VaultPress provides a service to backup your WordPress website. The service takes snapshots of your website content, so that you can restore past versions if your website is corrupted or lost.

In this post, I review VaultPress from the perspective of a small business. I reach the conclusion that VaultPress is an absolute must, and great value, for any small business with a WordPress website.

Skip to the end of this post for my summary pros and cons followed by a recommendation, or continue reading for the full detail.

Automattic, the company

VaultPress is a service offered by the company Automattic. Automattic is best known as being the company behind the WordPress website platform, which is behind over 20% of the world’s websites.

Automattic was founded in 2005 with WordPress as the immediate focus, with follow on offering such as Akismet (website spam control), and then VaultPress to follow in March 2010.

For a history of Automattic, have a read about the founder, Matt Mullenweg (Automattic, being an adaption that  includes his first name).

VaultPress

VaultPress enables you to backup your WordPress website, and then, in the event of a website loss or corruption, you can restore your website.

VaultPress specifically applies to self hosted WordPress websites, rather than the fully managed WordPress websites available at WordPress.com (self hosted WordPress is my recommendation for small businesses, to see the pros and cons, read this post).

Many webhosts provide a backup service already. Unfortunately this effectively means your backup, and your live website, are hosted by the same organisation. This provides no protection if your website host gets into difficulties.

VaultPress, provides a completely independent source for your backup location, and this is the key to an effective backup service.

VaultPress provides three plans, as shown in the below image.

vaultpress-plans

This review does not include the daily security scan feature of the Premium plan.

For me, the 30 day backup archive included in the Lite plan is more than sufficient, as such, the differentiation between the Lite plan ($5/month) and the Basic plan ($15/month) is the realtime backup feature. Realtime backup will be of value if there are many changes to your website occurring each day. If you only have one change a day at most, then the Lite plan should suffice. Either way, you can change plans at anytime, and both monthly and annual options are available.

Setup

Setup was relatively easy, visit VaultPress.com, and then follow the signup instructions. A few things I noticed as part of my installation that may be useful to know:

  1. You will need to create a WordPress.com account to signup for VaultPress. As part of doing this, make sure you setup additional security with two-factor authentication (Quicktip, if you experience issues using two factor authentication with VaultPress and Internet Explorer 11, try Google Crome instead).
  2. You will need to provide your FTP account details. FTP, or File Transfer Protocol, provides the means for VaultPress to transfer your website files for backup and restore. The process for retrieving or establishing an FTP account will be determined by the hosting provider of your website. Your FTP account should be mapped to the WordPress folder /public_html/. Some hosts will automatically add an ftp user name as a sub folder, i.e. /public_html/newuser, just delete “newuser” if this occurs.
  3. If you get an error when first registering VaultPress from within WordPress, try again a bit later. I had to wait about 5 minutes.

backup-wordpress-using-vaultpress-register-plugin3

On completion of the setup, VaultPress will backup all your data, and provide a validation per the below.

backup-wordpress-using-vaultpress-backing-up

Backup

Each backup is available from the VaultPress dashboard. Depending on your chosen plan, you will see daily backups for the last 30 days (as shown below), or backups after every change to your website for as long as VaultPress has been installed.

VaultPress includes email notification if there are connection issues to your site.

backup-history

Restore

As identified in the previous section, you can access past backups from the VaultPress dashboard and select a past version to restore. In the past, I have needed to restore theconnectesmallbusiness.com website due to corruption when upgrading the theme. Other reasons for a restore including accidently deleting content, or if your webhost is compromised.

The restore process works perfectly so long as your webhost plays ball.

Website hosting issues

As I found out, the automatic restore does not always work if your webhost creates issues during the FTP process. The result of my first website restore is shown below. Not happy. My  website completely disappeared, and even admin access was reduced to an error message.

failed-restore-vaultpress

 

failed-restore-vaultpress2

The root cause of my failed restore was an FTP timeout with my hosting provider Godday. This was compounded in part, by the fact that VaultPress is not tolerant to a restore that fails before completion. Rather than transferring 100% of the restore data, and then as a final step enabling the restore, VaultPress appears to restore bit by bit, and thus, if the restore fails before completion, you end up with a partially restored site. The resolution is to attempt another restore, assuming a successive attempt will be successful. As a fall back VaultPress provides a manual step by step restore option if the automatic restore can’t be successfully completed.

