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.
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.
Frequent WordPress backups contribute greatly towards efficient your WordPress restores. The battle is between resource consuming hourly backups and infrequent backups which increase the risk of data loss. Do you know what is the right answer?
The frequency of WordPress backups is a much-discussed topic. At BlogVault we believe that ideally, WordPress sites must be backed up at least once a day. This is a logical idea when you consider that all backups are meant for recovering your site. This means you want to minimize data loss, when you restore your WordPress site.
Daily backups, however, is not a ‘golden frequency’. Different types of sites require backups to be made at different frequencies. Daily backups strike a balance between minimizing data loss and not consuming too many resources of your WordPress site’s servers. Backing up more frequently, however; especially when done inefficiently, may affect your site’s performance. On the other hand, backing up infrequently, like on a weekly/monthly backup schedule may mean that you lose substantial amount of data.
WordPress Backup Frequency
Why Make Daily Backups?
We mentioned that daily backups ensure that updates to all the posts and pages of your site are saved. WordPress users who manage smaller sites may feel that daily backups are not as important. This may be because the website is not updated with new content. However, we have to remember that WordPress sites are run on plugins and themes which are updated often. Older backups will not contain these updates and restoring them is not very efficient. This can also cause security concerns as plugin and theme updates include security updates too.
Restoring from Older WordPress Backups
If older backups are restored, then you may have to go back and update all the plugins, themes and may be even WordPress core. This may not be feasible in case you own multiple sites or have many plugins and and themes on your site.
Also, backups bring up compatibility issues. In case you restore older backups, then you can only test these issues after the site has been restored and the updates are made. However, the more recent the backup, the easier it is to test for functionality. Of course, with a WordPress backup service like BlogVault you can test your backups with a single click.
What Type of WordPress Site Do You Have?
E-commerce sites & Popular Blogs
While daily backups are a great option, for e-commerce and popular blogs it still may not be enough. For e-commerce sites, it is crucial to track transactions, data on pending orders, and the delivery status of orders with utmost immediacy. For popular blogs, comments and content can be generated very regularly; and this includes news sites. In such cases, real-time backups is the answer.
Real-time Backups for WordPress Sites
Backups in real-time are meant to save every change as soon as the changes are made, (or at least as quickly as possible). The concern with this is of course the effect on WordPress site-performance. However, when done right, real-time WordPress backups can be a comprehensive solution.
Real-time backup solutions for WordPress sites track changes and backup only those changes to the site as quickly as possible. Since only the changes are backed up, even large sites with frequent updates and changes can be completely backed up without affecting site performance. However, there are different methods to achieve this result and results vary depending on how effectively your backup plugin does the job.
Frequency is Key to Having Secure WordPress Backups
If backups do not allow you to make efficient restores then the point has been missed. Making daily or real-time backups are key to having functional backups which are ready for restores. A WordPress backup service, can allow you to not only automate the frequency of your backups; but also ensure that your backups follow other best practices of WordPress backups as well.
Storing WordPress backups on your PC can quickly become laborious and the risks outweigh the convenience or economic benefits. Find out why.
Locally storing your WordPress backups means storing them on your PC or desktop. The other option is maybe to store them in an external storage device like a USB drive or or an external HDD/SSD.
In this article let us look at how you can do it, why you may be looking at this option and also answer the question which matters the most– should you do it?
How To Make WordPress Backups Locally
There are 3 ways through which you can download backups to your computer:
Manual WordPress Backup Download
WordPress Backup Download via cPanel
Manual WordPress Backup Downloads
You can download WordPress files by using an FTP client— eg: FileZilla, CyberDuck. Making a full backup includes backing up files as well as your WordPress site database. To make WordPress database backups you can use phpMyAdmin.
However, once you download your backup files, labeling and organizing them is important. Otherwise it may be impossible to find the desired version when you want to make a restore.
Usually web hosts provide a cPanel account to users. Using the tools in cPanel– Create Backup or Backup Wizard, you can download backups. Again these backups are usually .zip files with filenames containing date names. However, that is not enough information when you make regular backups. You may have to spend more time organizing your backups with descriptions to ensure restores are easy.
