A backup may seem like a perfect copy of your WordPress website, but in reality, it’s so much more than that. A good WordPress backup is like an insurance policy for your online business. According to Gartner, the average downtime cost is $5,600 per minute. To minimise downtime and get back to business quickly, you need a backup in place. In this article we will compare top 5 WordPress backup plugins and explain backups in-depth.
1. Introduction to WordPress Backups
There’s a plethora of backup options on the market, however, not all backup solutions are the same. Finding the best one entails a bit of trying and testing. Here, I’ve detailed everything you need to know about backups and how to find the best one for your site based on my experience.
The cost of not having a WordPress site backupAs the saying among internet security experts goes - there are two types of people: those who have lost data, and those who are about to lose data. Click To Tweet
‘Nothing has ever gone wrong with my website. Why take a backup when I’ve never faced any problems?’ As the saying among internet security experts goes – there are two types of people: those who have lost data, and those who are about to lose data. Unfortunately, it’s only when things go wrong with a site that we realise the need for a backup, and by then it’s probably too late. It’s crucial to any website to have a backup. But what happens if it doesn’t work when you need to restore it? That’s why we need to find one we can rely on.
Without a backup, there are consequences that become more severe the longer it takes to get a site restored. You could end up losing vital data, and in the worst of situations, you might have to recreate your website from scratch. That’s not all. This directly impacts your business and revenue. How? If your site goes down, you’d face issues like a loss in traffic to your site which directly impacts conversions/sales. You also stand to lose SEO rankings that you worked so hard for. The consequences escalate if you’ve been infected with malware, because you could be blacklisted by Google and/or suspended by your webhost. All of this can cause a major dent in your brand image and revenue.
Things to bear in mind before taking a WordPress backup
Before you start taking backups, there are a few important things to keep in mind:
- Does your site need a special kind of backup? – There’s a variety of WordPress sites and they all have different needs. A WordPress blog site might require a simple backup but a WooCommerce site would need it to happen in real-time. Backup requirements also vary between small and large sites. For a detailed analysis on the special needs of different sites, refer to the next section.
- When to backup? – The obvious answer is to do it right away! Once you get a backup in place, find the right time to schedule backups. For instance, if you have a team working on your site during the day, an ideal time to backup would be end of day at say, 8:30 p.m.
- What to backup? – You should make sure you know what you’re backing up. A backup should comprise of both your website’s files and database. This ensures you have a copy of everything and you never stand to lose any data.
- How often to backup? – The frequency of backups for your site also makes a difference. Generally, you can schedule your backups to run hourly, daily or weekly. But you also have the option of real-time backups where every change you make is copied immediately. I personally don’t recommend going any lower than once a week.
Understanding the What-When-How aspects discussed above, will ensure you never have to worry about getting it wrong, overloading your site, or losing data.
2. Characteristics of a Good Backup
When choosing a backup solution, in order to get the right one for your site, here are a few things you should look out for.
A reliable backup that works
You should be able to rely on your backup copy without a doubt. If your backup fails, then the intent of the backup goes in vain. When you need to use it, it should work – it’s as simple as that.
The option to test it out
This will enable you to find out whether your backup works or not. You wouldn’t have to wait for something to go wrong to find out whether your backup is functioning. This also allows you to practice restoring your backup so you’ll be prepared when something goes wrong.
Easy to use
The process involved in taking a backup should be extremely easy. There are a hundred things to take care of on your site, if your backup is a long and cumbersome process, it’s more likely that you’re going to skip it. Get a solution that does it quickly and takes one thing off your plate.
Quick restore process
When things go wrong, you don’t have time to spare before you fix things. Restoring your website without wasting any time is imperative. When your site is down, the longer you wait – the more traffic you lose and the worse the consequences become. Therefore, you need a quick restoration option.
You should be able to choose how often you want to take a backup. Your site might currently only need daily backups, but as it grows – maybe you convert it to an ecommerce site – you’d need real-time backup. Your backup option should allow you to be flexible with your frequency.
Doesn’t load your site
Backups do impose a certain load on your site. So it’s important to choose a solution that reduces this load to the lowest. Look for incremental backups that ensures your backup is done in smaller chunks so that you don’t overload your server. Furthermore, after the first full backup, only the changes made to your site are backed up so the amount of data copied and stored each time is very minimal.
