How do I use Staging? A guide to Staging best practice

Updated on June 29th, 2020

Staging on Flywheel is a powerful and versatile tool, but it has so many capabilities that it can be difficult to know how best to use it, and what it should (and shouldn’t) be used for. Never fear! We’re happy to help.


Because of the complex nature and size requirements, staging sites are not available to our older Tiny plans or to sites that employ WordPress Multisite.

The main consideration when using Staging boils down to one simple question: is the live site being edited or updated while the Staging site is in development, or will it be waiting unchanged until you’re ready to push your Staging changes to the live site?

The answer to that question will determine the best use of staging for you, because when you push Staging changes to the live site, you’ll have the option of whether to overwrite the live database with the Staging database, or to leave the live database as-is and instead only push file changes from Staging. 

Because those are the two options, here’s a guide to our recommendations for Staging:

Ideal uses for Staging:

  • Duplicating the live site to make changes and updates
  • Making changes and updates to theme files
  • Making changes and updates to CSS and/or JavaScript Files
  • Installing and removing plugins
  • Adding and removing themes
  • Testing updates to themes or plugins
  • Activating a new theme
  • Adding new media files, images, etc.
  • Adding or editing posts, pages, settings, products and other content stored in the site’s database as long as the live site’s content and database are NOT being updated or edited in the meantime


NOT recommended for Staging:

  • Importing an external site or database—anything that is not a duplicate of the live site
  • Adding or editing posts, pages, settings, products and other content stored in the database in situations where the live site IS changing while Staging is in development (such as an eCommerce store, a frequently updated blog, or a forum)
  • Making changes to eCommerce data like products, orders, users, etc. while the live site’s store is still active
  • Making database content changes to any site where site users can create content
  • Keeping a backup of the live site. (Our automated backups do not include Staging)
  • Leaving the Staging site active but not pushing it live for extremely long periods of time (as this increases the likelihood of database conflicts)
  • Any situation where a secure HTTPS connection is required. (The staging temp domain cannot be secured with an SSL certificate at this time)
  • Speed tests and other uses which require a connection to the site (since Staging sites are blocked by Privacy Mode)
  • Situations where the Staging database would need to be merged with the live site’s database, keeping changes to both, or in which only a partial database merge is desired

If that all seems like a lot, just remember: Staging is designed to create a duplicate of the live site, then allow changes to be pushed back to the live site later. Staging can overwrite the live database or leave it alone and only push files, but it can’t merge changes to both the Staging and the live site’s database. So if you’re changing both at the same time, you risk losing some data.

If you’d like to know more about what is and what is not stored in a WordPress site’s database, be sure to check out this help article on how to push Staging changes to the live site.


If there are any staging URLs in the code files of the staging site—including within CSS, JavaScript and/or PHP files—they will need to be manually updated! For best results with Staging, only use relative links that do not include the staging domain.


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