In this post we’ll talk about the different approaches to keeping the data on your WordPress website safe.
Stop the Presses! (Or the Internet!)
As we were getting ready to publish this post, we received news from UpdraftPlus, one of the biggest WordPress plugin developers, that they are supporting Backblaze B2 as a cloud storage solution for their backup plugin. They shipped the update (1.13.9) this week. This is great news for Backblaze customers. UpdraftPlus is also offering a 20% discount to Backblaze customers wishing to purchase or upgrade to UpdraftPlus Premium. The complete information is below.
UpdraftPlus joins backup plugin developer XCloner — Backup and Restore in supporting Backblaze B2. Two more plugin developers, BlogVault and BackupGuard, also announced their intent to support Backblaze B2.
Contact your favorite WordPress backup plugin developer and urge them to support Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage, as well.
Now, back to our post…
Your WordPress website data is on a web server that’s most likely located in a large data center. You might wonder why it is necessary to have a backup of your website if it’s in a data center. Website data can be lost in a number of ways, including mistakes by the website owner (been there), hacking, or even domain ownership dispute (I’ve seen it happen more than once). A website backup also can provide a history of changes you’ve made to the website, which can be useful. As an overall strategy, it’s best to have a backup of any data that you can’t afford to lose for personal or business reasons.
Your web hosting company might provide backup services as part of your hosting plan. If you are using their service, you should know where and how often your data is being backed up. You don’t want to find out too late that your backup plan was not adequate.
Sites on WordPress.com are automatically backed up by VaultPress (Automattic), which also is available for self-hosted WordPress installations. If you don’t want the work or decisions involved in managing the hosting for your WordPress site, WordPress.com will handle it for you. You do, however, give up some customization abilities, such as the option to add plugins of your own choice.
This post is about backing up self-hosted WordPress sites, so we’ll focus on those options.
Backup strategies for WordPress can be divided into broad categories depending on 1) what you back up, 2) when you back up, and 3) where the data is backed up.
With server data, such as with a WordPress installation, you should plan to have three copies of the data (the 3-2-1 backup strategy). The first is the active data on the WordPress web server, the second is a backup stored on the web server or downloaded to your local computer, and the third should be in another location, such as the cloud.
We’ll talk about the different approaches to backing up WordPress, but we recommend using a WordPress plugin to handle your backups. A backup plugin can automate the task, optimize your backup storage space, and alert you of problems with your backups or WordPress itself. We’ll cover plugins in more detail, below.
What to Back Up?
The main components of your WordPress installation are:
- WordPress MySQL database
- WordPress core installation
- WordPress plugins
- WordPress themes
- User-created media and files
- Other support files
You should decide which of these elements you wish to back up. The database is the top priority, as it contains all your website posts and pages (exclusive of media). Your current theme is important, as it likely contains customizations you’ve made. Following those in priority are any other files you’ve customized or made changes to.
You can choose to back up the WordPress core installation and plugins, if you wish, but these files can be downloaded again if necessary from the source, so you might not wish to include them. You likely have all the media files you use on your website on your local computer (which should be backed up), so it is your choice whether to back these up from the server as well.
If you wish to be able to recreate your entire website easily in case of data loss or disaster, you might choose to back up everything, though on a large website this could be a lot of data.
Generally, you should 1) prioritize any file that you’ve customized that you can’t afford to lose, and 2) decide whether you need a copy of everything in order to get your site back up quickly. These choices will determine your backup method and the amount of storage you need.
A good backup plugin for WordPress enables you to specify which files you wish to back up, and even to create separate backups and schedules for different backup contents. That’s another good reason to use a plugin for backing up WordPress.
When to Back Up?
You can back up manually at any time by using the Export tool in WordPress. This is handy if you wish to do a quick backup of your site or parts of it. Since it is manual, however, it is not a part of a dependable backup plan that should be done regularly. If you wish to use this tool, go to Tools, Export, and select what you wish to back up. The output will be an XML file that uses the WordPress Extended RSS format, also known as WXR. You can create a WXR file that contains all of the information on your site or just portions of the site, such as posts or pages by selecting: All content, Posts, Pages, or Media.
