This post is about free backup plugins for Wordpress Multisite installations. The web is full of really useless “greatest backup plugins” and “best WordPress backup” lists, as these ignominiously mix up paid and free plugins. Moreover, they hardly write a word about Multisite (also called WordPress MU for MultiUser or site network). I really had a hard time finding plugins which are really free and multisite-compatible.
Many plugins do not support Multisite at all, among them BackupBuddy and Duplicator. Most plugins which support Multisite only do so if you use the “pro” (understand paying) version (UpdraftPlus, Snapshot Pro). I ended up with only three recommendable plugins:
Backup Scheduler, the really free backup solution
Backup Scheduler is the only really fully free and even GPL-licenced plugin in this list, and it does supports WordPress multi-site! It even allows backups of the whole network, or selective backups of different sites on the network. Backup files are stored locally, via ftp or sent via e-mail.
Backup your whole Multisite installation: you don’t need to network-enable this plugin. Enable it only on the primary site or domain (also called main site) to backup the whole site network. The settings are not in the Super Admin / Site network’s dashboard but in the left menu bar of the primary site under “SL Plugins → Backup Scheduler”.
Single or selective backup: alternatively or as a complement to the whole multisite backup, it is possible to enable this plugin on every site of your network for which you want a second backup or a different backup type.
Limitations: no one-click restore, but instructions to restore “by hand”.
BackUpWordPress, a free backup plugin with severe limitations
The free version of BackUpWordPress is multisite-compatible. It can only be activated network-wide. Once installed, find the plugin options under the Settings menu (Network Admin).
Complete multi-site backup: by default, BackUpWordPress will make a complete backup of the whole WordPress multisite installation (all files and/or database tables from all sites).
Single or selective backup within a WordPress site network is not possible with this plugin, as it always backups the whole database and all files.
Limitations: no selective backups, files are stored only locally, e-mail only for small websites (<10MB), no FTP or external servers, no one-click restore. Most of these features are present in the non-free “developer” version.
BackWPup Free, amazing features for a “free” plugin
BackWPup Free is also compatible with WordPress Multisite – unfortunately it can only be activated network-wide. After installing the plugin, the options are available in the left menu of the Network Admin dashboard.
BackWPup has the most advanced options of all three free backup plugins. All database tables can be selected or excluded from the backup, files, plugins and themes can be selectively backed up. Complete multi-site backups are possible as well as sub-site backups or even more fine-grained backup jobs.
Limitations: no one-click restore. Premium features (still no one-click restore option!) are present in the fee-based “pro” version.
Conclusion: which one is the best free multisite backup plugin?
1BackWPup is probably the best free-but-there-is-a-paying-version plugin I ever encountered. It is not crippled down but fully functional, and even surpasses Backup Scheduler in almost all aspects.
2Backup Scheduler is a really great plugin: reliable, GPL-licenced, and it allows whole multisite or single-site backups. It is not the free version of an expensive plugin, so you won’t be bothered with essential functions missing because someone is waiting that you pay for them.
3BackUpWordpress ended up being a deception. Most useful options are only available in the fee-based “Developer” version, the free version being the most limited multisite backup plugin of all three.
One last tip: the WP-DB-Backup plugin is also free (GPL-Licenced) and multisite-compatible, but it does only backup databases and not other data (uploads, themes, plugins, …)
By Johannes Eva, September 2015 – November 2019