A New Way to Back Up WordPress
If you search the WordPress plugin repository for “backup”, you’ll get—as of today—195 results. I wrote about two of those plugins, WordPress Database Backup and WordPress Backup by BTE, just about a year ago, and installed them on all 8 of my own WP sites, as well as insisting that my clients use WP-DB-Backup at minimum.
Both of those plugins back up different parts of a WordPress installation and then either save it there on the server or e-mail it to the admin. I get a lot of e-mails with database backups, as you can imagine. These aren’t large files, and it’s not too time-consuming to save them with other client files and let them get backed up as part of my regular backup routine.
But the BTE plugin backs up your uploads, plugins, and themes directories. And those can start to get pretty large after a while. Not large in absolute terms of how much room I have on my hard drive or backup drives, but large in terms of what it’s convenient to receive by e-mail, especially multiplied by eight or more. And then there’s the fact that the mail server for Author-izer.com, my primary business website, absolutely WILL NOT accept the plugins backup file, even though it’s a ZIP. It believes that file is full of malicious code out to attack me, and refuses it. (Ta ever so, mailer-daemon.) And then there’s the lack of versioning, because each week’s backups of those directories has the same name. These are minor annoyances, but real.
Now there’s a new plugin that combines the functions of these two stalwarts, with a few extras besides: Automatic WordPress Backup, sponsored by Melvin Ram’s Web Design Company, developed by Dan Coulter.
AWB lets you schedule daily, weekly, or monthly backups of your database, your wp-config.php file, your wp-content folder (themes, plugins, and uploads), and even your .htaccess file. Instead of e-mailing them to you, it uploads them to Amazon S3.
S3 stands for “Simple Storage Service.” It’s not actually quite as simple as all that, but the idea is that you only pay for as much storage and bandwidth as you actually use. Since a typical WordPress installation—even with a lot of plugins and uploads—isn’t very large, backing up via S3 shouldn’t cost more than a few cents each month.
Before you install the plugin, go to Amazon S3 and sign up for an account if you don’t have one already. (Signing up is free.) Once you get that confirmed, go to “Security Credentials” under the “Your Account” tab to get the information you’ll need to configure the plugin.
Then log into your WordPress dashboard and install the plugin normally. There’s a handy YouTube video that walks you through installation over on the AWB website. This is a nice touch. I just wish Amazon had done the same for S3! Once you activate AWB, you’ll be prompted to configure the settings. If you need to find them later, they have their own options submenu at the foot of the right sidebar.
Fill in your AWS Access Key and Secret Key, create an S3 “bucket” (the Ur-Guru was a bit disparaging about that term) to store your backup in, and decide what you want to back up, how often, and when to get rid of old backups.
I like both the option to automatically delete old backups and the option to make backups only once a month. There are sites that I don’t update any more often than that, even though I know I should.
When I first installed AWB on the test blog over at the Podcast Asylum, it didn’t seem to work. After you hit “Save Changes and Back Up Now,” you see a message telling you that there will be a link to download your most recent backup when you come back to that page—but there was never any link.
That was when I realized I didn’t know how to see what was on my Amazon S3 server. Amazon’s own site wasn’t too helpful; their AWS Management Console doesn’t work with S3 yet. Fortunately, there are plenty of other tools to let you get access to your S3 account. I picked S3Fox, a plugin for the Firefox web browser. Once I’d installed that, I was able to confirm that while my “testblog” bucket had been created, there was nothing in it.
Yet when I installed Automatic WordPress Backup here on the FileSlinger Backup Blog, it worked just fine. Was this a hosting issue, I wondered? (The Podcast Asylum site is on Dreamhost and the Backup Blog is on GoDaddy—and I don’t actually recommend either of them for WordPress hosting these days.) I got in touch with Melvin Ram, who walked me through installing the development version of the plugin, due for release next week sometime.
That fixed the problem: after clicking “Save Changes and Back Up Now,” I saw the following message:
That “Restore from a backup” tab is new in the development version; in the current version, 1.0.2, you have to download the backup and restore it manually. Not quite all the bugs are out of the restore process yet, though. I double-checked in S3Fox, and sure enough, the ZIP file was there.
I did notice, however, that while the ZIP file contained my wp-co
nfig.php file, my .htaccess file, and my wp-content folder, it was missing my WordPress database. (So was the one from fileslinger.com.) So I might want to wait through a few more development versions before I completely replace WP-DB-Backup with Automatic WordPress Backup.
Nevertheless, I think WDC has made a great start with this plugin, and that it’s going to be extremely useful once they’ve got the bugs out.