WordPress has become the leading blogging platform with good reason -- it's powerful, flexible, reliable and user-friendly. With the help of its comprehensive plugin system, WordPress is also amazingly extendable.
However, even the best application has its weaknesses, and one of the weakest features of a default WordPress installation is backup. The included backup system limits you to exporting posts, pages, comments, custom fields, categories and tags. What you don't get are backups of directories, files and databases -- without which, should disaster strike, you won't be able to get your WordPress site back up and running quickly.
Thankfully, there are plenty of plugins available to improve the WordPress backup solution. These range from single-minded database backup to more complete full-site backup.
Because the list of backup plugins is fairly lengthy, I have pared it down to 10 tools that I consider the most useful.
[[For more WordPress tools and information, check out these articles: Choosing an open-source CMS, part 3: Why we use WordPress; Securing WordPress against hacks; 10 essential WordPress plugins and Site builder shootout: Drupal vs. Joomla vs. WordPress.]]
Most of these plugins are easy to install, simple to use and flexible enough to back up your database, your folders/files, your posts/comments/tags or your entire site. Some of these plugins need to be downloaded from a third-party service while others can be installed directly from WordPress.org. Some are free; others need to be paid for.
With that said, let's dig into these plugins and find out which is best suited to meet your needs.
Requires: WordPress 2.6 or later
Price: $75 (2 licenses), $100 (10 licenses), $150 (unlimited licenses). Licenses include 1 year of support and upgrades.
BackupBuddy isn't quite as user-friendly as the rest of the plugins listed here. Whereas most of the others are almost immediately usable after installation, BackupBuddy requires a bit of care and feeding before you can back up your WordPress site.
Once the plugin is installed, you have to visit the settings page and configure your email recipients, storage limits, database table settings, file and directory exclusions, and compatibility options. In addition, remote locations (such as A3 or Dropbox), backup types, scheduling and more must be taken care of.
This seems like quite a lot to manage. But this is the most costly plugin on the list, so it should come as no surprise that it has an extensive feature set, which gives BackupBuddy more options and more flexibility. That -- along with an included 512MB of online storage space, the ability to back up everything on your site and the inclusion of a malware scan -- easily justifies the price for people who value those features. On top of that, BackupBuddy offers a quick at-a-glance information page that offers a good deal of information regarding your server, database, files and tools.
Beyond the bells and whistles offered in BackupBuddy, the single best feature is the ability to do a complete restore -- including the WordPress installation itself. In other words, should both your site and your WordPress install go down, a full restoration is just a matter of uploading your backup file and the importbuddy.php file (which is downloaded from within the plugin when doing a Migrate/Restore) to the document root of your Web server and then pointing your browser to the importbuddy.php file.
One caveat: If you're moving (rather than restoring) your site, you have to re-create the database -- using the same name as was used on the original site -- on the new server.
Requires: WordPress 3.0 or later
Backup Scheduler allows you to schedule the backup of your entire WordPress site (files, folders and databases) with just a few quick clicks.
Once the plugin is installed, you tell Backup Scheduler when to back up, where to back up, what to back up and where to save it. Backups created by Backup Scheduler can be stored on a local site, sent by email or uploaded via FTP.
This simple backup plugin is usable by people with any experience level. Even newer users can take advantage of this tool, thanks to the included step-by-step instructions.
A handy feature: When you first install Backup Scheduler, you can do a quick backup by clicking the "Force a new backup" button -- a nice touch for anyone who needs some emergency security or an immediate backup. In addition, Backup Scheduler supports multipart zip files and offers an email notification system that will alert you upon successful backup.
A couple of caveats regarding Backup Scheduler: First, the plugin does not allow for any granularity within the scheduling. You can only schedule backups on the hour (using military time -- e.g., 1300 = 1 p.m.) and you must define the frequency (in days) of backups as an integer (1 being every day, 7 being once a week, etc.).
The second is that Backup Scheduler does not offer an integrated restore tool; the restoration of your backup will have to be done manually. Luckily, there are tools available to help restore this backup. For example, you can use a tool like phpMyAdmin to upload your database into the Web-based interface. To copy the remaining files/folders to the restore server, you would then use FTP to copy them to the target.