Why do WordPress Backups Fail?

Oct 18, 2019

Why do WordPress Backups Fail?

Oct 18, 2019

Time and again, we have seen that many website owners don’t have backups of their WordPress website. The most common reasons being:

  1. They don’t think they need one.
  2. They gave up after a complicated or failed backup process. When website owners try to take a backup manually or by using a complicated plugin, they run into obstacles or errors that don’t allow them to complete the backup process.

But if you don’t have a backup in place, you stand to lose your website at any given point in time. Hackers are constantly on the prowl trying to break into sites and wreak havoc. Any faulty plugin, incompatibility issues, botched updates, or human errors can result in loss of data and a broken website.

Since this is a growing problem, we are going to address the issue by compiling a list of reasons why backups fail and the mistakes to avoid. We’ll also give you tips on how to choose the right WordPress backup solution for your site so you can rest assured it will work without any complications.


Backups can fail on account of issues with your website’s server or due to problems with your website. If you’re tired of backups that don’t work, your search for a smart backup solution ends here. Opt for the most reliable WordPress backup solution on the market – BlogVault.

What causes WordPress Backups to Fail

Backups fail because many of the solutions available in the market are just not efficient. Most website owners end up using plugins that fail to perform. With the ones that are a success, many times, it doesn’t work when it has to be restored.

So while choosing a backup solution for your WordPress website, it’s important to look at what it has to offer before you decide to use it. We’ve covered the features you absolutely need in a backup a little later. For now, let’s discuss why backups fail:

1. Limited Server Resources

Many of us opt to use a shared server because it’s a cheaper option while buying a hosting plan. But shared servers host multiple websites and each has very limited resources. This is suitable for small websites, but as they grow larger, it becomes insufficient.

Websites tend to hit their limit really fast just by running regular processes. A backup can be resource-intensive, especially in cases where the process has not been optimized to put a minimal load on your server.

Not having enough server resources prevents backups from being able to run. You could opt for a more premium hosting plan or get a dedicated server with more resources. However, there’s always a solution. Some of the top backup plugins store your backup offsite which reduces the server resources you need to run a backup process.

2. Lost server connection

To take a backup of your website, you need to connect with the server on which it resides. Establishing a connection with the server is usually only a major issue with manual backups because you need to use an FTP client like Filezilla.

When we run manual backups via FTP, more often than not, we experience trouble in establishing a web server connection.


website backup fails


However, this problem also occurs with some backup plugins (especially the free ones) that are not developed to run at an optimal level. If you have a poor internet connection and/or are backing up a large amount of data, it could be a nightmare if your server connection keeps getting disconnected.

This results in a botched backup or a complete failure altogether. This is one of the reasons why we strongly don’t recommend manual backups and free backup plugins as the process could become a nightmare to complete.

3. Blocked server access

This might get a bit technical, bear with us. In order to run a backup process, plugins need to execute some functions on your website. Now, some web hosting companies block such functions. This poses a problem for backup plugins and hinders them from taking a backup.

What you need to know is that this means you won’t be able to use an external backup solution and will only be left with the option of taking a backup with the host itself. (It’s not the best idea to rely only on your host backup. Recommend read: Should You Rely on WordPress Backups by Your Web Hosts?)

Sometimes, web hosts also block access to certain parts of your WordPress site due to security reasons. In these cases, backup solutions have to work around the inaccessible areas and sometimes have to resort to using suboptimal functions. This can result in a longer process and could possibly fail.

Trying to overcome this issue is difficult as the controls lie with your web host. If you are unhappy with your hosting company imposing these restrictions, you can always migrate your website to another one that you’d be happier with.

4. Huge database tables

WordPress is designed to make website creation and management simple for anyone. But this also means a lot of the backend maintenance may go ignored. One such task is cleaning up database tables.

A WordPress site’s database has 11 default tables storing all sorts of information. Over time, a lot of data gets stored in these tables and is never deleted – even information that is no longer needed.

What this means for your backup is that there is a large amount of data needs to be copied. This can cause the backup process to fail. You may also exceed the server resources available for your website.

If you think you need to clean up your database tables and don’t know anything about the backend of WordPress, it’s best to get a professional or a WordPress Management Solution. However, if you’re using a backup plugin that takes an offsite backup, this won’t be an issue at all.

5. Required Authorization

Sometimes, a website may need to be password-protected to grant access only to those who are authorized to view it, such as a company’s internal portal. Another instance is when it is still in development mode and is not ready to go public.


wordpress backup fails

Web Host Flywheel allows you to automatically password protect your site from its dashboard.


Taking a backup in such cases becomes difficult. If you’re trying to use a backup plugin, you might realize that there is no option to enter your credentials and run the backup. This leaves you at a dead end since you’ll have to turn off the password-protection in order to backup your site leaving it visible to the public for that duration.

