Benefits of Using a Backup Plugin vs a Hosting-level Backup

Are you trying to find the perfect backup solution for your WordPress website? Then you’ve probably already discovered that not all backups are created equal and there are many options to choose from. It’s hard not to stress about this choice when it seems like your site’s safety depends on it. 

While you can opt for backing up your site manually, this is very time consuming and can be prone to human error due to all the technical details involved. It can also be very impractical if you’re running a site with dynamic content that changes on a daily or even hourly basis. Using an automated method of backing up your WordPress site will not only save you time and money, but will likely give you more consistent, reliable backups. 

In this post, we’re going to explore why backups are so important. Then we’ll discuss the pros and cons of two automated backup options — backup plugins and hosting-level backups — and explain why using a backup plugin is almost always the best choice. Let’s get started! 

Why backups are important

There are many scenarios in which a backup of your WordPress website might save the day. While WordPress is a secure and well-optimized platform, errors and hacks can still damage your site.

Backups are especially important if your business and livelihood depend on your website. Broken features and downtime can drive away potential visitors, reducing your sales, ad revenue, and follows.

Here are just a few of the many reasons backups are essential:

  • Human error. People make mistakes that can affect the safety of your website. The more people who have access, the higher the risk.
  • Security. Cyber attacks and hacks are becoming more common and can erase or compromise your site’s information.
  • Data loss. Access to data is crucial for your business. Losing data can affect your marketing and sales strategy, and therefore your profits.
  • Hosting issues. Unfortunately, your hosting provider may sometimes fail you. This is outside of your control, but a backup can mitigate the negative effects on your website and/or business.
  • Market research. If your website is linked to your eCommerce business, you may want to test different elements of your business model (like content, payment options, etc.). With a backup system in place, you can run these tests without worrying about losing your website’s content.
  • Sentimental value. If your website is a hobby blog or is built for a personal event like a wedding, it could be personally devastating to lose all of the images, content, and associated memories.

In short, if you don’t back up your WordPress website, you run the risk of losing all the content and data it holds. It’s important to have an updated copy of your site in case of emergencies. That way, you can restore quickly and move on with your life (and your business).

Automated WordPress backup options

There are two ways to implement automatic backups of your WordPress website. You can rely on your hosting provider’s WordPress backup services or you can use a plugin. 

Every website needs a web host that gives it a ‘home’ online and makes it available for visitors. Most reputable hosting services will offer some type of backup feature, either as a part of their core services or as a paid add-on. 

The other option for automating your site’s backups is installing a backup plugin. If you’re just getting started with WordPress and not familiar with plugins, a plugin is software you can download to your WordPress website to enhance its capabilities. There are plugins that enable you to do just about anything, including manage backups. You can compare the best WordPress backup plugins to find the right fit for you.

Most backup plugins will make copies of your site — either manually or at a scheduled interval — and save them to your server, a third-party cloud hosting environment, or to their own proprietary storage solution. 

So how do each of these methods work and what are their advantages and disadvantages? Let’s dig more deeply and explore the pros and cons of both hosting-level backups and backup plugins.

Pros and cons of using your hosting provider’s backup service

Not only will your hosting provider display your site to the world, they usually offer a variety of other services. Some may offer email hosting, security scans, performance optimization, and more. 

Most importantly (for our purposes here), the majority of hosting providers will make some kind of backup solution available to you. Hosting-level backups are great, especially if they’re already included in your plan. But they also have some serious downsides. Below are some pros and cons of relying on your hosting company to provide your WordPress backups:

Pros:

  • Simplicity. Performing backups through your hosting provider means you don’t need to locate a third-party tool for the job (whether that’s a plugin or some other platform). You can manage your backups from the same place as your hosting plan.
  • Guaranteed backups and restores. Not all backup plugins offer both backups and restores. But just about any hosting-related backup service should make both of those tasks easy.
  • Storage options. Some hosting providers (but not all) offer remote storage options for your backups in addition to their own storage solution.
  • Off-site backups. As long as there isn’t an issue with your server or your web host’s backup system, they’ll be able to back up your site’s files if it’s completely down. 

Cons:

  • Cost. While some WordPress hosting companies offer free backups, often this service will cost an extra fee. That’s particularly true if you want to perform regular backups (a web host may offer free daily backups, but require payment if you want multiple backups per day).
  • Limited lifespan. Hosting providers rarely save backups forever. Often, they’ll only store copies of your website for 30 days.
  • Risk. Since hosting backups are at the discretion of your provider, this creates more potential risk. If your web hosting service goes down and doesn’t offer remote storage options for your backups, you might be out of luck when it comes to trying to access them. Plus, most hosting providers offer limited guarantees when it comes to your backups. Bluehost, for example, recommends Jetpack Backup for their customers. 
  • Can be compromised by hackers. If a hacker injects malware on your server and your backups are stored there as well, they could also be compromised. Restoring one of those backups, then, would not help you recover in the event of a hack.
  • Lack of control. Hosting providers rarely offer much control over how your backups are performed and don’t always give you options for external storage. Instead, you have to settle for the schedule and storage location they determine.