Note: You can use WordPress’s Export tool for sites hosted on WordPress.com, as well.
Many of the backup plugins we’ll be discussing later also let you do a manual backup on demand in addition to regularly scheduled or continuous backups.
Note: Another use of the WordPress Export tool and the WXR file is to transfer or clone your website to another server. Once you have exported the WXR file from the website you wish to transfer from, you can import the WXR file from the Tools, Import menu on the new WordPress destination site. Be aware that there are file size limits depending on the settings on your web server. See the WordPress Codex entry for more information. To make this job easier, you may wish to use one of a number of WordPress plugins designed specifically for this task.
You also can manually back up the WordPress MySQL database using a number of tools or a plugin. The WordPress Codex has good information on this. All WordPress plugins will handle this for you and do it automatically. They also typically include tools for optimizing the database tables, which is just good housekeeping.
A dependable backup strategy doesn’t rely on manual backups, which means you should consider using one of the many backup plugins available either free or for purchase. We’ll talk more about them below.
Which Format To Back Up In?
In addition to the WordPress WXR format, plugins and server tools will use various file formats and compression algorithms to store and compress your backup. You may get to choose between zip, tar, tar.gz, tar.gz2, and others. See The Most Common Archive File Formats for more information on these formats.
Select a format that you know you can access and unarchive should you need access to your backup. All of these formats are standard and supported across operating systems, though you might need to download a utility to access the file.
Where To Back Up?
Once you have your data in a suitable format for backup, where do you back it up to?
We want to have multiple copies of our active website data, so we’ll choose more than one destination for our backup data. The backup plugins we’ll discuss below enable you to specify one or more possible destinations for your backup. The possible destinations for your backup include:
- A backup folder on your web server
- A backup folder on your web server is an OK solution if you also have a copy elsewhere. Depending on your hosting plan, the size of your site, and what you include in the backup, you may or may not have sufficient disk space on the web server. Some backup plugins allow you to configure the plugin to keep only a certain number of recent backups and delete older ones, saving you disk space on the server.
- Email to you
- Because email servers have size limitations, the email option is not the best one to use unless you use it to specifically back up just the database or your main theme files.
- FTP, SFTP, SCP, WebDAV
- FTP, SFTP, SCP, and WebDAV are all widely-supported protocols for transferring files over the internet and can be used if you have access credentials to another server or supported storage device that is suitable for storing a backup.
- Sync service (Dropbox, SugarSync, Google Drive, OneDrive)
- A sync service is another possible server storage location though it can be a pricier choice depending on the plan you have and how much you wish to store.
- Cloud storage (Backblaze B2, Amazon S3, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, Rackspace)
- A cloud storage service can be an inexpensive and flexible option with pay-as-you go pricing for storing backups and other data.
A good website backup strategy would be to have multiple backups of your website data: one in a backup folder on your web hosting server, one downloaded to your local computer, and one in the cloud, such as with Backblaze B2.
If I had to choose just one of these, I would choose backing up to the cloud because it is geographically separated from both your local computer and your web host, it uses fault-tolerant and redundant data storage technologies to protect your data, and it is available from anywhere if you need to restore your site.
Backup Plugins for WordPress
Probably the easiest and most common way to implement a solid backup strategy for WordPress is to use one of the many backup plugins available for WordPress. Fortunately, there are a number of good ones and are available free or in “freemium” plans in which you can use the free version and pay for more features and capabilities only if you need them. The premium options can give you more flexibility in configuring backups or have additional options for where you can store the backups.
How to Choose a WordPress Backup Plugin
When considering which plugin to use, you should take into account a number of factors in making your choice.
Is the plugin actively maintained and up-to-date? You can determine this from the listing in the WordPress Plugin Repository. You also can look at reviews and support comments to get an idea of user satisfaction and how well issues are resolved.
