Install a WordPress Sandbox for your blog and play it safe
Many writers and authors now use a self-hosted WordPress blog to help in the promotion of their self-published ebooks and print on demand books.
While WordPress is a very powerful blogging platform, because of the vast number of useful features, themes and plugins that are available, it does require some basic website management skills to keep it operating efficiently.
For those who use WordPress, you will know that it is a nervous time when it comes to upgrading to a new WordPress version and when plugins and themes need updating.
Everything is working fine, and then one update can cause a conflict, and your site goes down or hangs in maintenance mode. If a number of plugins have been updated at one time, it can sometimes take hours to find out where the problem lies.
Even a minor upgrade of WordPress itself can cause problems if plugins that were working well before are not compatible with the new upgrade.
To guard against most of these issues that can arise, a backup is always necessary. Luckily most web hosts offer a backup on your hosting server.
However, even this remedy can be time-consuming, and during the time it takes you to do a restore, your site is down. If you have a server issue with your host, you may not even be able to access your backups.
A much better and more secure way is to use a dedicated WordPress backup tool such as Updraft Plus because your backups can be stored remotely on either your computer, Google Drive or Dropbox.
Avoid disasters by testing new versions and plugins in your Sandbox
Here is free and much a better way to avoid all of these problems, and it is well worth the investment of the hour or two that will save you hours and hours of problems and give you total peace of mind.
Install a second WordPress site on your hosting account server, and use it as a testing environment, or playground if you like. You can experiment, test new WordPress themes and theme options, check WordPress upgrades, try a new WordPress plugin and avoid any possible plugin conflicts, before making any changes to your live site.
You can test drive with a different WordPress theme, new plugins and make any number of changes. Then when you are sure everything works, make the changes or upgrades to your live site, knowing everything will work perfectly.
A Sandbox is also the best way to experiment with your site design or try new themes and plugins
To create a Sandbox directory, do a WordPress install on your web hosting server in a sub-folder.
Typically this will be ‘mysite.com/wordpress’. Then rename your new site to something like Test Blog, or My Blog Lab.
Once it is running, install the theme and all the plugins your live site is using, and make the changes to your options and admin panel, so your new sandbox site looks and behaves almost the same as your live site. Then export some posts from your live site, and import them into your Sandbox.
One Big Tip! Go to the Settings Tab and then Reading and tick the box, Discourage search engines from indexing this site. This will stop search engines from indexing your testing site. Also, don’t install a sitemap, and if you want, you can also add a robots.txt file to block indexing.
Now you are ready to start test driving everything, experiment, upgrade and even make mistakes before you make changes to your live site.
If you manage to blow up your Sandbox, don’t panic, as you will have discovered a problem before it had a chance to do the same to your live site. Go back to your Updraft backup, restore, and try again.
Learn, experiment and have fun with a WordPress
With your new site for experimenting, you will save yourself all the worry about updating your live site.
If you have reliable backups for both sites, you will be totally secure.
A Sandbox is the best way to learn how to use more advanced functions. If you are trying to learn CSS or how to write PHP code, it is the best place to experiment and try out your new skills.
I have used mine for years now, and it has helped me to learn so many WordPress skills. In doing so it has also saved me a lot of money, as I don’t need to pay a developer anywhere near as often as when I first started blogging.
If you have more than one live WordPress site, there is no reason why you can’t have two or three Sandboxes. I added another recently, and I will use it to develop a new website.