On March 1, 2018, WP Engine launched a new set of plans: Startup, Growth, and Scale. Along with these plans came the ability to develop within Production, Staging, and Development environments (on the new plans as well as Agency and custom dedicated plans). This has many of our existing customers wondering: What is a Staging environment, and how is it different than my existing 1-Click Staging site? In this article we will explore the differences between the two types of Staging.
WP Engine introduced 1-Click Staging environments many years ago, as a tool users can harness in the WordPress Admin Dashboard. Using the Copy site from Live to Staging button, users can copy to a 1-Click Staging environment with a similar naming convention to their CNAME. 1-Click Staging environment names look something like: [environment].staging.wpengine.com, where your CNAME for the live website would be environment.wpengine.com.
The 1-Click Staging sites offer benefits to developers like:
- No caching, which can sometimes interrupt development workflows
- Developers can limit User Portal access while still allowing website users to copy to staging
- No excess storage is used. Our 1-Click Staging method only copies the most recent uploads, and uses a rewrite to get the original image from the live website to save storage space.
- Copying all, some, or none of your database tables. Sometimes there is data on your live website that should not be overwritten when copying staging to your live website. 1-Click Staging allows you to choose which, if any, database tables to include when moving back to your live website.
- Automatically applying redirects from the live website to the 1-Click Staging website. If some website functionality or development work depends on large amounts of redirects, copying with 1-Click Staging works best.
Staging and Development Environments
Staging and development environments are included with each site on your Startup, Growth, or Scale plan. Offering three total environments per site enables developers to tweak code in the development area, present a working model to stakeholders in the staging area, and then copy to production when your team is completely ready.
Being on the Startup, Growth, or Scale plans does not prevent you from using the 1-Click Staging method. Technically you could copy to 1-Click Staging for every one of your site environments if you wanted! With that in mind, you will see some items labeled as Legacy Staging in User Portal. Legacy Staging always means 1-Click Staging. This is to help you differentiate which features relate to 1-Click Staging and which relate to your Staging environment.
Using the staging and development environments included in your sites offers these benefits to developers:
- Developing and staging your website in a true vagrant environment (includes cache as production does).
- Manage copying and settings through your User Portal.
- Iterate with multiple versions of your website.
- Separate developer workspaces from more finessed staged versions for stakeholders.
- Manage separate settings per environment (e.g. the ability to test staging or development on PHP 7, while keeping production on PHP 5.6).
- Staging and development URLs are automatically covered by WP Engine’s *.wpengine.com SSL certificate for security.
When Should I Use a Development or Staging Environment Instead of 1-Click Staging?
Most of the time, we recommend using a development or staging environment in your User Portal, rather than using the 1-Click Staging tool. We plan to move away from the 1-Click Staging tool in the future, but we also plan to add many of the features only available in 1-Click Staging to the staging and development environments first. For now, you can use the list of benefits for each to decide which environment to use. We will be updating this guide as more features are added to development and staging environments to keep you informed.