Creating a Virtual Staging Environment

Creating and managing a Virtual Staging Environment (VSE) is an administration task and it's done by a trusted user with access to the Account app or by the Amplience provisioning team at the beginning of your project. The administrator creates the VSE, specifies where the content comes from and who has access to the environment. The Account app will then generate a URL that is used to access assets in this virtual staging environment.

Video: Setting up a Virtual Staging Environment

Watch the video below for a step by step guide to setting up a VSE. The sections below explain how to set up an environment in more detail, including content selection rules and how to use consume assets from the VSE domain.

Example: Creating a VSE for a product launch

In this example we're going to create a Virtual Staging Environment to be used to manage content for a product launch. The launch team will be working on their project in parallel with other teams who might be updating content on live site or working on other projects. The project contains commercially sensitive images, so they want to restrict access to the content before it is live.

When the Account app is launched it allows you to view and edit any existing VSEs as well as to add new ones. We'll create a new VSE for the launch team and name it "Launch environment".

To create a new environment, launch the Account app and choose "Add another virtual environment". You can then give the new environment a name and specify the rules it uses to retrieve and control access to assets.

Adding a virtual environment
Adding a virtual environment

Content selection rules

An Amplience VSE works differently to traditional virtual staging environments that require users to push content to a specific location.

With an Amplience virtual environment, assets are "pulled" from specified locations, either asset stores within Content Hub, or from the endpoint used for published assets. When a virtual environment is created, a set of rules specify where the assets should be retrieved from.

In the "Add new rule" section choose the "Asset store" radio button and click in the area below labelled "Select an asset store". The list of asset stores available to you within Content Hub will be shown.

Adding an asset store to the rules
Adding an asset store to the rules

For the "Launch environment" we specify that assets should be retrieved from the asset store named "Launch assets". If an asset is not found in "Launch assets", then the "Assets" asset store will be searched. Note that these assets are retrieved directly from the asset store in Content Hub, they do not have to be published.

To add these rules, choose "Launch assets" from the asset store list and click the "Add Rule" button. Then add the other asset stores you want to include in the order in which they should be searched.

The image below shows the rules we have added. For each asset store that is specified, it is also possible to add the metadata schemas that are supported. To choose which metadata schemas should be included, select the popup menu to the right of the asset store name and select the schemas you want to include.

The rules added to this VSE
The rules added to this VSE

If a metadata schema is not included in the list, then this metadata cannot be retrieved from the asset in the VSE. In this example, we want to be able to access the exif and image metadata for assets in this virtual environment, but you might also have a custom schema that you want to include.

Specifying only those metadata schemas that you want to include is a security feature, since we only want to make data available that you want to be.

Specifying the metadata schemas to include
Specifying the metadata schemas to include

In many cases you will want to include the published version of an asset if it cannot be retrieved from one of the specified asset stores. This will often be the case if you are updating a site and not all the assets will be updated. To add an endpoint, click the "Endpoint" radio control, enter the endpoint name and click the "Add Rule" button.

Adding an endpoint for published content
Adding an endpoint for published content

In this example we publish assets to an end point called "customerstore".

Given a staging URL for an asset, the asset will first be looked for in the "Launch assets" store, followed by "Assets" and finally the endpoint used for published assets.

The content selection rules for this VSE
The content selection rules for this VSE

The rules for the Launch environment, including the endpoint rule is displayed in the Account app as follows.

The VSE rules including the end point
The VSE rules including the end point

Before the virtual environment can be created you need to specify a "white list". This is used to control access to this particular virtual staging environment. White lists are discussed on the security page. For now let's assume a white list has already been created called "Launch team". With all the rules filled in and the white list specified, the virtual environment can now be created.

The Virtual Environment URL

When you click Save to generate a virtual environment it will generate a domain name, consisting of a random number and the staging domain, for example:

ytaoswplkcp11cft8w4svwnh4.staging.bigcontent.io

This URL is then used to access assets within this virtual environment.

The VSE URL
The VSE URL

For example, if your live content is published at the endpoint "customerstore", then the URL for accessing an asset called "pineapple-sunglasses" in the "Launch environment" virtual environment would be:

https://ytaoswplkcp11cft8w4svwnh4.staging.bigcontent.io/i/customerstore/pineapple-sunglasses

Given this asset URL, the staging service will do the following:

  • Check that the requesting IP address is included in the white list for the virtual environment at ytaoswplkcp11cft8w4svwnh4

  • Try loading the asset from the "Launch assets" asset store

  • If it's not found, try retrieving the asset from the "Assets" asset store

  • If it's still not found then it will try to load the asset from the "customerstore" endpoint. This will be the published asset

You can use this URL to access services such as Dynamic Media as normal, to create a thumbnail from the image, for example. See the video below for an example of consuming assets in a virtual staging environment.

Video: Consuming Assets in Virtual Staging

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