Most WordPress backup plugins; at least all the popular ones, offer the option to download WordPress backups to your computer. However, regardless of the WordPress backup plugin you use, downloadable backup files; especially of the full site, are available in .zip format when you download a full WordPress site backup. On top of that not all plugins give you the option to download individual files. This means we are back to our recurring theme of how downloading and storing backups also means maintaining them.
Storing WordPress Backups Locally
There are some key concerns when thinking of destinations for WordPress backups.
Ease of use
An ideal WordPress backup solution addresses all of these concerns.
Pros and Cons of Storing WordPress Backups Locally
Backups must be made regularly; daily if possible. If you are making regular backups then storage space will become a concern for you. Your PC’s internal HDD will eventually run out. You can solve the problem by investing in an external HDD/SSD, or USB drives dedicated for storing your backups; especially if you have large sites and you make regular backups. If you use USB drives for example you may be forced to make backups once in awhile and and overwrite previous copies. This is not a good solution.
Security of WordPress Backups
Making a backup is a security measure. Which means your backups must be secure. However, storing them on your PC or on a storage device is not the best idea when considering the security of backups.
Backups stored on a PC may be infected with malware from a few sources. They may either already be on your computer, or your browser may have been infected by a malware from an unsafe site, or your backup files may be corrupted by malware in external storage devices like USB drives or HDD/SSD.
Apart from malware issues, there is the concern of where your backups are stored. Even if you have a dedicated external storage device– HDD/SSD, it may not be enough as they are not reliable. They do have failure rates, and may crash or be infected with malware as they have to connect to your computer at some point. HDDs/SSDs may also stop working due to heat or natural wear and tear. Along with all of these points, if you choose to store backups locally on a hard drive, then your backups are in a single location, this raises the risk of losing them significantly. As a result, they may not serve as the most secure environment for storing your backups.
Downloaded backups have to be organized if they have to be useful when you have to restore your WordPress site. Consider that your site is down and you have to restore it. If you are left going through all your backup versions one by one trying to make the right decision, then you might spend a lot of time and effort which you could have invested in developing your business ideas.
Manual downloads or locally stored backups usually mean manual restores too. This may suit some developers or those who have spent time working on WordPress but for the majority who are business owners, or bloggers who are utilizing the CMS, this may not be a viable option.
Restorations usually have to be done via your cPanel account or via an FTP Client and phpMyAdmin. There are often limits to the size of files that can be uploaded via cPanel or PHPMyAdmin. These restrictions can cause restores to fail. Again, the lack of backup descriptions, and easy options to make restores, together make extra demands of your time and energy. Expending this extra effort may be unnecessary if you utilize a complete WordPress backup service.
Ease of Use
First of all since this is a manual process. If you are following best practices than you have to make backups daily. This can get tiring, and worse, you may forget to make backups at all.
After taking all of the above points into consideration, the answer to this one seems to be clear. Storing WordPress backups locally doesn’t seem to be a great idea. However, there may be a couple of benefits. It is an economical option, and you can be sure that backups are done as making manual backups or downloading them from plugins allows you to keep track of your backups.
However, even in these cases, you may end up spending on storage devices, or professional help when you need to restore. Along with those issues, if you account for the time spent doing the work— making, downloading, organizing, and maintaining backups; and the time spent worrying about their safety, then the economical benefits and surety about backups being done seem to be nullified.
Instead choose a professional WordPress backup service like BlogVault, for worry free backups so you can do what you do best. A premium WordPress backup service would allow you to easily track backups, makes one-click WordPress restores, and even one-click WordPress migrations; leaving you worry free.
Making WordPress backups with your WordPress hosting service seems like a convenient option. Here’s what you should know about backing up with your web host(s) and why you shouldn’t do it.
Making WordPress backups with your web host may be an option you are considering or are currently following. The idea is instantly attractive as your web host also backs up your WordPress site(s).
However, have you considered why web hosts also provide backups? It is because backups are a basic necessity for most modern day WordPress sites.
Hosting a WordPress site– the act of choosing a host and a plan, may be simple, but maintaining a site and ensuring uptime and quality user experience for visitors to your WordPress site is more difficult. Many things can go wrong with your WordPress site.
