GitLab deleted the wrong database, but when ineffective backup solutions got added to the mix, the site’s system admins had to battle the perfect storm to get the site online. The takeaway from this situation? Choose your backup solutions carefully.
GitLab, the online tech hub, is facing issues as a result of an accidental database deletion that happened in the wee hours of last night. A tired, frustrated system administrator thought that deleting a database would solve the lag-related issues that had cropped up… only to discover too late that he’d executed the command for the wrong database.
What Went Wrong with GitLabs’ Backups
While the horror of the incident might have been mitigated by the fact that GitLab had not one but five backup methods in place, the problem was that all of them were discovered to be ineffective. Here’s a quick run-through of the different backup methods GitLab had, and what went wrong with each of them:
The LVM snapshot backup wasn’t up-to-date– the last snapshot was manually created by the system admin 6 hours before the database deletion.
The backup furnished on a staging environment was not functional– it automatically had the webhooks removed, and the replication process from this source wasn’t trustworthy since it was prone to errors.
Their automatic backup solution was storing backups in an unknown location, and to top it, it seemed that older backups had been cleaned out.
Backups stored on Azure were incomplete: they only had data from the NFS server but not from the DB server
Another solution that was supposed to upload backups to Amazon S3 wasn’t working; so there were no backups in the bucket
As a result of these issues, the system admins are struggling to get the 6-hour old backup online. The progress of the data restoration has been closely followed by well-wishers, and many have appreciated the website’s transparency, especially under such duress.
How to Identify a Good Backup Solution
It’s certainly freaky that all the five backup solutions that GitLab had were ineffective, but this incident demonstrates that a number of things can go wrong with backups. The real aim for any backup solution, is to be able to restore data with ease… but simple oversights could render backup solutions useless. This is why you should watch out for the following traits in any backup solution:
Backup solutions should match your need In the case of GitLabs, automatic backups were made once in every 24 hours. Considering the amount of data being added every minute, however, real-time backups would have been perfect for them. While not being the best in terms of data-conservation, the last manual backup was performed by the system admin 6 hours before the crash, and so was the most viable option. Choosing the right backup solution for your need requires the consideration of the frequency of data-addition, the levels of user activity, and the server load.
Backup solutions should allow easy, quick restoration The problem with GitLab’s backups stored on its staging environment, was that the replication process was difficult to manage. When you’re already burdened with the responsibility of getting your site back up, you shouldn’t be worrying about the restoration process.
The backup solution should be completely independent of your site… in a known location In the GitLab situation, the problem was not knowing the backup destination. This isn’t a problem with WordPress backup solutions,since they usually store backups on your site’s server… or on a personal storage account (such as Dropbox, Drive or Amazon S3). However, this means most of the time, they either require you to access your crashed site for backups… or they store the API key to these accounts on your site (which poses its own problems). Both these options present Catch-22 situations of ‘site is down so need backups, can’t access backups because site is down’. It’s important for you to know all there is to know about your backup destinations.
The backup solution should backup your entire site Backups that only contain part of your site (such as GitLabs’ Azure backups) aren’t really reliable when your site goes down. In the case of WordPress backups, some solutions might backup your site except for custom tables (such as those installed by WooCommerce), so you need to be wary of such situations.
You should be able to easily test your backups The real problem with all the backup solutions GitLabs had, was that they hadn’t previously tested them… and hence had to give them a hard second look after encountering restoration-related problems. The real concern is that their backups weren’t discovered to be inefficient until they actually needed them. This is why testing backups should be a part of your backup strategy.
We’re all human at the end of the day, and the job of a systems admin, especially when overloaded with spam, can never be taken lightly. This is why backups exist– to have an easy ‘undo’ in case there ever is an error, and your site goes down, or data is lost. We can only hope that things go well for the GitLab team, as they rush to get their data back.
Losing a single order has significant financial costs for online stores. Real-time backup for WooCommerce sites is the answer; but only if you know for what it is that you’re signing up.
For online stores, the clock does not confine business hours. The window is open 24/7 and users place orders at all times of the day. You cannot afford for either your site to go down or to lose even one of those orders. Both these scenarios will harm your revenue.
Despite all the security measures you take there is no fool-proof plan. For this reason, having a robust backup plan plays a key role in an online store’s strategy to safeguard orders, payments and other data.
Online stores built on WordPress; the most popular CMS in the World, mostly use the WooCommerce plugin. If you too operate your business via the ‘WooCommerce window’ then it is important to know the challenges of backing up WooCommerce sites and the backup solutions available to you. Between 2010 and 2013, the average cost of downtime per minute increased by 54% from $5,000 to $8,000. While the average downtime during the same period decreased by only 11%, the cost of being offline is rising all the time.
What is WooCommerce?
A quick introduction— WooCommerce is a popular e-commerce platform for WordPress sites. The platform offers many extensions and themes to transform WordPress sites into online stores. As part of this, WooCommerce offers extensions for accounting, marketing, inventory, customer service, and payment gateways among others; to easily build e-commerce sites.
Regular Backups Aren’t Ideal for WooCommerce Sites
Regular backup solutions are not an ideal fit for WooCommerce sites. Transactions on online stores don’t occur at regular intervals. However, when they do happen, they are important and all of the data related to the transactions needs to be backed up. This cannot wait till the end of the interval which may be at the end of the day or the end of the hour.
Losing Orders– The “Oh, NO!” Moment
As we mentioned, on online stores orders trickle round-the-clock. The rate of orders received may vary through any given day, but all orders are equally important.
Just like, orders, the “Oh, NO!” moment can occur at any time of the day. Your website may start malfunctioning or crash at any given point of the day. Waiting for regular backups to backup hourly or daily would mean losing details about orders and transactions made on your website.
Frequent Backups Can Be Resource Intensive
If you decide to run regular backups frequently to avoid losing orders, then you will end up slowing down your site. If your backup plugin is performing backups every few minutes, then your server resources are split between making backups and responding to requests made by the visitors to your site. This will harm the user-experience. Lags in page load times or site performance is as good as turning away potential customers.
