WP Backups

#1 most important WP security and maintenance practiceMy #1 most important WP security and maintenance practice: Always have an up-to-date backup, stored off my site. If I irreparably mess up my site, or it gets hacked in spite of my precautions, I can delete everything and restore from backup. If my host provider doesn’t love me anymore and locks me out, or goes bankrupt and disappears, I can restore to a new host provider.

My ideal backup method would be free, easy, and automated. It would produce backups that are lean, auto-saved on Google Drive or similar free cloud storage, and easy to restore. Unfortunately I have yet to find an ideal solution. Methods I have used are summarized in the following table.

Free Auto Easy
Lean Cloud
Manual X  Manual
Softaculous X X X  Manual X
WP Clone X X X  Manual X
BackWPup X X X Auto but limited
Update: UpdraftPlus X X X X Auto X

WP can be backed up manually. Doing so involves separate processes to backup the files and the database. The database backup can seem a bit daunting, and easier methods are readily available.

The WP backup solution provided by Softaculous offers some advantages. It is built into my host provider cPanel, so no need for a plugin. It is automated and easy to use. On the other hand the backup files are bulky, and stored by default in my site file structure. This creates a single point of failure – if my server crashes or my host provider locks me out, I lose both my site and the backups. I have to manually move the backups to local or cloud storage.

WP Clone has saved my bacon more than once. It is easy to use. It produces lean backups because it does not include the core WP files, which are very easy to reinstall. It is intended as a tool to migrate WP – not for regular backups. It works so well for me that I use it for regular backups anyway. Disadvantages: According to the plugin provider, it “fails in 10-20% of installations”; It requires manual action, it cannot be scheduled; Like Softaculous it stores backup files in my site file structure – I have to manually move them to cloud storage.

BackWPup is probably the best free backup solution for most WP users. (Or maybe not. See updates below.) It is free, automated, and easy for backups. It can save backup files automatically to a limited selection of cloud storage providers. Disadvantages: Backup files are bulky; As of the date of this post it offers no restore capability – restores are manual; Cloud storage choices in the free version do not include Google Drive.

I use WP Clone as my primary backup tool. It works for me, in spite of the need for manual actions. I love that it produces lean backups and makes it easy for me to restore to a new host, even a new domain name if necessary.

I use Softaculous as a secondary backup. If I need to restore and my WP Clone backup fails, I have a Softaculous backup as plan B.

I am keeping an eye out for a free, fully automated, cloud storage WP backup solution. Haven’t found one yet.

Update 2018-02-27: I recently migrated all of my sites to an MDDHosting reseller account. WP Clone did the job, but not perfectly. On my largest site WP Clone left most of the image gallery behind, several sites had numerous broken urls, and – curiously – anyplace a post used a percent sign (%) it was replaced by a long string of nonsense text. Fortunately the image gallery was easy to migrate manually, and the Better Search Replace plugin made short work of the other problems. Still, I was I little disappointed in WP Clone and may look again at other solutions in the future.

Update 2018-04-26: I finally made time to circle back and re-evaluate backup solutions. Yikes – there have been two major WP releases and umpteen minor releases since WP Clone was last updated. Not good. I switched to UpdraftPlus – I’m not sure why I didn’t include it in my original eval – it must have somehow slipped under my radar.  It is free (a few nice-to-have features are limited to the premium version, but the free version has all the essentials). It allows for scheduled auto-backups to Google Drive and many other storage choices.

Update 2018-06-03: UpdraftPlus is working great but I discovered a few quirks. The free version seems to be intended for a single site. Backing up multiple sites – ten in my case – to a single Google drive requires a bit of finagling.  UpdraftPlus will happily back up multiple sites to a single location, but will not keep track of which backup belongs to which site. So, on each site, I have to set the “retain this many scheduled backups” to the total number of backups – for example 3 backups x 10 sites = 30. I also have to make sure that each site backs up on a different day of the month, so that I can distinguish among the backup files when it comes time to restore. Perfectly understandable that the good people behind UndraftPlus would reserve multi-site convenience for the premium (i.e. paid) version. And the free versions still works great for me – just requires a little more logistics on my part. UpdraftPlus retains my high recommendation.

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