There is one question we get time and time and again from developers who are new to Drupal: "How do I create a staging environment for my sites?"
They want to know how to create a development site / test site / live site setup. It's not easy to do.
In fact, at the moment, I can realistically tell them to do only one of three things:
- Wait for Drupal 8.
- Try Acquia hosting.
- Try the newly-released Pantheon hosting.
Pantheon is founded by some of the most experienced Drupal experts around. Involved in the project are co-founders of Chapter Three and Four Kitchens, two of the largest and most successful Drupal companies around. They also have people who were involved with the WhiteHouse.gov launch. This team knows how to do Drupal development the right way.
After being in stealth mode for a long time, Pantheon finally opened to the public at DrupalCon Denver. You can find them at http://GetPantheon.com.
Pantheon recently came out of beta just a couple of weeks ago and it is now free to sign up. No credit card is required.
When I signed up, there was a glitch with the verification email. I raised a support ticket and got a response within (I kid you not) two minutes.
After logging in, there's a dashboard when you can start to create sites:
Actually creating a site on Pantheon is about a 5 minute process. First, you click "Create a site now" and enter the site name and URL.
This initial set up took about 2 to 3 minutes as a progress bar loaded:
The next step is decide whether to create a new site or import an existing one.
If you choose to install a new site, Pantheon offers you three version of the Drupal core:
You can also choose from a variety of distributions.
After clicking Install, there was another progress bar. Again, this process took about 2 to 3 minutes.
With that, the installation was finished.
The Individual Site Dashboard
As soon as you see your site dashboard, you can see the magical Development / Testing / Live tabs across the top of the page.
On this page there's also the option to use Git and clone Drupal to your desktop. As with Drupal.org, Pantheon is a Git-based system.
On the right-hand side of the page you'll see some key tools such as setting up your own domain name, checking the error log and creating backups.
At the bottom of the right-hand column you'll see the option to sync the site content from either the Live or Test environment.
That same option is available on all the other tabs. Click on Testing and you'll see the ability to "Sync Database & Pull Code".
Click that button and Pantheon will ask you if you're sure:
It's as simple as that to do staging on Pantheon.
The tech is good, the user interface is good and the pricing is good too. It's free for testing and then prices start from $25 per month.
I'll finish with a caveat. We haven't deployed a live site on Pantheon yet and so can't vouch for their effectiveness when running real sites.
However, if their live hosting is anywhere near as good as their hosting setup process, Pantheon will be a great option for Drupal developers.