Create a WordPress Staging Site on Dreamhost Shared Hosting

These are some of my notes from setting up a WordPress staging site through Dreamhost using the Duplicator plugin.

I recently tried to access a website I’d created for a South Korean start-up over 2 years ago only to find that the entire contents of the web directory had been deleted. Within a day or two of this realization, the CEO contacted me and asked me to “fix” it.

Luckily for me, Dreamhost had updated the site in the last year and had created a complete archive of the site at /sitename.com.old. But, I didn’t want to run into this situation again in the future without a backup, so I decided to create a staging site for it. This was to accomplish 3 things:

  1. To maintain a FULL copy of the functioning website (as it is now)
  2. To teach me how to create a staging site so I can repeat the process with my personal sites
  3. To allow me to make changes to my websites that are not “live” – to test and debug them before implementing the changes on my “live” sites

Thankfully, Dreamhost and the Duplicator plugin make this process pretty painless. Here are the steps I took:

#1 Dreamhost

1. Create a .dreamhosters.com subdomain

Dreamhost provides FREE subdomains on the .dreamhosters.com domain to its customers. This is a recommended location to create a staging site. The following article outlines this process:

Creating a Staging WordPress site – Dreamhost Help

When you create the .dreamhosters.com subdomain, be sure to assign the same user to it as you are using for the original site. This will make the next step much easier.


Assign the same user to the subdomain as you are using for the original site.

2. Copy ALL files to the new subdomain

Personally, I’ve found it much much faster and easier to ssh into my site and copy all the files using the command line (rather than via FTP). For this to work, you’ll need to keep a few things in mind:

  1. Your FTP user needs Shell access (Enabling Dreamhost Shell Access).
  2. The same user needs access to BOTH the original site and the new subdomain so that when you ssh in, you can run the Linux copy command from the root folder.
  3. Now, in a Terminal window, ssh into the site, and run the following command to copy all site contents to the new subdomain.
[server]$ cp -a originalsite.com/. staging.dreamhosters.com

We’re copying the files over NOW because Dreamhost Shared hosting won’t allow us to create and download large archives with the Duplicator plugin. So it’s better to do the Two-Part Install instead of relying on Duplicator for the entire process.

#2 Duplicator

1. Install & run Duplicator on the original site

Dreamhost has a helpful article that lays out this process.

Migrating WordPress to DreamHost using the Duplicator plugin

But, rather than downloading the FULL SITE archive, we need to run the Two-Part Install – downloading only the database archive and installer file.

2. Create a new Database on Dreamhost

Complete step #8 from the previous article to create a new MySQL database on Dreamhost:

Creating a MySQL database – Dreamhost Help

3. Upload & run installer.php on the staging site

Continue the Migration tutorial from step #9. Upload BOTH the archive.zip and the installer.php files from Duplicator to your staging site via FTP. Then, navigate to the installer on your staging site:

http://stagingsite.dreamhosters.com/installer.php

When it asks for your database details, be sure to “Test Database” to make sure you can connect. Then run through the rest of the steps in the installer.

Also remember to “Remove installer files” after logging into your new /wp-admin area (there will be a link).

Review & Resources

Overall, the process of setting up a WordPress Staging Site with Dreamhost and Duplicator was much easier than I’d originally anticipated. Here is a condensed list of the steps and resources covered in the tutorial above.

Tools

  1. Dreamhost hosting
  2. Duplicator plugin

Steps

  1. Create a .dreamhosters.com subdomain (with the same user)
  2. Copy over ALL original site files (via ssh and the command line)
  3. Install Duplicator and run it to archive “Database Only”
  4. Upload the archive.zip and installer.php to your subdomain
  5. Create a new MySQL database in Dreamhost (same user)
  6. Navigate to subdomain.dreamhosters.com/installer.php
  7. Run through the remainder of the steps in the tutorial

Tutorials

  1. Dreamhost’s Migration tutorial
  2. Duplicator’s Two-step Install tutorial
  3. See also: Staging a DreamPress overview for tips on best practices:
    1. Password protecting your staging site
    2. Add an SSL certificate (with Let’s Encrypt)
    3. Transferring changes to your live site

Bonus: Get $50 off Dreamhost’s Unlimited shared hosting plan by clicking this link, or any of the other Dreamhost links above!

Disclaimer: (I will make a small commission if you decide to sign up for a Dreamhost plan using one of these links)

Author: Aaron

Aaron Snowberger is an experienced web developer, graphic designer, and educator in ESL and computer technology. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science, Master's degree in Media Design, and professional certifications for React (JavaScript) development, and as a Google Certified Educator and Trainer. Aaron is passionate about helping new learners discover the joys of technology, and has presented across the country at multiple local, national, and international conferences in both the ESL and web development fields. His most recent talk was given at the 2019 JSConf (JavaScript Conference) in Seoul on September 3, 2019. (https://2019.jsconfkorea.com/en/tutorials)

2 thoughts on “Create a WordPress Staging Site on Dreamhost Shared Hosting”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: