How to backup a WordPress multisite network?

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Backing up a single site can be difficult, but the difficulties are exaggerated many times when backing up multisites. What’s the best way? Can you take a full backup of your entire network? Will it slow down your site? If there is an issue with a subsite, can you restore that specific subsite only? This article has everything you need, to understand WordPress multisite backups, how to perform them, and how to restore them. 

TL;DR: The safest, fastest, and most efficient way to backup WordPress multisite is to use BlogVault. Customizing a multisite backup and restoring anything from the entire network, to a single subsite, is intuitive and easy with BlogVault’s dashboard.

Before we talk about how to take WordPress multisite backup, let’s take a second to talk about what goes into backing up your network? What does a backup mean? What is being backed up? We’ll answer that in the next section.

What does it mean to backup WordPress multisite?

The best way to backup any kind of WordPress site is with a plugin. But, not every backup plugin is able to handle multisite networks seamlessly.

Multisites allow a user to have one WordPress installation and add multiple subsites. This network of the main site and subsites can be managed via a single dashboard. In the context of backups, the single WordPress installation means that you can backup your entire network as you would a single site. But, what are you backing up?

Behind the scenes, there is a tonne of files and databases that are required for a multisite to function. While this is common for any WordPress site, a multisite is different from a single site in a few different ways. There are two differences in the files: there are additional lines of code to the wp-config file that make it a multisite and subfolders in the wp-uploads folder, one for each subsite. So, far more folders (and, in turn, files) than a single site. 

Additionally, there are separate tables in the database, for the main site, each subsite, and the network. Multisite databases are an intricate and complex structures of data that can often be too much to handle for a plugin. The biggest problem with backing up a WordPress multisite is the sheer enormousness of the task.

Taking a backup of your network means that you’re saving a copy of your files and databases to create a version that you can fall back on. While it’s possible to backup only parts of your site, we don’t recommend it. Partial backups lead to failed restores of your site. This is the last thing you want when you’re in an emergency. 

Now, let’s talk about how to take WordPress multisite backup

How to backup WordPress multisite (3 methods)

There are two core parts of a WordPress site: files and the database. They can be complicated to back up and that’s where backup plugins like BlogVault come to the rescue. So, while there are multiple backup methods, we’re going to start with the easiest.

Backup WordPress multisite with a plugin

BlogVault backs up a WordPress multisite exactly like it does a single site.  Install it at a network level, and a complete backup of the network is taken. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Create an account:  Create a new account or install and activate BlogVault from your site’s wp-admin.


  1. Add the main site: You’ll be redirected to the dashboard where you’ll be asked to add a site URL. Add the URL of your main site and click Continue

  1. Add WordPress admin credentials: Select automatic installation when prompted and add the wp-admin panel username and password. Click Submit and you’re done. BlogVault will automatically sync your site and create the first backup. 
  2. Restore a complete network backup: If you ever need to restore a full WordPress multisite backup from BlogVault, head over to your BlogVault dashboard and click Restore in the backup section. Select which backup you’d like to restore and click Continue. Give it a few minutes and you’re good to go.

  1. Restore a subsite: On your dashboard, click the Details button in the multisite section. A popup will appear where you can select which subsite you want to restore and click Restore at the top. Then, click Continue. Give it a minute and you’ll be done. 

Why is BlogVault the best backup solution for multisites?

  1. Scheduled and automatic backups: BlogVault backups are taken automatically every day already, but you can also schedule them for a time when you have little to no traffic on your site.  
  2. Complete backups: Your entire network is always backed up with BlogVault. It’s a plugin that is designed to efficiently handle thousands of subsites and their database tables with little to no effort from you.  
  3. Restore single subsites: A BlogVault restore takes just a few clicks and is incredibly easy. But it’s especially useful since you can restore a single subsite without affecting your entire network. To restore your full site, head to the BlogVault dashboard, click Restore in the Backup section and click Continue. To backup just a subsite, click Details in the Multisite section, select which subsite, click Restore and click Continue. Give it a few minutes, and you’re good to go. 
  4. Storage: BlogVault is capable of handling large multisites with 100GB+ of data. Additionally, it doesn’t store your backups on your servers, but on Amazon S3 servers. This means that backups don’t affect the speed or efficiency of your site. This is a huge resource saver for large sites, and if anything happens to your server, you know that your backups can save the day. 
  5. External dashboard: The biggest advantage of an external dashboard is that if your site crashes and you lose access to your WordPress admin panel, you can easily restore your site with the BlogVault dashboard in minutes. 
  6. Built-in migration capabilities: Migrating a multisite can prove to be very difficult with the number of URLs and data structures to consider. With BlogVault, you can leave your worries behind. The plugin comes with an integrated search and replace feature that you can use to make migration much easier. 

While there are a lot of benefits, we must add that every license is valid for only 5 subsites, after which, you will have to buy a new license. If you’d like to try other methods, we also talk about web host backups in the next section.

Backup a multisite with your web host

The experience of backing up a WordPress multisite with your web host will vary depending on the host. Cloudways, for example, offers automated backups of your multisite network and you can also take backups on demand. Kinsta also offers automated backups for multisites. Check with your host’s support on how they manage backups and how to restore one when needed. 

It is important to know that web host backups are typically stored on your server. Storing backups of a multisite can be a huge load on your server and slow it down. More importantly though, anything that affects your site server will impact your backups as well. We recommend you take external backups of your site and store them on third party cloud services like Dropbox or Google Drive, if you choose web host backups as a primary solution. 