Stored securely offsite
Your backup needs to be stored in a place that’s independent from your website server. It needs to be kept securely out of reach of hackers or any people with malicious intent as it contains your website information including sensitive data. This backup data should therefore be stored securely in an encrypted form.
Options to customise backups
Every website has different needs, which is why customisable backups are important. As your site grows, you need to have the option to schedule it when you want, change frequencies, or choose what components of your site you want to backup.
Backup Needs of Specialised WordPress Sites
I mentioned there are different types of WordPress sites. The smaller ones usually include blogs, simple ones to establish an online presence. Now there are specialised sites that have unique needs when it comes to backup. I’ve categorised these sites into four:
- Large Sites
- Multiple Sites
The main difference between regular sites and WooCommerce sites is that there is more at stake. Running an online store entails selling products/services and you need to ensure you don’t lose data that contains order information, payment details, customer details, etc. For this, you need to have a few essential features in your WooCommerce backup:
- Real-time backups where every change made is copied and stored as it happens.
- Quick restore as you cannot afford downtime.
- Selective restore option so that you can choose to restore only files or database.
- Incremental backups and offsite storage that ensure no load on your website’s server so your site always runs at top speed.
Large sites have more data which means that file size will be larger and the process will take much longer. So you need to make sure your backup has the following:
- Incremental technology to reduce the load on the site and also makes the process faster.
- Speed optimization where backup solutions adjust themselves to the resources of your website so that neither does the backup take forever nor does it run too fast overloading your site.
- Offsite storage since the amount of data will be huge.
While backing up one site is a sizeable task, backing up multiple sites becomes that much more difficult. When it comes to handling multiple sites, you need:
- A centralised dashboard to view all your sites at one place. It gives you an overview of which sites need updates, which sites have issues or downtime, and you can set backup schedules for all your sites.
- A good storage solution that will allow you to keep large amounts of data.
- To be able to schedule backups so that they run automatically according to a time optimal for the respective sites.
- To track changes and reporting. If your backup solution can help you generate reports on your site, this would not only help you keep track of each site but also report back to clients.
Similar to large sites, multisites also have large amounts of data. Ensure your backup solution supports multisite networks, not all of them do.
- Check to see if the solution supports a single site restore option.
- Make sure the plugin is optimised for speed so that it doesn’t load your server.
- Take into consideration cloud storage options available.
- Flexible frequencies to suit the needs of different subsites.
3. How to backup your WordPress site
While there are many options available in the market that give you all of the above features, not all of them are the same. You can backup your website using an automated solution available in the form of:
You can also do it manually, but that entails a long, technical, and tedious process that doesn’t work well enough. So my first choice of backup solutions are backup plugins that are readily available!
4. Top 5 WordPress Backup Plugins Compared
These plugins, created by third-party developers, take a complex backup process and simplify it for you. Some of them are easy to set up but others are a little more complex. While there are many plugins available in the market, these are my top 5 picks based on what they have to offer.
BlogVault has established its name in the market as the most reliable WordPress backup plugin backed by a 100% restoration rate. What sets this plugin apart from the rest is it goes beyond being just a plugin. It offers features that you may not find in other WordPress plugins.
What you get
- Incremental backups
- Scheduled and automated backups
- No load on your website because it’s optimised to run at the best pace for your site
- Inbuilt test and staging option
- Migrate to another host
- Centralised dashboard to manage multiple tasks for multiple sites
- Upload to backups to Dropbox and Google Drive
- Backups customised for WooCommerce
- Uptime monitoring
What stands out
- You just need to click a button to restore your backup.
- It has an unlimited on-demand feature which means you can take a backup whenever you like.
- It extends great personalised customer support that makes using the service so much better.
- Storage is taken care of. Data is encrypted and stored securely on Amazon S3 servers. You get options to upload it to Dropbox or download it to your local system.
- The premium plan includes website security through the MalCare security integration
I think my favorite feature would be that once you request for a backup, you can exit the page and carry on with your other work. The backup will still continue to run. You’ll get an email notification once it’s done. It’s like that one independent employee who you never have to worry about.
- There is no free version.
