BackupBuddy: A Great New WordPress Server Migration Plugin

BackupBuddy aims to be “the all-in-one solution for backups, restoration, and migration”, but does it deliver on that lofty promise?

As the newest product from the iThemes-spinoff, PluginBuddy, this plugin is a unique and surprisingly simple solution for both WordPress developers and end users to prevent data loss (through complete, rather than just database backup) and to migrate their WordPress sites to new servers. The second feature was the most interesting to us—several database backup options already exist (and backing up wp-content files isn’t difficult to do manually) but until now, there has been no true WordPress migration tool. And as developers, we can attest to the amount of site migrations that go on in the site-building world.

After reading several positive reviews, we decided to put the plugin through its paces, so we bucked up and dropped $75 on a Business License (which supports up to 10 sites) to fully test BackupBuddy’s backup and migration capabilites. And here’s what we found (hint: it’s awesome).

BackupBuddy Product Tour from on Vimeo.

Getting Started with BackupBuddy

Just like any other plugin, BackupBuddy can be installed from the Plugin menu in WordPress administration.  Simply click on “add new,” search and locate the plugin zip file, and start uploading. After uploading, the plugin creates a new Backup Buddy drop down menu in WordPress with the following options:  Getting Started, Backups, Scheduling, and Settings.

The Getting Started menu option is obviously the best place to begin. After a paragraph-long promotional blurb at the top of this menu page, the plugin provides a very concise list of instructions for backing up and restoring the site.

Backup & Restore Instructions from the Backup Buddy “Getting Started” Menu Page

Before making a backup, the user is required to create a password in the Settings section of the Backup Buddy menu. This password will be used when restoring the backup file. After creating the password, the user is ready to navigate to the “Backups” menu section and perform the backup.

Making Your Backup

Upon visiting the Backup menu section, the user will notice that there are two backup options: full backup and database only. Either backup can be initiated by simply clicking the button bearing the name of the backup type. The full backup we performed on a simple WordPress site took only a second. After the zip file is created, the following items appear in the same menu section: file name, date modified, file size, and sending options.

Backup Zip Files Created by Backup Buddy

The two sending options available to the user are “send by FTP” and “send by email.”  We tested the “send by email” option.  On the first attempt, a message with the zip file attached was received in our email account after approximately one hour.

The backup zip files created are given a unique file name containing the date of the backup.  It is important for the user to not change the name of the backup file.  Later, when the backup file is restored, any changes to the file name may cause the file to not be recognized by the PHP import buddy function.

Now that the user has a backup zip file, when he or she is ready to restore the file, the importbuddy.php script must be downloaded.  The Backup section of the menu displays a link for downloading this importing tool.

Restoring and Migrating Your Backup

We took our backup zip file and importbuddy.php script and plugged them into a sandbox web host account.  In order to start the restoration process, the user must navigate to the domain containing the import script (, in our test).  The user will then see the following screen:

After entering the password created previously,  the user is taken to step 1 of 4.  In this step, as long as the user has not changed the file name provided by Backup Buddy, the drop down menu should include the name of the zip file loaded onto the destination server.

Step 2 of 4 involves checking to make sure the backup file is indeed the correct file.  In this step, the user can see the site URL, the blog name, and the blog description.

Step 3 of 4 involves the user modifying any old settings in the backup file prior to uploading the contents to the destination server.  In our test, we received a notice that the URL of the backed-up site,, did not match the destination URL, which was created purely for testing purposes. While this appears to have not caused a problem during this step, the migration ultimately did not succeed, and this difference in URLs may have had something to do with the failure.

After the user determines that the import data is correct, clicking “Next Step” will start the restoration.

This step passed very quickly, but unfortunately the next screen indicated that an error was experienced during the restoration:

Our First Attempt Failed

Originally, The restoration/migration function did not work for us.  We expected to complete step 4, and then be able to navigate to the destination URL and find a fully functional and restored version of the original site.  Luckily, the plugin developers are busy guys, and the plugin was undated later in the afternoon. The update included a “compatibility mode” that helps migrations on Windows-based webhosts or servers with other wonky configurations.

Wrapping Up

So, in the end, BackupBuddy worked exactly as advertised. It helped me transfer the site exactly as it existed on its previous server. All the images were in tact, and the content was preserved and maybe most helpfully, every single WordPress setting was migrated over, as well. Resetting all those plugin and WordPress settings generally takes a significant amount of time (and a very good memory), so that feature is worth the money alone.

We highly recommend purchasing a BackupBuddy license for your WordPress sites. It’s cheap, easy and you can’t beat the sense of euphoria that comes with a successful website migration. Also, with a purchase, you’ll have access to unlimited BackupBuddy upgrades for a year, including any new features added to the plugin.

1 Comment

  1. Matt on August 2, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    This is a great tool. Migrating and backing up WordPress seems to have been negelected over the years, but in my opinion it is very important! Thanks for posting this, I have added a link to my blog and hopefully, this will raise up on the Search Engines, because people need to know about this.

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