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Nexcess hosting environments — accessing staging and dev areas

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May 18, 2023

When you finally have a fully functioning live website (also known as a production site), you might be hesitant to change anything about it. Although the mantra “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” will work for some people, it’s not really helpful for website owners.

Is it time to rework your production website?

If your website has the same features or appearance for months or years, it could begin to look outdated. So, when you’re ready to make some changes, you embark on the project to rework your website. But there is one critical logistical detail to consider. Think about how your maintenance period will affect website visitors.

One option is to take your website offline for maintenance. However, if you’re an ecommerce store owner, this could seriously affect your bottom line. Alternatively, you could let website visitors use your website during maintenance. This decision is a risky move, as visitors could have a negative experience if your website looks off or doesn’t function properly.

How can you confidently make changes while keeping your production website running smoothly? Enter development environments — addons available to any customer using a Nexcess web hosting environment. Or make use of staging environments, which are complimentary with managed WordPress and managed WooCommerce plans at Nexcess.

Ready within minutes, these sites can serve as exact copies of your production website. They are ideal for operations that are too risky or impractical to perform in your live environment. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Testing new versions of software.
  • Benchmarking performance, especially since your dev site mirrors the data size of your production site.
  • Creating a “sandbox” for your developers, where they can freely experiment with new features and configurations.

Nexcess web hosting environments — production, staging, and dev

At Nexcess, managed hosting is the standard product option, so you won’t have to be weighed down with any of the headaches that come with unmanaged shared hosting plans. Nexcess has various managed hosting plans to suit different types of websites, such as WordPress, WooCommerce, and Magento websites.

Even in basic managed hosting environments from Nexcess, autoscaling kicks in whenever your website experiences a surge in traffic. For high-growth businesses, enterprise-grade hosting environments can offer unparalleled performance, security, and flexibility.

Staging and dev at Nexcess — how to access and manage hosting environments

Staging and development sites have key differences for website owners. You might need one or both, but it will depend on your website setup and how affordable they are. Nexcess may have the solution you require.

Staging websites

Staging websites are duplicates of live websites. They’re used to test the appearance and features of a website before fully implementing changes. Staging is usually the penultimate stage before website changes go live. A staging site is key for all websites on a Nexcess plan, especially WordPress and WooCommerce websites.

Nexcess offers one free staging site for each live site under managed WordPress and managed WooCommerce plans. In addition, there is another option for users to create a development environment under the live site for these two packages. But that feature comes with an additional cost.

Development ("dev") websites

A development website — or dev site for short — is where web developers test the code. The general public cannot access a dev site. However, you can grant access to various users involved in the development process. With dev environments at Nexcess, web developers have a high level of control over implementing website changes.

Nexcess has development site plans available for customers with various disk space and bandwidth requirements. All dev plans come with data scrubbing, so placeholder data replaces any identifiable information.

Development site plans at Nexcess.

This way, you can keep private data (for example, customers’ credit card data) safe during development. This feature is particularly useful if you outsource web development.

Caveat about flexible cloud plans at Nexcess

Nexcess doesn't have the development or staging hosting environments feature available for sites managed under flexible cloud plans. With those plans there is no option to create staging/development hosting environments because under a flexible cloud plan you can install any type of custom site. Therefore, it is not possible to spin up a staging/development environment for it. You can read more about these kinds of details in the Managing dev and staging environments article.

Gaining access to the staging and dev hosting environments

To access Nexcess cloud dev sites, you must first log in to your Nexcess Client Portal. Once you have your Nexcess customer login credentials at hand, you’re ready to proceed. Can’t find your email login or password? No problem — check out the Nexcess hosting and Client Portal guide to see how to gain access.

Fill in your email and password in the login window, complete the reCAPTCHA prompt, and click Login:

Login page for Nexcess hosting environments.

Now, scroll down to Sites and click it:

Screenshot showing Sites in the Nexcess dashboard.

Next, navigate to Environments. This area is where test hosting environments live. If you already have a staging or development environment, you can access and manage it here.

All WordPress and WooCommerce plans at Nexcess come with one free staging environment. If you wish to add a new development environment or access your website dashboard, click on the icon with three vertical dots:

Nexcess Client Portal showing Environments in the user interface.

Next, please scroll down to the Add Development Environment option and click it:

Screenshot of the Add development Environment option.

You’ll be prompted to select a monthly plan. Choose the plan that best matches your space and bandwidth needs:

Some of the developer hosting environment plan options.

Select the plan best suited for your scenario and scroll down. You’ll see an option to copy your data to your dev environment. If you wish to copy your data, click the checkbox:

Arrow pointing to a checkbox for copying data.

After you click this checkbox, you’ll see an explainer of this data transfer option. You will have the choice of whether to anonymize your data. Anonymized data is copied using a "cleansing action" in the database that deletes all Personal Identifiable Information (PII) and replaces it with placeholder information. PII includes:

  • Email addresses
  • Names
  • Addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Credit card details: CVV, cardholder name, expiration date
  • Content in comments and posts (WordPress)

Once you’ve read this information and decided on data anonymity, click Create:

Screenshot showing data transfer options.

You can now manage your dev hosting environment or staging environment from the Environments section. For a full review of how to manage your staging environment, look at our guide on Nexcess staging sites.

Leverage staging and dev sites with a Nexcess-managed hosting plan

At Nexcess, we love to host we your website that looks great and works like a charm. That’s why we provide staging and development environments to offer you peace of mind as you work your magic.

Nexcess development hosting environments

Nexcess dev sites mirror your production site and environment. While the use of dev and staging environments is best practice, the process for promoting changes to a production site varies. Nexcess dev sites are designed to give developers the framework they need to implement their own process.

As you implement changes on your dev site, you can rest assured that your live website is thriving under your Nexcess hosting environment. With an uptime of 99.99% and scalability from the get-go, it’s no wonder we’re the trusted host of over half a million websites.

Not a Nexcess customer yet? Get in touch with the Nexcess sales team to find out how we can collaborate to deliver the best of managed hosting to your website.

Christy Joy
Christy Joy

Christy Joy has over five years of professional experience as a Senior Server & System Administrator and has enjoyed working with technology platforms at scale her entire career.

Her hobbies and interests include blogging focused on her ample technology insights gained over an accomplished career, traveling, making new friends, listening to music, artistic works, and social networking. To fly high without any limitations is the dream, Christy reminds us all.

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