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Previously, our staging site has been locked down to local access only. We hired a third party developer to assist with resolving a theme via our 'local staging server' remotely. In order to grant them access, we made the staging server resolve externally with an A record in the DNS to the staging subdomain.

From my understanding this is not a best practice and I thought we needed to secure it further. Do I restrict access to the entire subdomain by IP or a Password, or is there a better method?

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Whether or not you lock down a staging site really depends on how much you mind the public accidentally seeing a site that's a "work in progress". I'd usually consider it more of a branding decision than a security decision.

(This of course wouldn't apply if you're in the middle of developing a secure application that might be buggy, but Wordpress theming - especially once it gets to the staging site - is unlikely to cause a security risk).

One thing I would recommend doing is in Settings -> Reading, ticking the option that discourages search engines from crawling the site. The last thing you want is a site that's not complete showing up in search results.

Other than that, the only way for someone to find the site is to know the URL. For a temporary staging site, that's usually security enough.

If you're concerned, some quick ways to limit it further would be:

  • Install a maintenance plugin (there's many available in the plugin directory). These work by locking down your site and showing a maintenance page to all but logged in users. So you can just create users in WP for those who you wish to give access to.

  • Add IP blocking or password protection to .htaccess. This is also fairly easy to do, this StackOverfow answer deals with IP allowing and this answer walks through password protection.

  • As an even quicker alternative to the first option, add if( !is_user_logged_in() ){ die(); } at the top of header.php in the theme. Then any unexpected visitor just sees a blank page. (Thanks to @shahar in the comments)

If you discourage search engine crawling through that option on the Reading page, make yourself a note somewhere to turn it back on when you go live. There's almost nothing worse than forgetting that!

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    For blocking access to staging sites, I usually put if( !is_user_logged_in() ){ die(); } at the top of header.php. Then any unexpected visitor just sees a blank page. – shahar May 17 '16 at 21:23
  • @shahar Nice quick solution! I've added it to the the answer :) – Tim Malone May 17 '16 at 21:29

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