Adventures in backing up WPMu

I’ve bee working on setting up some backup systems in our instance of WPMu and have been struggling a bit. While I certainly appreciate that creating backups for WPMu can be fairly straightforward to setup when using tools like phpMyAdmin and gzip (as outlined nicely in a recent post at WPMU Tutorials), there really isn’t a simple way for individual site owners to do site backups from the WordPress interface.

What I would like to be able to do is allow the user to simply create a site specific backup file of all the necessary files for their site. Everything wrapped in one nice little package, with the bow on top being the ability for the user to schedule and forget their backups. Once a day/week/month it would just run, grab everything they would need to restore their site (at least their posts/pages AND uploaded files) and all is good. But I am realizing this may be a tall order without setting it up behind the scenes.

Now, each WP site does have an Export option, which is simple and straightforward, but was never intended as a backup utility, but rather a utility to move posts from one WordPress install to another. As such, it is not a comprehensive backup and doesn’t include files, images or multimedia you might have uploaded to your site.

This is a problem I have found with most community developed backup plugins as well Рthey all concentrate on backing up the database tables and not those extra files that will no doubt be uploaded by users looking to use the platform as a CMS. In order to backup both the database (where the posts and pages are stored), and the associated files, you need at least two separate  plugins.

The two I have been working with are WordPress Backup and WordPress Database Backup. So far I haven’t been able to get these two to do exactly what I want, and using them both makes things a tad confusing for end users.

backupFor one, there are now 2 backup options in their site navigation, located in different sub-menus. Natural instinct for a user to ask why is there 2 backups, and anytime a question is asked there is confusion. So a bit of support is needed to explain the differences between the two to the users. Not a huge deal, but a barrier.

What is very handy is that both backup plugins let you automatically schedule backups to happen at regular intervals. These files are zipped up and can automatically be moved to archive folders on the server or, if you want, emailed directly to the users, which some users might find comforting. The downside is that there are 4 separate zipped files that go along with each site – a database files (generated by the WP Database backup) and 3 backup files generated by the second backup plugin, one with your uploaded files, themes and plugins. One packaged folder would be nicer.

But the major problem I have with using the WordPress Database plugin with WPMu is that the interface does not limit the database tables to backup to just the site requesting the backup. It exposes ALL the tables to the entire WP instance, meaning that any site owner could backup and download any other site users content. Not cool.

I do like and appreciate the work that has gone into these plugins. I use them on this blog and they work great. But in a multi-user environment, I can’t really say this is the silver backup bullet I was hoping they would be. So, I am still searching for a backup system that users can initiate that is simple and straightforward for the end user that will allow them to control their own backups.


Clint Lalonde

Just a guy writing some stuff, mostly for me these days on this particular blog. For my EdTech/OpenEd stuff, check out