When I first started on WordPress – it's been a while – I was a young, innocent blogger.
Innocent and above all (very) carefree. I was delighted to publish my first posts and I really had no idea that a disaster could happen.
Then one fine day: crash!
No more site in sight.
All of this because I hadn't made a backup of my WordPress site..
I let you imagine the state of my fragile little heart as a young WP user.
The result of this crash? A bitter memory, and the loss of quite a bit of data.
Even if you have worked hard to secure your site, the main line of defense is to have a backup system so you can restore it quickly. In fact, it is an absolute necessity.
Except that at the time, of course, I didn't know about the WordPress backup plugins that allow you avoid catastrophy.
To save you from what happened to me, I'm going to present you 7 free WordPress backup plugins, and tell you about their pros and cons.
Why do you need to backup your WordPress site?
Simply because a bad manipulation, or a technical problem beyond your control, happens very quickly.
Far be it for me to cast an evil eye on you, but WordPress errors will always end up falling on you, whether you like it or not.
- A plugin update can goe wrong and make your site unavailable.
- You can be hacked. Although WordPress is a secure CMS, it is by far the most hacked CMS (Content Management System) in the world, far more than its competitors.
- Your site can be unavailable after a bad manipulation. For instance, you have just inserted a piece of code into a file, but you don't remember where you dragged it.
- A malfunction of the server that hosts your site, temporary or permanent, can occur.
- You may forget to renew your subscription with your host: your site becomes inaccessible.
So, are you convinced? I see you coming around. You may say that backing up your site is not your priority, knowing that your host already takes care of it.
Indeed, some of them do offer this option. However, I do not recommend that you rely solely on that.
The idea is not to put all your eggs in the same basket, and to keep control over your backups. As they say: better safe than sorry.
Then you might as well have a backup just in case, right?
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Characteristics of a good backup plugin
Now you are aware of the importance of backing up your site. I hope the idea is making its way to you 😉
I now propose that we try to dissect the essential characteristics of any good WordPress backup plugin. Ideally, it should…
- Propose a total backup of your site. That is, it can allow you to save the core files (the core of WordPress) and your database.
- Have an automatic backup function. There are two options at this point. Some plugins allow you to do it automatically in 1 click: in this case, it's very simple. For others, only manual restoration will be possible: you will have to reinstall the site, which is still more complicated if you are just starting out, especially if the administration is temporarily unavailable.
- Allow you to restore your site in case of technical problems. Some backup plugins allow you to do this automatically in 1 click, others let you do it manually.
- Offer you to backup your site to a remote storage space, in the cloud for example on Google Drive, Dropbox, Amazon S3, etc. Why is that useful? Because if your backups are only stored on your server, and there is a problem on your server, all of this was for nothing.
- Have a user-friendly interface that is easy to manage for the user.
Is everything good for you? Without further delay, let's dive deeper to discover 7 essential WordPress backup plugins.
7 free WordPress backup plugins
After having conducted more than a dozen plugin tests, I have chosen to present you with 7 of them.
I could also have talked to you more about All-in-One WP Migration, IThemes Security, or WP Database Backup, but they left me speechless, partially because the backup feature was not developed enough (because it wasn't at the heart of the plugin's functionalities).
Come on, no more talking: it's time for action.
Find out right away what our little plugins have under the hood.
BackupWordPress is a backup plugin that flirts with 4 million downloads. (more than 200,000 active installations).
It offers interesting features but saves some for its premium version.
Let's put it through the mill and find out what's in it.
- Easy to set up and simple to use: the plugin works by default without any additional settings on your part, if you wish;
- Export of the database and files, and the possibility to backup only the database and/or only the files;
- Selecting directories and files to export;
- Backup scheduling.
- There is no backup on third party services except in the paid version (Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.). On that subject, be careful. The maintenance and support of the plugin changed hands in August 2018 and it is no longer possible to get the premium version.
- As the backups are stored on your server, you will need to remember to copy them manually to your computer or a hard drive, for example. Because if your server goes down, you'll lose all the benefit of your actions.
Who is BackUpWordPress made for?
The plugin will suit the occasional users who want an efficient, simple and functional tool upon activation.
BackupWordPress offers the minimum of what is expected from a backup plugin, i.e. the planning and saving of the backup files (whether the database alone or combined with the site files).
We regret, however, the inability to send backups to third party services and the lack of an option to restore your WordPress backups.
