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I typically work on live sites, no matter the scope. What is the best way to set up a staging/dev area for live wp sites?

I know MAMP is the way to go, but how would this work? Would I have to download a database everytime and then export? Seems cumbersome.

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Better safe than sorry, you should look into investing in learning version control as well, I like git. –  Andrew Bartel Aug 15 '13 at 20:35
    
version control being in addition to and different from Git? –  user31344 Aug 15 '13 at 20:51
    
Git being a method of version control –  Andrew Bartel Aug 15 '13 at 20:55
    
I think walk before you can run. Git can wait. –  vancoder Aug 15 '13 at 20:56
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Fair enough @vancover, but even after doing this for something like six years now, I still make enough typos, misclicks and flat out brain farts that working on live sites for anything other than static text content updates is just asking for it. –  Andrew Bartel Aug 15 '13 at 20:57
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