There is a way to upgrade without that fear and it’s called a sandbox site.
Have you ever dropped red wine on a white carpet? Your nice pristine white carpet now has a ugly red stain. No worries you think, you can buy a carpet stain remover and all your worries will be over. But when you read the stain remover instructions it says first test on a small area before using. Do you test it or do you just willy-nilly spray on the stain remover? And that’s what a sandbox site is. It’s a way to test an update or upgrade before actually doing it on a live site.
So what’s a sandbox site again?
Put simply a sandbox site is a running copy of your live website. It many not have all the content of the live site but it will have the same theme and plugins. Remember it’s not necessarily a backup of your site unless you intend it to be so. What does a sandbox do you ask, let’s see.
How can a sandbox help you
A sandbox can have many uses let’s talk about few of them.
1. Upgrading WordPress
When you test on a sandbox site you don’t lose anything by hitting that update WordPress button. You can now test your website to make sure that all the functionality works. This is specially useful when you have specialized plugins for e-commerce, membership, forums etc. You do not have to worry about anything affecting your users.
Similarly you can test upgrading all the plugins without the fear of something breaking. And if something breaks you have the time to figure out what is the cause and fix it. Again without your users being any the wiser.
2. Adding new functionality to your site
Let’s say you wanted to add an online shop to your website. Without a sandbox area to play in, you would have try everything on your live site. However with a sandbox site you can try out different e-commerce plugins to make sure sure which suits you best; play around with the look and feel; make sure that the entire shopping experience works smoothly etc. All this without your regular visitors getting affected in the least.
3. Migrating to a new theme or design
As designers and developers, we at StressLessWeb, always first create a sandbox site. All design and development changes are then vetted on the sandbox site. Think how useful this would be to a non technical person. Themes could be changed and colors experimented. And only once you are sure of what you want, do you move to the live site. Further making the changes to the live site will be quick with very little website down time.
Can I get by without a Sandbox site?
Well of course you can always do without a Sandbox site. All updates can always be directly done on the live site. And if anything goes awry you can always restore your most recent backup. The problem arises when you need to debug a problem. Until a solution is found your website could be down or messed up. So you can see why a sandbox site can be very useful.
How do I get a Sandbox site and are there any caveats?
One way to ensure you get a Sandbox site is to move your hosting to managed hosting provider like wp-engine. Such managed hosting providers normally provide a staging area where you can test out upgrades before doing it on your live site.
The other simpler way is create a sandbox site on your exiting web server. The only caveat being that your hosting plan should have storage space for the sandbox site.
So what’s next?
Remember the stain remover for the carpet with the wine stain? Now you need to decide how you want to update your site. Are you ready to first test out upgrades before making them live?
Contact StressLessWeb if you would like us to take a look at how we can help you setup a sandbox site. Or if you have any questions regarding a sandbox site.
Announcing new Products & Services from StressLessWeb
We recently started offering website maintenance services to our existing clients. If you are not an existing client and are interested in availing of this service, contact us to see how we can help you.
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