Real-time Backup for WooCommerce Sites Is the Answer
A backup solution needs to be comprehensive in backing up all the changes while making efficient use of resources to ensure that user-experience is not affected. Real-time backups is the answer for WooCommerce sites. However, not all real-time backup solutions are the same. Knowing what real-time backups do and knowing how different real-time backup solutions perform backups may make or break your site’s backup strategy.
What Are Real-time Backups?
Real-time backup tracks and save the changes to your site as and when they happen. For example, if a customer places an order on your website then that change is immediately tracked and saved. This ensures that you have the most up-to-date backups from which you can restore your site; and more importantly not lose any orders.
The Challenge of Backing Up WooCommerce Sites
WooCommerce sites cannot be backed up like regular WordPress sites.
A WordPress site has two parts– Files & Database. Database contains information about posts, pages and users apart from other things. In short, the database contains all the content on your site. Such information is stored in the form of tables on your WordPress site. These tables are known as standard tables and come with every WordPress installation.
However, a WooCommerce site has additional information to store which are all important to your business. To store this information, WooCommerce installs custom tables on your WordPress site when the WooCommerce plugin is installed. This is in addition to the standard WordPress tables. Below is a list of some WooCommerce tables and the information they contain.
You cannot afford to not have backups because piecing together items, payment and shipping information for every order can be laborious and it is time that you simply cannot afford.
The immediate financial loss resulting from downtime is only around 1/5th of the overall loss according to estimates. The loss of trust in a potential buyer in returning to your site will continue to harm your revenues even after your site is up and running. This dip in trust, and orders; as part of the after-effect of downtime is said to account for the remaining 4/5th of the loss resulting from downtime.
Regular Real-time Backups Don’t Do the Trick for WooCommerce Sites
To be up and running as quickly as possible without losing data is the goal. To completely backup your WooCommerce site, it is obvious that your backup solution will need to backup both standard tables and WooCommerce custom tables in real-time.
Regular real-time backup solutions; however, do not backup custom tables installed by the WooCommerce plugin. This is a big problem because all the orders and payments are stored on the custom tables installed by the WooCommerce plugin. This renders regular real-time backups completely ineffective for WooCommerce sites.
Ask About the Method of Making Real-time Backups
Even if you find a real-time backup solution which backs up standard tables and WooCommerce custom tables; like BlogVault does, the method of making backups may impact the performance of your website and the efficacy of your backups. Broadly, there are two models of making real-time backups– the push model and the pull model.
First let us take a look at the push model…
Push Model of Making Real-time Backups
With the push model, your site ‘pings’ the backup server that an ‘event’ has occurred. The backup server then checks for what changes have occurred and then saves them to the backup server.
You can see that the push model requires constant communication between your site and the backup server. Although this seems like a good idea, chances are that the performance of the WordPress site may be suffering.
Along with your site performance your backup speed may also suffer. If servers are overloaded, then there may be delays in performing backups; or worse backups may not happen at all. Such delays mean that the push model may not always offer ‘real-time’ backups after all.
The alternative is the pull model of real-time backups; and this where BlogVault comes into the picture.
Intelligent Real-time Backups by BlogVault
BlogVault’s real-time backup follows the pull model; and focuses on being comprehensive and efficient. Changes to your WordPress site are immediately tracked and saved on the site itself. The BlogVault (BV) servers checks for changes every 5 mins. and ‘pulls’ those changes to BV servers. Once the changes are securely saved to BV’s servers, then the next set of changes on the site are tracked and saved.
The pull model ensures that all the changes are saved without making excessive demands on your site’s server resources. The backup process doesn’t affect your site performance.
BlogVault Backs Up WooCommerce Tables As Well
Apart from utilizing the resource-efficient pull model for real-time backups, BlogVault backs up custom WooCommerce tables as well. This ensures that none of the data related to your orders is lost upon restoring your site.
If your backup solution does not automatically backup WooCommerce tables as well then it is not a viable option for e-commerce sites.
You Can’t Afford Not to Have Real-time Backups
Real-time backups are a real need for WooCommerce sites. While calculating the cost of downtime it is also important to understand the cost of not having an efficient solution for WooCommerce backups.
An ideal WordPress backup solution offers a number of features. However, there are two questions you can ask that will help you choose the best WordPress backup plugin for you. They are , what features does the plugin have, and how do they work?
What Makes an Ideal WordPress Backup Plugin?
There is a long list of features which make an ideal WordPress backup plugin.
Multiple copies of each version
Independent storage and access
Secure site settings
A combination of all of the above sounds like a good deal; doesn’t it?
Most of these features are covered between the popular backup options available on the market. Also, most premium options have most of the above mentioned features. However, it is not useful to say this. It is like saying that every car has an engine, seats, wheels and steering. Just like cars, when it comes to backup solutions, it is all about how they perform; and you really need to do your homework first.
There are two points of entry to the debate on the best WordPress backup plugin. One is the differences in features between all the different plugins; despite the uniform titles. The other point of debate is the user experience. What does a good WordPress backup solution do, and how does it do it? Both these questions should be equally relevant.
In this article we explore how following best practices as well as being efficient can answer both: the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ questions.
1. WordPress Incremental Backup Plugin
Increased load times or frequent timeouts is highly undesirable in today’s competitive environment. This is is particularly a problem for WordPress sites on shared hosting. Incremental backups is perfect for such circumstances.
For example, let us say that you have photography focused website with high resolution images uploaded everyday. If your entire site had to be backed up daily, then chances are that the backups ruin the user experience of you site’s visitors or your backups may cut off for taking up too much server resources.
On the other hand, consider that automatic incremental backups of your WordPress site are done daily. After the first initial full backup, each day only the latest updates are backed up. This ensures that you don’t lose any data while the backup solution does not unnecessarily load your server resources. The plugin can scan the site for changes, recognize that the high resolution images are backed up, and only add the changes to the latest version of the backups. This means that, media – images and videos which are generally the the most heavy files on a site do not become an extra burden with incremental backups.
2. Control over entire WordPress database & all WordPress files
A WordPress sites contain files and tables. You must be able to know that all the tables, and files on your site have been backed up. If not you must be able to add them. This is possible when you have access to a list which gives you this kind of information; a good WordPress backup solution must offer such access. From such a list, you may also be able to download specific files from WordPress backup. The same applies to specific tables in your WordPress database as well. This depends on your requirements but you need to have the option.
