Migrating your WordPress website is a major undertaking with many parts to consider, so it takes some technical expertise to make sure it is done correctly with no issues.
A well-done migration will ensure that your website experiences no down-time, that all links are working correctly on completion, and that no data is missing. Automating the process is the easiest way to make sure that your site will be up and running quickly after migration.
In this article, we’ll look at managing your WordPress site migration using plugins, and go through our selections for the nine best migration plugins available. We will be looking at both free and premium options to cover all budgets.
Before we start the list, though, let’s get some basics out of the way.
Why Migration Matters
There are several reasons you might need to move a WordPress website, such as moving to a new web host, cloning a website to work on it locally, or moving a local installation to a live server.
While setting up a WordPress website is simple with the famed five minute install, moving a site requires multiple steps if done manually. You will need to backup the data; copy content, files and images into the correct directory structures; restore the database; move and re-activate plugins and widgets; and test everything to ensure that the entire process has been completed without error.
Especially with a site that contains thousands of posts and images, this process can be both time-consuming and labor intensive, and end up extremely error-prone. There is risk of losing data and making the website unavailable if carried out incorrectly.
Plugins can simplify this process by providing simple configuration, automatic backup of data during migration, and confirmation that data is intact. Using plugins to handle website migration helps to ensure data integrity, reduce the risk of errors and minimize downtime of your website.
Are you sold? Good – let’s get onto those plugins!
With over five hundred thousand active installs and an overall 4.9 star satisfaction rating, Duplicator is one of the most popular migration plugins in the WordPress ecosystem. Though we are featuring it today for migration, it made our list of the 10 WordPress backup plugins to know too. The free version is available in the WordPress.org plugin directory, but there is a premium version available too, starting at $49.
Created by the team behind Life in the Grid, Duplicator is an extremely powerful tool designed to enable a website administrator to duplicate, clone, backup, move and transfer an entire site from one location to another.
A three-step wizard helps you to setup a package consisting of a single zip file (called an archive file) and an installer, scan for potential issues with server settings, archive files and database tables, and then build the package. You can customize the package to exclude specific directories, file types and database tables. Detailed logs are available at each stage for your review, as well as a logging tool for the most recent build that is helpful for debugging any issues with the plugin.
Installing a new website from a previously created package is done by visiting the install file through the browser. Another three-step wizard takes you through extracting all the files from the archive and creating the new database, performing the database updates, then testing the site. Settings can be customized for both the website URL and which plugins to activate upon install. A detailed report is provided to give you a summary of any possible errors and warnings after the installation is completed.
Full documentation with video tutorials is provided on the developers’ website, but as they advise on the plugin page, Duplicator is not for novices and requires above-average technical knowledge. Full customer support is provided for purchasers of the premium version, Duplicator Pro. Upgrading to the Pro version also enables additional features such as scheduled backups, support for backups to Dropbox, Google Drive and FTP, multiple site licences, and package templates.
Duplicator is not currently recommended for use on multisite networks, but is a solid tool for developers to move or backup WordPress sites, pull a production site onto a local machine for testing and validation, or push a local test site to a production server for launch.
Also coming in with over 500,000 active installs and an overall 4.9 star satisfaction rating, UpDraftPlus is another popular migration plugin for WordPress websites. Like Duplicator, this plugin made our list of the 10 WordPress backup plugins to know. The free version is available in the WordPress.org plugin directory, but there is a premium version available for between $70 and $145.
UpDraftPlus, though free, is a powerful plugin that supports cloud storage by default, automatic scheduled backups, and splitting large sites into multiple archives. Creating a backup is a simple matter of selecting what files and directories to include in the backup. You can then restore from a backup into an existing site; replacing the themes, plugins, uploads and other content directories with one click.
The premium version is where this plugin really starts to shine, with additional storage locations, database encryption, multisite support, premium support and multiple site licences. Using UpDraftPlus’ premium version also offers a one-click site clone and migration tool that enables you to copy a site and duplicate it at a new location. It can even backup non-WordPress files and external databases and make you a cup of coffee. That last one was a lie.
UpDraftPlus is a solid option for less technical users as it offers a very straightforward interface, especially with the premium version and its one-click site cloning and migration tool. On the other hand, technical website administrators will appreciate the multitude of storage options and the database encryption. And if you have a very large site to migrate or need to work with a multisite network, UpDraftPlus is a great choice.
