On April 4, version 3.0 of WordPress’ leading e-commerce plugin, WooCommerce, was released by Automattic, a major update from version 2.6.14. There were significant changes and upgrades made, but alas, along with the changes came broken sites for many merchants who updated their sites (or were auto-updated). There were a plethora of third-party plugins and themes that were incompatible and even some official Woo extensions were buggy. WooCommerce Subscriptions seemed to be particularly problematic, and THREE bugfix releases have already been issued since the 3.0 compatibility release. There have also been two bugfix releases of WooCommerce, bringing the most current version as of today, April 12, to 3.0.2
Obviously, if an e-commerce site goes down or ceases to function as it should, the merchant loses sales. It’s imperative that the merchant get their site back to a fully functioning state quickly.
Sadly, it was the case for some panicked shopkeepers who posted their tales of woe on Facebook groups and on the WordPress.org forums that they were totally lost because they updated WooCommerce on a live production site without testing or having a backup. And herein lies the lesson – the #1 rule of computing is and always has been:
1. **BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP** You should have regular scheduled backups of both your website’s files and the WordPress database which are stored offsite (not on your host with your site). The zipped backups should be downloaded to your computer or better yet pushed to cloud storage like Dropbox, Google Drive, or an Amazon S3 bucket. Your webhost, if halfway decent, should also be making its own backups; HOWEVER, don’t depend on them as their backups can be corrupted or lost. I have a personal experience where a web hosting company I deal with had a hard drive crash on their backup server and I was unable to restore a file to the date I needed because not all the files were recoverable. If your site is primarily static content and hardly ever updated, weekly backups going back a month (4-5 stored backups) will do, but ideally I recommend daily backups of both the database and website files stored for 30 days. On a busy e-commerce site, there will be sales continually being recorded, meaning the database is written to constantly, so the database in particular should be backed up no less than daily to preserve as much order and customer data as possible, and more frequently for a site with really heavy traffic.
For e-commerce and any other mission-critical sites, before running updates, always make a full backup right before updating so you can roll back in the event the updates break the site. If you can clone the site to a staging area, that’s a real bonus and highly recommended, because you can run updates there and take time to work out bugs without disrupting the production site. Managed WordPress hosts like WPEngine or Flywheel and Siteground’s GoGeek plan have easy “one-click” staging and deployment (pushing back to production) for development and testing purposes. If you host on a managed VPS or cloud, you likely have the ability to clone (carbon-copy) applications or instances with just a click as well. Cloudways in particular makes this easy. In this case you can just make the cloned site live when everything is confirmed good.
2. Refer back to Rule #1. It’s that important.
So what are some good backup/restore tools or services for WordPress? There are actually *a lot* of choices out there, but I’ll name my favorites:
UpdraftPlus – plugin with free + paid options, paid option supports cloning and migration. Supports multisite via an add-on plugin
blogVault – plugin + subscription cloud service, does incremental backups, migration. Supports Multisite
VaultPress – plugin + subscription cloud service from Automattic, the venerable company behind WordPress.com and the Jetpack plugin. Supports Multisite
BackupBuddy – paid plugin – last but certainly not least, this is the oldest premium plugin for WordPress which backs up, restores, clones, and migrates your site.
So, what if you’re totally lost or just don’t have the time and need someone else to get hands-on and setup and manage the backups for you? Consider one of WP Night Owl’s maintenance plans. All plans include full DAILY database and file backups stored for 30 days in the Amazon cloud. This is in addition to all our great services which you can see here. The best part is, restoring your site back to a fully working state is included.
Next time I’m going to outlay the steps to take to troubleshoot and “fix” a WordPress website when a WooCommerce update doesn’t go as planned.