Do you know what the most important task of a blogger or website owner is? It is not designing the website or writing blog posts, it is making sure that the website’s content is always available to its visitors. This is especially important if you have a decent amount of traffic and earn some money with your website. That’s why it’s important to know how to backup your WordPress blog or website so that you can restore it any time something went wrong.
WordPress Backup – Contents
Who is this article for?
In this article we will present you a wide variety of options that are easy to use and that you can apply immediately to your blog or website. We will have a look at manually backing up your WordPress blog, free plug-ins that automate the process, and we are going to have a look at paid backup tools that will give you more options.
This article is for website owners who have either just started with their first website or blog for WordPress or who are already a couple of years in but still haven’t thought this ‘data backup’ thing through. If you’re unhappy with your current website backup solution you might find some useful alternatives in this article as well.
This article is certainly not something for backup professionals or sys admins who have years of experience when it comes to working with servers, although you might like our paid plugin comparison table at the end of the article.
Doesn’t matter which option you choose (paid or free plugin), it is important that you do choose a backup method. The most common reasons of website failure are:
- server malfunction
- human failure
- attacks from hackers
- or simply overload
All of those server outages and errors can result in you losing all of your precious posts that you’ve been working on for last five years. This well may be in the thousands of posts and hundreds of thousands of words and photos, depending on the nature of your website.
WordPress – Friend and Enemy
WordPress is a great tool to publish content on the web. It is one of the most popular content management systems on the planet with millions of websites created with it. Its ease of use is a blessing in disguise (at least it comes with a couple of downsides): it creates a false sense of security.
Everything runs so smoothly that you may forget about maintenance or backup for that matter. But once your website gets bigger and bigger, and you start installing plugins along the way, there will be conflicts that occur due to bad programing and internal configuration hiccups. That’s why it is very useful to have a backup you can revert to in case something doesn’t work out the way you thought it would.
Because WordPress is so popular we’ll focus this article on that particular CMS.
What do I need to back up?
When thinking about backing up a website or WordPress blog, probably you ask yourself what parts of the website you should back up. All of it! – you might say. While you can do that, we should structure the website’s content into three parts:
- The database (i.e. the textual content)
- The wp-content folder (images, plugins, themes etc.)
- The core data (WordPress system files)
The most important part of your backup/website is the database. The database stores all textual content that is on your WordPress website. Your posts, pages, comments, etc. That is the core part of your websites, and therefore, your business. If you loose that, you might go bankrupt, or you cannot continue with your website.
The second most important part is the all the “media content” that is stored on your server, images, videos, plugins, themes etc. So it is crucial to back that up, too. Plugins and themes might not be that important because they can always be rebuilt depending on the level of customization. If you have a highly customized theme or plugin, it might get very expensive to have that rebuilt – so better safe than sorry. Back it up!
WordPress system files are not that important to back up because you can easily download them from WordPress itself, however, if you’re doing a full back up of your website you might as well back them up, too, because they don’t take up much storage.
Ways to back up your WordPress blog or website
As you can imagine there is not THE ONE way to backup your files within WordPress. Rather there are a couple of different approaches that might be better suited for one or the other person. Let’s try to sift through and sort the options you have a little bit so that you can decide which one works best for you.
The Manual Approach
If you like to have full control over what’s happening to your data and how to structure your backups then WordPress has a built in manual way of getting to your files. While that method gives you the most control, it is certainly the most laborious of the backup approaches we describe here in this article.
You can backup your database via the Export function in WordPress. You can find that on the right hand side in your WordPress menu under Tools. Let’s have a look:
When entering the Export menu you can select if you want to download your whole content database or just parts of it such as comments or pages. WordPress will then go and extract your files from phpMyAdmin (more on that later). Remember: every post you’ve published, every comment that is written resides in your database. The database is the brain, so to speak. It contains all the important information.
Now your database is downloaded BUT it is not backed up properly. Just downloading it onto your computer is just the first step. If you already have a back up of your computer, then make sure you add that file to your backup stack as soon as possible. Ideally, choose an online backup service from our list of recommended providers. Using a combination of onsite and off-site backup is the safest you can get.