Such a feature along with versioned backups allows for restoration of specific files instead of the entire site. This is important if you know the exact pain point on your site. It can be fixed with ease and minimize down-times. This type of granular control is essential when choosing a WordPress backup solution.
The dread of having to sift through thousands of files; when you’re running against the clock to get your site back up and get around to doing business, is unacceptable.
3. One-click Restore/Migrate
When you pay for a solution to do the work for you, then you shouldn’t have to manually restore or migrate your site. Otherwise, there is little point to lightening your wallet, is there? A plugin must allow for one-click WordPress restore and one-click migrate options. Managing your site’s functionality in the most critical hours must not be your headache. Usually in such instances inputting your SFTP credentials, destination URL and email id should be enough to easily migrate your WordPress site.
4. Test restore option
Apart from restores and migrations, it is equally important for you to be able to ensure that your backups or migrations work as desired. Allowing for a test environment to verify the functionality of different backup versions of your WordPress is just a good practice but unfortunately, most plugins don’t offer this. It boosts your confidence in your backups and ensures that the reputation of your blog/business is intact.
5. Great customer support
A service or product which does not allow you to track all the activities from the dashboard, notify you by email will only worry you about routine processes. If the time comes when you have to get your hands dirty, then you should not do the work yourself when you are paying for a service. This is reason you need great customer support.
6. Completely independent dashboard
With a completely independent dashboard you have access to and control over your backups always. This means that, unlike other plugins which store backups in your site’s files, you don’t have to restore your site to get your hands on your safety net a.k.a. your backups. Besides, the whole point of backups is to restore your site. If that is not supported well enough then backups are not good enough by themselves. You need to know that you have access to secure backups. Multiple copies of encrypted off-site backups is a must.
All the above mentioned best practices will ensure that you’ll find the right value for your money when you need the best WordPress backup plugin.
WordPress comprises two parts- files and database. WordPress core, plugins, themes, and uploads are saved as files. On the other hand, posts, comments, settings and users are stored as database.
Here we will show you how to backup the database part of your WordPress site using phpMyAdmin. To know how to backup WordPress files check our article on how to manually backup WordPress files.
Why backup your WordPress Database?
WordPress database stores your posts, pages, users and other information. In short, all the content you put up on the site. Without backing up the database you’ll lose all the content and users’ information of your site. When it is time to restore all you’ll have is WordPress files with plugins and themes but no content.
How to Backup your WordPress Database?
Most web hosts have phpMyAdmin installed in their cPanel.
It is a simple 5 step process to download and backup the database on your entire site. In case you want to download specific files only, then you might have to go through a couple of more steps.
Steps to make WordPress database backup
Access phpMyAdmin through your cPanel dashboard. At this point, you’ll need to have your FTP details, username and password for the SQL database. Input the the username and password which was used to save your SQL database.
Clicking on WordPress (or whatever is the name of the database you wish to backup) in the left hand column on your screen must reveal the tables.
Click on Export among the tabs on the top of your screen. This must reveal two simple options- Quick & Custom.
Choosing the Quick option would mean making the default choice to backup your entire database.
If this is not what you want to do and you want to backup specific tables, then you pick the Custom option. Here is where the options kick in. Having completed Step 2 you must now see a list of tables. You can select the specific ones you want to download and backup.
Choosing the file format of the database backup. You can do this, regardless of which option you pick in Step 3. Data is available in different file formats. You can choose the default option- SQL or pick any of the other formats in which to save your WordPress database. Click on GO and you are done.
The download itself may take a few minutes depending on the size of your site. Remember, WordPress database backup covers only covers comments and users and so on. It is not a full backup of your WordPress site.
Backing up your WordPress site means to backup both WordPress files as well as WordPress database. All WordPress sites contain both these parts. They store different sets of information and missing out on one or the other may mean that you’ll have a tough time restoring your site.
While database stores posts, pages and users, among other things, WordPress files store all the plugins and themes, WP core installation, images and other files. In short, WordPress files are responsible for the look and feel of your site.
This article only deals with how to make WordPress backup using FTP. Using FTP you can only backup your WordPress files. This will not help you restore your actual site. To know how to download your database using phpMyAdmin, refer to the article on how you can make WordPress database backup.
Setup to Make WordPress Backups Using FTP
Let’s dive straight into it. To make WordPress backups using FTP, first you must have access to your site files. You can achieve this by setting up an FTP account. To setup an account, typically, you have to use ‘FTP Accounts’ via your cPanel dashboard. cPanel access is usually given by your web hosting provider when you sign up for the service.
Tip: If finding FTP Accounts in cPanel is proving difficult due to a cluttered dashboard then simply use CTRL+F to make it easier.
To set up an FTP account you will need to input a login ID and password. Along with this, a directory will be created in your site files. Once you hit the ‘create FTP account’ button you must have access to your website files. (If you have trouble doing this then contact your web host service provider for assistance.)
Step 1: Install an FTP Client
In order to manipulate or act on the files you now have access to via your FTP account, you will need a tool. That tool is an FTP Client. FTP clients provide the interface for you to access your WordPress files. You can do so by entering your FTP account credentials.
For the purposes of demonstration, this article uses FileZilla. Download and install FileZilla.
Step 2: Manual Setup
In the case of FileZilla you’ll see a form at the top of the page to fill in your site IP address, your FTP account username, and password. Inputting these details and clicking on ‘Connect’ must allow the FTP client (in this case FileZilla) to connect to the server on which your site is hosted.
Once the FTP client establishes a connection you should be able to see your site directory on the right hand column- “Remote Site”. The left hand side shows the local folders and files (in this case, the files on your computer).
If you are not sure of which files you have to download then a useful guideline is to search for a directory containing folders such as “wp-admin” and “wp-content”. There will also be a bunch of files in that directory, such as “index.php” and “wp-config.php”.
Step 3: Create a Destination Folder for making WordPress Backup
Ensure that you have a destination folder on your computer to which you want to download the files. Usually it is best to create a new folder for each backup. It allows you to be organised and be more efficient when you want to restore from one of these backups.
You can create a new folder in the dashboard of the FTP client itself. Right click on the folder in which you wish to create the new folder and choose create new directory. Input a name for the folder and hit “Enter” and you’re done.