For the record I found Bluehost 100% reliable and extremely fast for automatic restores when using VaultPress. WordPress recommends Bluehost, and for me, the compatibility with VaultPress is another reason to follow their recommendation.

Alternative site

VaultPress provides the option to restore to an alternative site. The alterative site needs to have WordPress installed, and you add the FTP account details to VaultPress to exploit this option.

For me, the alternative site option makes VaultPress an absolute must have. Here’s why:

  1. You can use the alternative site to “test run” your automatic restore. This validates that VaultPress is working before you attempt a restore on your live site.
  2. You can use the alternative site to “test run” key changes to your WordPress site, such as a new theme, or new plugins. Just restore the latest version of your live site to the test site, then do the change.
  3. When your alternative site is not being used for testing, just park it with a holding page, using the Maintenance plugin as an example (see my alternative site in holding mode here)

Two tips that may be useful when using an alternative site:

  1. Note that if you restore to an alternative site, you need a slight tweak to get links working if you do not use the default format, e.g. http://debaffle.net/?p=123. If instead you use one of the optional link formats, e.g. http://debaffle.net/sample-post/, then in your WordPress administration dashboard, go to “settings”, then “permalinks”, select any format option and save, then select the format option you use on your main site and save. This will get your links working correctly. Thanks to Charleston Software Associates for the tip.
  2. After restoring a backup to your alternative site, your WordPress username/password will be the same as your live WordPress site. The username/password defined during the default installation of WordPress on the alternative site will be overwritten as part of the restore.

Security

To access VaultPress you need to signup with WordPress.com. WordPress.com supports two factor authentication, so that in addition to entering your password on login, you are also sent a text message to your mobile. This extra step in authentication, provides added protection for your VaultPress account if malicious sources guess or intercept your password (please note, I found that when using two factor authentication with VaultPress you cannot use Internet Explorer 11, thus until this bug is fixed, an alternative such as Google Crome works).

Support

Email based support is available during US business hours, Monday to Friday. In general I received a next day response. You won’t get realtime telephone support if you have a critical issue, but with entry plans at just $5/month you can’t reasonably expect to. This provides an additional reason to setup an alternative site as recommended earlier, it means you are less likely to need support as you can test run your restores. If you take this advise, chose a webhost that WordPress recommends.

Price

Plans start from $5/month for daily backups and a 30 day backup history. See the VaultPress site for more.

Summary

VaultPress has some great pros:

  1. Automatically backup your website, independently to your website hosting provider, to protect against website loss or corruption.
  2. Automatically restore your website by selecting a backup from the past.
  3. Restore your backups to an alternative site to test run changes to your website, such as a new theme, before changing your live site.
  4. It’s cheap! $5/month for a daily backup and 30 day history is less than the price of a couple of coffees. This is a trivial outlay for a small business to protect their website data.
  5. As an online service, it’s nice to see two factor authentication providing added security to unauthorised access.

There are also some cons:

  1. The success of automatic restores depends on the service working with your website hosting provider. Automatic restores did not work for me with Godaddy. The best advice is probably to chose a webhost that WordPress (and by association, VaultPress) recommends.
  2. Support is limited to US business hours, Monday to Friday, and by email only. If you plan to use VaultPress, spend a few extra dollars and setup an alterative site to test run your restores, and to test run your upgrades, and reduce the odds that you will need support.
  3. The realtime backup does have some limitations: read here for more if real time was of interest:http://codecharismatic.com/vaultpress-is-awesome-but-not-realtime-for-plugins-like-woocommerce/

Recommendation

I recommend all small businesses that use WordPress for their website use VaultPress for backup. In addition, I recommend setup of an alternative website specifically for testing your VaultPress restores, and leverage those restores to test run your website upgrades before applying to your live site. When not in use, put a holding page on your alternative site (you can see mine here!).