Having a good backup option for your WordPress site is essential. It helps you recover in the event there is a problem with an update, a user error, or a site hack. I think that we should have backup options built into WordPress core, but for now, we need to use a plugin. This post summarizes my experiences with some of the most popular website backup plugins.
I have two requirements for my backup solution:
- Store backups off server: I need to have the backups stored off of the server. Offsite backups are important in case of a server crash. Also, if the site is hacked and your backups are stored on site, then they might be corrupted. I use Dropbox for storing my backup files.
- Migrate or clone: I need to be able to clone my website from my local machine to the public server. Cloning the site is important to me because I develop sites on my local computer and then push them to the live computer when ready. A wrinkle to that is the site URL. WordPress stores the complete URL to site content in the database, so when moving from "dev.mysite.com" to "www.mysite.com" I need the link to be universally updated in the process.
The first backup plugin I used was UpdraftPlus. A really big plus to UpdraftPlus is that the free version gives you the ability to backup directly to Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon S3 (or compatible), Rackspace Cloud, DreamObjects, FTP, Openstack Swift, Updraft Vault and email. More destinations are available with the paid version. Since my backup destination is Dropbox, the free version covered the backup requirements. UpdraftPlus has a premium add-on that makes it easy to migrate from one machine to another. The "Migrator" add-on is a yearly subscription and can be used on multiple sites.
I used UpdraftPlus for a couple of years and never had an issue. The restores and migrations worked fine and the URLs were changed as needed. Also, UpdraftPlus is pretty straightforward to use, so I could walk someone through the backup and restore or migration process once, and they could then do it on their own thereafter.
There were a couple of annoyances. UpdraftPlus has several add-on features and when using the Migrator add-on there was often a song and dance to the update process. I would get a notification of an update, apply the update, and then have to download from the WordPress admin dashboard the version of the plugin with Migrator again. Also, UpdraftPlus is VERY liberal with their premium add-on advertisements. It seemed like some type of notice would regularly appear and I felt like I was always dismissing them. Another thing that bugged me was that the page for the MIgrator add-on said that you could use it on unlimited sites, but the pricing block says "Migrate 1 or 2 sites". I've noticed this when the Migration add-on is shown next to the full premium add-on that includes all features.
I had heard a lot of good feedback about BackupBuddy. It is a premium only plugin from iThemes that is used by a lot of professional bloggers. BackupBuddy supports sending your backups offsite to BackupBuddy Stash, Amazon S3, Dropbox, Email, FTP, Local Directory, and Rackspace. Again, since I'm using Dropbox, this looked good. You can purchase the "Gold" edition of BackupBuddy, which gives you lifetime updates for unlimited sites, though support for the Gold version is only for one year.
iThemes periodically runs sales and I started watching the iThemes blog. Two years ago BackupBuddy came out with a "deploy" feature that allowed you to "push" and "pull" between sites. This was exactly what I was looking for to allow me to develop locally, push to the live site, and pull down again to local later to make more changes. I purchased BackupBuddy Gold and switched over to using it.
As a backup solution, BackupBuddy has lots of bells and whistles. Using the "ImportBuddy" feature you could clone an entire site to a new location without even installing WordPress first. My main two uses, however, was for offsite backups and migrations. Initially, when I set up the backups to Dropbox there were a few issues, but support helped me get things going. Once setup, backup worked well, but once every three or for months there would be an error and a backup would fail. I suspect that the backups were happening at a time when some other process was underway, though usually in two or three days the situation would correct itself. I still use BackupBuddy on some of my sites and that problem has not surfaced for nine or ten months, so I'm thinking the issue was fixed.
I have been somewhat disappointed in the push/pull deployment functions. The process is very slow and there were frequent errors so that it doesn't complete. When it doesn't complete then you have to go in manually and delete out files. My local development environment is Windows, and I know there are some issues that WordPress has with Windows. I adjusted the BackupBuddy settings and I got it to work when I initially designed a site, but then later when going to design another site I tried it and encountered the same types of issues again (yes, I copied the setting over also). This is where the one year of support with the Gold version is problematic. You can purchase an additional year of support for $100 a year. The iThemes help desk is very responsive and helpful, so if I was supporting lots of clients then purchasing ongoing support would make sense, but since I was not making money from these sites I didn't want to invest further. In any event, I'll keep checking it periodically to see if it is improved.
The All-In-One WP Migration plugin is another one with a free version in the WordPress plugin directory and premium add-ons that can be purchased from the creator. The free version allows you to create a backup up to 512MB in size, which would usually be sufficient for new sites. It also has the ability to migrate the URLs of your site automatically, which is really nice.
There are premium extensions that remove the size limit and allow you to do backups to Dropbox, FTP, Google Drive, Amazon S3, a URL, OneDrive and Box. Unlike BackupBuddy, the premium add-ons are per destination. So I bought the Dropbox add-on, which lifts the backup size limit, but I would need to purchase a different add-in if I changed to a different destination. One nice thing is that each of the premium add-ons includes lifetime updates and support. All-In-One WP Migration is very straightforward and simple to use. I've never had an issue with it.
If you purchase the full premium version of UpdraftPlus it includes all of the add-ons, not just add-ons singly, you get 1GB of vault storage. UpdraftPlus has a service where you can use the vault storage for a backup location if you don't have Dropbox or one of the other options. iThemes has iThemes Sync which is a dashboard where you can update WordPress, themes, and plugins for all of your sites from one location. It has tight integration with BackupBuddy which is very nice. You get 10 iThemes Sync sites free.
Of these three WordPress backup plugins, I currently prefer All in One WP Migration for its simplicity, ease of use, and solid performance.