Step 4: Drag and Drop
From here on simply choose the WordPress files you want to backup by clicking on them. Holding the down the CTRL key when clicking will allow you to choose multiple files at once. Drag the chosen files from the ‘Remote Site section and drop them in the directory you just created in the ‘Local Site’ section. The download process must begin as soon as you do this.
Fair warning… Downloading all the files may take a while. Grab a quick bite to eat or take walk. Before that ensure that your system has power and that your internet connection is stable.
If making manual backups it not feasible for you because of the time and effort it entails, then you can choose and WordPress backups services which automate the process for you.
You can not only track if all the files in your site and the tables in your database are getting backed up, but add/remove them to/from backups; and even download them whenever you desire. All by just clicking a couple of buttons- backup with ease and stay safe.
Reaching for your spare tire, only to find out that it is not working; or worse, that it is missing altogether is unacceptable. WordPress backups are a little more complicated than changing car tires and just like your car tires, there is a lot riding on them too. Your lifetime’s work or the hard-earned reputation of your business is at stake.
The number of WordPress (WP) backup plugins that are available in the market today must make it seem that problems regarding backups are a thing of the past. But, as we said, backups are complicated. A lot can go wrong when you are using stand-alone plugins (meaning ones that operate on the Software-as-a-Product model).
Many articles refer to how the SaaS model economically benefits the end user, however, there are many use-case benefits too. In this article we’ll look at some common issues with stand-alone WP backup plugins, and how a managed WP backup service is a better option.
Why Your WordPress Backups Will Fail With the SaaP Model
Installing the plugin is the beginning. Once installed, a stand-alone WordPress backup plugin must be configured. Very often people underestimate how backup plugins may become relatively labor-intensive and accrue more expenditure over time. These may come in different forms including add-ons and premium account features that may be essential to your business.
Some problems you may run into when you’re using a stand-alone WP backup plugin include:
Getting Started: Once a plugin is installed, a remote backup destination must be selected. You can select services like your Google Drive account, Dropbox, or Amazon S3 servers. After this, you must input the login credentials of those accounts.
Add-ons: To get the desired setup for your backups, your plugin may require that you buy an add-on. Add-ons can soon build up to become a considerable list. While calculating the cost of a plugin, add-ons must be accounted for, in order to get a fair estimate.
Saving backups in more than one destination may need an add-on, and extra charges may be applied.
Other features like encrypted backups of your website’s database may not be available unless you pay more for add-ons or upgrade to premium accounts. This means your backups are not really secure even after investing all this time, energy and money.
Tracking: Ensuring that backups are happening is important so that you know exactly what resources you have to draw upon in your hour of need.
If you’re storing backups on your Amazon S3 account, it needs to be configured to send you notifications when backups occur or when changes are made to files (these are called ‘event’ notifications).
Otherwise, you may have to pay more to your plugin company for email notifications. An alternative option is to login to WP website dashboard each time.
Key to Your Backups: While backing up your website to your Dropbox account or your own Amazon S3 account, most plugins store a copy of the API key/S3 access key on your WordPress site. The key is how the WordPress backup plugin on your site accesses the backup destination. This may not be in keeping with best practices of performing WordPress backups. In such cases, a hacker who has access to your site, may also have access to your backups via the security key.
Know-how: Managing your own Amazon S3 account requires you to know how the account stores your information (buckets, objects) and other points like access control, and versioning so that you can make sure that your data is secure.
When You Need to Restore: Apart from all these points, when you need to use your backups to restore your site, you’ll need to unzip the folders and manually restore the files correctly. This may not be the best option for everyone.
Storage Options: The plugin company may provide storage space. This option, like in the case of Amazon S3 servers, is an extra charge over the plugin that you must bear. It is a recurring cost to you, which must be paid periodically (monthly/quarterly).
Like we mentioned backups are complicated. If for any reason backups stop happening or problem occurs, then it is important that you’re notified immediately. For example, an error in the plugin has stopped it from backing up your site without notifying you. Otherwise if you have exceeded the storage limit of your backup destination then backups may stop occurring. Regardless of the scenario immediate notifications are very important.
The burden of solving all of these issues; on top of running your business/blog, fall on you, when you purchase a software product.
Regardless of the cause, the net result is that you’re stranded on the freeway, with no (usable) spare and your tire is a software product. This means, it’s likely that you may not have anyone to call for ‘tech support’. This is not a scenario you want to be caught in when you look for your backups.
Now consider that an expert is looking after your tires, maintaining the air pressure, checking the rims and upgrading the tire as the weather and the terrain changes; along with making sure that it is in the boot of your car. This would simplify and enhance your business, wouldn’t it?
How to Ensure That Your WordPress Backup Always Works
And, how can the SaaS model solve the issues mentioned above, for you?
When you get a subscription to a software, you are getting a service. A team of experts are managing and maintaining the software and the hardware. They are responsible for granting you access.
Let us clarify, SaaS doesn’t mean that there is no need to download and install a plugin. As in the case of BlogVault, the plugin can be very light as all the complexity sits on the provider’s server, where the heavy-lifting is done. For the user this means:
Zero-configuration: Install the plugin and it begins its work. You are ready to use BlogVault from the moment your subscription is active. The backup process starts automatically when you first login.
(This is the main reason this list is relatively short. Remember the long list of configuration issues with standalone backup plugins? Web-hosted software means, all of that responsibility for the managing the plugin and off-site storage is off your hands. Everything is covered for in the subscription.)
Lesser load on the site, better performance– Site performance and page load times are crucial to delivering good user experience cannot be overstated, as even marginal differences show measurable changes in results.
Rapid Updates: Updates happen mostly on the service provider’s server, reducing the frequency of updates required on your site.
Backups are safe even when your site is compromised: Backups; because they are completely independent of your website, are accessible even when your website is down. You don’t need to get your site running to access your backups.
Incremental Backups: This means large sites are also completely backed up without hassle. Backing up only the changes means faster and more efficient backups.
Expert Tech Support: A team of experts maintain the software and the hardware. You can not only count on tech support, but know that the team can be highly responsive as they are maintaining the backups themselves. This can help at times of Test Restore, Auto Restore and Migrations. For more on these features you can check out BlogVault.
