I'm using Codeigniter if this makes it easier. I'm wondering if a website is live with populated database and users accessing, and I have a new idea to implement into the website, how should I do it? Do you work directly on the live site?
Or do you copy the database and the files to a local server (MAMP/WAMP/XAMMP) and work on it there then if it works update the live site with the changes. For this second method, is there anyway to check which are the files that have been changed and only upload those? What if it works on local sever, but after updating the live site it does not work?
Codeigniter configuration also has the option of default database and other database. I wonder how these can be used for testing?
Don't work directly on the live site. Instead, have a development environment (using, say, vmware or virtualbox on your machine) and clone the live environment. Get you code in version control (I'll say it again: GET YOUR CODE IN VERSION CONTROL), do your development on the development machine, against a dev branch in version control. After you're done testing and happy with the changes, commit them to a 'deployments' or 'live' branch, and deploy on the live site from there. Be sure to do a backup of the database before you roll out the new code.
Edit: use symlinks to stage your new code base on the live site. If it doesn't work, just switch it back to the old directory. Saves you a lot of greif!
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