WordPress users know that everything from simple updates to hacking may crash your site or cause serious functionality issues. Having a backup can allow you to sort out the issues offline while your users continue to have a good experience and your reputation remains intact.
Running through the characteristics of the ideal WordPress backup solution is a good way to go when you have to evaluate any backup provider. Remember, backups are not for namesakes, you’ll need them at some point. This is true regardless of whether they are made by your web hosting service or not. Which is why backups must held to high standards in all cases.
In this case, let us look at a short checklist of the qualities to look for in a good backup solution:
And, of course, it all comes down to
This should help you evaluate your backups for functionality, security and use-value.
Caveats in WordPress Backups by Web Hosts
While not all web hosts provide WordPress backups, many do. However, even with the ones that do offer backups, there are many caveats attached to the service. The quality of your WordPress backups truly depend on their practices and policies. Let us look at them point by point.
Availability of Backups
Some web hosts may offer backups to their basic accounts for an extra fee. However, backups may be included as part of the subscription plan for more advanced plans. SiteGround is a good example. They offers backup services for extra cost the subscribers of their most basic plan– StartUp, but more advanced plans have it included in the service..
When it comes to automatic WordPress backups you also need to be aware of your web host’s policies regarding website size limits. For example, HostGator will backup your WordPress site automatically, if it is less than 10 GB. If not, then automatic backups will not happen. You can only manually backup your site via cPanel. The onus then, is on you to make, download, organize, and maintain backups. In such cases your backup solution needs to be revisited, because ideally backups must not be an additional responsibility, but must happen automatically.
Coverage: What is backed up?
Is your entire site being backed up? A WordPress site consists of files and database. An ideal database must make backups of it all but also give you access to it. This is not a given with all WordPress hosting service. Ask your web host about which parts of the site is backed up beforehand so that you may be prepared with manual backups or other measures when you need them for restores.
Frequency of Backups
There really cannot be a golden rule for how frequently you should make backups of your WordPress site. However the general guideline is— frequency of backups = frequency of changes to site. Backups must be done once a day. This will ensure that changes are recorded, and loss of data is minimized in case of a restore. This too is not an ironclad rule. e-Commerce sites may need to backed up more frequently (real-time backups).
Web hosts making WordPress backups may not make backups daily. For example, HostGator makes backups but stores only one copy and overwrites it each time another backup is made; which is only done weekly. This may result in loss of changes and updates.
On the other hand, WP Engine and FlyWheel make daily backups and maintain multiple versions of WordPress backups, but this upgrade in the quality/quantity of backups is also reflected in the price.
Access to WordPress Backups
This may seem like a straightforward point but it is not. For example, you can make and access backups with the Create Backup & Backup Wizard tool in cPanel when you have HostGator account. Even though SiteGround does not have a backup service for their most basic plan– StartUp, their site literature mentions that they maintain a backup of all the sites hosted with them. However, this is not accessible to users through the cPanel. In fact, this backup copy isn’t meant for users at all but for technical experts of SiteGround. You may request for this during emergencies, but you cannot be sure of how old this backup maybe. Of course, SiteGround offers Softaculous in its cPanel which can be used to make backups and can also be accessed via your SiteGround cPanel account.
Other web host like Flywheel and WP Engine allow you to access backups through their own dashboard.
Storage Backups – Backups are Not Independent
Storage of your WordPress backups is crucial to the security of your backups. The ultimate purpose of backups is restorations. If backups are not securely stored then you may not have them at all to restore your WordPress site in case of emergencies.
Your Web Host Is Not the Ideal Destination for Your WordPress backups
Backups are meant to be your safety net in case something goes wrong with your WordPress site; which can happen for many reasons. If your backups are stored by your web host on your site’s server, then your backups may not serve that purpose. The short version of the explanation for this point is that if your backups if they are stored on your server by your web host, then they are exposed to the same threats as your WordPress site.
Generally your backups may be stored on the same server or in a different location altogether, like an Amazon S3 account. In either of these cases your WordPress backups are not independent of your WordPress hosting service. This means that if you web host is affected for any reason then along with your website, your backups may also be lost.