While backing up your WordPress website with your hosting provider isn’t a bad idea, this method should be used with caution. If you’re implementing more than one backup solution, then using your hosting provider’s backup service is a great way to have some redundancy in your strategy. 

But if you’re thinking about it as the only backup solution for your WordPress site, you might want to think twice. We’d suggest carefully examining your host’s policies, weighing the risks, and thinking about whether their services can truly meet your needs.

Pros and cons of using a backup plugin

If you’re running a WordPress website, you have many plugins available to you. From affiliate marketing to search engine optimization (SEO) and two-factor authentication (2FA), you can install a WordPress plugin for almost anything you need, including managing your backups.

Let’s explore the advantages and drawbacks of choosing this method.

Pros:

  • Variety. There are many backup plugins to choose from, making it more likely that you’ll find the perfect option for your needs.
  • Automation. Most backup plugins enable you to schedule automatic backups on a weekly, daily, hourly, or real-time basis.
  • Ease of use. If you use plugins for your other business needs, you’re likely already familiar with how they work. You can perform (and restore) backups from inside the WordPress dashboard. Additionally, most plugins offer an intuitive and user-friendly interface.
  • Customization. You can decide exactly which elements of your website you want to save. You can choose to back up files, databases, configurations, or a complete copy of your site, which is often the safest option. 
  • Remote storage. Instead of saving backups to just your computer or your server, most plugins offer remote storage options using popular platforms like Google Drive, Rackspace, Amazon S3, or Dropbox.
  • Cost. There are many affordable backup plugins available for WordPress. Some are even free. The majority of the popular WordPress backup plugins cost somewhere between $22 and $150 per year, which should fit into most budgets.

Cons:

  • Security. When a plugin backs up your website, the first step is to make a copy. Then it usually sends that copy to a remote storage location where it will be safe. But if your WordPress site is down or is experiencing problems that keep your backup plugin from working, this means your backups won’t be completed. In other words, backup plugins make a copy of your site before an emergency occurs, not during. If you don’t notice the issue right away, you might go days or weeks without a backup being performed.
  • Performance. Every plugin you install on your site adds new code. The ‘weightier’ your site becomes, the more likely you are to experience performance issues. A well-optimized backup plugin shouldn’t have a noticeable impact on your loading times, but some users prefer to minimize plugin use for this reason.

Backup plugins are a practical choice. They’re simple to use and you can usually set them up in just a few minutes. If you’re already familiar with WordPress, this may be a great option for you.

How to choose the right backup solution for your website

It’s possible that the backup options offered by your hosting provider will be sufficient for your needs. You may be lucky enough to have a web host that provides frequent and flexible backups, or your site might be small and only require a free daily backup.

Still, for most users, we’d recommend opting for a dedicated backup plugin. There are many benefits to managing this key task with a plugin. It’s quick, easy, affordable, and usually automatic. You have lots of options to choose from, and you can personalize your backups to meet your precise needs.

In particular, backups for eCommerce businesses are a must-have. So if you’re running an online business or your website is monetized in any way, a plugin is likely the best option for you. Fortunately, there are plenty of WordPress backup plugins to choose from, like Jetpack.

screenshot of Jetpack homepage

Jetpack Backup includes real-time backups so every change, order, and comment is saved immediately. Backups are stored off-site on WordPress’ most secure servers. If anything ever happens, you can restore your site with a single click — even from the Jetpack mobile app if you’re on the go. Jetpack Backup also comes with cool features like the WordPress activity log so you can review what actions may have caused your site to go down.   

A reliable solution for every site

We know that managing your WordPress website can seem daunting. There’s a lot to worry about, especially if you run an online business. The good news is that you can automate and simplify key tasks like backups, so you have more time to focus on your passion.

Implementing a reliable, robust backup solution for your website is essential. Your hosting provider may offer this feature as part of its services, but we recommend opting for your own backup tool as well. A WordPress backup plugin like Jetpack can offer you simple, customizable backups that you can always count on.

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Simon Keating profile
Simon Keating

Simon has worked in marketing and product development for over 10 years, previously at HubSpot, Workday, and now Automattic (Jetpack). He has a varied education, with a degree in chemical engineering and a masters in computer science to his name. His passion is helping people and their businesses grow.

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