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's system admins battle the perfect storm of system errors and inefficient backups to get the site back online

GitLab’s system admins battle the perfect storm of system errors and inefficient backups to get the site back online

 

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

GitLab’s status can be monitored via this Twitter feed. (When this article was published, 73% of the database copy had been made).

Cloud WordPress backups are good when they are independent. They might not be if you’re using your personal cloud storage accounts(for example on Dropbox, Drive or Amazon S3). Read on to know how and why you shouldn’t do it.

 

Are your cloud storage accounts safe?

 

 

We know that following best practices to make WordPress backups means that your backups should not be dependent on your website/server/web host. This means that you must be able access and use your backups without having to access your WordPress site/server/web host. These kind of backups are known as independent backups and are according to best practices of performing WordPress backups.
However, it is easy to think that off-site backups are the same as independent backups. They are not. This is because off-site WordPress backups are not necessarily independent. This is has to do with how WordPress plugins upload backups to your accounts.

 

 

 

WordPress Backups Compromised by API Keys

Plugins which upload your WordPress backups to your Amazon S3, Drive, or Dropbox accounts usually store a copy of your account’s API key on your site. This is what allows those plugins to interact with your accounts, and upload backups. This is part of the setup procedure for many (if not all) backup plugins.

While making automatic uploads to an off-site location is a convenient option, doing so by storing API keys may not be the safest option for you. The simple reason for this is that it is the same as leaving the keys to your bank vault in your living room. The whole point of a vault is to secure whatever you store in there from being burgled. If you leave the keys to the vault, then you have granted access. Backups are also like your most precious possessions. They are what you depend on in your hour of need; hence they must be completely independent of your site.

Continuing from the previous point, if you are using a security key from your Amazon S3 account in multiple locations then your backups may be in trouble even if your site is safe. Even  if one of the sites using that particular security key is hacked then the hacker has access to all the contents on that account.

This is why BlogVault does not ask users for personal accounts but automatically stores multiple copies of backups in different destinations. All these copies are also encrypted; providing your data and additional layer of security. You can access them independent of your web host or WordPress site via your BlogVault dashboard.

 

Limited Storage Space

One of the major attractions of using these storage services as destinations for your WordPress backups is that they offer free storage space. However, if you make backups daily (as you should), and you have large site, then this may not be enough.

This is even more true if you are using the account for reasons other than backups or you are backing up multiple WordPress sites with the same account. Pretty soon you may find yourself paying extra for storage space. So, the economic benefits of not paying for storage may not stand for long; and these economic benefits are anyway diminished when compared to security concerns.

 

Cloud WordPress Backups in Personal Accounts May Equal Personal Data

In case of a hack, losing your backups and your business or blog data may be bad enough but that will certainly not be the end of it. The risk of using a personal storage account is simply too great when you consider that other information you store on the account which may be of a personal nature can also be at risk.

 

Restoring WordPress Backups

All backups have one purpose; restores– to recreate your site using your WordPress backup. Firstly you must have backups to use. Secondly, those backups must be functional and easy to restore. When you are using your personal accounts configured with the backup plugin on your site, both cannot be taken for granted.

The first point has been addressed in the very beginning of this list. As for the second point, even though you may have backup files, if they are altered in any way or are not secure, then using those backups to restore your WordPress site will do more harm than good to your business. BlogVault allows you to Test Restore your backups with a single-click. This way you will not be in doubt.

Even if the files are functional, backups are often uploaded in .zip folders. You may have to spend a considerable amount of time finding the right backup version to restore your site and then upload then .zip folder to your plugin to restore your site. However, this is not possible when your entire site is down because your backup plugin was on your site too. This is why you must be able to access and restore/migrate your backups completely independent of your WordPress site.

On the other hand if you manage to get your site running, then there still may be issues. Restoring a large site takes time and server resources. For this reason, they are, many times cut off. This makes full restores of large sites nearly impossible on some accounts; especially on shared hosting.

 

Cloud WordPress Backups Must Be Independent

If you have not checked your backups because your WordPress site is working fine at the moment, then you may be left with an unwanted surprise when your website goes down in the future.

Use best practices and opt for a service which will provide a comprehensive WordPress backup solution that will keep you worry-free, allowing you to enjoy the ride.

 

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 versions
  • Multiple copies of each version
  • Encrypted backups
  • Independent storage and access
  • Test Restore
  • One-click restore
  • One-click migration
  • 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.

 

Choosing the Best WordPress Backup Plugin

 

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.

 

All WordPress posts, comments, etc are part of the 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

Step1:

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.

 

Input your your FTP details, username and password for the SQL database

 

Step 2:

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 your database's name

 

Step 3:

Click on Export among the tabs on the top of your screen. This must reveal two simple options- Quick & Custom.

 

The Quick option

 

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.

 

The Custom option

 

Step 4:

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.

 

Choosing the file format of the database backup

 

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.

 

Backups are a means to an end. The end is always restoring your site. In your hour of need you should not have to fiddle with manual restores or deal with surprises. Backup both WordPress database and files and do one-click restore of your WordPress site with BlogVault.

 

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.

 

WordPress files affect the look and feel of your WordPress site

 

Clarification:

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.

 

You can connect to your WordPress files via FTP

 

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).

Creating a destination folder

Tip:

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.

 

The download will take a while

 

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.

 

Building a WordPress website, and maintaining it along with its backups, is no joke.

 

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).

