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Picking a WordPress Backup in 2020: A Beginners Complete Guide

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WordPress backups aren’t new. Neither are the disasters users find themselves in.
There are 53,10,000 articles on the topic.

Have you been to Reddit’s WP section?  It is sprawling with concerns like: “Updates broke my site”, “my web host server crashed” etc.- There’s a pattern. 

For WP beginners it’s easy to get into this mess. Check this out:

beginners tragedybeginners tragedy 1

This user did lose “everything” Image Source: Reddit

The user acknowledges they’re not an expert. 
And most concerning thing is that they installed new software without a WordPress backup. 

In response, a  user offered some help:

photo 2020 07 24 18 22 45

Lesson Learnt: Make backups like crazy always

There is nothing more painful than losing a year’s worth of hard work. 
All your articles, media, comments, and databases can vanish if you’re not careful enough.

This user could’ve easily avoided this situation with multiple backups on multiple servers. 

For those who are new to WordPress backups, this article will be a broad overview. 

We’ll focus on the different approaches to backups, the pros & cons of each, and the importance of redundancy. 

We’ll also talk about storage options and what you should keep in mind before going ahead with a backup. 


Why you need a backup.

Website Crashes are fairly common:

  1. Code Errors
  2. Virus Attacks 
  3. Malware/Hackers 
  4. Bad/Outdated Plugins 
  5. Updates & Installs
  6. Service Provider error 
  7. Hosting error 
  8. Domain error 

All of this can get your website down.

How do users get to you then? – You have to restore your site quickly. 
And you need a backup. Do you have a backup? 

Of course, you do. How many?
One? Okay.

Or Two. On the same server?
Okay, but what if that server crashed too?
Both of your backups would be gone. You’d be left with nothing.

WordPress suggests having three copies on multiple servers to be on the safe side. 

WordPress website backups

How does WordPress store backups (or does it)?

WordPress does store Backups. It can be automated or manual. 

But it’s complicated.

Many WordPress users are not professionals.

Automated or Manual Backups without any plugins or services isn’t easy. 
There’s also room for error (human or otherwise). 

Human errors = accidental file deletion/code errors.

Hosting errors = your web host has server issues.

This can affect the quality of your backups.

But Plugins & Backup….

There are over 57,000+ WordPress plugins. They are free & paid.

There’s a plugin for everything – security plugins, SEO plugins, backup plugins, etc.

But there’s a catch. When you download a plugin, it’s installed onsite – on your website or web host server.

And the more plugins you download, the more plugin files on your server.

More plugins = More Files onsite = More load time = Users leaving site = low conversions

Apart from this many plugins are badly developed or outdated. 

The security holes in such plugins can make your website prone to attacks and crashes. 

In 2016 it only took three outdated plugins to compromise 25% WP Websites, Many users go as far as to claim that over 50% WP Plugins have not been updated for over 2 years.

The Problem with Onsite Backup

What about creating a backup on the same server as your website?

If you backup all your important website files and databases on your website itself,  anyone could access it.

Apart from security issues, onsite Backup  eats up speed and storage.

Embrace Redundancy or The More The Merrier 

A simple solution is  3-2-1.

WordPress  strongly recommends creating 3 copies of your website. 2 should be on different types of servers. And 1 should be offsite. Preferably a hard drive. 

You should store these copies on different types of backup storage systems – cloud, disks, tape, FTP e.t.c.

These extra files are redundant and if your website were ever to crash, a redundant copy would be ready to take its place. 

As you restore your backup files, your new site will be up and running in no time.

But it doesn’t end there. 

Creating copies is the first thing. 

Second thing is where do these backups go? And if you do have a storage (cloud/hard drives) can you access your site files immediately?

Quick Access to your backups is essential during a disaster recovery. 

The last thing you want to do is scramble.

A Checklist before you dive in

Before you blast open that cPanel or PHP my admin, there are a few things to consider:

1. How many WordPress sites do you have? (a number)

If you are managing multiple sites, you need more space.  You could be dealing with multiple files & databases of varying sizes.

2. Make sure you have the right files

You need to backup two things:
Databases = All the site text, comments, pages, articles, posts e.t.c.
Files = Uploaded Media on your site (Images e.t.c.), the WordPress code itself, plugin & theme files. 

Both of these need each other for a successful backup of your site. 
So make sure you backup these two.

3. Size of each 

Are you a small site with hundreds of pages or an eCommerce with thousands of product pages?

If you’re an eCommerce- you’ll be dealing with sensitive information – user  accounts & passwords e.t.c.

More files + More Databases + Sensitive Information =  More space + Security 

4. What is your budget?

This goes back to databases, files and their sizes. 

You should know your needs and your website’s needs best. 
The larger your site is, the more files and databases you’ll have to to deal with.

And are you comfortable with doing backups manually?

Unless you’re an expert it’s better to avoid it. 

Instead it’s safer to invest in a WordPress management Service that’ll take care of all your site backups. 

A good example is WP Uber. WP Uber’s Backup & Restore feature backups your sites on multiple servers. And if ever your website crashes, you can restore these backups immediately.

5. Daily Backups & Testing

Most Backup Systems have automatic and scheduled.backups. 

You can keep weeks’ or months’ of backup. Ideally, you should have many weeks’ worth of backups. 

Don’t leave it there, you should test these backups and be sure you have “clean” copies. This means all the site code is intact (plugin, theme code etc.)

