Just like in WordPress single-site, doing multisite subsite backup is an important task to do for network administrators. Here are few reasons you should be doing this backup:

  • Prepare for big design update for a specific sub-site only.
  • Backup before doing big plugin and theme updates for the site.
  • Backup before doing any big content changes on the sub-site.
  • Backup before testing anything on the sub-site that might have some serious side effects or consequences.
  • Backup before any migration is done affecting only that sub-site

For these reasons, network admins should only backup the affected subsite, not the entire sites in the network!

This tutorial shows you both free and premium solution to this problem.

Prime Mover Free Version to the Rescue!

If you are not yet aware, there is a free plugin in called Prime Mover that you can use to backup sub-sites in a WordPress multisite. Yes you read it right – free plugin.

In this plugin(covered with free version):

  • You can export and download the site backup as a file to your Desktop.
  • You keep the backups in your local Desktop.
  • A backup copy is also saved in your server so you can re-download any backups when needed.
  • You restore the backup by uploading it back to the multisite.
  • Done.

Exporting and Creating Backups

Once you have successfully activated the Prime Mover plugin (this plugin can only be network activated in a multisite environment) – it’s time to create backups:

  • Login as network administrator (super-admin).
  • Go to Network -> Sites -> All Sites.
  • You should see two new columns added by Prime Mover. The Export Site and Import Site. These are the tools you need to backup and restore specific sub-sites.
  • If you have a lot of sites in a multisite, searching for that sub-site can be quite difficult. You can use the search box to search for the site that you want to backup.
  • You can search for the site name, e.g. in this screenshot:
  • Or you can search by blog id if you know it:
  • Finally supposing you want to backup a specific subsite (storefront.subdomaintest.tld), click Export blog button.
  • In the export options, supposing you want to make a complete backup (active plugins/themes, database and media files)

Also make sure to select “Export to multisite format” so that you can restore on the multisite sub-site. Make sure also that the target blog ID is correct. Simply enter the blog ID of the sub-site. This is given as 781 in the above example.

  • Finally click “Export now” button. It will take some time to export the site. It depends on the size of the sub-site and the speed of your server.
  • When the export completes, it will prompt you to download it to your Desktop. A copy of the backup is automatically saved in your server so you can use it in the future.
  • You can see created backups by clicking “Package Saved” link after export or can go to Prime Mover -> Packages. This is how it looks like:

Restoring Backups using Free Version

The free version of Prime Mover is limited to upload restoration only. It works in all cases and so flexible you don’t need to adjust any PHP and other server parameters. Take note though that for faster upload restoration:

  • Get fastest upload speed possible. If your upload connection is slow, then restoration is slow also.
  • Highest possible values of upload_max_filesize and post_max_size (if you can tweak this, although this is not required).

To restore a sub-site backup using Prime Mover free version:

  • Login as super-admin (network administrator).
  • Search again the site that you want the backup to be restored. (you can use the search box as illustrated previously).
  • Click Restore button under “Import site” column:
  • Browse to the zip package to restore in your Desktop and then open.
  • Prime Mover analyze the package to make sure it is not corrupted and it is appropriate for the sub-site (prevents you restoring wrong backup)
  • An import confirmation dialog that shows the details of the package to be restored. For example:

You can check the site title, the package size and site description to verify if you are restoring the correct site. If you are sure the site is correct, click Yes button.

  • Prime Mover will then upload the package to your server for restoration. The estimated time to upload this is also computed and shown in the import confirmation dialog earlier.
  • Once uploaded, package restoration starts. The restoration time depends on the size of the package to be restored and the speed of your server.
  • Finally once it is completed, you should see an import success message.
  • Re-save permalinks (recommended) to makes sure front end URL works.
  • That’s it. Done.

Restore backups the fastest way (Prime Mover PRO)

While you can use Prime Mover free version for creating backups and restoration. The fastest way to restore sub-site backups is available with the Prime Mover PRO version. In PRO version, it allows you to restore stored backups within your server (or even from Dropbox or from another website).

  • Login as network administrator.
  • Make sure you are upgraded to Prime Mover PRO.
  • Go to Prime Mover -> Packages.
  • To list the backups for a particular sub-site, enter the blog ID of the sub-site.
  • You will then see the backups available for that site for which you can easily restore. See screenshot below:
  • To restore that package, simply click “Restore package” button. No more uploading is needed since the package is already stored in your server.
  • An import dialog is again shown to confirm the restoration. It should show restore within server backup as restoration mode. Click Yes if it is correct.
  • Prime Mover will then start restoration process.
  • Once completed, you can re-save permalinks.

Uploading packages directly to your backup directory to restore it (PRO version)

Another cool feature of PRO version is to manually upload your Prime Mover package zip to your Prime Mover backup directory. You can use your favorite SFTP upload tool (e.g. Filezilla) to upload this. This is way faster than native browser upload. This is typically useful if you have limited upload speed or bandwidth.

Once uploaded to your custom backup directory go to Prime Mover -> Packages in network admin. Enter the blog ID of the sub-site and then click “Refresh packages” button.

If you have uploaded it to the correct path, it should appear there. For details on this feature, please read this tutorial.

Additional Features available on Prime Mover PRO version

Aside from the above illustrated PRO feature. These are the other useful features available in the PRO version:

If you think PRO features fits your needs, try Prime Mover PRO for a 14-day risk free trial. Or drop by your comments and questions below. Thanks.

Emerson Maningo Tutorials

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