If you depend on WordPress as a promotional, service, or communication solution, you understand how important your site is to staying connected to your clients and to your bottom line. Not only must you keep your site up to date—you also must have a disaster recovery solution in place. In other words... backups.
WordPress is incredibly easy to use, and there are plenty of free backup options available. I've scoured the WordPress tools and plugins to find what I believe are the best free backup choices available for WordPress.
Note: This article is also available as an image gallery and a video hosted by TechRepublic columnist Tom Merritt.
1: WordPress built-in backup
You probably didn't even know that WordPress has its very own built-in backup tool (Figure A). If you go to Tools | Export you can easily select what you want to back up (posts, pages, comments, custom fields, categories, and tags). Make your selections, click Download Export File, and save the .xml file somewhere safe.
When you need to recover the backup, you simply use the Import tool and import those settings. The only caveat here is that the built-in tool won't save your settings or themes. For that, you'll have to do a bit of extra work. Even so, the single most important bits (your content) will be saved. Do note that you must install the WordPress Importer to import that saved file.
2: BackWPup Free
BackWPup Free (Figure B) will help you save your entire WordPress installation (including everything in /wp-content/). With this solution, you will push the backup to a remote service (such as Dropbox, S3, or FTP) and even to multiple services in parallel. BackWPup Free allows you to run the backups manually or to schedule backups with WordPress cron or by using a third-party plugin called Easycron.
You can save backups as xml, zip, tar, or BZip2. BackWPup Free also allows you to select what tables to back up from your site database and even include attachments to your backup. If you want more features than the free version offers, there is also a Pro edition that will set you back $75.00 USD.
UpdraftPlus (Figure C) is one of the more popular backup solutions for WordPress. It's incredibly simple to use: Install it, activate it, and click Backup Now. Once it has backed up your site, you can view your backup files and download as needed. You can set Updraft Plus up to back up in intervals of four, eight, or 12 hours or daily, weekly, or monthly.
Once you have backups available, you can select what you want to back up (from Database, Plugins, Themes, Uploads, and Others). You can also purchase a Premium edition of UpdraftPlus that gives the tool additional features (such as a free 1 GB Updraft Vault, migrate/clone websites, and no ads).
Duplicator (Figure D) is a powerful backup solution that lets you back up, migrate, copy, or clone a WordPress site. This is the tool you should be using if you're looking for something that can do a complete backup and restore of an entire site.
However, it's important to note that you do need an above average technical understanding to make this tool work. Duplicator works by creating packages you build by walking through a wizard. Once you've created a package, you can download it as either an installer or an archive. Prior to do this, you should work through the Tools section, where you can view logs, check diagnostics, and use cleanup tools.
5: CYAN Backup
CYAN Backup (Figure E) is a lesser known but very good backup solution for WordPress. It's a fork of the now-defunct Total Backup. If you're looking for a solid mix of ease-of-use and features, CYAN could be your solution. It lets you back up your entire website and its database into a single zip file.
Although CYAN doesn't enjoy cloud support, it does include FTP, FTPS, and SFTP. So if you have an FTP site available, you can set up CYAN to automatically back up your WordPress installation to that destination. Once you have it set up, click Backup Now! to kick off your first backup. You can also set up a simple schedule for automated backups.
Whether you use WordPress for personal blogging, company blogging, or selling a product or service, you need to back up your precious data. Any one of these five tools will do the job and won't cost you a penny.
Do you use a backup tool that didn't make this list? Share your recommendations with fellow TechRepublic members.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.