Does the plugin work with your web hosting provider? Generally, well-supported plugins do, but you might want to check to make sure there are no issues with your hosting provider. Every WordPress user has experience with plugins and themes conflicting with each other, so it’s good to check on whether there are any known issues for the plugin you’re considering.
Does it support the cloud service or protocol you wish to use? This can be determined from looking at the listing in the WordPress Plugin Repository or on the developer’s website. Developers often will add support for cloud services or other backup destinations based on user demand, so let the developer know if there is a feature or backup destination you’d like them to add to their plugin.
Other features and options to consider in choosing a backup plugin are:
- Whether encryption of your backup data is available
- What are the options for automatically deleting backups from the storage destination?
- Can you globally exclude files, folders, and specific types of files from the backup?
- Do the options for scheduling automatic backups meet your needs for frequency?
- Can you exclude/include specific database tables (a good way to save space in your backup)?
WordPress Backup Plugins Review
Let’s review a few of the top choices for WordPress backup plugins.
UpdraftPlus | Supports B2
UpdraftPlus is one of the most popular backup plugins for WordPress with over one million active installations. It is available in both free and Premium versions.
UpdraftPlus just released support for Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage in their 1.13.9 update on September 25. According to the developer, support for Backblaze B2 was the most frequent request for a new storage option for their plugin. B2 support is available in their Premium plugin and as a stand-alone update to their standard product.
Note: The developers of UpdraftPlus are offering a special 20% discount to Backblaze customers on the purchase of UpdraftPlus Premium by using the coupon code backblaze20. The discount is valid until the end of Friday, October 6th, 2017.
XCloner — Backup and Restore | Supports B2
XCloner — Backup and Restore is a useful open-source plugin with many options for backing up WordPress.
XCloner supports B2 Cloud Storage in their free plugin.
BlogVault | Plans To Support B2
BlogVault describes themselves as a “complete WordPress backup solution.” They offer a free trial of their paid WordPress backup subscription service that features real-time backups of changes to your WordPress site, as well as many other features.
BlogVault has announced their intent to support Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage in a future update.
WordPress Backup & Migrate Plugin – BackupGuard | Plans To Support B2
BackupGuard can backup and restore all website files, database or both, and supports a variety of destinations for your backup. It also handles site migrations if you wish to move your website. BackupGuard comes in free and tiered payment versions.
BackupGuard has announced their intent to support Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage in a future update.
BackWPup is a popular and free option for backing up WordPress. It supports a number of options for storing your backup, including the cloud, FTP, email, or on your local computer.
WPBackItUp has been around since 2012 and is highly rated. It has both free and paid versions.
VaultPress is part of Automattic’s well-known WordPress product, JetPack. You will need a JetPack subscription plan to use VaultPress. There are different pricing plans with different sets of features.
Backup by Supsystic
Backup by Supsystic supports a number of options for backup destinations, encryption, and scheduling.
BackUpWordPress is an open-source project on Github that has a popular and active following and many positive reviews.
BackupBuddy, from iThemes, is the old-timer of backup plugins, having been around since 2010. iThemes knows a lot about WordPress, as they develop plugins, themes, utilities, and provide training in WordPress.
BackupBuddy’s backup includes all WordPress files, all files in the WordPress Media library, WordPress themes, and plugins. BackupBuddy generates a downloadable zip file of the entire WordPress website. Remote storage destinations also are supported.
WordPress and the Cloud
Do you use WordPress and back up to the cloud? We’d like to hear about it. We’d also like to hear whether you are interested in using B2 Cloud Storage for storing media files served by WordPress. If you are, we’ll write about it in a future post.
In the meantime, keep your eye out for new plugins supporting Backblaze B2, or better yet, urge them to support B2 if they’re not already.
The Best Backup Strategy is the One You Use
There are other approaches and tools for backing up WordPress that you might use. If you have an approach that works for you, we’d love to hear about it in the comments.