illustration files move between two laptops

WordPress Migration Plugins Compared

Stephanie O'Hanley

When you have a WordPress website, it’s a good idea to have tools available that make it easy to migrate (move) your site quickly. Keeping backups (copies) of your website offsite is important in case your website runs into problems and need to restore your website to an earlier version.

This blog post came about after Emma of the BackupBliss plugin emailed me asking for a how-to article or review of BackupBliss. I’m suspicious of sites that post affiliate reviews and I didn’t want to be seen as spammy. I hesitated about mentioning BackupBliss if I couldn’t write how I feel about the product.

But I was impressed by how friendly and transparent she was.

When I wrote back insisting on writing an honest review, she had no problem with it.

To keep things balanced, I reviewed other plugins as well. I used the premium plugin BackupBliss provided for this review.

Method

Use four popular plugins to migrate a WordPress site (over 1GB).

It’s stored in local files on my laptop on a DevKinsta/Docker setup.

The migration

For the first one, move the site to a fresh installation of WordPress on Local WP. For subsequent migrations, use the WP Reset plugin to reset the Local WP installation to put the site back to the default WordPress theme so it’s a fresh installation of WordPress. This plugin is often used to reset a site’s database to the default values without modifying any files but for testing purposes, I’ll wipe out the entire site. It deletes all customizations and content.

The Test

While this article is about migrating (moving) websites from one host to another, I’m also including information how these plugins work for backing up a website and storing it somewhere else in case it needs to be restored or quickly moved to a new web host.


All-in-One-WP-Migration and Backup by ServMask

Free version & Unlimited Extension (paid)

A go-to for years, this plugin is one of my favourites. Its interface is easy to understand. I’ve used it to migrate websites and make backups and it has never failed me.

Large sites usually require the paid Unlimited Extension licence (for a workaround, see the information here). When I purchased the licence, it was a one-time fee. At the time of this writing, the licence costs $5.75 a month, billed annually.

I used All-in-One WP Migration’s free version and premium Unlimited Extension to migrate the test website.

To do this, I looked for Export in the plugin’s settings and chose File as an option. The plugin includes options to select what you would like to export. Since this migration involves the entire site, there was no need to check any of the boxes.

It took about five minutes to create a backup.

To move the site, I downloaded the archive file and then reuploaded it to the new WordPress installation. After installing All-in-One-WP-Migration and the Unlimited Extension on the new website, I clicked on Import. After a few minutes a button appeared asking if I wanted to Proceed

When I installed the website, it looked almost exactly as it had before. The Simple Banner plugin was deactivated but otherwise everything was exactly as it looked when I exported it.

Pros

  • Pleasant and minimalist interface.
  • Choose between exporting the entire site or a only the theme or the plugins, or other files.
  • Migrating the entire site involves clicking on Export and choosing where the file will go, that’s it, that’s all. It’s a no-frills plugin.
  • The plugin includes options for resetting your entire site or parts of it. So you could reset particular plugins or wipe the entire installation and start your site over from scratch if you wish.
  • The site is saved as one WPRESS file.

Cons

  • The free version of the plugin has a memory limit of 512MB.
  • Automating backup storage costs more. To send offsite backups to a cloud storage platform, you need to purchase another extension. ServMask offers extensions for Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, pCloud, DigitalOcean, GoogleCloud and more. Each of these extensions for offsite storage has to be purchased separately. The Unlimited Extension is included with these add-ons, which sell for $99 a year, billed annually.
  • If you want to store your backups elsewhere and you don’t purchase the premium plugin, you’ll have to download them manually and upload them to Google Drive, Dropbox or similar.
  • All-in-One WP Migration does not work perfectly on some web hosts. If that’s your situation, you’ll need a different plugin.
  • Several people reported technical issues such as errors or problems with importing or exporting data.
  • There’s some advertising but it’s minimal.

BackupBliss (Backup Migration) by Inisev

Free and Paid

BackupBliss has an interesting backstory. It was inspired by WP Clone, a former WordPress plugin. To find it in the WordPress Plugin Repository, look for Backup Migration.

Its creators say they instantly fell in love with WP Clone’s “simplicity and ease of use.” But the plugin faced hiccups. As they explain,

However, it’s a pity that it didn’t get updated & maintained in a while. Therefore, we reached out to its creator, Marc from WP Academy, acquired the plugin, and thereby took on the responsibility to breathe new life into it!

After investigating we realized that updating the exiting WP Clone would run into a mess – hence we decided to create a new plugin from scratch, which will carry on the spirit of WP Clone: simple, and easy to use for basic backup & migration tasks.

My first attempt to make a backup with the Pro version of BackupBliss did not go well.

Technical issues plagued me as I tried to migrate a large website (over 2GB). Not BackupBliss’s fault. I was out of storage space.

The plugin clocked out and the backup never completed.

