Offsite backups are important. Even though NameHero is one of the few hosting providers to allow free automatic and manual backups and restores, these are all still stored on the same servers and networks that host your website. They protect you if something goes wrong with your site, but not from a systemic system-wide outage. The hosting world was forever scarred in mid-2019 when A2 Hosting was infected by malware and many customers lost months of backups. So even though these clients were using server backups, it didn’t save them from a widespread disaster that affected infrastructure.
The lesson? Offsite backups are a necessity. You need a copy of your site and database that’s away from your site and ordinary backups. It’s like insurance. You hope you never have to use it, but when you do, you’re glad it’s there.
The topic of offsite backups has been on my mind more and more ever since my site WP-Tweaks started making serious money. As soon as you have something to lose, the importance of keeping it safe becomes apparent! So I started researching the different offsite backup options. There are two fundamentally different methods of going about it and I’ll explain the pros and cons of each.
Method 1: Server Creates the Backup and Transfers it
In this method, you install some kind of plugin on your website that creates one or more zip files in which are stored all your files and databases. Once this is done, you can usually keep a local copy of those files on your server or transfer them to an external file service like Google Drive, Dropbox, Microsoft One, or others.
One of the best examples of this kind of system, is the well-known plugin UpDraftPlus. On a WordPress site, you install the plugin, set a schedule, set a destination for the backup and you’re done! At the scheduled time, the plugin will create separate zip archives of your filesystem, database, plugins, themes, and anything else that might be there. Then it will send it off to a destination of your choice.
Server Load is a Problem
This works well when everything goes smoothly. Unfortunately, the process of creating the backup on the server takes up a lot of resources. Specifically, these plugins can hit your server’s I/O limits pretty quickly. Especially on shared hosting, where resources are distributed to a server pool. Depending on your web host, the backup could complete in less than a minute, or up to three hours!
UpDraftPlus in particular has a quirk where LiteSpeed web servers as used by NameHero need some additional configuration for efficient backups. Other plugins might have similar issues that you need to deal with.
At NameHero, we make continuous efforts to increase its shared hosting limits. For example, we recently increased the I/O limits for our shared hosting accounts to make processes like backups faster, and we’re also constantly adding more CPU resources and fast SSD drives.
Some Web Hosts Ban These Plugins
Because of the potential of these plugins to hog server resources, there are a few managed WordPress hosts that ban them outright. These hosts rely on their own automatic backup system to protect users in case something goes wrong. But as we’ve seen before, this is dangerous.
Next Up: Part 2
In part two of this series, I’ll explain the second technique commonly used for offsite backups. It relies on an external service to connect to your site and siphon out the files and the database. This too has some advantages and disadvantages which I’ll explain in further detail!
I’m a NameHero team member, and an expert on WordPress and web hosting. I’ve been in this industry since 2008. I’ve also developed apps on Android and have written extensive tutorials on managing Linux servers. You can contact me on my website WP-Tweaks.com!