We are big fans of SiteGround and their developer features. This hangout introduces their new more advanced version of the SiteGround Staging Tool. The tool allows you to copy your website quickly your website, make changes to the copy, and then push those changes to live once you are happy with it.
Feel free to watch the replay of the Google Hangout below, but we have also included a summary of what was said below for quick reference (not everyone has the time to sit through a one hour video).
We have used the Site Staging extensively, so if you have any further questions feel free to post in the comments below. Alternatively, SiteGround’s live support is also extremely helpful.
Why Use a Staging Environment?
- You won’t break your live website when making changes.
- You won’t show your visitors unfinished designs.
- Makes testing much easier and gives more freedom to try new things without worrying about breaking your website.
Why the Staging Tool is “Awesome.”
- It is fast and easy to use.
- No additional configuration is needed (one click setup).
- It is great for design and development teams, as well as the casual blogger.
- It is safe (backups taken before changes pushed live, with easy restore).
Single-Click Staging Copy Creations
The staging tool can be accessed via cPanel with a simple click, choosing the relevant CMS:
Once clicked, you will see copies of all your websites currently on the server to which you can create a staging copy from:
If you have installed Joomla or WordPress manually rather than through the SiteGround installation script, then just click the “Add Joomla” or “Add WordPress” to add those websites.
Instructions for setting up the Staging Copy
To set up, a staging copy, click the “Create Staging Copy” button. One of the new features of the upgraded Staging Tool is that now you can add folders to staging that are outside of your WordPress install. This is great if you have design elements or images outside the main installation. You will get this option when creating the staging copy:
You will then be asked if you want to password protect the staging copy. This is important to prevent search engines indexing your staging copy (bad for SEO), and also to prevent your unfinished work being read by your visitors.
The Staging Tool will then go through all the configuration that takes about 5-10 seconds. You will then be taken to the admin. screen for your new staging copy:
If you have followed this process on the video, you will see that this whole process took less than 2 minutes (with commentary added). You could easily setup a staging copy in about 20 seconds!
You can then start working on the staging copy by clicking on “preview” in the top left-hand corner under “Create Staging Copy” button. You will have to enter your password if you set up password protection.
Two ways to make changes “live” on Site Staging
1. Simple Push
This pushes all the changes made to the staging website. Any changes that have occurred to your live website since creating the staging copy will be lost.
2. Advanced Push
This will allow you to see all the differences between your live website and your staging copy and let you choose which ones to apply.
To do either “Simple Push” or “Advanced Push” click the green “Push to Live” button:
You will then get asked if you wish to carry out an “Easy Push” or an “Advanced Push”:
If you chose the Easy Push, a few seconds later your changes will be live.
If you chose the Advanced Push option you will get some further options so you can specify what files database tables you wish to push to live:
As you can see above, in the “Changes in Databases” table you can de-select the comments (as one example) to avoid overwriting all your comments on the live website.
Why use the Advanced Push?
Sometimes there is data that continues to be entered on the live website after you make the staging copy, for example, comments, or in the case of online store orders. In these situations, you will want to use the Advanced push to ensure you preserve any data that needs to be kept.
Site Staging Backups
SiteGround Staging has an automated backup system to ensure that you can quickly revert any “push to live.“ It features automated backups, single click restoration, and multiple restoration points to ensure that if you do make a mistake or something expectant happens you can quickly revert to the immediately preceding the “push to live.”
The backup is restored in seconds.
Site Staging Git Integration
One of the new features in the latest version of Site Staging, probably more suitable for the more developer types is the new Git Integration. This allows multiple users to work on the staging copy via GIT and then push those to the Staging copy before pushing the changes live. The following diagram shows this a little more clearly:
The GIT repo can be created with one click, and then you get all the information you need to access the repo in a pop-up box within a few seconds.
Other Cool Features of the SiteGround Staging Tool
There are a few other cool features of the new staging tool:
- Easy staging copy replication — This is useful if you have some changes in your staging copy, but want to experiment with further changes without messing up your existing staging copy.
- Easy password protection so you can control who can make changes.
- Easy Access to your administration panel
Some significant, but not overly restrictive limitations apply:
- Maximum database size: 104 MB (this was clarified in the questions; higher limits are available on their VPS)
- Maximum Staging Copies: 10
- Maximum Daily Actions: 15
At the end of the Hangout, there was a chance to ask the SiteGround team some questions. We have highlighted below some of the most interesting ones (you can view the hangout from the 25-minute mark to hear them all):
Q. How does the Staging work with Plugins?
A. The staging tools make a full replica of your website that includes plugins.
Q. Can you develop a website on your server and then push straight to a client server?
A. At the moment, this is not possible, but it is a feature on the roadmap to implement hopefully in the next version an option to split it to a client account.
Q. Does this work with WordPress Multisite?
A. Yes, but you can’t distinguish between each sub-account.
Q. Is there an extra charge for this capability and is it offered on all hosting plans?
A. There is no charge, but it is only available on the GoGeek hosting plan.
Q. If a database is larger than 100MB can we use the tool?
A. Yes, but you will need to sign up to the VPS plan.
Q. Does the staging tool support SSL certificates?
A. At the moment, it does not. You should develop in regular HTTP.
Q. What happens when you edit a website that other people can contribute to?
A. You can use the advanced website push tool to deal with this, so you don’t overwrite individual database tables, such as comments.
Q. Can you do a total website redesign with the Staging Tool?
A. Yes, but you won’t be able to change the CMS.
Q. Is this feature available on your dedicated servers?
A. Staging tool is available on the dedicated servers but you need to purchase an additional upgrade, and we will install it on the server.
Q. Does it work with SEO plugins and friendly URLS?
A. Yes, it works with all these types of plugins.
Q. If I have a 1.5 or 2.5 existing Joomla website, can I build a new 3.2
A. Yes, such migrations are quite time-consuming and require a lot of testing. That’s why our staging tool is often used for Joomla migrations from one version to another. Make sure that the initial push you make is a simple one.
Q. How do I add this feature to my reseller accounts?
A. Right now, this feature is available only on our GoGeek accounts. If any of your reseller accounts needs it, it must be upgraded to the GoGeek plan.
Q. Will I see the replicated files in FTP / cPanel so I can edit those?
A. Yes, you can modify the replicated files (your staging copy) through FTP, the File Manager tool in your cPanel or even via SSH.
Q. Do you create a new username and password or use the original one?
A. Since the staging tool is replicating your live website completely, the login details for your Joomla/WordPress website are the same.
Q. What about Magento?
A. Right now the tool works only with Joomla and WordPress, but we plan to add more supported apps. Magento is surely the first app on that list.
Q. My assumption is that the staging copy (or backup) is on a physically different web server from my website.
A. No, your staging copy is generated on the same account your live website is hosted on so you can quickly access and modify its files and database.
As we said before, there is a little more detail in the video, so you may find that useful to watch. You can also read a more general overview of all the other developer tools available on SiteGrounds GoGeek plan here.
Jonathan Griffin Editor, SEO Consultant, & Developer.
Jonathan Griffin is The Webmaster's Editor & CEO, managing day-to-day editorial operations across all our publications. Jonathan writes about Development, Hosting, and SEO topics for The Webmaster and The Search Review with more than nine years of experience. Jonathan also manages his own SEO consultancy, offering SEO developer services. He is an expert on site-structure, strategy, Schema, AMP, and technical SEO. You can find Jonathan on Twitter as @thewebmastercom.