Losing a site is the worst thing that can happen to anybody and the simplest way to protect your content is through regular backups. Unfortunately, this is often neglected by most people and we realize the importance of it only after disaster has struck. You can backup your data manually or go with a plugin. In this article, I have attempted to share my first-hand experience with using the two most popular WordPress backup plugins – BackupBuddy vs blogVault.
Both the plugins come at a cost, which according to me is far lesser compared to losing all your precious data. They automatically backup your entire WordPress site, including files and database, once set up. However, there are important differences between the two plugins which are to be considered while making a choice. Let’s have a look at what they are.
The Setup Process
Creating a good first impression is very important to any product. And that means having a simple and clean setup process. It shouldn’t involve more than 2-3 steps or too many technicalities.
Installing the BackupBuddy plugin entails downloading the zip file and then uploading it to your site. Once this is done, you are required to fill the Quick Setup Wizard which includes your email, password, storage location, and backup schedule. Once you complete this form and click Save Settings, the first backup of your site is initiated. Though the form itself only take a few minutes to fill, figuring out the storage destination and the backup schedule is definitely not easy for a regular WordPress user. It requires a thorough understanding of your backup needs.
blogVault is available in the WordPress plugin repository and can be directly installed on your site. Apart from installing the plugin, you need to register with blogVault in order to get your unique activation code. Your first backup is started immediately after completing this step. Everything from storage to schedule is taken care of by the plugin.
BackupBuddy’s Quick Setup Wizard form take just a few minutes to fill but figuring out the storage destination and the backup schedule is definitely not easy for a regular WordPress user. blogVault’s Setup is simple, quick, and easy to follow.
Scheduling your Backup
Schedules are an integral part of your backup strategy. You can have daily, weekly, monthly backups depending on how often your site is updated. Additionally, you have backups that pick up database only, files only, or your complete site.
BackupBuddy provides a host of options when it comes to your backup schedules. Apart from the automated schedules – Starter (monthly complete and weekly database backup) and Active Blogger (weekly complete and daily database backup), you can also create custom schedules.
You have the option of choosing different storage destinations for different schedules too. While this offers a lot of flexibility to users, it can also overwhelm those who are looking for a simple backup that doesn’t require too much thought.
BackupBuddy, by default, stores files on your local server unless you check the Delete local backup file after remote send success option. This can pose serious issues if you have server storage limits. Though the usage can be limited by defining local storage settings from the dashboard, it still hogs your server space. Moreover, local backups can overload your server and thereby slow your site down. This isn’t obvious unless you’re an expert or possibly run out of space (which is what happened to me). So make sure you check the option before you start backing up your data.
blogVault schedules daily automated backup of your complete site. All your data is stored offsite which means that no local storage is used during or after backup.
In case you’re wondering if daily complete backups are going to hog your storage quota quickly, you needn’t worry. blogVault does a complete backup your site the very first time and from then on, only picks up the changes since the last backup. This method, known as incremental backup, ensures optimum usage of space and hence the best way of creating backups. Whenever you want to restore a specific backup to your site, blogVault intelligently recreates the entire backup using these parts.
blogVault manages everything in the background, oblivious to its users. You just need sit and relax while your data is kept safe and handy for your use.
BackupBuddy offers a lot of flexibility when it comes to scheduling but requires you to get down to the details. blogVault manages everything for you, thus making a completely hassle-free experience.
Offsite storage plays a critical role in your choice of backup. With this is place, you can be assured that your backups are safe even if your site goes down. Though both plugins support offsite storage, let’s look at how each one handles it.
BackupBuddy calls its offsite storage Stash and all customers have 1GB of space allotted to them. Even for a small site, the 1GB limit will be reached quickly with daily backups. Though you can purchase additional storage, the cost can be a damper for small bloggers who’ve already shelled out for the plugin itself.
An important point to note here is that backups aren’t sent to a remote destination, including Stash, on completion. There is an explicit option Send to remote destination as part of backup process that has to be enabled for your backups to become offsite. This is unintuitive and hard to figure out until you are trying to access a backup from Stash. Till then it appears as though the backups are being stored in the Stash when in fact they still reside on your local server. It wasn’t until I had to do a restore that I realized that my Stash was empty, oops!
