How to create and use the staging area
One of WP Engines top features is our staging area. This will allow you to create a copy of your website to test out plugins and themes. The staging area operates outside of WP Engine’s caching environment. There is currently no way to push content or updates from staging back to production. The reason for this is because generally the content within staging is outdated and could easily be overridden by admins pushing data from staging on top of the production site. When you create the staging area it will duplicate everything within the SFTP file server (except for any data outside of the current calendar year within the /uploads/ directory and all data in /blogs.dir/) as well as your entire database. Your staging database can be found within PHPmyAdmin and the name is snapshot_accountname. Here is an article for accessing your databases:
To access your SFTP will be the same IP address as your main site, just use different credentials. You can set the credentials for staging by following the instructions here:
Create staging area
To create the staging area log in to /wp-admin/ and click on WP Engine at the top left corner. Then click on the blue button that says “create staging area.” This will make an exact copy of your site as it is at that very moment.
If you already have a staging area created, clicking the create staging area button will override the currently existing staging area.
Access the staging area
Your staging area URL can be found in the green box once it has been fully generated. For reference the url structure for every staging area is the same and looks like this: http://account_name.staging.wpengine.com
The admin for the staging area can be accessed just like getting into the admin for production: http://account_name.staging.wpengine.com/wp-admin
All of your users will get copied over so you can just use the exact same credentials from production to get into staging.
Side effects of staging
wp_cron is intentionally disabled in staging. When wp_cron is firing in both staging and production various external systems are getting hit with the notification that a post was scheduled. When those systems get hit from the production and staging at the same time this can cause issues. While there is some validity to testing cron in staging, the room for error is far too great to allow wp_cron to run in staging. There are also some plugins that should not be used in the staging area, we do not have a list at this time. The plugins that may have issues are generally those that are connecting to third party services.