Now that you’ve completed the most important part, it is time to download the files from the wp-content directly so that you have all the images and themes available that bring live to your website. You can choose a FTP program of your choice to login to your server. We recommend Transmit for the Mac or Filezilla for a PC.
The only thing that is missing is a backup of that folder. Go and get an external hard drive and an online backup to start protecting your WordPress website.
The Automatic Approach
Automatic sounds better, right? Of course, it has some advantages over the manual approach:
- it is (almost) set-it-and-forget-it
- therefore, you can’t forget or postpone it
- your database and other files are automatically secured in the cloud
One of the major advantages of WordPress is the availability of plugins that enhance the possibilities of that platform infinitely. There are plugins for everything: anti-spam, SEO, comment management and of course backup. The good thing about several of those plugins are that they are completely free to use.
While the plugins are free – cloud storage is not. At least if you have a website with files over 10GB. Dropbox limits free users after only 2GB and most free backup plugin work well with Dropbox. But soon you’ll realize the limitations that come with free cloud storage. A good alternative to Dropbox is Amazon S3 where you only pay for what you’re actually using. There are no monthly fees like Dropbox has.
WordPress Plugins to back up your website
There are many plugins that allow you to backup your website’s data either to a third party cloud storage service or to their own. The latter are almost exclusively paid plugin which come with a monthly fee. Free plugins generally use your own server (not recommended) or Dropbox, FTP or Amazon S3 (better). In the following section we’ll have a look at both free and paid plugins so that you can decide which is the right solution for your needs.
Free plugins are great because, well, they are free! There is no harm in trying them out on your website (most of the time) and you can uninstall them any time you want if they don’t fit. We are going to have a look at three popular free plugins:
At first sight the most interesting plugin is BackWPUp because it allows you to choose a broad variety of storage locations. You can configure the other ones in a way that your database backup are sent to you via email but if your email is hosted on the same server as your WordPress installation that doesn’t make much sense, does it?
BackUpWordPress is the most simplistic backup plugin we have come across in our research for this article. It is really stripped down to the basics and that it backing up your database and, if you like, the contents as well. You can schedule your backups up to hourly and have them stored on your server or get them via email attachment if they are below 10MB. If you do that make sure this is an email address that is not hosted on your server because the idea is to get your files off of your main server in case it fails.
- very easy to use
- backs up the basics
- sends backup via email
- hourly scheduling possible
BackUpWordpress worked well with your test setup. We used it on a fairly small website with just a couple of posts, though. But it should work with a couple of thousand, too. It is unfortunate that there is no way to backup to an external server, be it Amazon or just another FTP server you own.
- limits email backup to 10MB
- doesn’t backup to external servers
We would highly advise against archiving your server backups via email. It is getting cluttered after a while if you’ve set your schedule to weekly or even daily.
WP DB Backup
The plugin just does what it says. It backs up your WordPress database. The good part of this plugin is that it lets you backup custom post types as well, we use a plugin called “Magic Fields” a lot and we want to make sure that all those fields will get backed up, too, so we can select those within WP DB Backup.
- stripped down to the essentials
- easy to use
- custom fields backup
- Backup scheduling
Of course the upside of this plugin can also be considered as a downside: it is very limited in what you can do. The only option you have is backing up to your own server (not good), download the backup to your computer (can’t be automated) or get the backup via email (can get very confusing with many backups).
- very limited features
- no option to backup to a different server
Our next free plugin that we’re going to look at is a real WordPress backup powerhouse. At first sight it seems to offer all that one could want in a server backup. But let’s delve deeper into that plugin and see what it can do for us. It is one of the highest rated free backup plugins for WordPress with almost 300 5 star reviews.
- backs up database
- backs up server files (images, videos etc.)
- supports remote location backup (Amazon, Dropbox, SugarSync, FTP etc.)
- multisite support
You start your first backup by creating “Job”. Then you can go ahead and customize that job to your needs. And now comes the beauty of it: you can create multiple jobs, or backup sets. You could go ahead and create one job for the database only and then another one for the content and store those backups in different locations! We like that!
The advanced scheduling option of BackWPUp are just incredible. You can schedule your backups down to the minute. Backup scheduling is very important so that you can never forget to backup your website. Especially for a blog where content is updated frequently and many comments are added, daily or even hourly backups are mandatory.
