In a perfect world, software updates would never crash your site, hackers would never get into your systems, and servers would never accidentally wipe out weeks’ worth of work. But we don’t live in a perfect world. Despite our best efforts, all of those things are bound to happen. If your website (and all the work you’ve invested in it) are important to you, you need to backup your website.

UpdraftPlus is a backup plugin for WordPress. It provides automated website backups that can be stored off-site on a variety of services such are Dropbox, Google Drive, and Amazon to name a few. It can be used to migrate or clone websites.

Note: I use the premium version. Some of the features mentioned are not available on the free version. But the free version is an excellent choice for an individual site.

UpdraftPlus functions

This section has 3 parts: setup, operation, and restoration.

Setup

This area has a lot of improvement recently. It’s made things a lot simpler. The only tasks here are attaching your accounts. This used to be miserable. Now – if you’re a user – it’s painless. There’s a nasty bump in the road if you’re a client using a license from your developer. But let’s focus on the user’s perspective. (I’ll discuss the developer’s perspective down in The problem I run into as a developer.)

You upload and install the plugin like any other. If it’s the premium version, you enter your UpdraftPlus username and password and select any add-ons you want to activate. Then in the Setting panel, you select when and where you want backups. There are a few more options, but that covers the key stuff. Once you authenticate your accounts by clicking “Yes, I authorize this account” in a few popups, you’re done. If you’re using the premium version, you can select the folder you want to use.

Operation

There is none for the most part. If you’re going to do some plugin or theme updates, you can manually make a backup by clicking the big blue “Backup Now” button. (That has a few options and I’ll discuss that in How I use it.)

Restoration

There are 2 scenarios here: a minor problem and a catastrophic “Holy hell, where did my website go” problem.

For minor problems with WordPress still operating, you can hop over to a tab creatively named Existing Backups, select the backup you want, and click restore. It will ask which bits you want to restore. (UpdraftPlus stores plugins, themes, uploads, the database, and the core WP files in separate groups.) After a confirmation or two later, the site is restored.

If your whole site is dead, you have a few more steps.

  1. Replace the dead website with a new WordPress installation.
  2. Install, activate, and configure UpdraftPlus.
  3. Rescan the remote storage (because you’re a smart cookie and use off-site storage).
  4. Now select the backup you want and restore the site.

You may be surprised that you have to reinstall WordPress. Don’t forget that all WordPress plugins require WordPress to run. If you aren’t comfortable with this, I recommend creating a step-by-step site restore checklist before you need it.

How I use it

I’ll be upfront with you. UpdraftPlus has a lot of features I don’t use – some of which I don’t even understand. I move sites around with UpdraftPlus weekly if not daily. But I’ve never used the clone/migrate button. I have no idea what happens if you click it. I don’t think you need anything beyond the basic functions.

I use UpdraftPlus both for traditional backups and as a development tool. I’m not going to talk about the 1st bit since it’s the same as above. The only difference is that I have multiple sites myself and also do maintenance for some client. So each site has it’s own folder to keep everything organized.

When I’m developing a website, I have at least 2 versions on the site running at the same time. There’s a copy on a secret but publicly available server so the client can see updates and work on content or whatever. There’s another copy on my computer. That’s where I do any coding. It’s a lot simpler to the coding on my computer then push the changes to the public version.

With most backup plugins, that wouldn’t work. I’d end up writing over any changes made directly to the site. With UpdraftPlus, I can choose to only send the files while leaving the database untouched. I can even choose to only send theme files or only send plugin files. All I have to do is use the same backup location for both versions of the site and I can swap versions pretty fast.

The problem I run into as a developer

I’d do anything for 1 of my clients, but I won’t do that.

If you’re going to buy this and use this yourself, you can skip down to Pricing if you’d like. This problem only applies to clients using their developer’s agency/developer license.

If you remember how to set up UpdraftPlus, you’ll remember that the premium version requires UpdraftPlus login credentials. That’s no big deal when I’m setting up the site for you. I type it in, the data is obfuscated, the account is connected. Everything is candy hearts and puppy dog kisses.

But what if you site goes down at 3 in the morning? You go through all the steps. Everything is ready. Now you just need to configure UpdraftPlus… with my login information… at 3 o’clock in the morning.

Take a guess as to how many people have paid to be on the “call Josh at 0300” retainer plan? The number is 0.

So option 1 is that you’re in the situation as described. And option 2 is for me to give my clients my UpdraftPlus login credentials. As a famous American poet famously said, “I’d do anything for 1 of my clients, but I won’t do that.”

The team at Simba has made a lot of improvements to the plugin’s UX over the last year. I hope they do something to take care of this. I don’t know what the answer is. Single use APIs? Registered APIs that are tied to a URL? I don’t know. I don’t do that kind of coding. But there is a lot of room for improvement.

Pricing

There is a powerful free version, but I recommend any professionals out there to opt for the premium version. It’s only $70/year (for 2 sites) and, if nothing else, you keep the team in business. But it also gives you the ability to migrate the site, better storage options, and better scheduling.

More information:

What about your files?Need a place to store them?

You can get 30GB for $5/month or 1TB (that’s 1024GB) for $10/month from Google for Business. Here’s the affiliate version.

Summary

Pros

  1. Set it and forget it. It just works.
  2. Offsite storage of backups with a laundry list of choices
  3. Flexibility not found in other backup systems.

Cons

  1. Labels only work on original server.
    I didn’t talk about this but you can label each backup. But they only work on the original, uncorrupted website. So, of the multiple use scenarios above, labels only help for minor problems. Minor issue, but they would be handy if they worked better.
  2. The login credential issue. Not going to beat that horse again.
  3. Manually downloading the backup files is needlessly painful. Why do I have to click every subset of every file? Is it a surprise that I want all of them?
    This hardly ever comes up, but it’s so annoying when it does. Thankfully I use Google Drive and I can get to my backups that way.