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I have several site collections that have been created in development. I now need to move them to live. In the live environment these site collections do not exists. What is the best way to migrate the site collections in full? My site collections depend on a custom feature that I will deploy in the live environment beforehand.

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Backup/restore using the command line stsadm is as good as any.

In development environment run this command:

stsadm -o backup -url http://devsiteurl -filename dev.bak

Copy the .bak file to the prod environment and then simply restore:

stsadm -o restore -url http://produrl -filename dev.bak
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There are also third party tools that can help you with this, too. – Lori Nov 22 '11 at 14:45
Use the PowerShell cmdlets Backup-SPSite and Restore-SPSite in preference to stsadm – GavinB Nov 22 '11 at 22:34

If you want do it one time, do stsadm backup\restore. If you want to do it on regular basis, Consider Content Deployment.

Check this as well before you go for Content Deployment : Plan content deployment

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