Keep the pride you have gained from being a skilled WordPress developer aside for a while and answer this honestly – What’s the toughest (or maybe most time-consuming) part of being a WordPress developer? Isn’t it to protect the live site from crashing as you installed a plugin or theme without prior testing?
Installing or updating plugins and themes is part and parcel of WordPress maintenance, and all the developers do it all the time. However, this process can do more harm than help if you’re doing all of this on a live website directly.
That’s where a WordPress Sandbox shows up for rescue. In today’s post, we will talk about some best sandboxing tips and practices that can save your efforts from going in vain.
Why is Sandboxing so Important?
Imagine you’ve built your dream homes with tons of effort, time, and money. It’s all going fine, and you need to do minor maintenance work after a few years of usage.
Now, your contractor suggests a great waterproofing solution. On paper, it does seem wonderful. However, will you allow the contractor to start applying the solution to every nook and corner of your dream home without a demo?
- What if the waterproofing solution didn’t work?
- What if it messed up with some of the other measures you’ve adopted to ensure the durability of your home?
It’s a scary situation.
The same happens when you’ve got a website.
When a website is the face of your business, drives revenue, and helps you gain an edge, you can’t risk it. WordPress sandboxing is a highly empowering tool wherein developers can create a copy of the live site and use it to test everything and every solution they’re planning to launch or update on the live site.
It’s like a safety net for your live site preventing it from falling if a faulty code, theme, or plugin is used on it. Long live the main website!
By using a WordPress sandbox environment, it’s easy to:
- Check the compatibility of different website component
- Find out the security concerns, if any
- Monitor the real-time viability of a so-called useful website component
- Optimize the live website’s performance by finding the faulty components
- Manage the version control as many developers can work on a website simultaneously
- Make the team more thorough about WordPress and its functionalities as they can continue to test, monitor, maintain, and manage the copy of a live site without posing any threats to it
- Have a copy ready to install in case of the downfall of the main site
All in all, if a WordPress site owner or developer wants to have a sound sleep at night, using sandboxing is one of the many ways to make it happen.
Sandboxing Saga – Useful Only When Done Right
While we have no qualms about admitting that sandboxing the WordPress website is a blessing in disguise for WordPress developers, we can’t ignore the importance of doing it the correct way.
What matters the most here is knowing the right manner to do it. A single slip in the process can cause trouble beyond your imagination. So, here we’re telling you expert-recommended sandboxing tips.
#1 – Decide the process of sandboxing
When you want to sandbox a WordPress site, you have two ways to do it; using the WordPress hosting service or using a WordPress plugin. Now, let’s discuss these two options in detail.
With the first option, you may not have to invest efforts in sandboxing the live site because the hosting provider must have offered it as a part of the process. So, you don’t have to do heavy lifting with this option.
The problem with this option is that it’s not available for everyone. Only a few hosting providers offer this facility – most of them offer it at a heavy cost. Also, it has less room for customization as the template may be fully pre-built. So, it’s not always a fair deal.
But, the second option, i.e., using a dedicated WordPress Sandbox Plugin like InstaWP Connect, is certainly a fair deal.
Platforms like InstaWP give you full freedom to build a staging site as and when required. The platform offers a wide range of pre-built templates. Just enter the site details, hit Enter, and you will have a fully-functional staging site ready in a blink of an eye.
You can sandbox as many WordPress sites as you want with InstaWP Connect. That’s not the only perk that you enjoy with it. You have facilities like:
- Amazing performance and great optimization of staging sites as WP Cloud and Page Speed Insights tools are used.
- Dedicated documentation and live tech support to help you at every step.
- A bunch of other advanced tools like DB Editor, Code Editor, SSL encryption, and so on.
InstaWP Connect takes sandboxing to a whole new level with its multiple staging options. You can pick from quick staging, full staging, and custom staging options for your WordPress sandboxing goals. Keep in mind that each staging type offers different services.
For instance, Quick Staging allows you to sandbox a WordPress site quickly without the media folder of your main site. Full staging involves copying every part and component of the live site.
Lastly, you have a custom staging option in which you have the freedom to decide whether to replicate the active themes or plugins. You can have a full hold over your sandboxing process.