With over 100,000 active installs and an overall 4.8 star satisfaction rating, WP Migrate DB is another solid contender in our migration plugin list. The free version is available in the WordPress.org plugin directory, but there is a premium version available starting at $90 for a personal licence.
WP Migrate DB takes a different approach to migration than the two plugins we have looked at so far. Instead of exporting files and building a package or archive, this plugin exports the website database that you save on your computer as an SQL file. In order to complete the migration, a database management tool is then required to import the file into an existing WordPress database, replacing its contents.
Setting up the migration is straightforward, with options to automatically replace the website URL throughout the database with the new URL the website will be moved to, and to exclude unnecessary data like spam comments, post revisions and temporary cached data. The migration settings can be saved so that the process can be repeated with one click in the future.
The Personal Pro licence adds some interesting features to the migration process, such as enabling a backup of the database before running the migration, which acts a versioning system so you can return to a previous version of a database. Instead of requiring a separate database administration tool, WP Migrate DB Pro enables a database to be pulled into an installation using the plugin. The Pro plugin also provides the ability to pause and resume a migration while it is running.
The higher premium levels (Developer, Studio and Agency) add even more functionality via add-ons. With these licences you gain access to multisite tools for exporting sub-sites and importing them as single site installs, media file capabilities to migrate and copy the WordPress media library between sites, and WP-CLI integration to setup migrations to run automatically with a cron job.
WP Migrate DB is very useful if you are not concerned with migrating WordPress website files. It works very well for developers who work locally and need to migrate fresh data from the production site or migrate the local site to a staging or production site.
With over one hundred thousand active installs and an overall 4.7 star satisfaction rating, All in One WP Migration is another good alternative in our migration plugin list. The free version is available in the WordPress.org plugin directory and there are premium extensions available to add functionality, with prices ranging from $59 to $179.
This is a simple export and import migration plugin. The export screen contains options for text to find and replace, such as site URLs, and data to exclude from the export, such as spam comments, post revisions, themes, plugins, and the media library. The export file created can be saved to your computer. The import screen simply facilitates the upload of an export file which will be restored into the existing WordPress installation.
An interesting built-in feature is the chunking of data both on export and import of data that keeps the plugin from timing out and bypasses upload size restrictions. Doing so is particularly useful on shared hosts, which often restrict users’ ability to modify the default settings.
For access to extended functionality, premium extensions need to be purchased. These enable increased upload sizes (up to 5GB), additional storage options (Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon S3, OneDrive, FTP, backup scheduling, importing from a URL and multisite capabilities. All the premium extensions provide lifetime licenses with lifetime updates, use on any number of websites, and premium support from the Servmask team.
The free plugin is very easy to use and provides a very straightforward interface with no frills and extra options. The premium extension pricing may add up if you need access to multiple storage options, but the multisite functionality is well worth the price if you need full migration capability between network and single sub-sites.
5. WP Clone
Over 200,000 active installs and an overall 4.2 star satisfaction rating make WP Clone a popular choice for WordPress site migration. This is despite a glaring problem, admitted by the developers, where the plugin does not work in about 10–20% of cases. Based on the reviews, this is primarily a problem with restoring from a backup and not as much with cloning a site, so we will still consider it as an option.
For a free plugin, WP Clone provides some useful features designed to make moving or copying a WordPress site quick and easy. The plugin is installed on the destination site and requires no FTP access to the original site either. By default, WP Clone copies just the user content and database, not the WordPress system files, which makes the process very fast and improves security. It avoids upload issues by accessing the original site backup over a direct http connection, and uses the built-in zip archive function so it is compatible with almost all hosts that support WordPress.
When this plugin works, which it does for most users, it works well, living up to the speed promises made by the developers. It is useful for moving a WordPress site to another domain or hosting server, moving to or from a local server and creating copies of a site for development or testing purposes. The developers, WP Academy, are very responsive and eager to put an end to the issues faced by users, so reach out to them if you try it and it doesn’t work for you.
VaultPress is the first premium-only option on our list of WordPress migration plugins. The free plugin listed in the WordPress plugin repository provides backup and synchronization functionality, but a subscription is required (starting at $9 per month) for migration. The repository does give an indication of the popularity of this plugin, with over 20,000 installs and a 4.7 star satisfaction rating.
This plugin is primarily designed to protect your site through backups and security scans and synchronizes every post, comment, media file, revision and dashboard setting on their servers. Furthermore, you can take advantage of the backup and restore functionality to migrate your VaultPress-protected site to a new server.