Now you know the differences between SaaP and SaaS models in the context of WordPress Backup. Make an informed choice that gives you the most scope for developing your business, without adding to your task list or financial burden.
Daily backups offer a balance between minimizing data loss & minimizing load on server/site. Is it, however, the most optimum WordPress backup frequency for your WordPress site? Here’s what you need to know about the different methods; and the pros and cons of each of them.
Daily WordPress Backups
Who is it for?
Daily backups are a good option for sites which make numerous changes in a month. These may be blogs that predominantly have content additions everyday, or news/magazine sites which have scheduled daily updates.
Even if daily changes are not made to your site, daily backups may be worth considering. WordPress sites depend on plugins, and themes. As you well know updates to plugins and themes, along with updates to WordPress Core are very important for the sake of your site’s security, and functionality.
Updates are not released at the same time and different plugins and themes have to be updated regularly. While these updates are important, they are part of a complex mix of softwares that together form your WordPress site. If you make an update and the site crashes then it is easy to pinpoint the problem. Often this is not the case. Problems only surface days; maybe weeks after a handful of changes are made. In such cases identifying the issue is a laborious matter.
Performing daily backups ensures that such updates are also saved. You can then restore your site with minimal or no data loss, and figure out any issue affecting your website, later. When you restore your site, fewer of those updates have to be made to harden your site’s security. Otherwise, without those updates, even if you restore your site it may have many vulnerabilities putting you at constant risk.
Advantages of Daily Backups
Good backup solutions optimize between resources consumed and efficiency. Daily backups bring the following advantages:
Reduces data loss
Provides the option of multiple backup versions to test and restore
Requires least tinkering once restored – updates made to plugins and themes can be retained.
Methods for Making Daily Backups
You can make daily backups in a few different ways. While all the methods used to make daily backups will offer the above mentioned advantages, each method also brings its own challenges. Let us explore them one by one.
Making manual backups of your WordPress site is an additional, laborious job to add to your everyday business task list. Remembering to make backups or taking out the time for it may not always be possible.
Securely storing backups is another issue that you are solely responsible for while making manual backups. HDDs or external HDDs or USB drives have been known to fail. Local storage devices, and the data stored in them can also become infected with malware.
Testing backups before restoring/migrating them can become a challenge when you are making manual backups and storing them locally.
Web Hosting Service
While many web hosting services offer backups and it is a seemingly convenient option, it is important to note that not all hosting services offer daily backups. Most of the time, premium web hosts like Flywheel, and WP Engine that do offer daily backups come at a premium price. Sometimes web hosts offer other backups solutions as add-ons and these come with additional costs.
A premium price tag may not be the only drawback when you choose your hosting service as your WordPress backup service. Backups with web hosts don’t have backup descriptions, which makes identifying and restoring the right version a very tedious process. Also, if your backups are stored by your web hosts then they might not be completely independent of your site. It means that your backups may be exposed to all the risks to which your site is exposed. For example, if your hosting service is hacked or the infrastructure is affected by a natural disaster, then chances are that along with your website, your backups are also lost. This is not an ideal way to store backups.
WordPress Backup Plugin
Some backup plugins are free and allow you to schedule your WordPress backups. While these plugins will help you perform daily backups, storage may be an added issue for you to consider. This is because not all plugins offer independent storage options. You can link your cloud storage account (for example, your Dropbox account) to these plugins. Doing so, however, usually means that the plugins store an API key of these accounts on your WordPress site. API keys are how the backup plugins communicate with your backup destination. However, it exposes backups to similar risks as your site. This may allow for your backups to be compromised when your site is hacked.
Backup plugins have to be installed on your site. If you lose access to your site for some reason then using the plugin to restore your site is not possible.
Tip: If you decide to use a WordPress backup plugin it may become important for you to track your WordPress site’s traffic. Backups can be resource intensive and making a backup when most visitors come to your site might slow the site and spoil the user experience.
WordPress Backup Service
A WordPress backup service offers a more complete backups solution. Backup services perform incremental backups and automatically upload backups to completely independent storage.
Incremental backups mean that only those parts of the site which have changed since the last backup are stored. This means that you do not have to worry about large sites not getting backed up, or about forgetting to perform backups.
Backup storage comes as part of the service and you do not have risk using your personal accounts. Backup services also offer simplified processes for restoring and migrating your site. BlogVault offers you a one-click, test restore option which allows you test your sites on an automatically generated staging environment, before restoring them.
Choosing a WordPress backup frequency and solution for your site depends on a few factors– budget, frequency of changes to the site, time available, and the size of the site. There is a case to be made for daily backups as the most optimum frequency for most sites, barring sites with a high frequency of changes like e-commerce or news sites, (which might need solutions providing real-time backups instead). Knowing the advantages and challenges with making daily backups can help you make an informed decision.
Frequent WordPress backups can minimize data loss and thereby greatly help your business. However, they can be resource-intensive and affect your WordPress site performance, if not done right.
Frequent backups present some obvious advantages which are particularly important for WordPress (WP) sites. Content creation takes some planning, effort and resources. Losing such content may become a major setback for your website. Daily backups minimize data loss in such cases.
WordPress sites are dependent on many third party plugins and themes. WordPress site owners are always running the risk of installing software that is not compatible with other plugins or themes on the site or installing those which may have some vulnerabilities. The risk of losing data from frequent updates and third-party software vulnerabilities is mitigated to a degree by having up-to-date backups.
Advantages of Frequent Backups
Minimize data loss
Retain updates & functionalities on WP sites
What are Frequent Backup Options?
Of course real-time backups is the best solution to achieve the goals stated above. Hourly/Daily backups may be the most frequent options apart from that.
Challenges with Frequent Backups
Higher frequency of performing backups brings its own complications. Backing up sites not only makes demands on your server resources but also brings up the issue of secure storage of the backups made. To add to the list of issues to consider, tracking whether backups have happened correctly and what has been backed up is not always easy.
Backups are Complicated
We have been in the business of premium WordPress backup service for over five years now. A number of things can, and do go wrong with backups. Sometimes when someone opts to backup their site manually, it is as simple as forgetting to perform frequent backups.
Often, WordPress site owners don’t know if backups are happening according to plan. Sometimes not all files are backed up.