Backup Successful message screenshot BackupBliss

So I tried again, this time with the smaller test site used for this review.

Free plugin experience

Migrating a site is as easy as clicking the big Create Backup Now button. Backups can be complicated, but the plugin’s graphical interface makes them easy to understand.

When you start the backup, a progress bar appears showing the percentage of your file that’s backed up and a live log box displays logs and messages in yellow, blue and green alert you to the state of the backup.

Yellow messages contain warnings. Blue messages provide information and green messages indicate success.

My first try at backing up the test site failed in the same way as my earlier attempt. A message appeared saying “Backup creation failed.”

I’m guessing this was because I was using a local copy of the site as this did not happen when I used BackupBliss on the live version of the same site. As well, the premium version of the plugin is better equipped to handle larger files. When I ran into problems, the plugin suggested an alternative backup method which, while slower, worked perfectly.

It took about four minutes to create a backup.

Migrating the site was interesting. After making the backup, a message popped up showing a link to the backup with a Copy button next to it.

Below there was a helpful explanation of what to do. Copy the link above, install the plugin on the new site, go to the Manage & Restore Backups tab and paste the link there.

I pasted the link in the Super-quick migration box and followed the instructions for restoring the site. About two minutes later, I had a near exact copy. Only the Simple Banner plugin was deactivated.

Pros

  • Friendly interface that’s colourful, fun and intuitive.
  • Everything is very clear and there’s plenty of information to guide you.
  • The plugin has dropdowns that make configuring settings a breeze. Simply answer the questions in the Plugin options:
    • What will be backed up? Select what’s included in the backup (ex: plugins, themes, uploads, everything else in wp-content, your WP installation, the database). You can exclude files by file/folder name, file path or directory path.
    • Where shall the backup(s) be stored? In the free version, the only option is to store them locally or to download them manually and then upload them to cloud storage.
    • How shall the backup(s) be stored? In the free version, the only option is to zip your files.
  • You can download your backups manually.
  • Restoring a site from a backup is as simple as hitting the Restore button. next to the backup and following the instructions or using the migration link method (see above)
  • There’s an option to create a staging site on your own server or on TasteWP, which is also owned by Inisev.

Cons

  • Backups are divided into several files instead of one main file so if you restore the site manually, be sure to upload all the files.
  • To send offsite backups to cloud storage, you need to purchase the premium version.
  • To store your backups elsewhere without the premium plugin, you’ll have to download them manually and upload them to Google Drive, Dropbox or similar.
  • It was the only plugin I tested that initially didn’t work well on local copies of the website.
  • There’s some advertising of other plugin offerings within the plugin itself and even an invitation to become an affiliate.
  • Some might find the plugin’s approach to graphics and text cutesy.

Premium version experience

The premium version is an add-on to the free version. To use it, you need the free version.

Besides the ability to create backups of unlimited size, you can save your backups in Google Drive. Plans are under way for more external storage offerings, including Dropbox and Google Cloud.

To save backups in Google Drive, the plugin prompts you to log into Google. Once you’re connected and you choose to save backups in Google Drive, they’ll appear in a folder created for you. When I checked the folder, I found a zip file of the site along with a JSON file.

Premium users see a support button in the bottom right of the screen. This makes it easy to get help if you run into problems.

If you need staging, you can create staging sites, both locally and on TasteWP, a platform which lets you quickly set up a free WordPress demo site.

BackupBliss has a number of “Coming Soon” options in development. On the list:

  • More zipping options: save your backups as tar or tar.gz files.
  • Browse through files to define which ones should (not) be included in the backup
  • Apply smart exclusion rules, e.g. exclude all spam comments
  • Encrypt & password protect backups
  • More backup creation triggers. For instance, trigger backups by URI, or before updates are done on a site.

Premium licences cost $29.98 USD for noncommercial sites, $39.98 USD for commercial sites, billed annually.

A licence is valid for two sites and may be transferred from one site to another. There’s a 20% discount for future purchases.

Annual licence bundles range from $98 USD for 10 licences to 50 licences for $298 USD.


UpdraftPlus by UpdraftPlus.Com, DavidAnderson

Free version

When I started building WordPress websites, several people recommended the pro version of Updraft Plus. People rave about it.

I didn’t like that it separated backups into several files. I know how to create manual backups, so what’s the appeal of a backup divided into five separate files? I might as well back up sites manually instead.

I get why files are separate. But I find for small sites, it’s easier to have one file for the entire site. Otherwise, it makes more sense to limit the backup to the database only.

UpdraftPlus offers another way to migrate a site, a paid tool called UpdraftClone. Migrating a site using the free UpdraftPlus plugin involves creating a backup and manually downloading and uploading files.

As you get ready to back up files, a tour walks you through what you need to do, taking you to the buttons to click and configurations to set as you create a backup.

