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Is it possible to as a developer using a shared hosting site such as bluehost, hostgator, and the like, to view your site without making it public. Or do the files you upload always go live immediately?

Is the best way to test a site (if using shared hosting) to just set up some apache/mysql/php service on my machine?

I am considering putting together a site with shared hosting, and trying to see what all my options are.

Thanks.

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Yes, once you publish content to a shared webhost your content is available to anyone who knows where to look.

Fortunately you have a couple of options to develop your site privately.

  1. You can develop your site locally on your own computer using WAMP or XAMPP . These are great tools because you can develop your site conveniently on your own computer in a complete web server environment for free.

  2. You can use a shared host and block access to your site with Basic Authentication. Basically this is that little pop up dialog box that asks for your username and password. This will keep unauthorized users out until you're done developing your site. Then once your done you can remove it to go live.

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    Also keep in mind that you can create a subdomain for your work-in-progress version of the site, like dev.yourodmain.com. You can put Basic Authentication in front of that subdomain only, so you can test your application on your deployment server (privately) even after your site has already gone live. – Chris Allen Lane Mar 24 '12 at 15:28
  • I would definitely test on a live server, with basic authentication this is the best way to prevent the site from being crawled. You can use robots.txt and noindex but password protecting your domain guarantees you're not getting indexed, also this way you're not worrying about file and image paths within the project after you go live. – Anagio Mar 24 '12 at 16:05
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For any website where up-time is of importance it's important to have a test environment which replicates the environment the application will be going live on. I recommend a small VPS behind a hardware firewall (or use iptables if you want).

If you did that you could create a GIT/Subversion repository, then push your development changes to the live repo and pull down the changes to your live setup and you know your page isn't going to clunk down on you.

I know, this is a little bit of a more professional setup but I recommend it for anybody as you never know when a website could grab traction.

GL.

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