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8 reasons why not to develop WordPress locally

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Yeah, here we go. While we haven't completely ditched local development, we believe that in today's WordPress environment, live staging is the way to go.

Local development in WordPress is really good, in theory. While you can post a list of its pros, they could easily be turned into cons.

Ready for a good debate? Taking it one point at a time, we'll explain why we believe online hosting is the best option in development environments.

Read on or move forward using these links:

Ok, let's take a look at the details.

One coat of primer

First, we're going to cover a few definitions, as they can be used differently, and we want to unify the context.

Local host is used by most people when referring to their PC. But all technologies with internet access have a local host, from smart fridges to hosted servers. For clarity we will use online contre local.

Staging is a copy of your website where you make edits / tests / edits etc.

Production is your live website.

Directing and production can be online or local.

We could argue over the meaning of these words, but please consider them as stated above, at least as far as this article is concerned. ??

Now let's get to the heart of the matter.

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Deconstruct the environment

You can get started with your own environment in WordPress using one of two approaches: local development or remote hosted (online) development.

Local or online development
Local development (your PC) versus online (remote hosted server).

Because we take a stand pro online development in this article, we will ask the following points that express local development Is not the best way to go.

1. Dinghy vs Cruiser

You are much more likely to have issues on your own PC as opposed to a server hosted online. So with local development there is a greater risk of losing the progress made in a given session, if not all of your work.

In online development, the environment can be managed by industry professionals (a reliable web host), allowing you to focus on the work itself.

2. Resource gap

Your own PC rarely equates to that of an online server, which means the same code will run very differently in each environment.

Since your local system can give unlimited access to resources, the site and code will be processed much faster and with greater freedom (i.e. without hitting any kind of limit). This is not the case in an online server, especially with lower resources. Imagine a 64 GB personal computer versus a 1 GB hosting plan.

With online development, the staging is pretty much the same as production environments, in terms of specs. This means that you can properly test your code and know with relative certainty that it will act the same in both. There is no confusion for you as to what works and what does not.

To be more precise, you could have 10 minutes of execution locally, while a server could have 300s of PHP execution (eg 5 minutes of code execution). If it does not complete, there will be an error. Therefore, the same code would run fine locally, but would not work on a production server.

This may seem like the opposite of the argument, pointing out that local resources far exceed those of online servers, but in this case, it is not about larger specs. It is essential that in staging (development) you always have equal or less specifications as production. This way you can test your code / site / etc., And know that if it handles well with smaller resources (eg a 1gb server) it won't have issues with larger resources. (for example a 64 GB PC). The same cannot be said of the reverse.

3. (Pas Han) Solo setup

Locally, you have to configure everything yourself, which can quickly become a tangled mess, even with 1-click apps. Unless you are an advanced developer / technician, you probably won't find easy solutions and will likely spend a lot of time trial and error.

4. Needles in a haystack… or more precisely… code in a pile of developers

It's easier to just edit a WP site on a pre-configured environment that's predefined to work with your server, than to do it locally and have to try and replace your database manually between local -> online.

Consider the following… You create a new post on your site and attach 2 images to it. This means multiple files (because WP also generates thumbnails from the images) and multiple database entries in different tables.

You need to know what you're doing to get these changes from your local site to a live site, much like a migration. Either you replace the entire site from scratch, or you need to identify the necessary changes behind the scenes and move them. It's usually easier to recreate the online post than it is to try to navigate these edits. Why redouble our efforts?

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5. Thematic threats and plugin issues

The same goes for themes and plugins. Why not just make changes in an online environment, and when it works, sync from preparation to production in seconds? Avoid having to download all of these things and do all the setup from scratch. Avoid the likelihood of forgetting something when resetting.

Either way, you can't fully validate in your local environment. Even for simple theme changes, you won't be able to run a GTMetrix scan without first uploading it somewhere online and then running the tests. Again, this begs the question, why not do it in an online transfer environment right out of the gate and remove the extra step?

6. Alternative access and redirection rules

As noted earlier, a local setup can be very different from a hosted online setup.

For example: AMP stacks use Apache server, while other hosts / servers use Nginx, LiteSpeed, etc. They use different redirect rules via the .htaccess to file. Thus, all plugins configured to use Apache locally will not work correctly when you push this site to a server with Nginx (or LightSpeed, etc.). In this case, they should all be reinstalled.

For this reason alone, it is best to develop online. If you have a staging option that is basically built on the same system (or an equal system), it will just work in production because it is 100% compatible. You know exactly how your site / plugins / themes etc. will behave.

7. (Not Harry) Potter-ing Past

For some people, local development is a holdover from an era of slow, molasses dial-up calls. These were unstable and expensive, making it easy to set up a site locally and get everything online all at once. With today's vastly superior connectivity options, that's no longer the case.

8. Epic ecosystem

Large, heavy projects can involve all kinds of development. They are rarely local, almost always on a 100% copied staging server that includes Git and other development tools, which is much more complicated if you don't have a complete grasp of them.

Paired platforms

You can choose another route. That is, using a development platform associated with the hosting provider, such as DevKinsta (>> Kinsta) or Local (>> Flywheel or WP Engine).

These offer great ease of use (no intimate coding knowledge required) and run on your PC, with online and localhost environments to suit your preferences.

Local and DevKinsta are free. However, you will incur costs if you use their hosting when you eventually deploy your site. If you choose not to pay for their services on behalf of another company, you may run into the compatibility issues we talked about earlier when you're ready to go into production. If you are interested in using the steering wheel, this is a helpful article we wrote about it.

Instead, you can start by selecting a hosting company that offers a simple online live staging solution. For example, WPMU DEV offers the convenience and ease of a staging platform hosted on our servers, so you can fix any issues and then go live with one-click sync.

wpmudev 1-click synchronization from release to production
Choose, click - drag! (Featured in WPMU DEV hosting options.)

(AMP) Cover

If you've read the entire article, thank you for listening to us! Hopefully we have presented a clear and compelling case as to why we prefer online development (over local development), while respecting those who might choose the latter.

We recognize that there are decent resources available for developing locally in WordPress. You have your free AMP (Apache-MySQL-PHP) stacks, such as XAMPP, MAMP, and WAMP, which simulate what managed WordPress hosts would provide to you on their web servers.

WP AMP stack
AMP stacks for local development in WordPress.

While these are designed to work with a selection of other software, tools, and operating systems, they also involve installing, configuring, and updating them yourself. This is a long and continuous task, especially important if you are unfamiliar with them.

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If you're still of the opinion of going the local route, we have a few helpful articles on our blog with some valuable information on the subject:

Chances are, you have enough to do to build and manage your sites, without having to deal with the unexpected issues that tend to arise when moving unassisted from local to online.

If your website is generating income (for you personally or for your customers), you will probably go for a quality hosting service anyway. It makes sense to use one to start with that incorporates an all-in-one solution, with smooth and clean timing for the transition to production.

Website development can be a joy or a hardship. Ultimately, you need to go for the environment that best suits your needs and skill level, and that syncs easily to a reliable server.

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