After my previous post, Reinstalling WordPress, the Nuclear Option, I searched for a way to avoid the pain of deleting and rebuilding an entire site again. Strangely enough, there are not too many products out there that will do what I want. My criteria were:
- It must be able to make a complete clone, including comments.
- It must be easy to use, with great documentation.
- It should be usable by either me or my assistants on any website I own.
- It must be compatible with cPanel controls.
- It must work with the Thesis Theme, which I use on all of my websites.
My search showed the prime candidate to be WP Twin, by Wilson Mattos and Jason Fladlien. The information provided on the website indicates that it meets all of my objectives listed above. I decided to purchase a copy and run it through its paces.
The purchase and downloading of the files went smoothly enough. Although the download includes a large PDF file of instructions, I used the help videos to follow along and create my first clone.
For my testing, I once again used my site: Bogota Colombia Tourism.
Note that before starting, you should be comfortable using file transfer programs. Even though the explanations are clear, if you are not adept at using FileZilla, you will need to do some preparation before using WP Twin. This would include setting up your FileZilla FTP host type and passwords to your server.
I followed the directions as shown in the video and was able to easily create my first clone. My clone was about 4 MB and took 146 seconds to download back to my computer using FileZilla. You should note that the video demo is much faster. Either they have a very fast connection or the video was paused during the download to avoid the boring part.
There are two download options; FileZilla (or your favorite FTP program) and the built in link. I tested both methods of downloading. The built in download link is not quite as fast as using FileZilla, but it was still done in less than four minutes.
There is also a handy button to delete your clone from the server. This will avoid cloning clones (and then cloning the clones of the clones…) in the future. Deleting the clone also avoids someone finding your clone file and then using a copy of WP Twin to duplicate all of your hard work setting up the blog. Deleting clones is also is required under the web host’s Terms of Service. Bluehost, like almost all other web hosts, does not allow the use of their systems to store backups. All it takes is one person who ignores the “clone of a clone of a clone…” restriction to wipe out other users on the system. Bluehost has a built in Backup Wizard, which will create a backup of all of your sites. However, it does not provide the flexibility of WP Twin and is also not a guaranteed backup. Although I use the built in backup service, it is not a substitute for WP Twin.
If you would like to keep a clone copy elsewhere, you will need a separate backup plan. You should have the clone copies on your home computer and another backup site. I highly recommend having copies of your site files somewhere else other than your home computer. Remember, you are only one hard disk crash away from losing your online empire.
Next, the acid test; I deleted my entire WordPress installation for Bogota Colombia Tourism to run the “Deploy A Clone” procedure. There is a lot of info on the site about using WP Twin to create multiple sites (which I plan to investigate in the future) but for now I am only interested in creating perfect backups.
After logging in to Bluehost’s cPanel (or the equivalent in your host’s domain), I prepared for the removal. Note that the demos for WP Twin use “Fantistico” for WordPress installs, I use “SimpleScripts”; they work virtually the same. I used SimpleScripts to remove the complete installation of WordPress in the root directory of the Bogota Colombia Tourism site. You are given the option of saving your files by SimpleScripts. In this case I didn’t want any files left over so I chose the “Delete All” button.
As shown in WP Twin’s demos, the site is now deleted. A check in Internet Explorer shows no site. Bye-bye, Bogota Colombia Tourism.
Onward to a fresh installation of WordPress. Back in cPanel, I once again run the SimpleScripts dialog to start a new WordPress installation. During the new installation, I received a warning about overwriting existing files in the directory. The removal had left some files behind. Since these files will be overwritten again by the new clone image, I chose the overwrite option. I also could have deleted these left behind files by deleting them with FileZilla. There are a couple of other options to choose during the new installation, including your blog’s title and installation location. I chose the defaults. After making these choices, SimpleScripts reported a successful installation of WordPress.
A quick refresh of my domain in IE shows that I now have a clean WordPress blog. This is already much faster than my previous attempt at a piecemeal backup/restore.
Next, I used FileZilla to FTP my previously made clone and the WP Twin redeploy script to the root folder of the Bogota Colombia Tourism site. Then in IE, I added /wptwindeply.php to my site’s name in the URL window. The next page requested verification and I inserted the info received during purchase. This validates WP Twin as an official copy. Then I arrived at the WP Twin “Deploy Your Clone!” page. I accepted the default options, which automatically delete the clone files after the restore, and ran the restore, which writes the clone back to the server.
A quick check of my site shows that all sections were faithfully cloned, including plugins, comments, themes and graphics. Welcome back, Bogota Colombia Tourism!
The process is quick and painless and takes much less time to complete than my write up took.
I also noted that the demo videos were for version 1.9 and my current version is 2.7. This is great news as it shows that the developers have continued working on the product and should continue to support it in the future.
So, did the product fulfill all of my requirements mentioned above? It certainly did! I will be using WP Twin from now on to make backups of my WordPress installations and deploy copies of my sites for new installations.