What it costs
- Plans start at just $7 a month. It offers three levels – Basic, Plus and Advanced plans. It also has plans for agencies and web developers.
This is a widely popular backup plugin in the WordPress community. It offers a free as well as a paid version. With the free version you can take full manual backups, schedule automatic ones, and restore as well. They offer a number of cloud storage options as well. But you’re limited to that. If you opt for the premium version, UpdraftPlus offers a lot more.
What you get
- Incremental backups
- Customised and scheduled backups
- Manage WordPress multisite network
- Easy backups and restoration
- Supports multiple cloud storage options
- Clone your site and test out changes
- Migrate your cloned site to a new domain or host
What stands out
- This is the only plugin that offers a good free version for backup and restore.
- They provide customer support, however, this is available only with premium plans.
- You need to upgrade to access more features.
- It doesn’t work for large sites.
- The process is not optimised and can overload your site.
- The independent centralised dashboard costs extra under UpdraftCentral.
What it costs
- The paid plans start at $6 per month for 2 sites.
Now VaultPress is just one element of a much larger sphere – JetPack. Built and maintained by Automattic, JetPack enables you to back up your site, keep it secure, enhance speed and helps you reach a bigger audience. I’ve listed out only the backup features here.
What you get
- One-click automatic backup restoration
- Incremental backups
- You can download the full backup or select individual files
- Daily backups with a 30-day archive
- No limit on storage space
What stands out
- The independent dashboard that lets you manage everything from one place!
- The free version gives you access to a number of security features and uptime monitoring.
- JetPack doesn’t give you an option to provide HTTP authentication, so my password protected site posed a problem here.
- The restore process can sometimes be finicky.
- The main drawback is that you have to take a JetPack subscription to get access to backup features. It makes sense if you’d like to have an all-in-one solution but at the same time, you may end up with a lot of other heavy-loading functionalities that you don’t require for your site.
What it costs
- They have packs that start at $39 per year for a personal site and go up to $299 for professionals.
4. Backup Buddy
The Backup Buddy WordPress backup plugin has been around since 2010, protecting around half a million sites and counting. It’s really easy to set up.
What you get
- Automatic backups
- Option to choose specific database files for backup
- Database Repair and optimization
- Supports many offsite cloud storage options
- Site Migration
- Quick and easy to restore
What stands out
- A major plus is that you get access to 1 year Stash Live – BackupBuddy’s own storage solution.
- By default, it stores 5 daily, 2 weekly, and 1 monthly database backups and 1 daily, 1 weekly and 1 monthly full backup as zip files.
- Email notifications when your backups are ready for download.
- The process is very smooth.
- No option for on-demand backups.
- No option to try out the product first. If you want to access better features, you have to upgrade to higher plans.
- Again, there was no option to provide HTTP authentication, so if you have a password protected site, it’s a dead end. You need to upgrade to access more features.
- It fails to work on large sites.
What it costs
- Plans start at $80 per year for 1 site.
Another great plugin to consider for backups, BackWPUp has over 600,000+ installations. It’s relatively easy to use. It has a free version with minimal features.
What you get
- Backs up database and files
- Supports multisite network
- Complete automatic restore
- Supports various storage options
- Gives you access to log files
With the premium version, you also get nifty features like restoring backups from manually uploaded backup archives, automatic quick restores, encryption, and you can backup to Google Drive and Amazon Glacier.
What stands out
- It has a dedicated app for emergency restores.
- It has premium personalised customer support
- May need a bit of technical knowledge to handle the operations.
What it costs
- Plans start at $69 per year with renewals at $39 thereafter. They have 5 levels of plans – Standard, Business, Developer, Supreme and Agency.
Other WordPress Backup Options
While plugins are the easiest backup solutions, there are other options you could consider.
- Maintenance Agency
Using your Web Host to Backup your WordPress Site
“My host provides backups. Isn’t that enough?” Well, not quite. Time and time again, we see people finding themselves in a fix because the host backup doesn’t exist or work. Now, most website hosting providers offer backups as part of the WordPress hosting package and it’s extremely convenient.You can get a backup with many hosts like GoDaddy, BlueHost, Flywheel, Hostgator, SiteGround, Dreamhost, to name a few. The backups are usually an automated process but there are cases where you need to go to settings/manage site and request for a backup.
