It’s Tuesday afternoon. The sun is shining, birds are chirping; life is good. Then you get an email.
“Heya, I just tried going to your web site, and it just spins and spins.”
A quick call to support at your host and you find out there’s been an earthquake. The data center was damaged, and they don’t know when it’ll be back. If you have backups then they can set you up on the other data center in Denver.
Do you have backups?
Are you sighing with relief right now, or do you have the cold sweats?
WordPress has some excellent tools for backing up your site. A quick search of the WordPress.org plugin repository shows there are over 680 plugins that do something with backups. Not all tools are created equal though. Here are some things to think about when choosing a backup plugin.
#1. Location of your backups
The easiest thing to do with your backups is to store them right on the same server as your site. WordPress is very comfortable writing files to its /uploads/ folder, and every backup plugin offers this as an option. The only thing worse than this choice is no backups at all.
If your site melts down then your backups are going to melt down with it.
A much better choice is to keep your backups off site. Most good backup plugins have the option to store your backups someplace like Amazon S3, Dropbox, or Google Drive. BackupBuddy even includes its own storage system as a service.
It’s not hard to set up and many of the options are free. Make sure your backups aren’t in the same place as your site.
#2. Scheduling your WordPress backups
Once you set up your backup plugin you need to make sure to make it run itself on a schedule. Most plugins provide a process for this, but they vary wildly in complexity.
It can be as easy as filling out a small form in the WordPress admin area, but the WordPress cron system depends on site traffic, so it’s not always reliable.
Good plugins also provide a way for an external process to kick off your backups. This might involve a knowledge of Unix cron, or it might simply be another form on another site.
#3. Recovery from your WordPress backups
Do you know how to restore your site? How hard is it? How quickly can it be done? These are important questions. It’s not uncommon to get your backups all set up, breathe a sigh of relief and move on.
The plugin you need depends on your level of comfort with managing web content. If you’re fine unzipping a backup file and uploading your files, and then doing a database import via phpMyAdmin then you can get away with some of the cheaper or free plugins like BackWPup.
If you need something that holds your hand every step of the way then you’ll want something like BackupBuddy.
Another option is a service like VaultPress. You can pay a monthly fee and they keep your backups off site and provide an easy recovery process.
#4. Rotation of your WordPress backups
If your site has any kind of size to it, your backup files are going to be pretty big. If you have daily or weekly backups then your file storage can get out of hand pretty quickly. If you’re storing your backups on the same server as your site then your host is going to cry foul pretty quickly.
If you’re storing off site then you’re probably paying for drive space. At that point your fees are going to start climbing.
A good backup plugin will offer options for limiting your storage. You might be able to limit by the number of files you’re storing, or by date, or any number of other options.
Regardless, this is something you’ll want to be thinking about.
If your site has any importance to you, backups are a must. Given the ease with which backups can be made, there’s no reason at all not to have them. There are a wide variety of option in both cost and ease of use. Feel free to try as many as you wish, it won’t hurt anything.
Here’s hoping you sleep better!