blogVault, for scheduled daily offsite backups, and to restore, download, or migrate your WordPress site

A close look into the blogVault.*

*see also On blogVault for a year, still happy with its daily backups of TinkerTry.com May 01 2014

I started this WordPress-based blog called TinkerTry.com over 2 years ago. Like the dozen or so other extended family systems I’m responsible for backing up daily, my blog also needed a new routine, especially after changing web hosting providers in early 2013. Ideally without gobbling up 60GB of my home’s bandwidth per month, given the 2GB full backup size, and the rising specter of bandwidth caps. The daily cron job style backups my web hosting company provided me through their WHM “Configure Backup” interface lacked automated incrementals.

This article is not an exhaustive head-to-head comparison of options out there. It’s merely a deeper dive into one option that works well for my needs, which is first and foremost to have peace of mind that that my site’s content is reasonably well protected against calamity. That’s really so I can continue to focus on site content, rather than site operations. I’ve had daily overnight backups running uneventfully for 11 days now, a solid start. I will add new backup and restore experiences to the end of this article over time. Good or bad.

TinkerTry’s Backup Requirements

Listed in descending order-of-importance

  • automated daily backups, saved somewhere other than on my web host
  • free trial period with full feature access
  • handles >2GB backup size without issue
  • the option to manually download the entire site backup (media files plus databases) to my own workstation, in a standard format, liberating my data
  • reasonable bandwidth demands, to limit impact on my web hosting provider, so daily backups are differential, backing only what changed since the last full backup
  • minimal to no impact on page load times for my site visitors
  • the ability to do offsite test restores, to be confident of backup validity
  • good ease of use
  • decent security, using encrypted transfers (https over http, sftp over ftp, for example)
  • ability to download just a particular file from any of my backups

After I poked around the WordPress Plugin Directory and the web for a while, I came across the decent, fairly recent 6 Top WordPress Backup Plugin Recommendations by Jackie Hole, Feb 2013. It summarizes most of the 12 backup options I had already looked into, listed below.

WordPress Blog Backup Offerings

I quickly narrowed down my options to three. Backup Breeze allows you unlimited domains for $97 one time price, but seemed to have no test drive, or ability to look at the support areas without membership. There was also BackupBuddy, but it had an $80 price tag. I really wanted to try something with a lower barrier to entry and less hassle. Turns out blogVault met my requirements, and I’d be able to test it all out for 7 days, before a $9 per month recurring charge would surface on my PayPal account. I would also have the ability to download my backup file, then cancel the PayPal subscription at any time, without having to call a human for permission to explain. Nice.

TinkerTry’s Chosen Solution

  • blogVault, $9 per month subscription for 1 site, charged to PayPal, cancel at any time

When I dove in and tried out blogVault,  I recorded a complete video of the entire experience. That way, you can see actual testing, with an actual site’s data. This special video appears at the end of this article.

blogVault Summary

In summary, blogVault works, without any noticeable impact to my site visitors page load times. It’s fairly simple to setup in just a few minutes, especially since I’ve documented the installation procedure below. Despite some slightly rough edges I also describe below, my first backup, restore, and download of my 2GB site was all quite straight-forward. All those tests took about 3-4 hours overall for my particular web hosting provider and 2GB of data, your results will vary. But I was only clicking or actively monitoring the process for very few minutes of that overall time.

Admittedly, I never bothered to go back and also try out Backup Breeze or Backup Buddy, which would have required yet more of my time, and the potential hassle of having to request refunds, should they not work out.