The most obvious advantage of a host backup is that it comes free with the host package, or sometimes, there’s a nominal fee for the service. But it’s so convenient to just have your host do everything for you. Since it’s automatically enabled on your dashboard or settings, there is no setup required. It removes the hassle of signing up for another service and gives you more time to focus on other things.
That said, I recommend you depend on your host for backup only when you’re just starting out and you’re not sure about backups or simply don’t have the budget to pay for a more reliable backup service. Opt for it if you feel it’s extremely convenient to have it done automatically and when you’re not willing to put in the extra steps with other solutions. But you should do adequate research into what your host is offering. Find out where the backup is stored, test out your backup copy to ensure it’s working, and read the terms and conditions of what is offered.
Why you can’t rely on your host’s backup alone?
There are benefits of having your host take backups, but there are many reasons why it’s not advisable to solely rely on it.
- Backup storage – Most hosts store your backup copy on the same server as your website. If your host’s server goes down, your website goes down and you won’t have access to your backup either. Generally, hosts don’t store your backup copy for long. The maximum you get is 30 days of archives.
- Frequency – Backups are done once every day or as per the schedule provided by your hosting provider. So you don’t get the option of on-demand backups and real-time backups. Which means that you could lose data.
- Testing and Restoring – Most such backups do not have the option to test the backups – you just have to take your host’s word for it. You may not have the option of selective restore to get back only particular files you need. You might need to restore the entire site which means it will take longer and you stand to lose other data again.
- No customisation – Each site is different and has different backup needs. Host provided backups often are not designed for WooCommerce and Multisites.
There’s often another catch. If you skim through the terms and conditions of hosting backup, you’ll most likely find that there is no guarantee that the backup will work. Many have experienced that when they needed the backup to be restored to their site, it took days. This is because many times, there is no automatic restore option. You need to contact the support team and wait till they do it for you. Also, some hosts charge a substantial rate for the backup option. If you’re paying an additional fee for a backup with your host, it might be more sensible to choose a more reliable option that may cost the same.
A popular choice among website owners and businesses, WordPress management agencies handle a whole spectrum of website management and maintenance activities. You usually have a choice of plans and are charged according to what you need. Once you select a package and get started, the agency takes care of a number of tasks for you such as backups, uptime monitoring, database optimisation, security, updates, and reports. But before you choose these services:
- Check where your backups are stored
- Make sure you have an option to test them
- You also need to check with them on how long they would take to respond in case something goes wrong with your site.
These agencies charge on average $30 per month for a basic package. So ensure it makes sense to fit this into your budget. The main drawback of agencies is that they handle multiple websites. Therefore, you don’t get undivided attention. Sometimes, it takes a while before they reply to your urgent request. As with any type of agency, when it’s not an in-house team, there’s a bigger gap in communication. It purely depends on how large and efficient the agency is. You need to make sure you do sufficient research before you choose one to manage your site.
Backing up your WordPress site Manually
I won’t be delving deep into backing up your site manually because it simply isn’t a feasible option. It’s tedious, time-consuming and much more prone to errors! Above all, if you’re not tech-savvy, you could end up messing up your website. To do a manual WordPress backup, you need backup your files and your database.
- Files – You can access your files via FTP such as FileZilla. You should find your files under the public_html folder. Then copy the files from the remote site on the right side to the local site on the left hand side.
- Database – You need to access phpMyAdmin where you will see the database tables. You can then export them to your local system.
While it seems easy, the problem with manual backups is that they take forever and the connection keeps getting lost. Apart from this, restoring is a nightmare. However, it’s always good to learn how to take a manual backup in detail and practice it on a staging site to know how a backup works.
5. Bonus: Where should you store your WP Backups?
Your backup copy contains all the information of your website, that means it has sensitive data. For this reason, backup data should be stored in an encrypted form so that if it lands in the hands of hackers, they still won’t be able to use it. Apart from this, it also needs to be stored in a place where it won’t get damaged. Storage is important because when you call upon your backup, it should be in working condition.
Onsite storage means you use the same server as your host to store your backup. The good thing about this is you don’t have to worry about additional storage. The host takes care of it so that’s one less task for you.