In cases where site owners may have backups, restoring sites may not be easy. At other times, site owners who are relying on backups by web hosting services may not be fully aware of backup & storage policies. As a result, there have been times when WordPress site owners find out that there may not be any backups when they need it the most.
Increased load on your server resources could lead to an increased site load time or pages crashing. Otherwise, the user experience of visitors to your site may be spoiled because certain elements in the site may not function as intended.
Large Sites Offer Their Own Problems
Backing up larger sites takes more time & more resources. In such cases it is possible that certain sites may not get backed up at all. This is because hosting services; especially on shared hosting, have policies about the time, and the server-resources that a particular task can take. In such cases although you may have employed a backup solution, your site may have not been backed up at all, or may have been backed up incompletely. In both cases, restoring the site is not possible.
Storage Space & Security
Frequent backups lead to multiple copies. Storing these copies securely can be a challenge. Storing backups on your own Dropbox accounts or local storage devices like your PC’s hard drive (HDD) or USB drive is not recommended.
Backups stored locally can become infected with malware as you are constantly browsing and downloading files. Also, HDDS or USB drives have been known to crash. This doesn’t even account for the risks associated with accidents and natural disasters.
Storage may drive up the cost of storing backups as you may have to invest in independent storage solutions.
In all the above cases the real risk is that eventually when you need to restore your site you may not have backups, have incomplete or infected backup files. This is not the optimal scenario for your business. Probably a good way to evaluate a backup solution is to list some scenarios in which you would need to rely on backups, and see if the backup solution in question will give you access to backups and allow you to restore your WordPress site.
The Answer?: Backup Service as a Solution
A WordPress backup service like BlogVault will not only take care of storage space and security but make incremental backups. This intelligent approach ensures that even large sites on shared hosting can be completely backed up. Apart from this backups services may also eliminate cache and log files from backups, thereby reducing problems at the time of restores. All of this is done automatically, thereby eliminating the human errors so that you can go about your business without worry.
With a WordPress backup service restoring your site is always the goal. When the time comes you will have multiple backups versions; securely stored, from which you can choose. You can also automatically restore your site with a single-click. Of, course a backup service comes with a more premium price tag but with the price you’ll have backups with best practices at your disposal.
Over the past few months, we’ve been working on a number of changes at BlogVault. Not only do we have an improved UI, we’ve also got a bunch of new features that are bound to make managing your WordPress site a lot easier, and secure.
BlogVault has got a new dashboard that is better in every way, from allowing users to access our features for intuitively, to providing more than just backups.
Let’s take a look at a few of the changes, shall we?
Your BlogVault dashboard now has two major areas:
Each area has specific functions, and together provide:
Ease of Use
BlogVault’s new site listing feature helps you see all the sites you’ve added to your BlogVault dashboard. From this part of the dashboard, you can filter sites based on their status:
‘Active’ sites are those that have the BlogVault plugin installed on them, and use the plugin regularly.
‘No Plugin’ sites are those added to your dashboard but haven’t got the BlogVault plugin installed. (This could also be because of a problem during installation.)
Sites that are ‘Unreachable’ are those that have the plugin installed, but our servers are unable to reach, due to a connectivity error, or probably due to firewall or network settings.
‘Hacked’ sites are those that the BlogVault plugin has detected malicious files on.
We built in this categorization of sites to help you see exactly what’s going on with your sites at a glance. Moreover, the Site Listing page also allows you to find a particular site, based on tags that they might have (more on this later).
Easier Account Control
With our revamp, we’ve also changed your account and billing settings so they’re easier for you to manage.
Everything related to your BlogVault account is easily accessible, and easily changeable too from the ‘My Account’ drop-down. You can change anything about your account, from your email address to the BlogVault subscription plan you’re on.
Optimized for Teams
This brings us to our other new addition: the option to add team members to your BlogVault account. Our new Account settings allows you to manage a team that can handle every aspect of backup, management and security of the sites linked to the BlogVault account.
New, Improved Features
BlogVault now comes as a comprehensive package that allows our customers to backup, manage and secure their websites in every way. All you have to do, is to click on any one active site from your Site Listing page.
As you can see, we offer you WordPress backups, but also management and security settings that help you manage and secure your WordPress site. While the old UI allowed you to see all the features on the right in a sidebar, we’ve revamped BlogVault to let you to see it all under each option (Backup/Management/Security).
Our backup features have always been functional enough to rely on completely, but with our new UI, they’re more accessible, and easier to use.
The History tab has been given a full revamp, and allows you to see the last 30 backups made of your site more clearly. You can see exactly what happened with each backup, and add notes more easily as well.
Again, as you can see, you can select any backup version you have and choose to migrate, test restore, or automatically restore from it. You can also upload any version to Dropbox, or add a notes to help you differentiate versions.
Download Backup / Upload Backup
Both ‘Download Backup’ and ‘Upload to Dropbox’ options are very different functions, but have a single form, that requires the following:
The backup version you would like to download (or upload from)
Your site’s database credentials
Your hosting server’s credentials (which come under Advanced Options, along with the next option)
A choice of whether you’d like to store either tables and files, only tables, or only files from your WordPress site
There is also a section that requires your HTTP Authentication credentials, which are your WordPress site’s credentials.
The ‘Migrate’ option allows you to easily move all your site’s content and functionality to a different domain name or a different hosting service. All you require for this option, are the FTP credentials of the new site/domain/hosting service you’d like to move to.
Perfect for when your site suddenly goes down, the ‘Auto Restore’ backup option has the same form to fill up, except that it requires the FTP credentials of the site you’d like to restore (which is your current site).
As you can see from the previous screenshot, we’ve also got a handy FAQ section on the right for all migration and auto restore- related FTP questions, so you have all the answers at your fingertips.
This option creates a test-environment (a replica), based on the latest backup version of your site, complete with the links, videos, images, and everything else on your site. You can click on these links, and they’ll work like they would on your site. Once BlogVault is done creating this test-version of your site, we mail you the link you can access it on, along with its FTP details, so you can experiment and see if you want to make any changes to your site.
If you’d like to make a Test-Restore of a different backup version of your site, you’ll have to go to the History tab, select the desired backup version, and then restore from it.
