Have you ever thought of what would happen if you wake up tomorrow and realize that your site is no longer functional?
For many of us, our websites are a gateway to reach our clients and bring in business. You spend a lot of time carefully designing your site and having the best content possible. What would happen if you lost all of that in an instant? Whenever I have posed this question during meetups, many people have asked me “How likely is that my site will crash? Hosting companies do take care of stuff like that right?” Well, yes and no.
Hosting companies do provide you with options to backup your site. Some hosting companies do an automatic backup every day. That is the good news. But, the bad news is that even with hosting companies doing that, it is advisable to have a plan to create a backup regularly and store it away from your server. Hosting companies with very good intentions might also lose your data because of reasons beyond their control. In that case, your backups are also lost.
Using WordPress plugins is one of the easiest ways to backup your site regularly. These plugins let you schedule backups, store them off site, and also help you restore your site from a backup if needed. They make all this very easy. There are many backup plugins for WordPress – both free and premium. Choosing one of them could be very time consuming if you don’t know what you are looking for.
Here are some pointers to help you choose the right backup plugin for your site.
Free plugins are almost always preferred. Even if the plugin is not entirely free, it is always nice to be able to install a free version and get the hang of it. I always start with a search in the WordPress plugins repo to see what plugins I can find.
Ease of use
The plugin should be easy to use for the average user. If you have a dedicated developer taking care of your site, then you don’t have to worry about this. If you are managing the site yourself, then you do not want to spend hours trying to configure the plugin. Most backup plugins are pretty easy to use, but everybody is different and has a different knowledge level when it comes to WordPress. So, if you download a plugin and are not sure about it, deactivate it and download another one. Try out a few plugins before you decide which one works for you.
Provide backup of entire site
You should be able to backup your entire site – the site files and the database. The files include all the WordPress content, your plugins, themes, uploads etc. Some plugins do not provide a database backup or they might just provide an xml file of the content along with the database. That is not enough. You should have the option to backup not just the site files and the database, but also be able to include non-WordPress files in the backup.
Easy restoration of backups
The entire point of a backup is to be able to restore it back when you need it. So, make sure you understand how the restoration process works. The plugin should give you the option to restore only parts of the backup if needed – for example if you only want to restore your plugins, but not the entire site, you should be able to do so.
If you are restoring an entire site, you should be able to keep the downtime to a minimal. Make sure there is a way to restore your site even when you are not able to access the WordPress admin.
Save the backup in a remote cloud storage
This is one of the most important things. When you create a backup, you should save it away from your hosting server. This ensures that even if you cannot access your site via FTP, you will still have a complete backup of your site in case you need to re-install the site. It will be very easy if the backup plugin lets you store the backup in a remote cloud storage like Dropbox, OneDrive, Amazon cloud storage etc. Being able to do that takes out one more step in your list. You can also directly download it to your cloud storage, but I prefer to set it up and not have to worry about it. This is especially important if you are scheduling automatic backups.
Setting up automatic backups
Being able to set up automatic backups is another important thing to consider. This is especially true if you have a large site with lots of content. It is advisable to take a backup every day or at least every week. So, you can set up a backup job to run on a particular day or time and forget about it. I would still go in and check randomly to make sure the plugin is doing its job, but at least you don’t have to worry about it on a daily basis.
Having good customer support is important for any plugin (free or premium). If you have a question or an issue about the plugin, you should be able to contact customer support easily. And, you should have your questions answered in a timely manner. They might not always be able to fix your issue right away or give you help without you paying for the support. But, you should get a response from them regarding your question. If the customer support is good, it is likely that they will fix any issues with the plugin.
This is as important as customer support. WordPress is constantly changing with new features being added and bugs being fixed. All the WordPress plugins also need to be maintained and updated on a regular basis. They should be compatible with a fairly recent version of WordPress even if not with the latest version. If you look on the plugin page, it tells you when the plugin was last updated. Now, WordPress does give you a warning if the plugin was not updated for more than 2 years, so that’s easy. But, with a backup plugin, I would be slightly wary if it wasn’t updated in the last 6 – 8 months or so. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the plugin is broken, it just means that you should be cautious when you use it.
It might be difficult to find a free plugin that gives you all the above mentioned features. You might have to pick what is more important and what works best for your site. Here are a few plugins that I use for myself and my clients.