Changes to your website are inevitable. Whether trying to refresh your site with a new theme or just applying a patch, sites are living environments that grow and evolve with your business and security needs.
Any change, however necessary, can cause downtime or broken functionality when applied without care. Such disruptions torpedo both your sales and your users’ trust. Properly executing these changes can be the difference between hours of limited access to your site, or mere moments.
If you already enjoy the services of a knowledgeable web developer, then you’re likely all set. If you’re not – or if you have reasons to suspect their qualifications – read on.
Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst
For example, imagine the development team for your store’s eCommerce application discovers a major security vulnerability and quickly releases a patch. Every minute you delay applying their patch increases the likelihood of a compromise.
Pressed for time, you tell your web developers to immediately apply the patch to your production environment. The patch breaks your site, making it unusable. Worse, the lack of preparation makes reversion problematic and painful, and the outage extends into hours, not minutes. You lose time, money, and customers.
As with most problems, the best solution is prevention. Making changes to your live site is, at best, a roll of the dice. Don’t hope your site functions after a patch or major update – know it by testing changes on a staging server.
The staging server operates as a private, mirrored copy of your live site. It’s your test subject for minor updates and patches, and it can also act as a bridge between your dev site (covered below) and your live one. This avoids exposing your site visitors to a frustrating experience and lowers the likelihood of disaster once you go live.
To reduce it even further, maintain current backups of your site. These serve as a restore-point insurance policy for irreplaceable data.
Development servers are your web developer’s sandbox. This is where your in-house developers experiment with new code and other major changes that would subtract from the integrity of your staging site.
If you host on a bare metal server, you can create one yourself, or our Support Team can do it for you for $25 per dev site. Please note each subdomain requires an additional dev site.
Creating Dev Sites in the Nexcess Cloud
One of the many great things about Nexcess Cloud Services is the ability to deploy Magento and WordPress dev sites at the click of a button for a small additional cost. For more details, see How to create dev sites in Nexcess Cloud.
Four Key Takeaways
We recommend applying the “backup and test” mantra to almost any change to your website, not just patches. The scope of both may depend upon the change, but here are a few pointers.
Back the Heck Up
Yes, we’re repeating ourselves, but it’s for the noble cause of curbing the biggest cause of client headaches. Full backups take considerable time and space, but these are usually required only when your team is uncertain of the changes’ scope. Patches and upgrades fit this bill. Small changes, such as those that edit a single file, may require only the backing up of a single file. Regardless of scope, these backups will accelerate any and all recovery attempts down the road.
As detailed in our Backup Policy, we provide automatic 30-day backups, but urge our clients to maintain a deeper and more current history. Redundant backups are the ultimate failsafe.
Maintain an up-to-Date Staging Site at All Times
This site mirrors your production site and shelters your users from headaches caused by “minor” tweaks and the occasional careless impulse.
For Major Changes, Use a Dev Site to Function as Your Sandbox for Your Web Developers
The dev site serves as the testing grounds for changes too risky to implement on your production environment or staging server. The staging server provides a “snapshot” of your production site; therefore, it’s best to protect its integrity and use the dev site as quarantine. If your team tests major updates here before vetting them on the staging site, then you’ll be relying on your backups far less often.
If You Don’t Know How to Apply These Practices, Find a Web Developer That Does
If you would like help finding one, contact the Nexcess Sales Team.
For help matching a hosting solution to your needs, please contact our Sales team between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. eastern time (ET), Monday – Friday.Posted in: Nexcess