iThemes adding live, incremental backups to BackupBuddy

iThemes has managed and supported BackupBuddy for about as long as any commercial plugin on the market. It’s a cornerstone product for them, and it’s done very well over the years. With BackupBuddy 7.0, they are adding live, incremental backups to BackupBuddy, to supplement the snapshot backups they’ve always done.

BackupBuddy Stash Live, as they are calling it, will be part of BackupBuddy Stash, a remote storage feature for BackupBuddy. BackupBuddy Stash Live will be similar operationally to VaultPress, where only changed items are backed up and synced with the remote backup on Stash, making the burden on the user’s host much smaller than full snapshots.

The scans will occur twice a day, but there are also a number of “triggers” that would, well, trigger real time changes for various actions. Also, database changes are backed up as they occur.

Anyone that already has an active license to BackupBuddy has 1 gigabyte of free storage with Stash, and therefore will be able to use BackupBuddy Stash Live. But for larger sites or running Stash Live on a bunch of sites, users may need to upgrade to one of the paid Stash plans that run from $35 to $197 per year and enable up to 100 GB of storage space. They have custom plans beyond that as well.

I asked Cory Miller and Matt Danner of iThemes about the storage limitations, and they said that really users were paying for the processing of data more than the storage itself. BackupBuddy’s remote storage features to Amazon, Dropbox, and other places will still exist — and in fact Stash Live will be one of the remote options to choose from — but BackupBuddy Stash Live and the processing that takes place require backing up to iThemes’s system, which they said is also encrypted and backed up remotely on their end as well.

The idea for Stash Live came from a need to ensure more reliable backups on unreliable shared hosting — a challenge iThemes has always struggled with. I’ve heard people say it often, and I think a Post Status member said it well once when they said that BackupBuddy either works great or doesn’t work at all, depending on just how decent or bad the shared hosting environment is. Many plugin authors understand just how badly configured some hosting environments can be.

With Stash Live, they are drastically reducing the burden on the hosting environment with each backup, since only changes since the last site activity will be processed. The only exception to that rule is the initial backup, as it will require the full site to be backed up. In practice, the system works very similarly to Time Machine in that regard, and in the future it will work like Time Machine even to the point where even if storage becomes full, rather than not function, the oldest unneeded backups would be removed to make room for new ones.

Live makes a lot of sense to me for iThemes. First and foremost, it’s a logical extension of their iThemes Sync site management tool, which is a central dashboard for managing website updates (and various iThemes products, including this one). Also, it takes more burden off of the entities they have never been able to control: the hosts. Finally, it’s the right move for BackupBuddy, a longstanding and reliable product, but one that really needed a live component to help it compete in both the low and high ends.

iThemes was likely losing much of the higher end of the market to VaultPress, and BackupBuddy Stash Live is a nice competitor for Automattic’s backup service. Also, iThemes and Automattic are fairly squared up across the board, really. They each have a backup service, security service, eCommerce plugin, and site management tool.

I don’t envy any company that has to compete against the behemoth of our little world that often, and I asked Cory about that. “I believe just like the freedom to choose your website software, WordPress users should also have really good options for different products and services that are best for them.” They know that iThemes and Jetpack have some parallel services, but they like to be an alternative option to an Automattic run product, and believe that “choices are always good for the user.” And they’ve been in business for seven years, that entire time offering at least some products that Automattic also offers.

Competition is good and the Stash Live component that will be in BackupBuddy 7.0 is a nice iteration (theoretically) on the product. I’m looking forward to trying it myself.