If you are preparing your website for a big launch or want to make changes, like rebranding, or even some small changes, whenever you want to test out products or experiment with code, it’s always safer to use a staging site. They allow you to harmlessly make tons of experiments and try out new features without actually impairing your live website.
You can add custom code to it, switch your WordPress theme, or test different plugins, all is possible because the functionality of the website is the same as that of the live website. Only the changes you make here won’t be visible to visitors.
As with everything in WordPress, setting up a staging website is easily done using the help of a plugin. This allows you to put up a test website easily and in minutes to run all your tests and analysis. Of course, the WordPress repository is large and seems endless, thus searching for the best WordPress staging plugin can be a bit of a challenge.
In this article we will be exploring all the best WordPress staging plugins, lay down all their best features to help you decide on which one suits you best. The list is compiled with free and premium plugins.
What is a Staging Site?
To put it simply, a staging website is an exact replica of your website with only two differences. The first one is that it is not live, meaning it is not available to the public. And the second difference is that the changes you make on your staging website will not have any effect on your live website whatsoever.
We sometimes are inclined t make changes on our website, and when they don’t turn out to be the way we want them, it can hurt our website and its traffic. Think of a staging site like a trial stage where you experiment with different types of things before you decide this is the final result I want to go with.
Creating a staging site manually is a hard and compelling task that’s left to those with more skill, for the rest of us, long live the plugins. The process is all automated and you can create your own testing site using a WordPress staging plugin in a few clicks.
How to choose the best staging plugins?
WordPress offers an endless repository of plugins, and choosing the best WordPress staging plugin can be a challenge, especially if you don’t know what features you should look out for the most. Choosing the right WordPress staging plugin can have a detrimental impact on how well your tests perform and the alliance between your live site and staging site. For that reason we will assess the features you should always look out for when choosing the best WordPress staging plugin:
- Easy to Use & Quick Set-up – Plugins are designed to make our lives easier, that is why always go for a WordPress staging plugin that’s easy to use and offers a quick set-up. In such a case, all you need to do is configure the default settings and create your staging website with ease. You don’t want to wait around for hours to create your staging site.
- Ensure staging site security – This goes without saying, your staging site’s security should be a priority. You must make sure that the plugin you choose will have a data encryption feature to ensure security while cloning your website Just like your live website, your staging site could be hacked and you must keep it safe. Your staging website should be password protected and kept on a secure server.
- The plugin should work fine with large and complex websites – This feature is more niche-oriented because if you are running a multisite network or a complex website that consists of multiple pages you should consider plugins that offer stability and power to maintain your staging site, the plugin should stay steadfast.
- Hide your staging site from search engines – Your staging site is a clone, a duplicate of your live website. The WordPress staging plugin you use should automatically hide your staging site from the visibility of search engines. You don’t want your visitors to see your staging site, the one you are experimenting with. And secondly, as mentioned your staging site has the same content and your live website, thus if search engines index your staging site, this goes against the rules of Google, the main search engine, and you risk having your actual website penalized.
- Block emails from customers of live website – While you can send emails from your staging site, whether that be for trial reasons, it’s best to block emails to and from customers of your real website.
- The staging site should be on a different server – Setting up your staging website on the same server as the live website with results in the latter one to slow down, and you don’t certainly want that. Having the staging site on a different server will ensure that the live website remains intact.
- Support from the plugin’s author – This is particularly important because at times you might run into issues that you can’t resolve yourself, thus you need help from the plugin’s support team. Choose wisely a WordPress staging theme that also offers support out-of-the-box.
- The Option of Merging the Sites – One of the most important features, although obvious, the staging WordPress plugin you choose must have the ability to merge your staging site with the live one and to replicate the changes onto your production website.
In our collection of the best WordPress staging plugins, we will assess the most popular and feature-rich staging plugins available to help you create and manage your staging site to allow you to freely make all the changes necessary and experiment as much as you want.
Best Staging WordPress Plugins to create Test Sites
Now that we have all things cleared out about what a staging site is and how to choose the best WordPress staging plugin for your website, we can continue with our collection of the best staging plugins from WordPress. We’ve compiled a collection of only the top-notch plugins that are highly capable and offer tons of features & functionalities.
We will be exploring all their best and unique features to help you make the right choice. Selecting the best WordPress staging plugins is crucial, thus follow us through this journey to make the right choice.
Let’s begin our collection of the best staging plugins for WordPress with BlogVault, one of the most popular and reliable backup and staging plugins that also offer free cloud storage. Primarily, Blog Vault is an automatic off-site WordPress website backup plugin that also covers the creating of staging sites with the ultimate ease. It’s simple and straightforward to create a development site environment with BlogVault because of the built-in feature. The set-up process requires a single click to create a testing site on the BlogVault’s servers.