So if you run into a problem with your site you have a clean backup version to restore.

OFFSITE BACKUP OPTIONS (Where do we put it now?)

1. Cloud Servers 

WordPress Cloud Backup 2

One common offsite file storage option is the Cloud. 

An advantage of storing on the cloud is you can access your files independently of your web host server. You can also access these files on any device anytime and restore your site immediately if your website is hacked or crashes. 

Also, as the backup files are not copied on your website or web host server, there is no load on your servers and site speed is not compromised.

There are many tools, plugins, or services providing backup support. 

A backup plugin creates a backup of your WordPress sites. You then have the option of storing these copies on a hard drive or the cloud.

We’ll briefly go through two popular cloud tools: Google Drive & DropBox 

However, they’re more convenient than reliable.

(1) Google Drive 

With 15 GB of free space, Google Drive seems like a good option to store all your WordPress backups.

As an offsite file storage option, it is a remote server. There are no backups on your website or your web host server. Therefore your website won’t slow down. 
drive animation v3drive animation v3
But, when you have the same credential for all your accounts, you could make your backups prone to hackers. 

Also, What if you run out of space suddenly, will your WP backup plugin providers notify you via email?

How can your plugins continue to backup your sites if there is no storage.


(2) DropBox 

Another cloud storage option is  Dropbox.

Moreover Dropbox stores WordPress files offsite and is supported by many WordPress backup plugins e.g. BackupBuddy & UpdraftPlus

comp 6comp 6

While Google Drive & Dropbox are quite similar (pros & cons) they differ in two things: space & speed

When it comes to space Google Drive is the winner, Free or Paid.

Free storage

Paid Storage (2 TB/year)

Dropbox = 2 GB

Dropbox  plus= $119/year

Google Drive  = 15 GB

Google One =  $99/year

But in terms of speed Google Drive doesn’t catch up. 
Because of the differences in sync speed.

When there are changes made in a file in real-time, google downloads and uploads the entire file to sync it.

With a few changes, it wouldn’t make much of a difference. 

But as you scale the number of changes, there are many file versions being downloaded and synced. It takes a lot of time and you can’t access the final synced file immediately. 

If your connection breaks down, the sync will be incomplete and you’ll end up with faulty backups.

On the other hand Dropbox block syncs files. Instead of downloading the entire file, Dropbox will only sync the latest changes.

But  we run into the same issues of diminishing storage and unreliable daily backups.


(3) WP Uber’s Backup Service

Popular tools like Dropbox and Google Drive store backups on

Cloud Storage gifCloud Storage gif 1

one cloud server.

One Caveat though: 

While both tools are affordable, convenient and compatible with most WP backup Plugins, 

Having only one cloud storage as a backup option is not playing safe.

  1. There is always a possibility of network failure/corrupted files/lost files.
  2. As you change, upload & backup your site files it’s difficult to keep track of real-time changes every time. Syncing can be a pain.

Unless you’re an expert, it’ll be a struggle to deal with all the back-end scripts that you need to run for an automated backup.

To make things easier try using a WordPress Management service that stores and backups your files in real-time. WP Uber’s Backup Feature takes care of all the real-time changes you make on your website. 

Not only does it sync real-time changes, WP Uber creates copies of your website(s) on 3 cloud servers. And with 24×7 real-time support, you’re good to go. 

And if your website ever crashes, you can restore a backup immediately.

So for a robust and reliable backup strategy there is a simple equation to remember:

3 backups/file copies + Multiple servers = Less risk of crashing

This is the equation for redundancy. If one server were to fail, you can restore your website files from another server 

When you sign up for WP Uber, the backup feature creates copies of your website and stores it on three different servers:

  1. Amazon Servers
  2. Wasabi Servers
  3. WP Uber’s self-hosted servers

You have insurance against an unforeseen website crash or failure. 

2. Hard Disks or Drives 

Let us now consider an extreme (yet unlikely) situation.

You checked all the ticks off your backup checklist.

All your daily backups with real-time changes, important files & databases e.t.c. 

with multiple copies are stored on the cloud.

And then your website goes down. 

You do have a backup, so you try to restore your site. 

You log in to your cloud storage and access your backups, only to find that your files are amiss, corrupted and most are missing. 

Maybe all are. You don’t even know. 

This can happen to anyone. 

To avoid this, WordPress emphasizes having one backup on a physical hard drive. 

It could be a USB, SD card, CD, DVD. It can also be on an internal storage system in another location.

But this isn’t perfect either.

Hard Drives aren’t foolproof on their own. What if a fire broke out or you spilled coffee on the drives. 

What if you need more space?, You’ll  need more storage. This isn’t inexpensive.

What do you do as you scale your website? You’ll have to scale your storage with more drives. 


Last Words on Backups

Picking the right backup for your WordPress sites is a process.

 As you scale and increase traffic to your website, you’ll be working with more files & databases. 

Apart from needing more storage space you’ll need a reliable backup plan.

Ultimately you need to be extra sure that your backups shouldn’t fail you.

Therefore Redundancy (extra backups) is insurance.  It is a backup of a backup. 

The more backups you have – the safer you are in the long run. 

But not just copies, you need to have them on multiple servers offsite. 

And in case of a website crash or failure, you can easily restore your website with minimum downtime. 

So Try WP Uber today and make sure you don’t keep all your eggs in one basket

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