Manually backup WordPress multisite

When talking about manual backups, the files and the databases need to be accessed and backed up separately. We have an article that takes you through the different ways to manually backup a WordPress site. In this section, we’ll talk about how to manually backup a WordPress multisite network using phpMyAdmin and an FTP client. 

We’d be wrong to not reiterate how difficult this method is. Like we’ve mentioned before, there are so many files and database tables to backup that a manual backup can be time-consuming and/or slow down your site. If that hasn’t deterred you, here are the steps to a manual WordPress multisite backup. 

Backup files with FTP client

An FTP client or a File Transfer Protocol client allows you to connect to your server and access all your files. There are a tonne of FTP clients to choose from but we’re using Cyberduck. 

  1. Connect your server: Open Cyberduck and click Open Connection. select either SFTP or FTP from the dropdown. You’ll also need to add a public IP address, username, and password. These credentials can be found with your host. Click Connect

  1. Download files: All your files will be in the root directory of your site. In our case, it’s the public_html folder. Right click on that folder and click Download. This will download a copy of all your files to your device, creating a backup. Choose a meaningful name for your file backup, so as to make it easy for you to identify later on. 

Backup database with phpMyAdmin

Most hosts offer a cPanel to manage your sites and you can access your database through phpMyAdmin. Here’s how you backup your multisite database with it: 

  1. Log into phpMyAdmin: Head over to your cPanel from your host. Scroll down to the Database section and click on phpMyAdmin. 

  1. Select the right database: Select the Database tab and pick the one used for your multisite. If you don’t know which database corresponds to your multisite, you can find the info in your wp-config file. Either use FTP or cPanel’s File Manager to view the wp-config file, or open up the backup you downloaded in the previous section. 
  2. Export database: Select all the files. Click Export and you’ll be prompted to select the type of export. Make sure to have selected the SQL format and click Go. You’re now good to go. 

Congratulations! You’ve successfully backed up your entire network manually. Restoring a manual WordPress multisite backup is not an easy task unless you know the file and database structure of WordPress inside out. If you ever have to restore a manual backup, we recommend restoring the whole thing to avoid crashing your site. 

Why is a WordPress multisite backup necessary?

If you’ve ever watched a WordPress tutorial, you’ll notice that they often talk about taking backups first. Why are backups so important? What’s the point of having them?

  1. Insurance: A backup is what you can fall back on if you ever lose your site. Maybe a plugin update crashed your network? Maybe you’ve lost complete access to your site from a server crash. A backup will save the day. You hope you never have to use it but you will definitely be grateful to have it if you unexpectedly lose your site. BlogVault has offsite backups so even if your server crashes, you have a backup that you can restore. 
  2. Security: If your site has been hacked or is attacked by malware, you’ll notice that it’s been defaced or not functioning like normal. In that case, you can clear the malware with a security plugin like MalCare and then restore your site to its last best version with a reliable backup.
  3. Undo changes: Tried a new theme and regret the change? You can easily restore your site to a previous version. Updated a plugin that made unprecedented changes to your site because of bugs? It’s okay, you have a backup that you can restore. 

What makes a WordPress multisite backup difficult?

  1. Compatible plugins: Not all backup plugins can cater to the needs of a WordPress multisite. Every backup plugin can’t handle the size of a large network and the intricacies of its files and databases. BlogVault does it all, and easily too. 
  2. Storing backups: A great backup tip is to have multiple copies so that if one backup is hacked or lost, you have another to fall back on. But backing up data from entire multisite networks can be an overwhelming load on your storage. That’s why BlogVault stores your backups to their offsite Amazon S3 servers, plus you don’t pay extra for storage space. Whether your site is 10 MB or 100 GB, you get multiple backups at no additional cost.   
  3. Selective restore: The biggest perk of BlogVault backups is selective restore. You can restore specific subsites without affecting your entire network. This is essential for any multisite admin. 
  4. Migration: Migrating a single site can be difficult and complicated. You can easily lose files, slow down your site, or have URLs that don’t work. Multisite migrations are far more complex. BlogVault includes features that make migration easy. 
  5. Importing and exporting: The structure of a multisite is so complex that, if you want to import a single site to the network, or export a subsite from the network, there are far too many moving parts to consider. But, here are some articles that can help you with importing or exporting

Final thoughts

Finding a plugin that is compatible with multisite networks is the best solution to backing up your site. BlogVault lets you take complete WordPress multisite backup with very little effort from you, no effect on your site or server, and an easy restore. When talking about multisite backups, BlogVault is the way to go. 


When should you create a multisite?

A multisite is for you if you have multiple sites that share similar data, type of user, and appearance. A multisite lets you manage multiple similar sites on one dashboard and you can make universal changes across the network. 

How do I export a WordPress multisite? 

Multisites, like any WordPress site, is made of databases and files. You can use a backup plugin like BlogVault to backup WordPress multisite and export the backup to your device. You can also export your files with an FTP client and your database with phpMyAdmin. 

What plugin is best for a WordPress backup?

BlogVault is the best backup plugin on the market. It automates backups, takes real time backups, and saves backups securely offsite. It also takes incremental backups so your site and server are never affected. All backups are stored on Amazon S3 servers, leaving your servers untouched. Additionally, your site can be easily restored in just a few clicks. 

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