BackWPup is a plugin which, unlike the previous one, will allow you to transfer your backups to different external services (Dropbox, etc.).
Its 8 million downloads and 600.000 active installations make it one of the most popular WordPress backup plugins.
Let's see what it's got under the hood.
- One-click database download.
- Exportable backups on FTP, Dropbox, Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure, Rackspace Cloud and SugarSync.
- Export of the database, files, WordPress XML export file and list of installed plugins.
- Scheduling backups.
- Verification of the offered database tables and possibility to repair and optimize the database after each backup.
- Selection of tables, directories and files to be exported.
- 3 compression formats (Zip, Tar, Tar Gzip) included
- Compatible with WP-CLI
- Compatible with WordPress Multisite.
- By default everything is encrypted: connections to external services, local files and directory access.
- Too much text on the plugin's dashboard (doesn't go directly to what you expect).
- The plugin needs some time to be fully mastered.
- You can't save to Google Drive with the free version.
- There is no tool to restore your backup in the free version, you will have to do it manually if needed.
Who is BackWPup made for?
Since there are a few more options, the learning curve is a little longer.
If you're a beginner, you might be a little taken aback by the multitude of features offered. I think the plugin will be more suited to advanced users, with more technical profiles, who will appreciate some advanced options.
In addition, the handling is a little longer than with other plugins. We would have especially appreciated less blah-blah to be redirected directly to what interests us: the automatic backup's setup.
However, BackWPup remains an excellent WordPress backup plugin to save your website. You can even go further with the pro version which offers more export destinations, finer options and support.
With over 1 million active installations (and nearly 15 million downloads!), Duplicator is one of the most famous WordPress plugins in the official WordPress directory.
While its primary function allows you to perform migrations by duplicating/cloning sites, it is also possible to use it to create backups, as is also offered by All-in-One WP Migration, one of its “competitors”.
Let's see if this option is up to the task.
- Selection of tables, directories and files to be exported.
- No backup scheduling, only manual creation.
- No export to third party services.
- A bit of a laborious setup.
Duplicator, for who?
Duplicator is an excellent plugin to duplicate sites. However, the backup function is not sufficiently developed.
Duplicator remains a good solution to make punctual backups, but it's not what we are looking for in this article.
Moreover, the procedure for creating a backup will not be easy to understand for a beginner.
With 70,000 active installations, BackupGuard is a more confidential plugin than some of the mastodons presented in this selection.
But you will see that this does not prevent it from having quite a few arguments to make.
- A pleasant and easy to use interface.
- Ability to backup your entire site or just the files and database.
- Backups to the cloud possible, but only to Dropbox in the free version.
- It is possible to schedule your backups (hour, day, week or month).
- You can restore all your backups in 1 click and download them to your computer.
- Backups on multi-site installations.
- Presence of quite fine customization options. For instance, you can choose to exclude certain tables from your database.
- The links to the documentation and a FAQ directly on the interface are handy.
- No export to third party services included.
- Too bad that the option to migrate a site is only available with the premium version (starting at $19.95 to use on 2 sites).
Who is BackUpGuard made for?
This practical and complete WordPress backup plugin is really pleasant to use. It is easy to handle if you are a beginner.
Too bad Dropbox is the only external storage service offered in the free version.
5. BackUp and Restore WordPress
After BackUp Guard, I propose you to stay in the “small but strong” plugins domain with BackUp and Restore WordPress.
This plugin accumulates 10,000 active installations but has a certain foundation and continuity: it exists since 2012.
Let's see what he's got in his favor.
- The plugin is very easy to use: a simple click on a button allows you to save your site (files + database).
- You can choose the maximum number of backup archives that can remain on your hosting server, so as not to overload it too much.
- It is possible to exclude a custom table from the backup, by selecting it via a drop-down menu.
- Backup scheduling is only possible with the premium version. Ditto for 1-click restoration, migration and cloning.
- It's not possible to send your WordPress backups to an external service such as Dropbox or other.
Who isBackUp and Restore WordPress made for?
BackUp and Restore WordPress is an plugin that is perfect for people who want to back up their site with no questions asked: a simple click on a button and you're done.
On the other hand, you will very quickly be limited in terms of customization and options with the free version.
To have more choice and access to essential features (e.g. backup scheduling), you will need to upgrade to premium. But the prices can be a little off-putting: their offers start at $79/year to use on 1 site.