However, using the same server as your website has its drawbacks. Take for example, you make a copy of your driving license and then store both the original and copy in the same wallet. If something happens to the wallet – say it gets lost or stolen – you lose both. The same applies if your host server fails, there is no way to access your backup until the server comes back up. Apart from this, you risk putting too much load on your site which slows it down. If you have a large site, this is a bigger problem. So, it’s important to have an independent storage option as well.
There are a number of offsite storage locations that you can use to store your backup data. They vary in technicality, size options, and security. I’ve chosen three of the most popular storage options:
Google Drive – This is one of the most user-friendly options for those who aren’t tech-savvy. You simply need to sign up for a Google account and the drive is set up for you. You get up to 15GB free, and can increase the limit by paying a nominal fee.The only drawback I faced is that when you use a plugin, you have to grant full drive access. I was most definitely shocked to see the prompt:
Since I store both business and personal files on the drive, I wasn’t comfortable granting entry. A way to work around this would be to open a fresh email ID that is dedicated only to this backup. While there are pros and cons of using Google Drive, this is my number one pick for how easy it is to use.
Dropbox – This is another easy-to-use storage option which requires you to simply sign up for free. You get 2GB free, post which their plans start at $11.99 a month. You would need to provide access but only to the plugin’s folder within your DropBox account. So you can keep the rest of your data secure. You can check our WordPress Backup to Dropbox article to learn more about DropBox backups.
Amazon S3 – Setting up an Amazon S3 account is easy, but if you aren’t familiar with the technical jargon involved, it can be a bit overwhelming. But if you need a storage option that allows you to scale, this is a great pick. Amazon S3 functions on the system of buckets. Each bucket ranges from a size 0 up to 5 TB. You can create upto 100 buckets in each AWS (Amazon Web Services) account.
Note that this option is not suitable for WordPress beginners. While AWS provides extensive information and help to get your started, there are a lot of rules and compliances you need to adhere to.
Make sure you carry out ample research on which option to use as most of them are annual subscriptions. You could end up choosing the wrong plan which means you could be stuck with it for a year!
Lastly, offsite remote servers face power failures. During this outage, there’s nothing you can do to retrieve your backup. So I’d suggest storing multiple backup copies by using a combination of Google Drive + DropBox + Local system.
You can choose to download your backup copy either manually or through a plugin/service. You can then store it on your local hard drive. Or you can use external hard drives, pen drive or even a memory card. I don’t recommend local storage as a primary option simply because hard drives, pen drives and memory cards crash all the time, get corrupted easily, and are very easily misplaced/stolen. These devices are also limited in their capacity unlike cloud storages where you can increase your limit. That said, there is one big advantage that local storage has over the other – you have offline access to your backup at any time. Choose your backup storage wisely so that you always have a functioning backup on hand. Having a backup makes sense as long as you can restore it. So keep it safe and protected at all times.
6. Wrapping Up…
To come full circle, I started off by telling you how a backup is so much more than just a copy of your site. It’s a safety net and a guard against adversity. Knowing you have a working backup gives you peace of mind as you can rest assured that your site will never be lost. I’ll leave you with one last piece of advice – practice how to restore your backup using a staging site. Think of it as a mock fire drill. This way you’ll be prepared and know exactly what to do when things go wrong. Make sure the solution your using doesn’t have a long-drawn technical restore option that takes ages to figure out. Your backup is only as good as its restoration!
- The easiest and most reliable way to backup your site is by using a plugin.
- Always test your backup and make sure it works.
- Make sure your backup data is stored securely and in multiple places.
I hope at the end of this, you’ll wait no more and get the best backup solution for your site. BlogVault is my go-to backup solution because it goes above and beyond. It’s reliable, trustworthy, feature-rich, and easy to use. However, if you’re looking for a free WordPress backup option, we would recommend UpdraftPlus. It’s the only free plugin that gives you access to much-needed features and it’s a credible solution. With a dependable backup in place, if you ever face any problems on your site, there’ll be no need to fret! You’d know how to restore your site in no time.
To conclude, if you found the backup-related answers you were looking for in this article, my team and I have fulfilled our goal! In case you didn’t, drop in your query here or leave a comment. We will be happy to get back to you or write more about backups.