Observations

  1. first backup of 2GB site took about 2 hours 15 minutes
  2. download of the 2GBsite zip file took blogVault about 30 minutes to prepare the bundle, then it was another 70 minutes to download the zip file to my 30Mbps home network, with an average of about 4-5Mbps
  3. no impact in page speed loads during normal operations (no backup underway), measured with the P3 WordPress plugin
  4. no noticeable impact on page speed during backup operations (will do further testing when site is under load, but reports look good)
  5. blogVault uses their servers for the backups, with a copy on Amazon S3, it’s all explained here and here

Step-by-step installation walk through

1) Visit blogVault by clicking here, then choose the ‘Signup For Free Trial Now’ button

2) Create the account
Create Account

3) You’re then directed to choose a plan and Pay with PayPal, I went with the cheapest, single site “Basic” plan for $9 / month.

pricing as of August 2013

pricing as of August 2013

4) After making payment arrangements, you are returned right back to the PayPal Dashboard. If blogVault Dashboard gets stuck at ‘Loading’ (seen below), just click the ‘Home’ icon.

if blogVault Dashboard gets stuck at 'Loading' for a while, click the 'Home' icon

5) Click the ‘Install Plugin’ button.
[Update May 01 2014, turns out the blogVault plugin is now available from the WordPress Plugin Directory here, you can easily install it right from your Plugins view of your WordPress Dashboard, then skip ahead to step 11]

click on 'Install Plugin' button

6) My ‘Auto-Install Plugin’ function didn’t work, so I then simply clicked on the ‘Manually Install Plugin’ option, and downloaded the small blogvault.php.zip file, telling Chrome to ‘Keep’ the 2GB zip file.

Auto-Install Plugin Failed, click 'Manually Install Plugin' instead

Keep

7) In your WordPress Dashboard, click Plugins, then click the ‘upload a plugin in .zip format via this page’ button.

upload a plugin in .zip format via this page

8) Chooose the .zip file you downloaded, then click ‘Install Now’.

click 'Choose File', select the .zip file, then click 'Install Now'

9) Click ‘Activate Plugin’

click 'Activate Plugin'

10) Back on your browser showing blogVault, click ‘Close’

on blogVault, click 'Close' button

11) Press your browser refresh button, it should then display the blogVault Dashboard view

blogVault Dashboard

Should you have questions for blogVault support, please post them at blogVault support site here.

Constructive Feedback
Helping to smooth out some rough edges, to hopefully help improve future releases of blogVault. I do not know the author, I’m merely a new customer, who discovered some things during my recorded-on-video first experiences with blog Vault.

  1. You can only go back in time up to 30 days.
  2. Plugin really needs to be installed automatically, and needs to be easily upgraded from the usual WordPress Plugins view.
  3. First screen sat forever, I should have just hit the Home button at the top much earlier.
  4. First backup is kicked off automatically, which isn’t made clear in the UI, so it turns out I didn’t have to click the ‘Backup now” button.
  5. For unknown reasons, I couldn’t do the easy method of installing the Plugin, it warned me, “Auto Install Failed. Please try Manual Install.” Manually installing the Plugin was no big deal though.
  6. The “Upload to Dropbox” button just disappears as soon as you click it, without any explanation as to why. Turns out it was because my blog is way more than 150MB, explained here.
  7. There’s some spam in the support area that really needs to be cleaned away, and countermeasures installed to prevent future abuse.
  8. PayPal is currently the only payment option (for me, this isn’t a problem).
  9. At 07:05 (minutes into the below video), you’ll see I had to click refresh in Chrome, for the appropriate, updated information to appear.
  10. At 10:00, Variety of favicons (browser tab icons) for their various part of blogVault make it hard to spot among other tabs I have open, all should be similar or identical favicons.
  11. At 15:45, Not clear where test restore is restoring to exactly, could not actually cancel it. Wasn’t a problem in the end, it restores to remote site.
  12. At 22:08, History / Restore screen showed a transcript of all backups and restores, but without exact time stamps in the local time zone, unless you hover your mouse, contrast this with Backup Buddy’s view, seen here.
  13. At 23:15, it’s noticed that the time stamp is shown, but would prefer localization of timezone, perhaps a simple checkbox used during initial sign-up.

