Free WordPress Backup Plugin?

backupbuddyEDIT: This is embarrassing… but when I got the renewal notice from iThemes, I just assumed it was for BackupBuddy.

It wasn’t.

It was for another suite of plugins. BackupBuddy is licensed through 2037. Which means that the time I spent evaluating other backup solutions, which I covered in some detail below, was completely wasted. I am leaving the article itself unedited, though. Note to self — try not to do something like this again…

My BackupBuddy subscription is due this week, so I decided to go looking for a free plugin on that I could use to replace it. After all, my experience has been that there is often a good free solution for many of the common problems in WordPress. So I started off with a search for “WordPress Backup” on the site.

There were about a dozen. I skipped over the ones that were poorly reviewed, and then examined the remaining, reading the descriptions, installation instructions, and read at least some of the reviews. What I discovered was that almost all of them required a paid subscription to another service in order to actually do a restore — and backups with no restore capability are worthless.

Worse than worthless, actually. Theses plugins were offered as “free,” which is at best misleading. I am very reluctant to use any product from somebody who is willing to lie to me, free or otherwise.

I did find one that looked promising: WP-DBManager. It was reviewed fairly well, and did not require any paid subscriptions to do restores. So I decided to try it.

I spent about 2 hours trying to get this plugin to work. The first time I installed it, it said my backup directory was not writable. It did not exist, so I guess that would mean it isn’t writable. When I used FileZilla (a great free FTP tool) to create the backup directory and made it writable, the plugin would install and activate ok, but when I tried to do a backup, it told me that there were some php functions it could not find. At that point, I gave up, uninstalled, and deleted the plugin.

The thing that prompted me to spend the time looking at this was the expense of the BackupBuddy renewal.

However, BackupBuddy just works, and since my time is worth something, I’m going to renew it. Maybe next year, there will be a workable free backup/restore plugin on, but there does not appear to be one now.(*)

To my way of thinking, backup and restore is so completely essential that it really ought to be built-in to WordPress. The fact that it is not is somewhat of a disappointment.

I have been through the PhpAdmin backup and restore, but it, too, takes a lot of time, and the multi-step process going both ways is tedious and error-prone. Plus, in order to migrate a site to a different host, you have to learn quite a bit about the WP database. Last time I migrated a site that way, it took me an entire weekend. Backup Buddy enabled me to do that in about 20 minutes, including the initial setup and learning process. In fact, I migrated about 35 sites from HostGator to D9Hosting late last year on a Saturday morning.

I suppose this exercise was educational, but my wife (who likes to throw my own words back at me at times like this) mentioned that education is often a slow, painful, and expensive process. So, the folks at iThemes (the makers of BackupBuddy) will get my money for another year.

(*) If I’m wrong about this, and you have found a totally free backup/restore plugin that works well, please feel free to set me straight. You can use the contact form to request a blog subscription for commenting.
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