It is important to test any new changes and updates before apply to your live site. It can prevent some unexpected errors and downtime. We use a Staging site to create a testing environment.

A staging site is a duplicate copy (or clone) of your live website. It allows you to do customizations, test new features, install a new plugin, and more without affecting the live site. Your website visitors won’t be interrupted while you are working on the staging site. Some staging site setups even allow you to push the changes to the live site.

IMPORTANT! RunCloud has released One-click WordPress Staging feature that allows you to create an exact copy of your entire website (web application) for staging and development purpose in seconds.

Quick guide on how to easily create a WordPress staging site in RunCloud →

In this article, you will learn about some WordPress staging plugins, both free and paid, that will create a staging site for the testing environment.

1. WP Staging (Free)

WP Staging is probably the easiest way to create a staging site in just a few clicks. It creates a clone of your website into a subfolder. In the background, the files and database are copied and the links within the content also replaced with the new path.

Simple instructions:

  1. Install WP Staging plugin on main site
  2. Name your staging site (a subfolder) and start cloning using WP Staging
  3. Login to your new staging site

The free plugin has 40,000 active installations and 5-stars ratings. The Pro edition supports WordPress multisites, cloning for subdomains, and the ability to copy modifications from staging site to the live website.

WP Staging

2. All-in-One WP Migration (Free)

All-in-One WP Migration is a popular plugin to migrate WordPress site from one host to another. The fact that it package the whole site (files & database) for easy migration, make it also ideal to create a staging site.

You will need to install WordPress on the staging site before you can import the All-in-One WP Migration website package file. The staging site can be a subfolder, subdomain, or even a different domain. The maximum website export size limit is 512MB.

Simple instruction:

  1. Install WordPress on staging site
  2. Install All-in-One WP Migration plugin on both main and staging sites
  3. Export main site using All-in-One WP Migration with staging site URL replacement
  4. Import the website package file on staging site
  5. Done.

The free plugin has over 2 million active installations and 4.5 stars ratings (5000+ 5 Stars). The plugin’s premium extensions support unlimited website size, cloud storage, multisite, and more.

All-in-One WP Migration

3. Duplicator (Free)

Duplicator is another popular WordPress migration plugin like All-in-One WP Migration. It creates a package file and installer for easy website restoration on a blank site. Need not have existing WordPress installation on the target site.

Simple instruction:

  1. Install Duplicator plugin
  2. Create a new package using Duplicator
  3. Download the installer and package file
  4. Upload installer and package file to target site (subfolder, subdomain, or domain)
  5. Run the Duplicator installer to restore website
  6. Done.

The free plugin has over 1 million active installations and 5 stars ratings. The Pro version supports scheduled backups, cloud storage, multisite, cPanel integration, and more.


4. BackupBuddy (Paid)

BackupBuddy plugin to create WordPress staging site

BackupBuddy is a premium backup plugin from iThemes that supports scheduled automatic backups and store backup files off-site. It includes a Deployment feature, which you can push or pull WordPress staging site’s changes back and forth between the staging site and the live site.

How to setup WordPress staging site with BackupBuddy Deployment

  1. Install BackupBuddy plugin and make a backup of your Live Site
  2. Create a Staging site by restoring your backup on a new domain (or sub-domain)
  3. Add define('BACKUPBUDDY_API_ENABLE', true); to the wp-confg.php file of your Live Site.
  4. On the Live Site, goto BackupBuddy > Remote Destinations and select Show Deployment Key at the top of the page
  5. Copy the given API key
  6. On the Staging Site, goto BackupBuddy > Remote Destinations and click the Add New option and then select BackupBuddy Deployment
  7. Paste the API key you copied from the Live Site into your Staging Site

Price: iTheme BackupBuddy price starts from $80/year for 1 site.


5. WP Stagecoach (Paid)

WP Stagecoach is a premium one-click WordPress staging site solution that work on any host and does not overwrite database during import.

The database merging is an unique feature that allows you to push staging site changes to live site without replacing the live site’s database. WP Stagecoach monitor and keep a database changes log on the staging site. It then “playback” database changes during import to live site.

WP Stagecoach can host your staging site on their server, so you can test the site in a isolated environment, and saving hosting disk space usage. During site import, you can import files, database or both.

Price: WP Stagecoach price starts from $120/year for 10 domains.

WP Stagecoach

6. BlogVault (Paid)

BlogVault is a premium WordPress cloud backup plugin with staging site feature. It offer one-click WordPress staging site that host on its server. The staging site is password-protected and block search engine indexing by default.

BlogVault also handle WordPress database merging when you import staging site changes to the live site. The 1-click Merge feature allows you to compare Live and Staging site, then do complete merge in a single click or selective merge handpick modifications.

Price: BlogVault price starts from $89/year for 1 site.


7. ManageWP (Free/Paid)

ManageWP is an online WordPress website management tool. It is free to use for unlimited websites with optional premium add-ons. With the premium backup, it can clone your website to an existing website or another server. It does not offer hosting for staging websites.

ManageWP Smart Clone will compare the source and destination files. Skip the same files and clone only the different files and the database.

Price: Free. Requires Premium Backup ($2/month per site) for clone/staging feature.


Bonus Tips

A staging site is a duplicate of your live site. In search engine optimization (SEO), duplicate pages are bad for your website ranking. You should avoid search engines from indexing your staging site. The good news is that it is easy to disallow index.

Here are few ways to disallow index on your staging site:

  1. Add “noindex” tag to your staging site. Goto Settings > Reading and check the box for Discourage search engines from indexing this site
  2. Password protect your staging site using RunCloud’s HTTP basic authentication.
  3. Create a robots.txt text file in the WordPress installation root of your staging site. And add these two lines:
User-agent: *
Disallow: /


Having a WordPress staging site is important for testing changes before you push them to live site. Setting up a WordPress staging site is easy with the various plugins listed here.

WP Staging is great to create a simple staging site. All-in-One WP Migration and Duplicator are backup plugins but also can be used to create a clone of live site for testing purpose. Premium plugins offer more features and support pushing staging site updates to the live site.

How do you create a staging site? Please tell us in the comment.