Observations:

  1. first backup of 2GB site took about 2 hours 15 minutes
  2. download of the 2GBsite zip file took about 30 minutes to prepare the downloadable zip bundle, then about 70 minutes to download the zip file to my 30Mbps home network, but only about 5-6Mbps was utilized
  3. no impact in page speed loads during normal operations (no backup underway), measured with P3 plugin
  4. no noticeable impact on page speed during backup operations
  5. blogVault Amazon S3 for their backups, explained at:
    http://support.blogvault.net/customer/portal/articles/621844-how-does-blogvault-work-

Should you chose to sign up for blogVault, you’re also automatically given an affiliate link, explained here, encouraging you to share it with others who trust you. Yes, this is one way software developers try to get the word out about their products. and yes, the world of low cost software tends to be tainted with a lot of suspect SEO chatter and link-baiting. All the more reason I felt strongly about writing this first-hand experience article. The video below actually shows the product in action, on a real site. And the step-by-step guide shows you exact steps to get going.

If you found this software overview helpful, here’s my TinkerTry.com blogVault affiliate link .

Finally, here’s the complete video walk-through guide.


Jan 20 2013 Update

Here’s how to do a single file restore, from your most recent backup, pictured below. You’ll be offered a menu, where you can select whichever files you need to download.
to download an individual file from the most recent backup, click 'Files' on the blogVault Dashboard view


Jan 21 2013 Update

When contacting the author here, about the “Files” button missing from the history view and the older how to, I got an answer very quickly. This is a good sign! Why? Because he didn’t even know about this article yet.

While the user interface for file restore isn’t particularly elegant, it works, you can restore a single file. This can really help you in a pinch, if you accidentally mess something up on your blog one day. Once that file (or set of files) is selected, you are offered any version of that file that has existed in the last 30 days.

Account File List Download Version Choice


May 15 2014 Update

Backup history is now held for 3 months, this is good! Backup Plugin by blogVault updated again, here’s the changelog.

is 5GB a problem on blogVaultAlso located the technical deep dive into the Incremental Backup techniques blogVault uses, along with a Scalability article. I found these details when looking for whether I’d have trouble once I blog past 5GB soon. Turns out, nope, explained in Support – FAQ

Is there a limit to the size of the site which blogVault can backup?

We typically expect a site to use up to 5GB of space. However, if you have a larger site, please let us know. If it is for fair use, we will make an exception (at no additional charge). blogVault works well with very large sites, and currently supports customers having sites spanning 20+ GBs of data.

See also

On blogVault for a year, still happy with its daily backups of TinkerTry.com May 01 2014


Full disclosure:
As is the case with most web solutions, there’s an affiliate code for any customer who uses their service, intended to help grow their business by giving a small financial incentive to share the URL with others, in the form of a small credit off the monthly bill. Notice all blogVault references in this article use my affiliate URL:
blogvault.net?src=44C3C9

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  • xandy

    hi! thanks for the informative and easy to understand article. I am curious as to your decision not to try Vaultpress : was it simply the lack of a free trial, and the costlier monthly fee? It appears that the V option is really nice for blogging, as it is backing up every activity on your wordpress site, instead of once daily.

    thoughts, ideas? thanks in advance for any help! sandy

    • http://TinkerTry.com/about Paul Braren

      Back when I was seeking out a solution, I didn’t see pricing info for roughly 5GB of blog data, and a quick look today, still not seeing that info:
      http://vaultpress.com/plans/
      http://help.vaultpress.com/

      and yes, I’m a person that likes to see to believe, testing anything I’m thinking of adopting first hand, so trials are good. I also soon discovered that there was little good info out there, or videos, about these affordable solutions.

      I’m always open minded, but yes, for $10, blogVault has given me a lot of piece of mind, and a way to easily do about a dozen test restores of a new theme I was trying out to a temporary URL, with minimal effort, and no impact on my live tinkertry.com site.

      • xandy

        paul, thank you for the reality check. I was researching this for a client, and I think I am going to stay with blogvault for clients with fewer transactions, and when i have a client with some far-reaching needs, I’ll go for the entire arsenal of anti-whatever weaponry needed  :)

        …………………….
        sandy bassett
        970 708 7977

        scribd.com/xandybassett

  • http://TinkerTry.com/about Paul Braren

    One reader/developer emailed me with a comment about this review:
    “That is one amazingly deep article. We have often seen a lot of reviews to be shallow. You however have written the review that I would like to read. Thank you.”