Backup to an FTP server or NAS
We are believers of off-site storage but we love our Synology NAS. That’s why we’re happy to see the option to specify an FTP server within BackWPUp. We have configured our NAS as an FTP so we can just put in our credentials and save our WordPress website directly to our NAS – the good thing about that is: we have full control over where our files are and who has access to those files.
Backup WordPress to Dropbox
There are so many people using Dropbox (Editor Rating: , 2 GB for 0 $/year). If you’re one of those people you’ll like the option to just back up your WordPress blog to Dropbox with BackWPUp.
Free plugins – Final Verdict
So which free plugins shall you choose? Well, the good thing is that they are free. So you can go ahead and try them and see what best fits your needs. As you might have guessed we absolutely recommend BackWPUp – just because it has everything a webmaster needs to backup their WordPress blog or website. Especially being able to back up to a remote location is a crucial feature that any backup plugins should provide.
With BackWPUp you can even backup WordPress to Dropbox or SugarSync (Editor Rating: , ). WP DB Backup is good if you’re only looking for database backup as there is no support for file backup. BackUpWordPress is nice but it lacks the remote backup feature.
We are very amazed by the great selection of free plugins and their capabilities. So we’re really looking forward to testing paid plugins and see what they bring to the table BackWPUp can’t offer.
If there is something to be backed up then there are almost always people to be willing to pay for backup because they want to protect their valuable data. And that means there are going to be paid plugins that offer WordPress and website backup.
Paid Plugins Overview
Of course, we can’t test every paid WordPress backup plugin that is out there so we’ve made a small selection of the most popular ones.
|Service Name||Price||Free trial||Cloud Storage Support|
|from $9/month/1 site||yes – 30 days||Dropbox|
|$75/2 sites||No||FTP, Amazon, Dropbox, Rackspace|
Why a paid WordPress backup plugin?
You might ask yourself why would I need to pay for a plugin if there is a ton of free ones out there? In fact, you don’t have to BUT paid plugins do have some advantages that you might find important. One of the crucial differences paid plugins offer are:
- instant restores from within WordPress
- easy website migration if you switch servers
- Own off-site storage facility
Now, if you have been working with databases already, you might say that this is easy as pie but if you’re a less technical person you’ll certainly find it a lot easier if the plugin takes care of the heavy lifting. Some plugins also have some decent security features for encrypting your backups.
However, is it really worth paying a monthly fee for your backups? We say yes, if you like the comfort of a software taking care of the restore process, too, i.e. if you’re a less tech savvy person. Clearly, we say no if you already have some backup experience. Rather use BackWPup and perform a backup to your NAS and Dropbox and you’re good to go.
BlogVault is one of the cheapest “paid” WordPress backup solution we could find. It is very easy to install and usage quite self explanatory. The best part: you can test this plugin for free for 30 days and see if it’s the right choice for your needs.
After signing up you can let BlogVault install automagically on your WordPress installation so that you don’t have to worry about doing it yourself. Just make sure you have all your user information handy.
Managing your backups in BlogVault
After connecting your website to BlogVault you can manage everything from within their web client. You can initiate your backups, perform a restore, migrate a website and much more. What we like is that it is very easy to use and even beginners should have no problem finding their way to a secure backup.
Easy site migration
We found it very easy to migrate a website onto another server with BlogVault. The hardest part is to type in the FTP credentials of your new server where the new WordPress installation should sit. Then you only need to select the WordPress install folder and continue with the migration.
So after looking at BlogVault there are a few pros and cons that we’d like to point out:
- BlogVault is very a very affordable WordPress backup solution
- It is extremely easy to use – the basics are just at your fingertips
- Video tutorials explain the process
- You can perform test restore to see if your backups are correct
- BlogVault only backs up to Dropbox, other option would be better as Dropbox is not the most secure service
- Interface very minimalistic, preferences are quite hidden
- Fewer features compared to other paid backup services
iThemes Backup Buddy
Backup Buddy is created by iThemes who have a variety of premium plugins and themes for the WordPress webmaster. It costs $75 for 2 websites that you own – updates are not included. You can buy those as a yearly add-on. That makes Backup Buddy essentially a subscription plugin because you want to make sure not to use any outdated plugins on your website.
