Imagine spending hours and hours building your WordPress site…only to have it all vanish in an instant.
That would be an absolute nightmare, right? You put in so much effort, how can it just disappear in the blink of an eye?
Unfortunately, the Internet can get crazy sometimes. Hackers, a slip of the finger, a bad plugin…all of those things can break or erase your site just like that.
But losing your site doesn’t have to be something that keeps you up at night. Because with the proper fail-safes in place, you’ll always be able to backup and restore your WordPress core files and do a full cPanel database backup in case anything goes south. Regardless of anything bad that happens to your website, an automatic backup WordPress plugin can save the day.
Now, one way to handle backups is to hire a knowledgeable WordPress maintenance service. A good one has you set up with 24/7 uptime monitoring and would be able to restore your WordPress site from a backup the second they receive notification of a fatal error.
But if you don’t mind digging in yourself, properly using a backup plugin can get you the same end result as far as backups go.
So, to help you pick a plugin, we’ve put together a list of the best backup and restore plugins. Then, at the end of this post, we’ll tell you how to implement a proper strategy using whatever plugin you pick.
What to Look For in a Backup and Restore Plugin
Did you notice how this section doesn’t just say “backup plugin”? Do you know why that is? Because backing up your site is only half of the battle. You also need a way to restore your site from any of the backups you’ve taken. If you can’t figure out how to use your backup, it’s not much use, is it?
So that’s tip one – make sure you choose a plugin that lets you both easily back up and restore your website.
After that, here are a couple of other considerations:
- Consider cloud backups. Some plugins let you automatically back up your site to cloud storage services like Google Drive, Dropbox, or others. If you want that functionality, make sure your plugin supports your desired cloud storage service.
- Pick one that does it automatically. Don’t leave your backups to chance. I recommend always choosing a backup and restore plugin that lets you automatically schedule your backups to run at certain intervals.
- Make sure it can handle your site. Some plugins work great for small sites but run slowly for huge sites. So if you have a huge site, make sure the plugin you choose is designed to handle large sites.
- Consider migration. Migrating your site is different than restoring because it involves changing your domain name. That requires running a find and replace on your database in phpMyAdmin. So if you think you’ll ever migrate your WordPress site, consider a backup plugin that supports migration.
Ok, now we’ll take you through all of the best backup and restore plugins. We’ll try to make special notes for all of the above criteria as I go through.
The 5 Best Backup and Restore Plugins
All of the following plugins have been around for quite some time and have developed a reputation for reliability.
UpdraftPlus is a free backup and restore plugin that also has a premium version with even more functionality.
In the free version, you can create automatic backups that run on your preferred schedule.
You can choose to download those backups to your computer, save them on your web host (not a great idea) or automatically send them to a cloud storage provider like Dropbox, Google Drive, Rackspace Cloud and more.
If you need to restore, UpdraftPlus makes it easy to restore both your database and your full site. And if your site is especially large, UpdraftPlus can split it into multiple archives to make the backup process more reliable.
If you go with the $70 premium version, you’ll gain access to even more cloud storage options. You’ll also be able to restore your site from backups created by other backup plugins.
And if you need to migrate your WordPress site, UpdraftPlus lets you run a search and replace on your database in phpMyAdmin to make that easy.
UpdraftPlus is what I personally use and I have nothing but great things to say about it.
To handle storage, VaultPress uses their own cloud system, which is both good and bad. It’s good because it makes restoration incredibly easy. All you need to do is click a button inside your WordPress account to quickly restore your site. It’s bad because you’re relying solely on an external service if you just leave all of your backups sitting in the VaultPress cloud.
Even though that company is Automattic, mistakes can always happen.
VaultPress is included with the Jetpack plugin…but not for free. In order to activate the VaultPress module, you’ll need to subscribe to the Basic plan at minimum. If you upgrade to the premium plan, you also get daily security scans.
BackupBuddy is a popular premium backup and restore plugin from iThemes.
With it, you can set up automatic full-site backups to cloud storage services like Google Drive, Dropbox, Amazon S3, and more. You can also take advantage of BackupBuddy’s own BackupBuddy Stash service, which lets you easily manage all of your backups in the cloud.
What I like is that it’s also easy to download backups to your local computer, which is an essential part of proper backup strategy (more on that later!).
In addition to the backup functionality, BackupBuddy also includes tools to both restore and migrate your WordPress site.
And here’s one really cool non-backup feature:
If you purchase the Developer package, BackupBuddy can create a staging site so that you can test out changes before ever pushing them to your live site. That means fewer chances to break things, which means you might not even need to restore from a backup!
As far as backup and restore plugins go, Duplicator is probably the least user friendly. But I love it because of how flexible it is.
Duplicator essentially lets you create copies of your full WordPress site. You can store these copies as backups, use them to restore your site, or use them to easily migrate your site to a new domain name.
The process isn’t as slick as a dedicated backup and restore plugin, but it gives you a ton of flexibility.
BackWPup is a great option if you’re looking for a reliable free backup and restore plugin. While it does have a premium version, the free version should be fine for most WordPress users.
In the free version, you can schedule complete backups of your site. You can choose to either back up to external services like Dropbox or download a single .zip file to your own computer.
If you ever need to restore, all you need to do is import that single .zip file. Couldn’t be easier.
BackWPup can also help you optimize, check, and repair your database through automatic phpMyAdmin backups – a nice touch.
And if you upgrade to the premium version, you’ll get more cloud-storage backup options as well as better support.
Proper WordPress Backup Strategy – Remember 3-2-1
As I said, any of the above plugins will work for backing up and restoring your WordPress site. But you need to use them properly. A backup is only good if it’s actually accessible. If you lose access to your backups, you might as well have never run them in the first place.
So, to ensure you always have access to a viable backup, here’s what to remember:
The 3-2-1 backup strategy means that you always have three total backups of your site, with two of those backups being local, and one being offsite. Get it? Three. Two. One.
So what’s an example? Here’s a backup scenario that meets the 3-2-1 rule. Store a copy of your site on:
- Your computer
- An external hard drive / USB drive
- A cloud storage provider like Dropbox or Google Drive
It may seem excessive, but following this strategy basically guarantees that, short of a global disaster, you’ll always have access to at least one viable backup.
Wrapping Things Up
Now that you’ve got your plugins and your backup strategy knowledge, you’re ready to go out there and start safeguarding your core WordPress files, your database and everything running in your cPanel right now.
If you’d rather offload backup worries to someone else, you can give WP Buffs a try free for 7 days. The Buffs will handle WordPress backups for you so that you can focus on bigger picture stuff.
Happy backing up!