28 May

2013

SiteGround Staging – Don’t be a cowboy coder!

intro-staging

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:

cowboy-coder
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?

intro-staging

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.

Author: Dima Peteva

Project Manager

Loves all-things Internet and checks RSS feeds first thing in the morning as an early dose of daily inspiration, then puts it all into work throughout the day. A project manager by title, a creative enthusiast at heart.

Comments (25):

  1. Todd says:

    Great added feature!!! Tools like this just validates my commitment to using siteground.com!

  2. Jouke says:

    Nice feature! Are there plans to support other (read: cheaper) hosting plans as well?

  3. Assiabi says:

    what about shared hosting plus and VPS hosting? when we can test it?

  4. Marina says:

    Hello Jouke and Assiabi, the staging feature is currently available only on our semi-dedicated service, but we are considering to add it to our VPS plans as well. We do not plan to include it in our lower plans as this is more of a geeky feature that should meet a much higher demand and usage on our higher plans. Regards!

  5. rafael says:

    Well, it is just G R E A T

  6. izdale says:

    This is one of the coolest features I’ve seen you add at SiteGround and I would use it regularly… too bad I can’t use it on a lowly Shared Plus plan :’(

  7. SnowDog says:

    Is this feature going to be available to clients with a reseller account? I’m not entirely sure what level of service is included in the reseller package. I can see resellers being very keen on this feature. Though we use a different CMS (not WordPress, Joomla! or Drupal) exclusively, I have to also wonder if this might work for us?

    • Dima says:

      Our Staging feature is already available for Resellers. However, for now it is limited to Semi-Dedicated hosting accounts with Joomla and WordPress installations. So, if you have a Semi-Dedicated hosting account in your Reseller package, the Staging feature is already available in its corresponding cPanel.

      We are currently testing the feature for VPS and Dedicated servers, so soon we will be adding Staging to those hosting plans as well.

      • Leo says:

        Looks great. Would it be on the WordPress hosting? Also, is GoGeek the largest plan you have? We’re already hitting 20k visits/month, and would need to start scaling up. =) Appreciate your feedback!

  8. Aurora says:

    Great feature and probably understand why this is not available for reseller packages due to resources. This would be a fantastic feature for Magento sites as these are the systems i have most headaches with during plugin installations & upgrades but also an extremely resource hungry system.

    I would say than anyone looking for a simple solution for Joomla/Drupal both have great backup/restore components and the cPanel also has a backup facility so you have this to an extent anyways to fallback on.

    Other way of doing this on reseller accounts would be version control via git/subv or using a sub domain test.foobar.com and www.foobar.com. Not quite the same as staging but works.

  9. Paul says:

    Please don’t take too long just considering it for your vps, just do it :)
    Since your semi-dedicated plans start at $29.00 and vps starts at $62.00 I feel the vps is a “higher plan”
    If it was in the vps I would sign up today!

  10. Scott says:

    I agree. This feature should be available for VPS accounts too. And please consider it for Magento.

  11. Brian says:

    I am looking at moving my dedicated hosting account to SiteGround. Wlll staging be built into the admin for dedicated hosting?

  12. Dima says:

    We’re on it, guys! Staging for VPS and Dedicated servers is already in testing mode and will be added as a feature to both hosting plans very soon. I’ll be sure to update you once it’s available.

  13. Dawn says:

    Please consider this feature for VPS and CS-Cart programs. I applaud your wonderful progress on a very challenging issue – I spend half of my time being in “Cowboy Mode” for small-mid size clients.

    Thank you.

  14. Dima says:

    Here is that update I promised – Staging for WordPress and Joomla websites is now available for VPS accounts! We’re still working on the Dedicated servers integration, so it is coming up soon as well.

  15. corey says:

    “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.” http://www.siteground.com/staging.htm

    If they have great imaginations… 302

  16. […] service. It is the newest addition to the multiple state-of-the-art tools (like WordPress/Joomla Staging tool, WP-CLI, Drush CLI for Drupal sites, etc.) that we have created to make your website management […]

  17. Shantanu says:

    I feel stupid to ask this question, but does staging that is introduced by SiteGround allows dynamic DB updation of the staged version of the application, in case of long development cycles where the live site gets updated daily.
    And if this doesn’t happen, what would you suggest an ideal way to keep the staged version up to date typically in case of joomla?

  18. Daniel Kanchev says:

    Hey Shantanu! This is actually a very good question. Right now the Staging tool doesn’t provide this feature and you can’t sync your databases. However, we will soon release a new version of our Staging software which will allow you to compare your databases just before you push all changes to the live site.

    This means that you will be able to merge the content and this way achieve data consistency and avoid corruption and data loss.

  19. […] you’re wondering what staging is, let me tell you that it’s a small revolution that will hopefully eradicate the […]

  20. Keith Davis says:

    Hi Dima
    Love the sound of the staging area.

    “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.”

    And that sounds even better.

    May go with you GoGeek plan and bring over three of my sites.

  21. David says:

    Staging is a must for developers and this is a great feature. For those of us on a shared hosting plan, not to worry! Achieving the same result on your own is much less scary than it sounds and doesn’t require a subdomain (test.domain.com) http://www.conticreative.com/The-Conticreative-Joomla-Blog/joomla-clone.html

  22. Pete says:

    Any plans to open the staging functionality up to those of us who code straight PHP as opposed to WP or Joomla?

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