Backup Buddy Features
Of course Backup Buddy offers the basic features any other plugin also has: you can schedule your database and content backups to the minute and create various backup sets that let you program a daily, weekly and monthly backup to count on full redundancy.
Storing your server data off-site
One reason why we like Backup Buddy are its vast possibilities for off-site storage, you can choose from Amazon S3 to Dropbox, to Rackspace, another FTP or your email address. So you can go all crazy with your multi-location backups. Another features that BackupBuddy offers is called “Stash”. Does that sound familiar? Mozy (Editor Rating: , ) has the same name for their syncronisation feature.
BackupBuddy’s Stash is their own storage facility if you don’t want to use other services such as Dropbox or Amazon. However, our mantra still holds true here: never rely on one single backup source. So make sure you use at least two different backup locations for your WordPress site.
Of course, if your site is larger then 512MB (!) then it’ll cost your extra. 5GB is at $35 per year which makes it even more expensive to use. Also, they do not specify which encryption algos they use to “make your backups secure”.
Of course, when your site gets hacked or your server failed, you need to be able to restore your website’s contents and database as fast as possible. The only thing you need to do for a successful restore is uploading the backupbuddy.php and your backup file. Your site is then restored. But this can take some time depending on how large your website and database is.
Again, one of the major benefits of using a paid plugin your backups is easy site migration if you ever have to move to another domain or server. Backup Buddy’s site migration features is very easy to use as you can do it from your WordPress backend. Of course you still need your server and database info to continue with the migration.
- Extremely easy to use
- Direct migration from within WordPress
- Multiple locations for your backup files
- Own storage facility (if more than 512MB it’ll cost extra)
- Can get pretty expensive
- Some features might not be needed
Vaultpress certainly is the most expensive paid plugin in our list. The standard plan comes at $15 per month per site. So that’s $180 per year. Vaultpress is clearly for the backup paranoid and professional user who makes a living off of their website. Now let’s see what makes Vaultpress unique among the paid WordPress backup plugins and if it’s something for you.
Realtime, continuous backup
With Vaultpress you don’t have to setup a backup schedule. It will backup everything you do, automatically, continuously, as it happens. Someone leaves a comment? Gets backed up immediately. You publish a new post? Already backed up.
This goes even further as Vaultpress will also save every version and revision within WordPress. This is unique among the backup plugins and adds an additional security layer to your content. This way it is impossible to lose a day’s worth of posts. If your backup is scheduled for night and you created some serious post during the day and then your server crashes – this is not going to be backed up. However, with Vaultpress this is the case.
Restore & Migration
Of course, you can restore your website with the basic plan and this can be done with a couple of clicks. It works similar to other plugins we have tested. However, if you want to migrate a site this comes with another fee. You’ll need the Premium plan which comes at $40 per month. That also gives you some additional security features and premium support in case of emergency.
- Realtime (continuous) backup, unique among plugins
- Satisfies even professional requirements
- Statistics on your WordPress usage
- Pro support, zero-day security fixes
- For consumers it is very expensive
- Basic plan does not offer migration feature
- No other backup location
So, are paid plugins worth it?
Let’s quickly reiterate what we have so far: Blogvault and BackupBuddy are paid plugins that come at an affordable price for consumers and small businesses. Vaultpress is another league. The basic version doesn’t make much sense, if you don’t get the site migration feature, so you’d need at least the $40 per month plan and no consumer will ever pay that amount of money and probably they shouldn’t.
If you make your living off of your website, it’ll certainly pay off to pay a couple of dollars for a paid solution that also offers good support in case you need any help.
Free plugins are a good way to backup your personal, but even your business website, if you know what you’re doing. Again: never rely on one single backup resource, even if you pay $40 per month for it. Also, don’t just store the backups on your server, if your server gets hacked that doesn’t make much sense, does it?
We hope this article was helpful to you and could provide you with a decent overview of some ways to backup your WordPress website or blog effectively and even at no cost if you are on a budget. We’d like to hear how you backup your website and what’s your strategy! Leave a comment below.