Apart from Stash, you also have the option of picking other storage destinations like email, Amazon S3, Dropbox, etc. after configuring and setting up your own accounts. Since these avenues offer just plain storage space, managing your backups can be a challenge over time. If you go with daily backups, we are talking 30 backups a month and 360 in a year. It definitely won’t be easy to rummage through 100s of backups to locate the right one when the need for a restore arises. Additionally, using your own account means that you must include the access key on your site which is considered a security threat. To know more, read our article on Why S3 WordPress Backups created by BackupBuddy are unsafe.
blogVault provides 5GB of storage limit for its customers. As we already discussed, blogVault follows the incremental approach to backing up your data and so you can breathe easy as this limit won’t be reached quickly. But it doesn’t end here. blogVault stores multiples copies of data on its own as well as Amazon S3 servers. Since blogVault uses its own S3 account, you don’t have to undergo the hassle of setting up and managing your account. The access key is also secured, so your data is complete safe.
All in all, blogVault makes it super simple for the users by managing everything in the background. But if there is a need to stash away your backup to a remote destination, it also supports the Upload to Dropbox feature. Using this, you can directly upload any version of your backup from the dashboard to your Dropbox account.
You must be sure that the backup plugin you choose is compatible with your host. In most cases, the only way to confirm this is to test the plugin. In rare cases, the plugin team makes may release an official statement in this regard.
Backup Buddy has issues running with GoDaddy hosting by their own admission. They have problems with other webhosts too. Premier web hosts like WPEngine have gone on record to say that they don’t support BackupBuddy. BackupBuddy also has issues when it comes to backing up large sites on most web hosts. As Backup Buddy has a strict no refund policy, your money’s as good as gone if you run into any issues with the server.
blogVault works perfectly well with all the hosting providers. Moreover, blogVault comes with a week’s free trial and a no questions asked refund at the end of it. So you can test all the features of the service before you make a decision.
The support team plays a key role in differentiating a good product from the rest. It helps in building trust and increases customer satisfaction. There is no bigger relief for a customer than knowing that they are valued and every issue is given priority.
BackupBuddy provides an online forum for support queries. Licensed users must login and submit their queries here. The average response time is 24 hours, except during weekends. So if your site goes down on a Sunday, you’re pretty much on your own. There is no priority mail/ chat support to escalate matters. Moreover, the only way to follow up on your queries is to go back to the forum itself.
The technical help is impersonal. While they respond to your queries, they don’t offer to extend further support in helping you resolve the issue in the quickest possible time. Depending on the issue, multiple messages may have to be exchanged over many days to arrive at a resolution. Again, this can be very frustrating if you have a critical issue like a hack or crash at hand.
blogVault offers personalized email and chat support to all its customers. The support team not only responds to your queries quickly, they also go the distance to ensure that you have all the help you need to resolve the issue. Using emails or chat makes the experience much more pleasant in comparison to a forum and gives you the confidence that your issue is being given due priority. Besides providing excellent support, the team is very responsive to feature requests and bug reports. Undoubtedly, support is one of blogVault’s key strengths.
Click here to read more about what customers have to say about blogVault’s support.
Managing your Backups
Backups aren’t something that directly impacts your business or day-to-day working. So any effort directed at backup management means losing precious productivity hours. So an efficient way to manage backups is a must when it comes to choosing a plugin.
BackupBuddy offers limited flexibility to manage backups from within your WordPress site. However, there are different pages to achieve different things like viewing your backup history, backup schedules, remote destinations, etc. Some of these pages also have multiple tabs in them. A user needs to spend a good amount of time understanding the interface in order to manage all aspects of the plugin. You can only see a list of local backups from within the plugin and not the ones that are sent to remote destinations like Stash or Amazon S3. Managing offsite storage is clearly a challenge with this plugin. Each remote destination needs to be managed separately.