BlogVault automatically backups your WordPress site every 24 hours, but if the backup schedule is just too far away (such as when you want to make an instrumental change but want to make a backup just before), this option comes in handy.
The Backup Now option also shows up on the Management and Security functionalities (just look for the following icon):
This allows you to backup your site before making any changes to it.
From allowing you to manage your WordPress site’s users to helping you update the plugins and themes on your site, the Management feature allows you to manage your WordPress site to be secure against threats.
You can manage all the plugins and themes installed on your WordPress site from this option. This means you can see the version you have of each, as well as whether to update specific add-ons, or all of them.
With the ‘Manage Users’ option, you can remotely delete, or change the role or password of those who have access to the site, without having to log in to your WordPress site’s dashboard.
We also have a Security feature that allows you to harden your site and clean your site of malware. The Security feature helps you harden your WordPress site, as well as to clean malware and hacked files with a single click. Moreover, since our scanner is built to be accurate and intelligent, it detects the most complex hacks, without raising false alarms, or alerting you of ‘possible hacks’.
The BlogVault dashboard now features hardening settings under the ‘Secure Site’ feature. These are settings recommended by WordPress, that help make your site more secure against hacks. We’ve categorised these settings into two sections: Basic, and Advanced.
Here is a look at some of the basic security fixes:
The advanced security fixes require some caution though– even if they can’t break your site, you won’t be able to install new plugins or themes on your site if you have them enabled.
The convenient thing about these settings though, is that to enable (or disable) these settings, you have to only select the ones you’d like to enforce or remove, enter your WordPress site’s FTP credentials, and select the folder that your WordPress site is installed from.
This option only appears when you have a hack on your WordPress site. It identifies the hacked file for you and pinpoints it, so you can look specifically at that one file, if you want to. If you’d rather just clean out the hack with a single click, you can do so by clicking on the ‘Auto Clean’ button.
Another feature that only appears when you have a hack, the Auto Clean function helps you remove malicious code on your site with a single click. Since we’ve built our cleaner to even identify complex hacks, you can choose to remove them immediately, without technical assistance.
Once you click on the Auto Clean function, you are taken to the form asking for your WordPress site’s FTP details.
Once you enter your WordPress site’s FTP details, your site will be cleaned.
One of the most revolutionary additions to our dashboard, the ‘Scan Now’ feature allows you to scan your site for hacks at any given point of time. Our malware scanner looks for hacks based on the actions the code performs, rather than signatures, or keywords. So no more backdoors, or recurring hacks. Before scanning your site, we run a backup so you always have the latest version of your site to fall back on.
We’ve tried to make the new dashboard as functional as possible. One of the steps we’ve taken in this direction, is the addition of ‘Quick Links’ that help you download backups, migrate backups to a new location, or restore it with a click. This section also has ‘Resources’, which help give you a quick snapshot of everything you need to know about your WordPress site. Perfect for emergencies, the icons for these functions, and the information related to your site, are right under your site’s thumbnail, on the Site Details page.
Since these features are in-built into BlogVault’s dashboard, we backup your site automatically before making any changes to your WordPress site. This makes it a comprehensive solution to help you manage your site in the most secure way possible. BlogVault has always been focused on giving our customers the best experience, in the most reliable, sensible way, and we hope you’ll find our new makeover to be as practical as we intended it to be.
WordPress site owners are constantly asked to update their sites. But keeping track of updates is incredibly difficult, because of the frequency and number of updates to be made. This is why automating updates might a useful practice.
If there’s one piece of advice in the world of WordPress for site owners, it’s this: update, update, update. Updating WordPress is easy in theory, especially since all site-owners receive notifications about core and plugin updates. When it has to be put into practice, though, updating WordPress is its own beast. Not only might updates break WordPress sites; they might also cause incompatibilities, and be impossible to undo as well. This is why it’s important to always have a reliable backup solution for WordPress sites.
Updating WordPress is an important task though, because of new features that might impact user experience, but also security updates that help against major vulnerabilities. However, with WordPress receiving updates very frequently on the Core as well as the add-on front, it is difficult to keep up with all the changes, and apply them. This is why automating updates on WordPress sites might be a workable solution for you as a WordPress site owner.
Types of WordPress Updates
While updates for WordPress add-ons have both developmental as well as security updates, updates for WordPress core perform different functions. Based on these functions, WordPress Core updates can be categorized into:
Release updates, which contain both Major and Minor releases.
Major updates contain developmental changes including the addition of new features, or changes to core technologies on WordPress. Every major release is named after a major jazz musician.
Minor updates contain security patches and fixes. As a result, they are highly recommended, and are automated by default on every installation of WordPress. Every WordPress site is recommended to run these updates since they contain important security updates that keep WordPress sites safe.
Developmental updates, which are only for the changes that might be unstable– these updates are what future developments are built on. Also known as ‘bleeding edge’ updates, they are only meant for sites running the developmental version of WordPress.
Translation updates (which are language packs), and come in handy if your WordPress site has multilingual support.
Depending on your comfort-level with code, and the time you’re willing to spend maintaining your site, you could automate your WordPress site’s updates manually, with the help of a plugin, or via managed WordPress services. Every method has its pros and cons, so it’s best to choose one with careful thought.
Automating WordPress Updates the Manual Way
This method will require you to make changes to your WordPress installation’s core files.
How to automate updates to WordPress Core the Manual Way
Updating WordPress Core includes making changes to the wp-config.php file.
WordPress contains a parameter called define( ‘WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE’) in the wp-config file. The value you assign this function determines WordPress release update is automated.
To Automate All WordPress Core Updates
Assign the value ‘true’ to the above function, as demonstrated:
define( ‘WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE’, true );
This will enable the automation of all release updates, developmental updates, and translation updates on your WordPress site.
To Only Automate WordPress Core Minor Release Updates
As mentioned, WordPress automatically makes Minor release and translation updates to your site. However, if you disabled all automatic updates by assigning the above function the value ‘false, you would have disabled Minor updates too. Just assign the value minor to the same function above, instead of true. This will disable all updates other than Minor updates, which keep your WordPress site secure.
Here’s how you do it:
define( ‘WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE’, minor );
How to Automate Updates to WordPress Add-ons the Manual Way
Automatically updating add-ons isn’t recommended by WordPress, since the developers’ updates might work for that plugin/theme, but might be incompatible with other add-ons or elements on your WordPress site. However, if your WordPress site is simple and has very few plugins/themes that are compatible with each other, it might not be as big a problem.
