Flywheel being a managed WordPress hosting service offers great features including WordPress backup. The increase in features and focus specialization is certainly reflected in the price too. So, are Flywheel backups worth it?

Flywheel is a managed WordPress hosting platform. They exclusively host WordPress sites and as a result, Flywheel is optimized for that platform. This means that you can expect WordPress backups and services that are a cut above your run-of-the-mill shared hosting environments on other web hosts. With this, costs rise proportionally as well. So, does this mean that we will discover a web host WordPress backup on which you can rely? Read on, to find out!

A Screenshot of Flywheel's website

A Screenshot of Flywheel’s website

Before we begin, welcome back to our series reviewing backups by web hosts. Check out our previous articles in this series on backups by WP Engine, HostGator & SiteGround if you’re interested in how they backup your WordPress site.

Flywheel Backups:

As usual we would, ultimately, be looking to answer one question- Can you rely on Flywheel for your WordPress backups? Being a hosting service dedicated to WordPress, Flywheel is optimised for the CMS and provides backups as a part of its service. However are the WordPress backups completely independent of Flywheel? Let’s find out.

  • Flywheel makes nightly automated backups of your WordPress site.
  • You access 30 days of backups through your dashboard.
  • Flywheel’s documentation says that it backs up everything in your WordPress folder including uploaded files.
  • Backups are stored offsite on Amazon S3 servers.
  • Apart from these features you  can download your backups in .zip format; and restore your WordPress site with a single click.

Points to keep in mind:

  • When you are restoring your site, visitors are going to see a ‘site down for maintenance’ message.
  • Flywheel provides a staging environment to test changes and updates to your site.

Review of Flywheel backups

Flywheel allows you to force backups anytime you want. This is helpful when you have to make updates or major changes to your site. When you are restoring your site, it automatically prompts you to make a restore of the current version. It is a handy feature to have as you can roll back your site in case the restoration process does not work out. However Flywheel does not function as complete WordPress backup service despite getting many things right. As a consumer you will have to decide if you can ignore issues or do you want to go for the best WordPress backup plugin.

Backup Descriptions

When you force a backup, you are prompted to provide a backup description. In such a case, you can name the backup according to the reason you are performing the backup. For  example, if you are updating plugin X, then you can name the backup as ‘before updating plugin X’. Although you have 30 days of backups available on a list in the Backups tab of your Flywheel dashboard, you can immediately identify this one.

Forcing a backup on Flywheel first results in a pop-up asking for a backup description to help tell backups apart

Forcing a backup on Flywheel first results in a pop-up asking for a backup description to help tell backups apart

Automatic backups on the other hand, can only identified by their dates and the number of posts, pages, comments, plugins & uploads. There is very little to differentiate what has exactly changed since the last backup. This is particularly painful when you start making backups before updates, restores, and so on. This interrupts with the automatic backups repeating number of posts or pages or jumbling them up. A hack most people would think of, to restore the backup version with the most posts or uploads will not work in such a case.

Flywheel's automatic backups are hard to tell apart

Flywheel’s automatic backups are hard to tell apart

Downloading Backups from Flywheel

Downloading backups is very easy you can do it from the BACKUPS tab in your Flywheel dashboard itself. Once you have opted to download a particular backup, you will get an email notification informing you that your backup is ready for download.

Downloading Flywheel's backups is easy

Downloading Flywheel’s backups is easy

One thing we did notice when we unzipped the downloaded backup is that, wp-admin and wp-include files were missing from the downloaded backup.

Our downloaded backup didn't contain the wp-admin and wp-include files

Our downloaded backup didn’t contain the wp-admin and wp-include files

We must mention that we had no issues with restoring the site from our dashboard. This means that Flywheel will have a backup of those folders. But, you can’t access those folders of your site when you simply download a backup from the Flywheel dashboard. It is more a question of convenience- how easily can you access all the files on your site?

Does Flywheel backup give you control?

In case some files are being excluded from backups, you cannot simply add files to your backup right from the dashboard of your account. You can’t know the specific files or directories being backed up either.

This lack of granular control extends to downloads and restores too. Your backups as mentioned are zipped and sent to you. You do not have the option of choosing which files or tables you want to download. While this outs some sort of a burden on your storage space or labor the matter is a little more serious when it comes to restores.

Losing Data When You Lose Control Over Backups

Flywheel restores your site by removing all the old files and replacing them with the backup version you have chosen. This means that changes made in this interim will be lost. In case you know that a specific plugin or file is the issue, then you can restore only those files or plugins without losing your data.

Ideally, making incremental restores to your WordPress site would not ensure that it is up and running quicker but will also ensure that changed data since the restore also is not lost.

Of course you can always make a backup before restoring, and then download it. You would then have to upload all of that content again and make sure to take a backup of this latest version of your site. However, this seems like a circuitous way to solve the issue.

On the note of control over backups, we thought we’d mention that you also cannot customize your backup schedule.

Conclusion on Flywheel Backup:

A summary of FlyWheel's backups

A summary of FlyWheel’s backups

As expected Flywheel gets a lot things right however, their backups still don’t cut the standard of a complete WordPress Backup service. As Flywheel mentions on their site, they’d like to work with the “best of breed” for everything. If you too are looking for that “best of breed WordPress backups” then you might want to look elsewhere.

Stay safe & always, always backup!