How to Cover Your Ass-ets with Managed WordPress Backups

How to Cover Your Ass-ets with Managed WordPress Backups

Imagine for a moment that your hosting provider has suffered a massive server failure and completely lost every trace of your WordPress website(s).

Once you stop hyperventilating, think about how you’ll repair the damage. Will you be able to quickly get all of your sites back online without any major data loss?

Not to brag, but my answer would be absolutely. I could have all of my sites back online with minimal or no data loss within 24 hours — and maybe sooner.

And, of course, I’m using WPMU DEV’s 10GB managed cloud backups service.

Are you able to answer that question just as easily and confidently? If not, read on. We’ll have you fixed up and backed up in no time at all.

A server.

A Comprehensive Backup System

A comprehensive WordPress website backup system is the key to my confidence.

Every one of my sites is backed up on a weekly basis, automatically, and the queue of backups refreshed by deleting the oldest backup every time a new one is added. If every one of my websites was deleted off of my host’s servers, I could switch hosts, point my domains at my new host, and have my sites back up and running by the time DNS propagation had finished running its course.

You need to have the same sort of comprehensive backup system in place. A truly comprehensive and dependable backup system needs to include three components:

  • Automatic backup creation,
  • Cloud-based backup storage that’s separate from your host’s servers, and
  • Automatic management of stored backups.

Let’s look at each of those criteria in turn and then talk about the ways you can deploy a comprehensive backup system.

Automatic Backup Creation

For a backup process to be reliable it must happen automatically. People get busy; people forget. So your backup system must be a set-it-and-forget-it arrangement.

However, scripts hiccup and network connections break down. So your backup system must also let you know when something has gone awry in the backup creation process so that you can step in and restore order.

Stored in the Cloud

The Cloud

The most secure way to store anything in the modern world is to host it in the cloud. Don’t dare use your web server to store your website backups. If you do, you’re only a single server crash away from losing all of your website data.

Your backups must be stored in the cloud so that no single server failure can wipe out all of your hard work.

Automatically Managed

In the past, I used a plugin that would email me a full database backup for each of my sites once per week. While this arrangement did keep my databases suitably backed up, it resulted in a massive amount of wasted space. The truth is that I only need a couple of backups for each of my sites, yet I still have database backups buried in my email archives dating back for years — talk about wasted space!

A properly implemented backup system will avoid this problem by keeping a preset number of backups on hand and trashing the oldest backup every time a new backup is added. That way, you always have an adequate number of backups on hand, but you aren’t wasting storage space by keeping ahold of dozens or hundreds of backups that you don’t need.

Backup Your WordPress Empire with Snapshot

Snapshot is standing by, ready to backup your WordPress site.
Snapshot is standing by, ready to backup your WordPress site.

We designed Snapshot to hit every one of these criteria:

  • Snapshot can be set to run on autopilot, creating backups every day, week, or month.
  • If something goes awry, we’ll let you know when you visit the Hub so that you can get things sorted out.
  • Your backups will be stored in the cloud — either by utilizing the 10 GB of free cloud storage included with your WPMU DEV account or by integrating with Dropbox, Amazon S3, Google Drive, or another server via FTP.
  • Use the 10 GB of WPMU DEV cloud storage included with your account and we’ll manage your backups for you. Just tell us how many you want to keep on hand and we’ll employ an out-with-the-old-in-with-the-new policy to keep that many backups on hand.
If you don't have any backups, the Hub will let you know.
If your managed backups ever need your attention, the Hub will let you know.

There are two different methods for setting up automatic backups with Snapshot. In the past, the only way was to create a Snapshot and save it locally on the web server or send it to a third-party cloud such as Google Drive. However, our latest update to Snapshot — and the option that ticks all of the boxes we’ve discussed so far — is something we call Managed Backups. If you want to give Managed Backups a try, you can set them up in just four steps.

Let’s walk through the process of setting up Snapshot Managed Backups.

Step 1: Install the WPMU DEV Dashboard Plugin and Snapshot

Install the WPMU Dashboard and Snapshot

The WPMU DEV Dashboard connects your WordPress website(s) to WPMU DEV goodness. Install the dashboard first and you’ll be able to easily install Snapshot from the familiar confines of the WordPress admin area.

Step 2: Activate Managed Backups

Get your Snapshot key from the Hub.

In the WordPress admin area, go to Snapshots > Managed Backups. Look for the link that says You can get your secret key here. When you click that link a new window will open, load the Hub, and display a modal window that looks like the image above with your Snapshot key.