In order to manually configure your installation of WordPress to update plugins & themes, you have to make modifications to a filter called auto_update_$type, found in the wp-admin folder. The value assigned to $type determines which WordPress add-on is updated automatically.
To automatically update all plugins on your WordPress site, the filter must read:
The code isn’t complex, so it’s beginner friendly.
Manual automation is free.
WordPress site owners won’t have to install an extra plugin just to keep their site up to date.
Cons of Manual Automation of Updates
The changes have to be made to the WordPress wp-config.php files and the wp-admin folder. This might make some WordPress users uncomfortable, especially since changes to the WordPress core files are not recommended.
Making the changes to code might require some time, especially for WordPress novices.
If your site crashes with any update, you will have to check your site’s status after disabling each update manually.
Automating Your WordPress Site with Plugins
This method comes in handy for WordPress site-owners who do not want to tinker with code themselves, and don’t mind installing an extra plugin on their site. A couple of examples of plugins that help automate updates, are Advanced Automatic Updates, and WP Updates Settings.
How to Use the Advanced Automatic Updates Plugin
Step 1: Install and activate the plugin.
Step 2: Locate the plugin under your WordPress site’s Settings tab, and click on it.
Step 3: Check the kind of updates you would like to automate on your WordPress site.
If you would like notifications about these updates to be sent to an email address other than the one of the site owner, you can enter it here:
As you can see, you can also disable email notifications about the same, and request for debug information (in case you’re running development updates).
How to Use the WP Updates Plugin
Step 1: Install and activate the plugin.
Step 2: Just like for the Automatic Updates plugin, locate the Updates tab under your Settings tab, and click on it.
Step 2: Choose the kind of WordPress Core release updates you would like to automate on your WordPress site.
Step 3: Choose whether you would like to automatically update add-ons on your WordPress site.
Step 4: If you’d like translation and developmental updates, click on the appropriate check-boxes.
Pros of Automating Your WordPress Updates With a Plugin
These plugins do the work for you: you don’t have to manually tinker with any code; they’ll do it for you.
Most plugins that automate WordPress sites allow you to enable or disable different updates with a single click.
Cons of Automating Your WordPress Updates With a Plugin
This will require you to install an extra plugin just for updating your WordPress site.
Some plugins only update WordPress core, while others will allow you to update add-ons as well.
You, as a WordPress site owner, will still need to weed out problems if your site crashes with updates.
Using Managed Services to Automate Your WordPress Site
There are two types of managed services you could use to automate updates on your WordPress site: managed WordPress hosting, and WordPress support and maintenance services.
Managed WordPress Hosting
These services help manage your WordPress site’s hosting issues, as well as a few issues related to your WordPress site as well. A couple of examples of managed WordPress hosting services/ managed WordPress hosting providers are Flywheel, and WP Engine. These services automate the update of your entire WordPress site, but after the following steps meant to benefit you no matter the state of compatibility of your WordPress site:
The hosting provider checks their systems for compatibility with WP updates (whether this includes both core and add-on updates depends on the web host).
They then mail you beforehand with the dates for your WordPress site’s update.
Every managed hosting service performs a backup of your WordPress site before the update. Only after this do they perform the update.
Once they perform the update, they check for issues.
If your WordPress site is not compatible with the update, the managed hosting provider restores your site with the backup that they made.
The service then mails you about the status of the update (successful/unsuccessful, and reasons if unsuccessful).
If you’ve tested your site and found it incompatible, you can ask certain web hosting services to postpone updates till you fix the issue at hand.
Plugin and theme updates are not done automatically by managed WordPress hosting services, simply because different plugins have settings that might conflict with each other and break your site.
If you’d still like to automate the updates of add-ons, you can get in touch with your WordPress host about the same.
Since each managed hosting service has different terms and conditions, and pricing plans, it is recommended that you read their documentation carefully, and then get in touch via email or from their in-website chat support.
Pros of Using a Managed Web Hosting Service With Automatic WordPress Updates
You, as a WordPress site owner, don’t have to fiddle with the WordPress core files.
Your WordPress hosting service tests and runs WordPress updates for you.
Cons of Using a Managed Web Hosting Service With Automatic WordPress Updates
Managed WordPress hosting comes at a price.
These services don’t take care of all the issues that might come up during updating your WordPress site. If your site has certain customizations that makes it incompatible with WordPress updates, these services might mail you asking for you to seek a professional developer’s assistance. This means even if you’re paying a premium price for managed hosting, you might also have to hire a WordPress developer separately.
WordPress Support and Maintenance Services
WordPress support and maintenance services (such as WP Curve, WP Maintainer, and Valet), are perfect for super-busy site owners who can afford to have a full-time service just for maintaining their WordPress sites. In terms of updates and maintenance, these services usually perform the following functions:
Core and add-on updates.
Support/repairs in case of incompatibility.
Audit of the security and maintenance of your site so the chances of it breaking upon update are reduced.
Regular backups to rely on in case of incompatibility with any update.
Similar to managed WordPress hosting services, it is recommended that you go through the list of their offerings, (and their pricing plans) carefully. All you have to do after that, is contact them over email, or from their respective websites.
Pros of Depending on WordPress Support and Maintenance Services
Since you are paying these services specifically to maintain your WordPress site, you can expect them to solve any problems you might have while updating your WordPress site.
You need not hire a developer to this end.
Cons of Depending on WordPress Support and Maintenance Services
These services come at a premium price, and usually require you to pay more in order to fix issues that might come up during updates. Each service has its own pricing plan.
A number of maintenance and support services do not provide free support, so if you run into issues with your site, it might be expensive to get them sorted out.
Automating your WordPress site might seem like an easy fix that will help your WordPress site stay up to date with security patches and new features, but it also comes with many caveats. Not only might updates your site break, but they might also be difficult to undo. This is why it is imperative for every WordPress site owner to maintain a recent, secure backup of their WordPress sites that can be relied on.
Blogvault was started by Akshat
Choudhary in 2007. Based out of
Bangalore, India, we are a complete
backup service with over 10,000
customers from across the world.