Note: Some WordPress backup plugins such as BlogVault give you the option to enter your credentials and take a backup while still being password-protected.

6. Excessive data

The more data you have, the heavier the backup process becomes. It’s best to clean up your website content and media you no longer use. Another great tip is to compress your images before you upload them to reduce their sizes.

If you have too much data to backup, the process could cause your website to reach its server limit. In this case, you won’t be able to complete the process if your plugin stores the backup on the same server as your website. There won’t have any storage space to create the backup.

In cases where you rely on your host to backup your website, this would be a problem again, because most hosts store your backup on the same server.

If you’re trying to backup a large amount of data, the best solution would be to, first, use offsite storage. And second, you need what is called incremental sync technology. This breaks up your website into smaller chunks which makes the process faster, lighter and smoother. So large amounts of data can be backed up with no hassle.

There are a number of reasons why your backup could fail, but these are the most common ones we see. A few other reasons include:

    • Software failure where the backup plugin malfunctions or crashes during the process.
    • Hardware failure where your computer or laptop is not able to handle the process. You might see your computer lagging or getting stuck which could interrupt the process.
    • Insufficient disk space to store the backup if you’re trying to download it to your local computer. If there is insufficient storage space, the backup will fail.
    • Human errors such as not following the backup process correctly could result in backups that are not successful. This is especially common in the case of manual backups.

Mistakes People Make while Backing Up

Before we get to the most reliable solutions on the market, we need to address the mistakes people make while they back up their site. The number one mistake being not taking a back up at all! Among those that take a backup, a lot of information out there can be misleading which leaves them with a backup solution that doesn’t work.

1. Not taking a full backup

Your WordPress website consists of files and a database. When things go wrong with your site – such as a hack, malfunctioning plugin, or a botched update – it could affect only your files, or only the database or sometimes both! There’s no telling what you could lose.

To learn more about what exactly your WordPress files and database contains, read this: Beginner’s Guide to Understanding WordPress File Structure & Database

In short, your files store your core WordPress installation, your content and media, and some other critical elements. Your database stores settings for WordPress posts such as the URL, title tag, categories, tags, etc. It also contains user data, comments on your posts, and plugin settings, among a host of other things.

Now, many backup solutions don’t take a full backup of your files and database. For example, some backup services take a backup of your files only. So when you restore your site, you’ll realize that you lost a lot of vital information stored in your database such as your custom settings, your admin user details, comments on your post, etc.

You need a backup solution that takes a complete backup of your website – files, database and all!

2. Using the same server as storage

Your website is hosted on a server. It could be a shared server or a dedicated one, but both have limited space. Most backup solutions in the market, especially the free ones and host backup services, provide backups that are stored on the same server as your website.

There are two problems with this:

1. It will slow down your website and bring down its performance. A same-server backup can eat up your server’s resources that you could otherwise utilize to optimize your site’s performance.

2. If your website’s server crashes, you could lose your website as well as the backup.

Since we already mentioned you need a full backup, you can imagine that this will take up a lot of storage space as well.

The right solution to use would be a plugin that provides you with an offsite backup. This means your backup copy will be stored on another server.

This will minimize the load on your website so it will perform at an optimal level. You can also rest assured that your backup is accessible even if your site’s server goes down.

3. Weak Server Security

There are some backup services that use servers that don’t have proper security measures in place – be it a plugin, host or maintenance agency.

This leaves your backup at risk of being hacked to steal confidential data and customer information. They could also destroy your backup without your knowledge.

Always check where your backup is stored and how secure it is.

4. Relying on manual backups

Manual backups are free but they are just not reliable. When the time comes to restore it, they’re known to fail or cause data losses for a number of reasons, the most common one being that the backup wasn’t done correctly. It can also be a cumbersome and labor-intensive process.

While you can learn how to do it manually to know how a backup works, it’s not something you can or should spend time doing on a regular basis. There are plenty of reliable backup solutions available for free or at a reasonable cost. It just wouldn’t make sense to do it manually.

Caution on Manual Backups: We strongly don’t recommend relying on manual backups. The slightest error could break your live site, and in many cases, manual backups fail to restore correctly.

5. Not backing up regularly

Say you took a backup 10 months ago and forgot about it. Now, something goes wrong with your site and you need to restore it.

But the copy you have is 10 months old, that means all the posts you created, orders you received, interactions with customers/visitors, etc., they would all be lost.

Your backup should run no less than on a weekly basis. It’s best to set scheduled automated backups using a plugin.

6. Choosing the wrong backup solution

There are three main solutions available in the market – plugin, host and maintenance service. But if you end up with the wrong solution for your site, again the backup becomes useless.

For example, you own a WooCommerce site, but you’re relying on your host that takes a backup once every 24 hours. If your site goes down and you stand to lose data between now and the last backup. This could include vital information like a customer’s order and payment details. In this case, a real-time backup would be essential to the functioning of the business.