#2 – Don’t try manual sandboxing unless you’re fully Confident
Other than the two options of sandboxing mentioned in the previous section, there is one more way to sandbox WordPress, and it’s doing it manually.
The process is lengthy and has multiple stages, like developing a subdomain, setting up an FTP account, importing the database, and deploying the staging site.
All these steps are tedious and require a thorough understanding of the fundamentals. If any of these steps are not planned properly, you’re in big trouble. So, experts say that don’t try it until you’re completely sure.
#3 – Don’t consider sandboxing a one-time job
If you want to make the most of sandboxing, continue the WordPress sandboxing periodically, especially when you aim to improve the security of the live site. Many viruses and threats remain under the hood for a long time and take time to show their true colors. So, it’s not wise to move to a Sandbox once and expect to remain tension-free for life.
You need to schedule multiple sandboxing sessions at regular intervals so that the security and performance of the live site are monitored regularly.
#4 – Check for False Positives
No matter how good a sandboxing tool sounds, you need to take a few matters into your own hands. For instance, checking the False Positive incidences. To make sure that benign files are not marked as malicious files or FPs, you need to submit these applications for analysis.
There is a huge difference between being malicious, benign, and ambiguous. If your sandbox environment has no clear classification of applications and files, all these categories can get mixed and result in backlogs and delays. So, you need to fine-tune the sandboxing so much that only malicious files are detected.
Also, you should cross-check the results to figure out if there are any False Positives.
#5 – Take note of everything
As you sandbox websites, you need to record the results and data provided. If not, you might end up missing our crucial things and waste your limited resources on things that are not of high importance. Not recording the modifications and changes you’re doing on your staging site will force you to start from zero every time a live site faces an issue.
Modify a theme, and take note of it. Observe a layout in the website after a plugin is updated, and note the changes down right away.
Updated the SSL certificate and found a few files missing, recording it immediately. The goal here is to observe and record the effects and outcomes of every change made so that the live site’s performance.
#6 – Know your limits
We understand that sandboxing allows you the freedom to test anything and everything. However, you should know your limits. Yes, testing brings results when done within limits. You need to understand that editing the core files of WordPress is not something you’re trying.
In fact, it’s the worst idea. This can cause serious issues with the basic structure of your website, and the blunder can go beyond your hands. So, our recommendation is to follow the standard process, test what’s important, and stay within limits.
#7 – Go with a premium plan of InstaWP
InstaWP has a free plan sufficient for infrequent sandboxing and small projects. The subscription capabilities of this plan are limited. For instance, you can manage only 3 active sites, will have 1 template, and will be awarded 1 GB of disk space.
If you want to explore the benefits of sandboxing in full swing, it’s better to go with the premium subscription. The premium membership is features loaded. You can go for monthly and yearly premium subscriptions. Cost-wise, a yearly subscription is far better.
The yearly subscription plan has three options to choose from; Personal, Professional, and Agency. With an Agency subscription, you can manage 50 active sites in one go while the facility of 24 templates. Have requirements that don’t fit in the pre-made plans?
Don’t worry. You can have a custom plan as well. Just get in touch with InstaWP, discuss your requirements, and you will have a sandboxing plan just made for you. What else can one ever ask for?
#8 – Don’t forget to up your guards
As you sandbox, don’t forget to have your safety guards to keep any unwanted activities at bay. Guardrails are must-have tools for protecting sandboxing. They increase the security of the sandboxing ecosystem and the live site.
They are the protective measures that developers are encouraged to keep attacks, unwanted access, or accidental damage away.
By isolating the sandboxing ecosystem from the production network, guardrails ensure that the staging site remains inside a protected boundary. Implementation of guardrails is not enough. Their effective management is also required, and AWS Command Center is a good option.
Are You Sandboxing-Ready?
The life of a WordPress developer is never easy. But, the use of an inventive sandboxing ecosystem can sort out tons of hassles in one go. It can help developers to avoid the downfall of a staging site when an incompatible theme or plugin is deployed.
You have to play smart, keep your wits with you, and adopt only the best sandboxing practices that we have just shared with you. With the help of these tips and InstaWP, sandboxing is a cakewalk. Additionally, you must learn how to set up a WordPress Sandbox for the plugin, theme, or website testing in order to achieve your quality development goals.