How We Do Backups

Introduction

Occasionally we write about how we run out business – the tools and technology we use. This article is one of those and it covers a very important topic that many sites and business don’t pay enough attention to. Hopefully by reading this you’re reminded to take another look at how your backups work and whether they will really be useful as part of your disaster recovery process.

How We Do Backups

Every website needs backups. Its only a matter of time before you’ll need to use them. Whether its because of a bad update or malware or an act of god, you will eventually need to turn to your backups to retrieve data.

Fortunately, in the WordPress world you have a ton of options. Between plugins, backup services and the backups provided by most web-hosts, there is no shortage of options.

Some of available choices are: ManageWP, JetPack, VaultPress, BackupBuddy, Duplicator and of course, the backups offered by the various WordPress hosts.

For most websites, any of those options will work. But once a site starts to get on the larger side, many of those backup options start to show cracks. We know – we’ve evaluated almost every backup service out there.

And we keep going back to one – Updraft Plus.

About Updraft Plus

On a properly configured site where resources are not scarce, Updraft has been very reliable. But it really shines in the flexibility that it offers for restores. By using industry standard .zip files, the data can be restored even without the plugin. And sometimes large database restores can require a direct connection to the database that bypasses WordPress – so it pays to have the source files accessible in a non-proprietary format.

Unlike the backups offered by most hosts, you can do partial restores – which is another reason to supplement your host backups with Updraft Plus. You can restore just the database or just themes or just plugins or just the uploads folder – or any combination of those items.

You can also set different backup periods for database and files. For example, you can set your database to be backed up four times per day but only backup the files once per day. Most of your important data is in the database so being able to backup that more often is a really nice feature to have.

Updraft plus also allows for backups to be automatically shuttled offsite to various services including Amazon S3, Dropbox, Azure and more. You can even send backups to multiple locations simultaneously – something we recommend. It also allows for backups to be taken automatically before any plugin or theme updates. And the database backup file can be encrypted to protect the data in it.

Updraft isn’t without its issues. However, compared to other solutions they are minuscule once you get used to them. And we’ve found ways to minimize or work around most of them.

Multi-layer Backups

But, we don’t rely on just Updraft for backups. We take a full server disk image every night as well. We’ve never had to use this image for restoration but in the event that our Updraft backups are compromised for some reason, we can fall back to these images.

And we occasionally move an image out to a different geographical area. If we ever need to use these non-local geographical images we’ll likely lose anywhere between a week and month of data. But if we get to that point we’re probably in a situation where “something is better than nothing”.

The biggest issue we have with these full server images is that they can reduce performance on the server for the 20-30 minutes that it takes to complete them.

Backups of Backups

Finally, we occasionally download the Updraft Plus backups from our cloud services to servers in our local offices. If the cloud service(s) is compromised for some reason we can fallback to our local copies.

All in all, the amount of data held in our backups DWARFS the amount of data on our live site by multiple orders of magnitude. We strongly recommend that you adopt the same approach.

You can NEVER have enough backups.

Wrapup

If you’re keeping score, we have FOUR backups spread across two backup services – Updraft zips stored on a cloud service, Disk Images, Disk Images in a remote geographic region and Updraft copies stored in our offices.

You can NEVER have enough backups.

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