The  WordPress Backup Plugins vs. managed WordPress Backup Service debate can be framed as Standalone Plugin vs. Software as a Service model (Saas).

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:

Configuration issues

  • 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).

Notification Issues
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.

 

Testing WordPress backups is simply a necessary part of a good backup solution. However, testing multiple backup versions can be a technical and cumbersome. (Find out) How to best test WordPress backups?

 

When you have multiple backups, it's important to test them.

When you have multiple backups, it’s important to test them.

 

The Problem: How Do You Know If Your Backups Work?

One of the most important tenets of a backup solution is the ability to test the backups. Backups serve one main purpose– restores. When your site goes down, the worst that can happen is that, at the time of restoring your site you find out that the backup is not proper.

The one way to avoid that problem is to regularly test your backups and to definitely test your backups before you restore them. The one reason why many may not venture to do it is simply because testing backups is not always easy.

 

Backups Can Go Wrong: Testing Backups is Important

Testing backups, however, is a very important part of  having a robust backup solution. This is because, a number of things can and do go wrong with backups; and the consequence is that you cannot restore your site quickly and efficiently. What is the point of having a defunct spare tire when the tire on your car gets punctured?

Running out of storage space, leaving out necessary or important files are only some of the things which can affect your backups and eventually your site. When you use a backup solution; like a WordPress backup plugin, or the backups provided by your hosting service, you never really know if the backup contains all the files or even if the backups have happened correctly. You may say that you are getting notifications but that does is not the same as verifying that backups are occurring properly. Even when you download a backup it is generally in a .zip folder. How can you be sure that the .zip folder will function correctly once the backup is restored?

 

Restore Only After Testing WordPress Backups

Trust is a big aspect of online business. A survey says that 88% of respondents don’t trust sites that crash often; and only 12% of respondent will wait an additional 5 secs for your site to load. This means your restore must be quick and you should also be sure that your site will function correctly.

A WordPress site functions on a mixture of plugins and themes; together they form a precariously balanced ecosystem– your WordPress site. Many times, when something on your WordPress site is not functioning correctly it may not be a direct result of an update or a newly installed plugin. If it is so, then it is easy to pinpoint the problem. However, it is rarely that simple. Sometimes, the problem surfaces after a few days or even after a couple of weeks. Chances are that you have done a few changes to your site in that time.

Let us say that you have

  • Updated some plugins
  • Installed a new theme
  • Installed 2 new plugins

These changes are all spread over different versions over the last month. The challenge is to pinpoint the change which caused the issue. You can’t set up a separate environment to test all of the versions. It is simply not feasible. On the other hand if you restore without testing the probable backup versions you will end with the same problems as before.

 

The Challenge: Testing Backups is Technical & Laborious

To test backups you need an environment to which you can upload the backup and test it. This means you will need to:

  • Create a testing environment
  • Set up a new URL
  • Restore the backup to that environment

All of this is laborious and technical work. Engaging in this activity along with your everyday business is cumbersome. Even if you go through all the trouble and test your latest backup version. If that is not working as properly then you have to go down the list testing each version. This means you may not test your backups; or at least not test all the backup versions of your website. It is important to test all the backup versions because you never know which one you’ll need at the time of restoring your site. The more difficult a task gets the less we seem to engage in doing it.

Even if you’re willing to take on the task, there is one more point to consider. Once the testing is done you’ll need to find a way to get rid of this environment. Otherwise maintaining it will become another chore on your task list. This is not ideal.

 

The One-Click Solution

A backup solution must make it easy for you to test your backups instead of creating additional hassles. A solution which allows you to test backups must make it feasible to test multiple versions; and this is the marker of a good testing environment.

BlogVault offers the Test Restore functionality, an option to test any and all of your backups versions with a single click. An exact, fully functioning copy of the site is generated from the chosen backup version, and loaded to BlogVault’s test servers.

BlogVault maintains at least 30 versions of your WordPress site’s backup. You can choose any of those versions to ‘Test Restore’. Once the backup version is chosen it is loaded to Blogvault’s test servers.

In this environment you can not only test how your backup will work once it is restored but also test what happens if you make changes. After the backup is uploaded to BlogVault’s test servers, you’ll also receive the SFTP credentials to the ‘test site’. This way you can also test any updates or changes you want to make to that particular  backup version. It is completely independent of your live site, and fully functioning. In other words, ideal testing conditions for your backups.

BlogVault’s Test Restore functionality is a pain-free solution.

Having a test-copy of your site has many benefits

Streamline Testing with Backup Descriptions

If you are using the BlogVault service then you can track the changes easily. Each backup version has a description. This allows you to know not only the date and time of the backup, but also what has changed in the site since the last backup. These changes may include

  • Number of files
  • Number of tables
  • Updates to plugins, themes, WP Core
  • New plugins or themes installed, etc.

 

Having descriptions for every backup helps

 

You can possibly narrow down the backup versions to be tested. Once the shortlist is ready, you can then test them all; as mentioned, with a single click.

Learn more about Blogvault’s Test Restore and Try BlogVault for Free today.

 

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 backups are the most practical backup frequency for a majority of WordPress sites that have scheduled updates every day.

 

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.

Manual Backups

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.

Finding secure storage solutions is a real challenge with frequent WordPress backups.

Finding secure storage solutions is a real challenge with frequent WordPress backups.

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
  • Reduce downtime
  • 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.

 

Resource Intensive

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.

 

How frequently do you backup your WordPress site?

 

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.