If you have multiple sites being backed up using the same plugin, you have to manage each of them separately from the respective sites. This again can be a very time consuming activity. Lastly and most importantly, if your site goes down, there is no quick way to access your backup and initiate a restore. You must rummage through the files in your remote destination, identify the right version backup, download it to your local system, upload it to your server, and only then can you begin the restore process.
If your site goes down, there is no quick way to access your backups and initiate restore. You must rummage through the files in your remote destination, identify the right version backup, download it to your local system, upload it to your server, and only then can you begin the restore process.
blogVault’s dashboard makes for a clean and simple interface that enables complete backup management. Irrespective of how many sites you’re backing up or what action you want to initiate, everything can be achieved with a few clicks.
With blogVault’s dashboard, you can view and restore backups, migrate your site, download backups, and initiate on demand backups. This easy to use interface makes it possible for you to manage everything from a single place without having to dig.
blogVault’s History page is another important factor when it comes to managing your backups. This includes a list of all the 30 versions of backup that blogVault maintains for you. Apart from details such as number of posts and pages, WordPress version, etc, the History page also highlights the changes in each backup. This is not all. blogVault includes a screenshot of the site corresponding to each backup which can be very handy in determining the right backup at a glance.
Restoring your Backup
From database corruption to human error, there can be many causes for service disruption. Or an evil hacker may have crashed your site causing a complete wipeout of your data. In all these cases, having a plugin with a good restore feature helps you get back to serving your customers quickly.
BackupBuddy’s restore process relies on its importbuddy.php script. It is independent of the site/ backup, so you should always have a copy readily available for use. You should also have your backup file downloaded either from Stash or one of the remote destinations (email, FTP, etc) handy. Remember not to rename this file though the file name may appear too long and cryptic to you. Their importbuddy.php script looks for the backup file based on the name.
Whenever you are looking to restore a backup to your site, you must first upload the importbuddy.php and backup zip files to your server. The importbuddy.php will not run and display an error if a WordPress installation is already present in the destination folder. This may not happen in cases where your site was hacked and wiped clean. However, if you are only looking to fix a botched plugin upgrade or a theme update, you must first delete all the files and folders on your server.
After you’ve cleaned up your WordPress site and uploaded the files to your server, you can begin the restore. The process is kick-started by opening the link http://your.com/importbuddy.php from your browser. The script takes you through 6 steps that are easy enough to understand and navigate through. Once completed, your site is successfully restored.
The good thing is that BackupBuddy restores your complete site, including files and database, using any of the chosen backup files. The drawback lies in identifying the backup file and then uploading it to the server. Since BackupBuddy doesn’t provide any means to view your offsite backup from within the WordPress site, you need to fetch the right backup file from the remote destination and upload it manually to the server. This can be overwhelming regular WordPress users, especially when you’re required to do it in the middle of a site outage.
blogVault’s Auto-Restore is quite true to its name. After you click the Auto-Restore link, all you’ve to do is to enter the FTP credentials and blogVault does the rest of the job for you. The entire process takes up to a few minutes depending on the size of your backup. Once the restore is completed, you also received an email notifying the same.
Migrating your Backup
WordPress users are often faced with the challenge of moving their site to a different host or URL. Downtime is one of the biggest concerns during this movement. It is undoubtedly a blessing to have an automated way to achieving this task.
BackupBuddy provides two ways to migrate your site. One way is to use importbuddy.php script just like you did during the restore. Here is a video that demonstrates the manual migration method. The other method is to add FTP details of the new location as a remote destination and transfer your backup directly to it. This is what BackupBuddy calls “Magic Migration” and here is a video for it.
Just as in the case of restore, you are required to remove all files, folders and database before you can start the migration. While moving to a new host may not be an issue, developers often shuffle between staging and live environments and having to clean up your site before every migration may be annoying in these cases. Moreover, both migration methods involve too many steps.
blogVault simply follows a restore like process to migrate sites. You only need to enter the new URL (if you want to change the URL) and the FTP credentials. blogVault moves all your data including files and database and also rewrites the URLs. Here is a video that demonstrates this process.