Even WordPress Hosts Get Hacked
In case your site or server is hacked then you may make the case that your web host stores backups in a completely different location. However, consider a scenario where your web host has been hacked; and this has been known to happen in the past even to the most reputed of hosting services… In such a case, none of the data that belongs to your web host, regardless of location of the infrastructure, is safe.
Your WordPress backups must also be your disaster recovery plan. If your web host is affected by a natural disaster and your backups are on their servers, then your backups will be inaccessible.
Backups must be Independent
What this means is that you should be able to access your backups without depending on your web host. In such a case you can always restore your site using your backups no matter what the condition of your web host. This also allows you to easily migrate your site to a new hosting service too, without worrying about the quality of the backup. This is why completely independent backups are needed.
Restoring with WordPress Backups from ‘My’ Web Hosts
We can’t stress this enough— backups are about restores. Restoring a WordPress backup must allow for all the same features that you would demand of any other premium backup tool which is considered to be a good experience. The first step to this, is of course ensuring that you have backups from which to restore your website; but as we mentioned, backups with your web host are not independent so this is not a given.
Ways to Restore
cPanel / Tools
One of the way restores can be done, is by using the Backup Wizard tool in cPanel. Generally you cannot restore a Full site backup through the cPanel tools. For this you’ll need to contact your web host’s support. The other way is, if your web host uses a tool like Softaculous like SiteGround does, then you can use that to restore from your WordPress backups.
Web hosts like WP Engine and Flywheel allow for one-click restores. However, the one problem with this is that there are no descriptions. Although there are dates of when the backups were made, you cannot really track the changes to your site from the last backup.
Differential restores will not wipe the data on your site but only restore those files from your backup that are not already on your site. This way if the newer posts/files/updates are on your site then they will continue to do.
Most if not all web hosts, wipe the data on your website before restoring from a backup. There will always be a time difference between when a backup was made and when it was restored. This difference may lead to loss of data, since differential restores are not possible with web hosts’ offerings.
Granular control is important since it allows you to restore only a faulty database table or a specific part of your site’s content. In case you downloaded the full site backup, then it is upto you to find the specific table you want to restore. Apart from that downloading or uploading individual WordPress files may be hard, especially for new users because, all backups are .zip files.
Other web hosts like Flywheel and WP Engine, although they offer one-click restores, do not describe the backup versions or allow for restoring individual files or tables. If you want to do this you may have to download a backups version in .zip folder. Extract and choose the files and upload them via an FTP client.
This is obviously not suitable for every circumstance. If you can pinpoint the source of the issue–like a recent update you made to a plugin, you need to restore may that one particular file and not have to spend time restoring the whole site as this can take some time especially if you have a large site.
Backups must be tested before being restored to ensure that they are fully functional. You do not want to find out what may be wrong with your backups once you have restored it on the live site. You may use the staging environment provided by your web host for this. However, if you are a novice, or are not a developer, then this might be difficult for you.
You can check out BlogVault’s Test Restore feature which you can access with a single click from your BlogVault dashboard. This creates a fully functional copy of your site from the backup version you choose. This way you can navigate the copy just like you would your actual site, make sure everything is ticking correctly and then make the restore; all within a matter of minutes.
WordPress Backups by Web Hosts Bring Other Worries Too
We have covered how backups by web hosts are not independent. This is important because if you don’t have backups then there is nothing to talk about. However, apart from that glaring miss, there are other big and small worries to which you may have to pay attention.
With automatic backups by web hosts you can’t schedule backups or force backups. There are no backup descriptions (as offered by best-in-class premium WordPress backup plugins like BlogVault). This make organizing backups very difficult.
Also, tracking backups are difficult since you have to login to the cPanel every time to track automatic backups and even to make manual backups. cPanel itself can be a little cluttered and provide an overwhelming experience for new users. The tracking issue may become important to you if your web host has limits on your website size to make backups.
WordPress Backups by Web Hosts: The final word
If your backups are not independent, then they don’t fall under the category of ‘following best practices’. So, we cannot recommend this solution it thoroughly. Some web hosts may offer better backup options than others but these options will come at a cost to you. Now that you all the things to consider about backups by web hosts, choose wisely.
Blogvault was started by Akshat
Choudhary in 2007. Based out of
Bangalore, India, we are a complete
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