7. Relying only on host backup

Apart from the terms & conditions where most of the hosts state they are not accountable if the backup doesn’t work, they usually provide very limited benefits with the backup they offer.

The hosting provider backs your site once every 24 hours. And the backup may be stored on the same server and would put additional load on your website.

8. Scheduling it at the wrong time

Without proper planning, people can end up scheduling backups at times that are not ideal.

Say you’ve scheduled your backup at the start of the day. You make a ton of changes to your site through the day such as new posts and alterations to the site. Now, your next backup won’t run until the next morning. So you’ve left a significant gap of time, instead of scheduling the backup to run at the end of the day.

9. Not testing the backup

If you haven’t tested the backup and checked to see if it’s working, you might realize that it doesn’t work only when you’re restoring it. By then, it’s too late and you’d have no other option but to start from scratch.

It’s sensible to test backups ahead of time to make sure they can be restored without any hiccups.

This will be possible by using a staging site which is a copy of your website. You can create one using a plugin such as BlogVault. It will create a clone of your website where you can test restore your backup to see if it works. This will also help you learn the restoration process so that you can be ready in the event it actually happens.

10. Paying too much

Sometimes people opt for a paid solution buying into the benefits they provide. For example, you might take an additional package to get backups with your host. Later, you realize that you’re not getting the backup features that are available with other solutions for a lower price.

Lack of research can lead to picking expensive options when there are ones that do a better job for less.

11. Taking a full backup every time

As we mentioned earlier, a backup needs to use the resources of your site. A full backup would mean a large file size. If your site is 1GB, copying data that large would take a long time and put more load on your site. Therefore, you need to take backups smartly.

For this, you need incremental sync technology. This will take a full backup of your website for the first time. But subsequently, only the changes made to your site are copied and not the entire site every time which minimizes the load exerted on your site.

12. Not storing it safely

Let’s say before you took a trip, you made a copy of your passport. Wouldn’t you keep it tucked away safely? In case you lost your passport, you’d have your copy to help you get through the ordeal. But what if you stored your copy next to a leaking water bottle that led to it being damaged and illegible?

The same applies to backups. If you don’t take care to store it safely, you risk losing that as well. We recommend having multiple copies and store them securely. Avoid storing backups in pen drives that can be easily damaged or lost.

A good option for storage is a cloud solution such as Google Drive or Amazon S3. It’s best to maintain multiple copies of your backup.

That brings us to the end of why backups fail and the mistakes people make while taking a backup. But before we wrap up, we’d like to touch upon WordPress backup solutions that do work!


Choosing a Reliable Backup Solution

We’ve already established that relying on host backups and manual backups are simply not enough because there’s just no guarantee that they’ll work. You’re better off using a WordPress backup plugin. However, there are plenty of plugins available in the market, and it becomes hard to choose one.

When you choose a backup solution, make sure it checks the following boxes:

    • Reliable restore process – You should be able to restore your backup successfully and quickly because the longer you take to get your website back, the more severe the consequences become. If you aren’t able to restore your backup, then what’s the point of taking backups.
    • Automated – It shouldn’t entail a long-drawn technical process, but instead should be easy to use and simple for anyone with or without technical knowledge.
    • Full backups – You need a copy of both your files and database to ensure there is zero loss of data
    • Incremental sync – This ensures that only one full backup is taken first, and subsequently, only the changes made to the site is copied.
    • Scheduled – It’s important to run backups regularly but can become a chore if you need to do it often. Instead, you should have options to schedule it at times convenient to you. Simply set and forget and your backups will be taken for you automatically.
    • Data encryption – This will ensure your information is safe.
    • Secure offsite storage – This will help minimize the load on your server. But when it’s an offsite location, ensure that it is a secure one. Check with your backup provider to learn about the storage location.
    • Multiple copies – Keep multiple copies of it to ensure you have more than one to fall back on
    • Options to test it out – It’s extremely important to be able to test out your backup on a staging site. This will help you practice the restore process as well as be sure your backup works.
    • Maintaining an activity log – Having an activity log of your backups is important because when it comes time to restore, you can identify which backup version you need.

Most importantly, you need a solution that is 100% guaranteed to work.

A website backup is too important to just choose the first thing that appears in your search query. You need to do some research and choose the one that’s most suitable for your website.

Knowing the issues faced by website owners when it comes to taking a backup, the BlogVault team has designed its backup plugin to ensure these problems don’t occur. You simply need to install the backup plugin and connect your website. You can rest assured that your backup will be a success and it also gives you access to so many much-needed features for your WordPress website.

Conclusion: Only successful backups

A backup is like an insurance policy for your website. When things go wrong (like your site gets hacked), you have a backup to fall back on. However, it’s imperative to choose a reliable backup that guarantees a complete and quick restoration when the need arrives.