This WordPress staging plugin is free on the WordPress repository and offers all the default features to create staging sites, and if you wish to extend the features of the plugin you can always upgrade to a premium plan. You can safely test your website’s updates and changes while you test site runs on the plugin’s cloud services. Once you’re done with all the testings and updates, a simple click is enough to merge and push changes to the live site. You can use BlogVault as a two-in-one solution, as a backup plugin as well as a staging plugin.
- One-Click Setup to create staging sites
- Merging feature to push changes to your production site
- Use it as a backup solution as well
- Webmail and Google indexing is automatically turned off for staging sites
- Your staging site runs on the plugin’s cloud servers
- Flexible access via FTP and MyphpAdmin
- The ability to compare changes to your staging site and production site
The WP-Staging plugin is a dedicated WordPress plugin to clone and duplicate your website to create capable staging sites with a simple and straightforward setup. The plugin creates a clone of your website in a subfolder of your main WordPress installation. The plugin employs an easy-to-follow interface and a one-click setup that creates a clone of your website within minutes, depending on the size of your website.
All the time-consuming operations like cloning the files and the databases are done in the background, including automatically searching and replacing all serialized links and paths.
The powers of the WP Staging plugin extend even if your website runs on a weak shared hosting server. You can easily run all the tests you need, making updates and changes as well as install untested plugins, knowing that WP Staging has your back and your website won’t break. This WordPress staging plugin comes for free and offers all the most basic and capable features, to extend these features like enable the option to migrate the theme files from your testing site to the production site, you must upgrade to a premium version.
- A great choice for large websites
- Your staging site will be password protected with credentials
- Compatible with the WordPress Multisite feature
- Easy to use and quick setup process
- Supports all popular web serves
- The migration and cloning process is quite fast, takes only a few seconds on minutes, depending on the size of your website
- Works well with small and weak shared hosting servers
Another great migration and staging WordPress plugin on our collection, the WPvivid plugin is famous for its platform to create staging sites with utmost ease. Besides the staging feature, this plugin also offers services like backups and migration as a default feature. You can find the plugin for free on the WordPress repository.
You can create a cloned website that will be located in the WordPress directory from where you can run your tests, update plugins, and make all the changes necessary until you are completely satisfied with the results. This is an all-in-one backup, migration, and staging WordPress plugin.
Additional to the backup and migration features, this WordPress staging plugin will also remove unused images from your website, which makes your site load a lot faster and increase performance. The best feature of the free version of this plugin is that once you are done with testing updates on your staging site, you can push the changes you’ve made to your production website with ease. On a side note, the plugin also offers automatic updates for your core WordPress file, as well as themes and plugins.
- Easy to use and setup up your staging site
- The migration feature comes available in the free version
- Support for WordPress multisite backup
- Clear unused pictures to increase performance
- Automatic updates
- Will migrate everything via remote storage
- Database backups encryption
All-in-One WP Migration plugin is another outstanding selection of a WordPress staging plugin that comes available for free with some of the most capable features included. This is a migration WordPress plugin that you can also use to create capable staging sites. The plugin is quite popular in the WordPress repository due to its reliable services.
The plugin was designed especially for beginners, thus it introduces a simple and intuitive interface as well as a straightforward setup process to make every user profile comfortable. You can migrate or create a staging site with little to no technical knowledge using the All-in-One WP Migration plugin.
The plugin creates a copy of your WordPress website, you can download the copy, upload it to an already prepared staging location, and begin your tests. While making a copy of your website you can exclude particular files like spam comments and databases, or you can find and replace files using the search functionality. What’s great about this plugin is that it comes compatible with almost all web hosting providers.
- The plugin comes with translation-ready files in over 50 languages
- You can export your WordPress files, including the database
- Compatibility with almost all web hosting providers
- You can use the original site credentials to login your staging site
- Provides amazing mobile experience on WordPress versions 3.3 and up
- Will break up your website into chunks of files to overcome upload/download file size restrictions
- Auto-replacement of your site’s URL during migration
Moving on with our list of the best WordPress staging plugins, it’s time we introduce the WP Time capsule, the plugin is the perfect solution for creating a staging site with utmost flexibility as well as take backups of your website automatically.
The plugin was specially designed to be the main solution for backup and staging sites for businesses, eCommerce stores, and agencies. Additionally, the plugin allows you to connect to the cloud app where you can store your site’s backup files. Similar to BlogVault, the plugin takes a full backup of your website and then creates a staging site out of the copy.
The plugin handles large websites pretty well, this is due to the amazing feature to break your website into small chunks and then brings all the pieces back together to create a staging site, without ever leaving files behind.
You can create staging sites with a single click and begin your trials and experiments to finish any changes you’ve been planning to do on your website. An additional feature, because the plugin is primarily a backup plugin, you will gain automatic backup and updates of your website. You can either clone or migrate your website to a new location with ease using the powers of this plugin.
