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Advanced Member

379 Posts

Posted - 12/16/2018 :  06:04:07  
We've got an older store with a lot of custom CSS in the cart, so we created a sandbox site to test cart updates before going live.

Besides testing cart updates, the sandbox has other benefits.

1. We can test major content changes that don't necessarily involve the cart before going live. This helps maintain the usability of our store.

2. Deploying and refreshing the sandbox gives us practice to move and restore our web files and database in the event of a real disaster. Of course, you've got to regularly back up your live store's web files and database to a local computer.

3. Running the same content at two different web hosts can help isolate the cause of issues and outages. For example, often when our store appears to be running "slow" we open the sandbox site, see it's slow too, and know that the problem is likely with our local ISP and not the web host.

Details of how we set this up are below.

If anyone can suggest a better process please post this.

- Paul D.


A couple of years ago we left our inexpensive European web host for a US hosting company that specializes in ECT.

However, we kept several domains we'd registered with confusingly similar URLs at our old web host. So we decided to create a sandbox (test) site using one of those similar domains, accessible only from our company IP.

Creating the sandbox is pretty simple. First we created a new MySQL test database at our old host.

Then we copied our live store's local files to a new local SANDBOX directory, edited 'db_conn_open.php' to connect to the new test database, and edited the '.htaccess' file to block visitors from outside our company IP.

Then we made a '.sql' backup of our live site's database and imported the file to the test database using phpMyAdmin in our old host's control panel.

Then we uploaded the SANDBOX folder to our old host and pointed one of the alternate domains to that folder.

Keeping the sandbox up to date isn't difficult; you copy over all files from your live site except for 'db_conn_open.php' and '.htaccess', open phpMyAdmin in your test host control panel, select and Drop all tables in the test database, and then import your store's latest '.sql' database backup again.

Performing these steps with two different web hosts is pretty foolproof, but I'd be careful if using the same host for the live and sandbox sites since phpMyAdmin doesn't always make it obvious what database you've selected to drop tables. There are plenty of mass market web hosts with cheap basic hosting packages that you can use for your sandbox site.


Edited by - pauld on 12/16/2018 06:56:02

ECT Moderator

United Kingdom
7267 Posts

Posted - 12/16/2018 :  07:45:27  
Hi Paul,
Download and install WAMP Server -

That has everything you need to run your test site on your local PC or MAC

* Database Migrations and Conversions*
* ASP to PHP Cart Conversions*

*Contact Us*
*Buy The PHP Capture Card Plugin*
*Rate Our Services/View Our Feedback*

Advanced Member

379 Posts

Posted - 01/26/2019 :  10:46:08  
Phil, it's understood that configuring a WAMP server on a local machine is a free way to go, but setting up the sandbox site on a cheaper, mass-market host (in our case 1and1) has had some advantages:

1. This gives us a way to test whether perceived slowdowns are really the fault of our production hosting company. We often find the slowdowns to be with our neighborhood ISP, and not with the company who hosts our ECT production site.

2. Some of our ECT store's more complex product detail pages have run afoul of the production host's web firewall. Running our sandbox at another host helps us know whether our configurations have serious issues, or have merely triggered the production host's more stringent security.

3. Running the sandbox at our cheap commercial host gives us a lot of flexibility to test the impact of new configurations. For example, we'd like to try the Cloudflare caching service, and it seems like trying this out on the sandbox at that alternate host could be a safe way to go.


Edited by - pauld on 01/26/2019 10:49:16
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