Backups have always been a pain for WordPress site owners.
Backups stall, error codes come up, it’s hard to restore your site, you use up all of your storage; the list goes on and on. In this post, we will look at what is wrong with the current state of WordPress backups and then look at the new generation of backup options: incremental backups.
Current backup plugin options (like BackupBuddy) have flaws including:
- Their reliability. To this point, all backup options worked by either backing up the entire website (files and database) or only the entire database. When you have a larger website, the backup often fails because the server timeouts or there is a lack of PHP memory. Both of these things are hard to fix when you are hosted on a shared hosting plan. The problem comes directly from the large file size of the backup.
- Ease of Restoration. What do you do when something goes wrong with your site and you need to restore from a backup? You need to copy over all of your site files, which can take a long time with a large backup. During that time your site is down until the backup completes. There is no need restore an entire website if there are only minor updates that need restoration. You also need FTP access and knowledge of the file structure to successfully restore a site. There is no “restore button.”
- Storage Space. Every backup that is made creates a new zip file that is stored on your server (or sometimes cloud server). This adds up over time, with some sites creating a backup of over 1GB for each backup! You will learn that your “unlimited” hosting package is really not unlimited. Shared hosts do not like you using a backup plugin to store your zip backups and will often tell you to stop. Many of the major hosts will actually tell you to stop using BackupBuddy because it is too resource intensive and taking too much space.
Enough about the old way that doesn’t work well. Let’s dive into incremental backups.
What are Incremental Backups?
Incremental Backups work in the same way as Apple’s TimeMachine. Every change you make is automatically stored, so you can revert back if needed. Instead of backing up your entire website file structure and database every time you make a backup, these plugins will only backup the change that you have made. This is very similar to how Dropbox and GitHub work, with file versioning. Some of these new incremental backups are even using Dropbox to power the file versioning.
What are the Benefits?
You will no longer have issues with backups timing out because only small updates are being saved each time. This makes your backups more reliable and less resource intensive on your server. Another benefit is the ability to make restores of the site if anything breaks or needs to be reverted. Instead of restoring the entire website, only the files that have changed will be reverted.
Here is a real world example: You go an update a plugin on your site. After you made the update, you notice that all of your site styling is off. Instead of reverting your site to a full backup (which you probably did not make to do a plugin update), you can simply revert your site back to where it was before you made the plugin update. This will take a lot of stress out of making plugin updates!
What Are The Options?
BlogVault has been around for awhile and offers a unique incremental backup solution that does not add excess strain on your server (therefore being more successful with each backup. They also have other useful tools such as WordPress migration, staging and a white label version.
From the guys behind InfiniteWP, WP Time Capsule is one of the first standalone plugins to offer incremental backups. It is a free plugin with a Pro version coming soon. This plugin works with Dropbox’s revision history to create and restore versions of your site. You hookup your DropBox account and the backups are made behind the scenes. The pro version will include:
- Auto backup, which saves every change on your site automatically
- Roll Back, which reverts your site automatically if anything breaks
- and Staging, which allows you to create a separate staging site.
If InfiniteWP rolled this new plugin into their existing platform, they would have a game-changing product.
ManageWP is releasing a new version of their software, called Orion, in the (hopefully) not too distant future. Part of their new platform is incremental backup functionality. They are addressing the problems mentioned above such as using less server resources and having a more reliable backup solution.
The downside is this will only be part of their ManageWP platform once it is released to the public. There will be no standalone plugin you can use like WP Time Capsule.
VersionPress is a plugin that uses Git to record each change you make to your site. Positioned more as a developer product (rather than consumer friendly), VersionPress will require a bit more setup and knowledge of Git to be used. This is a premium plugin starting at $50, but does incorporate a lot of the functionality that makes incremental backups great.
I love that more companies are focusing on incremental backups and the many advantages they possess. Backups on WordPress have always been unreliable and difficult to restore. Incremental backups solve these issues and make WordPress an even better option for businesses that rely on their website. The best option to start trying right now is WP Time Capsule as it is a free plugin and easy to setup to get your feet wet with incremental backups. Do you have any experiences with incremental backups or do you plan on switching from a traditional backup solution like BackupBuddy?