- The plugin will back up and restore only the changed files and databases, not the entire website
- Real-time backup to revert back on a particular change in your site
- You can encrypt your database backup to add an extra layer of security
- Create a staging site with a single click
- Password protected staging sites
- Automatic updates and backups
- Include only particular files or databases to your live site, instead of its entire entity
UpDraftPlus is an amazing plugin that offers a few services, one of the most popular being the backup process of your website. The UpDraftClone is a WordPress plugin particularly for cloning your website and creating staging sites with ease. You can create testing sites with a few clicks to see how your website looks with updates, different themes, and plugins.
The simple setup process only takes a few steps to select the preferred WordPress and PHP version and you’ll have your staging site ready. The plugin clones your website and you can upload it to an existing server to begin your tests.
To test out different themes or plugins you can even create an empty WordPress install website without ever cloning your existing production website, and then throw it away once your testings are done. You can define the period on which the sandbox will exist, it can only be existent for a week and then be ceased.
- The plugin introduces a simple interface to set up
- You can define the testing period yourself
- You can clone your website on the UpDraft servers
- Instant cloning process
- Simply Copy & Paste your WordPress website
- While transferring your cloning site your data will be encrypted
- Create an empty WordPress installs
The UpdraftClone is a great choice of WordPress staging plugins with tons of features. Their price is a token-based system. You can clone your website for 1 token and your site will be available for 24 hours. To extend the existence of your cloned website for an additional 1 token per week.
- 5 Tokens – will cost a $15 one-time fee and $12 to pay monthly
- 20 Tokens – will cost a $49 one-time fee and $39 to pay monthly
- 50 Tokens – will cost a $99 one-time fee and an $89 to pay monthly
The WP StageCoach plugin is another outstanding resource for creating staging sites at the comfort of a single click. You can troubleshoot your changes and fixes all you want on your staging site, make all the updates and changes necessary.
Once you are done with testing, you can push the changes you’ve made (or some of them) to your production site without ever compromising its functionality. While you are running tests on your staging site, your live website will still function properly, you can take orders from your online stores, update the content, all will remain intact.
The WP Stage Coach will even create a staging site while your website is running in a weak shared hosting environment. It does not compromise the capability of this WordPress staging plugin at all. The plugin takes care of all the technical aspects of creating a staging site, all you will need to do is start your testings and run analysis on various theme or plugin updates.
- One-Click creation of staging websites
- You can clone the entire website into a subfolder
- Works perfect for large websites and multisite
- You can import your files in chunks for better performance
- You can choose to import files and databases either together or separately
- Supports all the major web servers
- Provides SSL Support for staging sites
Another multiuse WordPress plugin on the list, this time we will introduce you to Duplicator a primarily designed migration plugin that you can also use to clone your website and create a staging site. The plugin offers zero downtime, allowing you to clone or duplicate your website without any interruptions.
You can easily clone your WordPress website, upload it to localhost for development and create your staging site to run the necessary tests and updates. The plugin is highly popular in the WordPress community and you can download it for free. The plugin creates a package that includes all your site’s files, plugins, themes, databases, and content into a simple zip file.
The zip file will contain the entire WordPress website that you can migrate to a different server or any other preferred location that hosts WordPress websites. The entire process of creating a staging site with Duplicator can be a bit complicated for beginners, thus the plugin is best recommended for those with more technical knowledge. You can choose one of the other WordPress staging plugins in the list. Nevertheless, the plugin offers some capable features even with its free plan.
- You can simply drag the archive to the destination site with ease
- Cloud Storage to Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Amazon S3, and more
- The plugin is multi-threaded, this makes it a perfect choice for large websites and multisite
- The plugin will scan for potential issues before creating the package
- Provides email notifications
- Support for managed hostings
- You can migrate an entire Multisite with a single shot
Duplicator is a free migration WordPress plugin available in its repository. For more powerful features the plugin offers four different premium plans. Starting from the Personal plan that costs $69 per year, continuing with the Freelancer plan comes for a price of $89 per year. Next up we have the Business plan for a cost of $149 per year, and finally, the Gold plan that costs you $799 per year.
We’d like to wrap up our article on the best WordPress staging plugins. We’ve discussed what a staging site is, how to assess the best staging plugins for WordPress, as well as a list with our finest selection of staging plugins. Most of the plugins included offering a free version available on the WordPress repository, while also offering premium plans to gain access to more advanced features. You can easily create a staging site with a few clicks using most of the plugins we’ve introduced in our collection. To summarize it
- The WP BlogVault – comes with an automatic backup solution as well
- The WP Staging – does not provide the merge feature on their free version
- Wpvivid – is a backup and migration solution
- All-in-one WP Migration – the free version will be perfect for small businesses
- WP Time Capsule – best for eCommerce and agencies
- UpDraftClone – Simply copy and paste your WordPress website to create staging sites
- WP Stagecoach – works well for online stores and other sites with frequent traffic
- Duplicator – monitors your website and scans for possible issues before cloning
You can also use local development environments to create staging sites and make all the testing you need to finalize your desired website. Using a staging site you can make changes and configurations, update themes and plugins, without ever compromising the functionality of your website. Leave in the comments below your preferred way of creating a staging site.