pressable’s servers.

The second way to setup a staging environment has to do with existing customers. Let’s say you want to make some code, plugin, or content updates to your site without potentially breaking it. Take advantage of Pressable’s one-click cloning feature and clone your site in my.pressable. This will automatically create a duplicate of your existing site and create a new staging environment, in development mode, in your my.pressable dashboard. You can now tweak, change, and edit this site to your heart’s content. Just input your domain settings and put it into production, and you’ll be good to go.

Staging environments are a must when it comes to web design, and depending on your Pressable hosting plan, you could have anywhere from one to 100. Need more help determining how to use your staging environments, or how to put your changes into production? Check out our Knowledge Base. It’s filled with troubleshooting tips, tricks, and hacks to get your site up and running smoothly. Or you can always contact our 24/7 support with any questions.