Choose a backup schedule. Then select a remote storage option. Options include the paid Updraft Vault, the cloud (Amazon S3 (or compatible), Dropbox, Google Drive, Rackspace Cloud, DreamObjects, FTP, Openstack Swift and email.

Creating a backup is as easy as hitting the huge blue Backup Now button.

After selecting what to include in the backup (database, files, remote storage), I confirmed the backup.

As files were compressed, a progress bar displayed the backup’s progress. As files scanned, the log appeared in a box.

The process took about four minutes.

Migrating the site

To migrate a site using the free plugin, I installed it at the target site on Local WP. Then I went to the DevKinsta site and looked for the existing backup under the Backup/Restore tab. I checked the box and hit the Select All button to to download the five backup files I’d saved (Database, Plugins, Themes, Uploads, Others).

At the Local WP site, I clicked the Backup/Restore tab. As there were no existing backups, I clicked on the Upload Backup Files link and a dialog opened up to upload the files. Once I uploaded the five folders I’d downloaded earlier, they appeared as tabs in the Existing backups section.

screenshot UpdraftPlus checklist restoring site
Image credit: UpdraftPlus

I selected all the tabs and hit the blue Restore button. After checking off the components I wanted restored, I hit Next. It took less than two minutes to restore the site.

screenshot UpdraftPlus backup with list of buttons showing backup data and Restore, Delete and View Log buttons

Pros

  • It’s very straightforward and easy to use.
  • Free version features include options to automate backups and save backups externally

Cons

  • Saves backups as several files.
  • Be sure to delete files stored locally to avoid running into problems with space at your local host.
  • Includes advertising for other Updraft plugins and services.

The premium version of the plugin offers more, including scheduling automatic backups every 2, 4, 8, or 12 hours, daily, weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, incremental backups (backup only changes that have occurred on your site since the last backup, a Migrator tool that simplifies sending backups from one site to another, and premium support. Starting at $9 a month, UpdraftCentral Cloud lets you manage several websites in one place and use tools from the Updraft family of plugins to maintain sites.

Premium licences range from $70 USD per year for a personal licence (up to two sites) to $399 a year USD for a Gold licence, billed annually.


WPvivid Backup Plugin by WPvivid Team (VPSrobots Inc)

Free version

What I especially appreciate about WPvivid is its simplicity. The free version makes it easy to send website backups to cloud storage options such as Google Drive or Dropbox.

While there is an Export option, WPvivid recommends backing up the site using Backup & Restore cite source here. I chose Database + Files (WordPress Files) and sent the backup to Local. Then I hit the big blue Backup Now button.

It took around six minutes to create a backup.

On the downloads page I found three separate zipped files.

I installed WPvivid on the fresh installation and uploaded the files in the box after clicking on the tab that says Upload > Drop Files here.

Then I looked at the list of backups under the Backups tab and clicked the Restore button next to the backup. After clicking the blue Restore button again and confirming the restoration, a progress bar appeared above a box showing the files as they were extracted from the backup and restored.

It took approximately five minutes to extract the files and confirm the migration.

When it was done, everything looked perfect. The site looked exactly the same and worked perfectly. Even the Simple Banner plugin was activated.

Pros

  • It’s extremely easy to use
  • The free version offers a dizzying number of options, including the ability to include or exclude files, folders and database tables from a backup, schedule backups, and import and export sites.
  • You can restore sites in one click from a local backup, a cloud backup or an uploaded backup.
  • There’s an option to create a snapshot of your database.
  • You can send backups offsite and customize backups to send to cloud storage providers including Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon S3, Microsoft OneDrive, DigitalOcean Space or via FTP/SFTP.
  • To migrate a site. you can either upload it or use an auto migration feature.

Cons

  • Backups are split into several files instead of one big file
  • Even if you send backups to cloud storage, copies are saved on the host’s web server. This may eat up resources. You have to manually remove them.

A pro version has everything you find in the free version plus more options for backups and more flexibility. This includes scheduling backups and incrementing backups (only backup new changes since the last backup) or selectively choosing what’s being backed up or restored and for how long, backing up or restoring non-WordPress files, and external databases. Migrations can happen via cloud storage and there’s an option to create a snapshot that won’t crash your live production site.

Addons in the pro version include staging, image optimization, the ability to white label the plugin, roles and capabilities, multisite and 24/7 support. Annual licences range from $49 to $149 a year depending on the number of domains (from two domains to unlimited). Lifetime licences range from a one-time fee of $99 for two domains to a maximum fee of $299 for unlimited domains.

Stephanie bio photo
About the author
Stephanie O'Hanley is a former journalist turned web developer based in Greater Montreal. As a freelance journalist her work appeared in daily, alternative and community newspapers and digital publications. As a WordPress virtual assistant and developer, she builds websites, offers website support and maintenance, and writing and editing services. She enjoys helping nonprofit, individual, and small business clients in the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada make their websites better.