Copy the key, navigate back to the browser window where Snapshot > Managed Backups is open, paste the key into the empty field, and click Activate Managed Backups.

Step 3: Create Your First Backup

The Hub indicating that a recent backup exists.

Activating managed backups in the previous step will launch a new screen at Snapshot > Managed Backups. At the top of the screen you’ll see a button that says Backup now. Click that button.

Snapshot will now proceed through the steps of creating your first managed backup. Once it finishes up, your first backup will be listed in the table of managed backups and you will also be able to see by logging into the Hub.

Step 4: Configure Automatic Backup Settings

Schedule backups to run on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

The last step to take in setting up automatic managed backups is to configure two settings:

  • Your backup schedule
  • The number of managed backups to keep

Managed backups can run on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Backing up large sites can put a bit of a strain on your server, so you should select a time to run backups that will minimize any potential impact on your site visitors.

Be default, three backups will be kept on hand. That’s a pretty good number for sites that are backed up on a weekly basis, but if your site is backed up on a daily basis you may want to increase that number.

Extra Credit: Restore Your Site From a Managed Backup

Snapshot will walk you through the backup restore process.

So, let’s say you want to restore your site from a managed backup. It couldn’t be simpler.

Go to Snapshot > Managed Backups. Hover your mouse over the backup you wish to restore and select Restore. Now, just walk through the site restoration wizard.

Snapshot will complete the restoration and let you know when it's complete.

On the other hand, if things have really fallen apart — such as in the fictionalized scenario at the start of this article — you can always head over to the Hub, download your latest Snapshot backup, and use it to restore your site from the ground up.

Backup Your WordPress Empire with the Other Guys?

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been comparing the core services you get from WPMU DEV — performance, security, monitoring, backups, and SEO — to those you get from other popular WordPress companies. Let’s do that again, with an eye towards managed backups. We’ll compare WPMU DEV Snapshot to Jetpack Premium (VaultPress) and iThemes BackupBuddy.

Here’s how all three services compare when we take the criteria discussed in this post into consideration:

Comparison chart


As you can see, all three products pack a similar punch with a few noteworthy differences. For example, if you need a backup plugin that will backup an entire multisite network, Snapshot is the obvious choice. If you never want to think about where your backups are stored or how much space they’re taking up, VaultPress is an attractive option. While not strictly necessary, the partial restoration features built into BackupBuddy are really quite nifty and could save you a lot of time if you ever need them.

Get Managed Backups and a Lot More

If all three of these backup systems make the grade as a comprehensive backup system — and I’d argue that all three do — the question becomes: “Which of the three options provides the best value overall?”

It just so happens that we’ve been working our way through a series of posts designed to answer that question.

First, we identified the five core needs of every WordPress website:

We’ve already talked about the first three needs in previous posts. And in this post, we are ticking off the fourth need: backups.

I’m not going to sit here and toot our own horn too loudly. However, if you’re considering coming onboard as a WPMU DEV Member, I’d encourage you to follow the links in that list to get a sense of what you’ll be getting when you join WPMU DEV.

We’re a lot more than cool plugins. We provide a solid foundation on which you can build your WordPress empire — whether your empire consists of just one site or hundreds of sites.

In addition, we do throw in tons of cool plugins, the most advanced WordPress theme framework on the market, a WordPress development and business education program, award-winning 24/7 support, and a WordPress management dashboard you can use to watch over your empire as it grows.

So which options provides the most value? Well, that’s a lot of value that we pack into a single membership, but we’ll let you be the judge.

We’ve Got Your Back

Back to our fictional scenario:

Your server has crashed. You’ve settled on a new host. How quickly can you get your web properties back up and running?

If you’ve been following closely, you now know how to implement a comprehensive backup system that will keep you from sweating bullets when you think about a massive server failure. All you need is a comprehensive backup system that ticks three boxes:

  • Automatic backup creation,
  • Cloud-based backup storage that’s separate from your host’s servers, and
  • Automatic management of stored backups.

Now go cobble that system together! Or, better yet, reach for the easy button.

If your web server were to fail completely, would you be able to get your sites back online quickly with minimal or no data loss? What kind of disaster prevention plan to you have in place? Let us know in the comments below.
Jon Penland
Jon Penland Jon manages operations for Kinsta, a managed WordPress hosting provider. When he isn't figuring out the ins-and-outs of supporting WordPress-powered businesses, he enjoys hiking and adventuring in northeast Georgia with his wife and kids.