iThemes today announced a Backup Buddy update to version 3.2. Backup Buddy is the premier backup solution for WordPress providing automatic scheduled backups as well as the ability to migrate sites from one domain to another. I have used Backup Buddy for over two years and have seen it develop from its earliest incarnation to an extremely robust tool which I swear by for keeping my own and my clients’ sites backed up.
In keeping with my “not-quite-bleeding-edge” policy, I will wait a bit before updating to the latest release of Backup Buddy. History has shown that as soon as a significant release takes place, a number of minor releases happen within days thereafter. This release is no exception. The actual release of v3.2 took place yesterday and today it’s already at 126.96.36.199. No doubt there will be a few more of these minor updates over the next days, so I’ll wait until it’s settled down before upgrading my Website Management Program clients and my own sites.
One of the things that has kept me a Backup Buddy customer is the fact that it is significant for the level of development applied to it. I just had a conversation this evening with a friend regarding the sorry state of software development in the WordPress world. WordPress itself is a shining example of open source software development. It’s the add-ons for WordPress that give real developers and users heartburn.
For every good plugin or theme, there are hundreds of bad ones out there. Even some products that have been around for years and cost a fair amount of money have flaws that should cause their developers to blush. Consider that there are over 20,000 plugins in the WordPress plugin repository alone. Of those, there may be a couple hundred that are really useful and that are kept updated by their developer(s).
Paying money for plugins and themes doesn’t guarantee a higher level of quality or support. One has to wonder if some of these developers actually use their own products. If they do, they must be so used to the way they work that it doesn’t occur to them that someone without intimate knowledge of the back end code might struggle to understand it. I personally have spent way more money than I should have on plugins and themes that turned out to be nearly unusable, at least not without a very steep learning curve. The good news there is that I now have a long list of products to steer my clients away from!
If you’re looking for a plugin to do a particular job, the first place to look is the WordPress plugin repository. These plugins have at least passed some scrutiny from the repository monitors and are unlikely to contain nasties like back doors and other security holes that often come with freeware. Pay attention to the number of ratings before getting too excited about seeing 5 stars on a plugin. Very often, there is only one rating from the developer him/herself, or perhaps three or four from his/her friends.
If a plugin has a high number of 4- and 5-star ratings, has been downloaded many times, and has been kept up to date (check the last update date), it’s a good bet that it’s at least built well and does what it was designed to do. Then it’s a question of whether it actually does what you have in mind. If it doesn’t, there are plenty of other candidates to consider.
The same applies to themes. There are thousands of free themes in the WordPress theme repository. The same caveats apply as with plugins.
Finally, ask around and look for reviews of plugins you’re considering, especially the higher priced ones. There are several WordPress groups on LinkedIn that are frequented by WordPress developers who have, like me, tried way more plugins and themes than the average user and are not shy about telling you what they think of them. You could literally spend the rest of your life trying out every plugin and theme available. Save time and ask!