With over 2 million downloads and more than 3,000 5-star ratings on the official directory, UpdraftPlus is probably the most famous WordPress backup plugin in the ecosystem.
On top of that, you'll find it's very comprehensive.
Let's take a closer look.
- Manual and/or automatic backups.
- One-click database download.
- Exportable backups on FTP, Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon S3, Rackspace Cloud, DreamObjects and OpenStack Swift.
- Database and file export.
- Scheduling of backups (both files and database).
- Restoration directly from the plugin.
- The options could be simplified: there is a lot of text and links, making it easy to get lost in it!
- The slightly invasive messages of the plugin on your administration to encourage you to upgrade to the Premium version.
- Other third party services and features are accessible via additionnal premium plugins.
Who is UpdraftPlus made for?
UpdraftPlus offers everything a regular WordPress user needs: backup scheduling and export to third party services like Dropbox. Unlike BackWPup, it offers Google Drive for free.
I added the fact that other third party services and features such as multi-site compatibility are offered through additional plugins as a drawback – but hey, authors have to make a living from their work.
Note that in premium version (starting at 84$ for 2 licenses), you have access to particularly interesting options such as:
- Cloning and migration to a new domain.
- Incremental backups (UpdraftPlus will only back up changes to your files that have been made to your site since the last backup).
If you manage several sites, I invite you to take a look at ManageWP's service, which you can link to WordPress by activating the corresponding plugin called ManageWP Worker.
Thanks to it, you will first be able to do all your updates at the same time (and in one click), clean up spam, databases, do security checks, etc.
But this service also has a backup function (free and premium).
Find out what it's worth now.
- ManageWP is easy to use: the service interface is clear and well thought out.
- Automatic WordPress backups are available and you can exclude certain files and folders.
- It is possible to be notified by email when your site is unavailable.
- You can restore your site in 1 click.
- With the free version, you are limited to one backup per month.
- Most of the essential features of a backup plugin are only available in the premium version: partial backups, site migration, sending backups to third party services, etc.
Who is ManageWP made for?
As a backup solution, ManageWP will be able to troubleshoot small sites with infrequently changing content.
Otherwise, it will be too limited if you don't want to take advantage of the premium version (starting at $2/ month for a site), which offers all the features you can expect from a good backup plugin.
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So, which plugin should you choose?Making backups of your WordPress site is still necessary if you want to protect yourself against possible technical glitches.Click To Tweet
This is even more important if you are a professional webdesigner and manage your customers' websites.
But I bet you're wondering which plugin to choose, after reading all this?
Here's my top three:
- UpdraftPlus is, in my opinion, among the free WordPress backup plugins, the most complete and easy-to-use solution. I'd recommend it without hesitation. Its free version has everything you'd expect from an effective backup plugin.
- BackWPup is almost as complete as UpdraftPlus, but a little more technical to get used to for a beginner.
- BackUP Guard is a plugin that pleasantly surprised me. I found out about it during my research and I wasn't disappointed. It's easy to use but it's a shame that Dropbox is the only external storage service offered.
To finish, I will give you a little bonus :-). This article focuses on free WordPress backup plugins, but be aware that there are obviously paid solutions (third party or not) that do the job very well.
Among them, I will mention:
- BackupBuddy: this is a premium backup, restore and migration plugin offered by IThemes, which develops the IThemes Security plugin (which allows free backups but quickly proves to be limited). Starting at $64/ year.
- VaultPress: Created by Automattic, WordPress” parent company, VaultPress is a plugin that allows you to make backups of your site in real time, and migrations and restorations in 1 click. It also conducts security analysis and is available starting at $39/ year.
- BlogVault: Used by more than 400,000 sites, BlogVault claims on its homepage to have a 100% site restoration rate. If it is presented as a WordPress plugin, it is above all a multi-tasking solution allowing to make partial backups, to deploy test sites, to restore a site or to migrate it from the same Dashboard. Starting at $89/ year.
- WP Time Capsule: I end this little tour with WP Time Capsule (starting at 49$/ year). In terms of functionalities, this plugin offers automatic backups as soon as you make changes, one-click restore, the ability to create a test environment, or even sending backups to the cloud (Google Drive, Dropbox or Amazon S3).
Speaking of WP Time Capsule, you should know that this is the service I chose to backup my sites.
In addition, I also use ManageWP to backup the blog… every hour. You can never be too careful 🙂
Which WordPress backup solution do you use on your own sites?
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