VaultPress makes it easy to browse your history of backups and download archives of your database, uploads, themes and plugins. Backups can be restored over FTP or SSH connections either to the current site or an alternate site.
Though not specifically for migrations, VaultPress offers a solid means way to provide protection for your site and is worth considering if you don’t want to worry about creating backups yourself.
One of the original WordPress backup plugins, BackupBuddy from iThemes is a complete solution. Subscriptions start at $80 per year to manage two sites.
BackupBuddy creates full backups of not just the WordPress database but also the media library, theme files and plugins. Individual files and tables can be excluded. Backups are created on an automated schedule and the files can stored offsite in a range of destinations including their custom backup location (BackupBuddy Stash), Dropbox, Amazon S3, Rackspace Cloud, FTP and email.
Originally built for backups (duh), BackupBuddy provides easy migration functionality. The ‘Deployment’ feature enables the setup of a staging site that can be easily connected to an existing site, making it simple to push and pull changes between staging and production sites. The BackupBuddy dashboard enables moving a site to another server or domain by just entering new database credentials.
BackupBuddy is a good option for WordPress developers who build sites on temporary domains or locally and want to move the site to a live client domain. It also works well for non-technical site owners who want a set-it-and-forget-it backup method that will facilitate a future move when necessary.
8. WP Backitup
WP Backitup, like other solutions described above, is first and foremost a backup plugin. Unlike the others, WP Backitup limits restoring from backups in the free version of the plugin, requiring you to purchase the premium version that starts at $79.
WP Backitup provides automated scheduled backups and stores them on their servers. You can create complete backups including the database, themes, plugins and media uploads. The premium version of WP Backitup not only adds unlimited restore capabilities and automated backups, it also provides the ability to copy or migrate a site based on the same backup and restore process.
WP Backitup is a viable alternative for non-technical site owners looking for a cheaper hosted backup solution that facilitates site migrations.
Though not immediately clear from the plugin page on the WordPress plugin repository, BlogVault Real Time Backup requires a paid subscription to function, much like VaultPress does. Paid subscriptions start at $9 per month, placing it in the same price range as VaultPress. With over 10,000 installs and a 4.3 star satisfaction rating, BlogVault is used widely enough to be worth considering.
Like other hosted solutions, BlogVault provides automated scheduled backups and simple restores from a dashboard. Where it differentiates itself is in its real time backups that are triggered by standard WordPress triggers such as posts or pages being added. Additionally, the backup process is incremental, making it very quick and reducing the load on the server.
BlogVault has built in a simple migration process that helps a site owner move their website to a new domain or host with a few clicks. Any version from the list of backups can be selected and the migration takes place from BlogVault’s servers. The migration is chunked and so very large sites can easily be migrated without issue. BlogVault also supports multisite networks, making this tool a worthy competitor to some of the more established names.
Choosing a Migration Plugin
Choosing the right WordPress migration plugin is an essential step in minimizing the hassle involved in moving your website. As we’ve shown above, the best one for your migration will depend on your technical experience, the complexity of your site, and the specific type of functionality you want. Other factors to consider are the size of your site and whether a multisite network is involved.
If you are non-technical and just want the simplest option, a managed backup solution that enables migrations would be your best bet. VaultPress, WP Backitup and BlogVault are great options to consider, with the latter being of special use if you have a multisite network or large sites to backup and migrate.
If you have the technical skills and just want a tool to make your live easier, Duplicator is likely to be your go-to plugin. WP Migrate DB would be a good alternative if you just want to move the data for your site and not the files. If you want a great interface with enough options to adequately customize the process, BackupBuddy will serve you well. WP Clone is still a potential option, but be prepared to work with the developers if your site falls into that minority that doesn’t work right away.
Multisite networks remain a tricky area of WordPress and most plugins do not support migrating either entire networks or single sub-sites. If you need to do so, you should take a look at Updraft Plus and All in One WP Migration. Updraft may be particularly useful if you need to migrate a large site.
With all the plugin options available to simplify WordPress migrations, there is little reason for busy site owners to migrate a site manually. The time and effort saved and the peace of mind of knowing your data is intact makes using a plugin for migration an easy decision.
We have reviewed nine plugins to help make your WordPress migrations simple. However, as we pointed out, each site may have different needs for migration. We selected a range of options above that we believe should provide a solution for just about every use case.
If you’ve used any of the plugins we highlighted, we would love to hear about your experience. Is there one migration plugin that you always use and recommend? Or did we miss one that you think should be considered? Let us know in the comments below!
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