Test Restore your Backup
Test Restore is an extremely handy feature that lets you verify a specific version of backup before going live with it. It can be quite a life saver when you’ve to choose the right candidate from a list of backups.
With BackupBuddy, there is no way of knowing if the chosen backup is the right one unless you restore it completely. This might not pose an issue in case your site crashes and you want to revert back to the latest version of backup. However, in cases of botched upgrades or issues during development, you may have to go back to specific older version of your backup. Multiple restores may be needed to narrow down on the right one. One way to work around this problem is to add a detailed note for each backup.
blogVault supports the Test Restore feature using which you can verify any backup version before deploying it. blogVault restores the complete backup temporarily on its test servers so that you can sure of it before proceeding with live deployment.
Test Restore is a wonderful way of verifying a specific version of backup before going live with it. With Test-Restore, you’ll know exactly which version is the right one for you.
Backup for Local Sites
Local sites are commonly used as a development setup by designers while creating or modifying sites for their clients. This activity can span over many weeks and involves considerable effort. Hence it is crucial to take regular backups as a single crash could translate to days/ weeks of wasted effort.
BackupBuddy works seamlessly for local sites too. Web developers often use local servers for their development and then deploy it to a web server on completion. The BackupBuddy plugin can be installed and used for local backups just as in the case of regular sites. There are no extra steps needed to achieve this. Once the development is completed, you can go live with the site using BackupBuddy’s migration process.
blogVault only supports publicly accessible sites. In order to backup a local site, you need to first use a tool that makes your site available outside of your local network. From then on, you can use blogVault to backup your site just like any other. Ngrok is one such free service that helps you achieve this. It provides a URL to your site making it publicly accessible. You can then proceed with using blogVault like any regular site using this URL.
Support for Large Sites
Most backup plugins work fine for regular sites. But if you have site that spans many GBs in size, the plugin choice becomes far more crucial. Many plugins are known to slow down your site and even fail when it comes to working with such large sites.
BackupBuddy claims that it doesn’t impose any set limits on the size of the site. However, it admits to hitting limitations with respect to server configurations in a shared hosting environment. When I tried using BackupBuddy for a site of size 1GB, the backup process popped up a warning that indicated a failed backup –
But it recovered well enough after this hiccup and went on to complete the backup in about 30 minutes. Subsequent backups also took about the same amount of time to complete, with different warning messages each time. Once such message was “Warning: The function `backup_zip_files` is taking an abnormally long time to complete (1390 seconds). The backup may have failed. If it does not increase in the next few minutes it most likely timed out. See the Status Log for details.”
blogVault works flawlessly with large sites owing it its incremental method of backup. Although the first backup took over 30 minutes to complete, there were no warnings or errors. But what’s even better is that subsequent backups took just a few minutes to complete as it only picks up the changes since the last backup.
The cost factor is the last on my list. This is because I strongly believe that the cost of losing your data is far higher than the price of a backup plugin. However, it is important to be convinced that your hard earned money is being spent on a reliable service that’ll deliver what’s needed without any hassles.
BackupBuddy’s basic plan starts with 2 sites for $80 per year. This would have been quite reasonable had it included a good amount of storage space too. Unfortunately, this plan only comes with 1GB of Stash and you’ll have to pay more for additional storage. Backup Buddy charges $35 per year for 5GB of space. If you have just one site, you’ll still have to pay for two. Above all, you’ll have to take into account all the factors that we’ve discussed so far in the article before making a choice.
blogVault charges $89 per year for a single site license, including 5GB of storage. With its incremental backup method, blogVault efficiently uses this space to store maximum number of backups. The other features such as Auto Restore, Migration, and Test Restore make for a complete backup service. Above all, blogVault’s customized support really makes the difference at the end of the day.
Backup Buddy is a plugin that will work well if you are an experienced WordPress developer with a large number of sites, a hosting that is compatible, and you’ve done the math for the additional storage needed. blogVault goes beyond being a mere plugin and provides a complete backup service. This is more suited for small bloggers, new users, or even large organizations who want to stay at ease with the knowledge that everything is being managed by a group of experts. I’ll go with blogVault. What about you?