Why a Loyal Customer Left VaultPress & Won’t Go Back

VaultPress is a premium backup and security service from Automattic. It was not the first backup solution for WordPress, but for me it was the first one that got things right with hourly backups and one-click restores.

When it comes to backups, I do not take any chances. Any website owner will tell you that things can, and will, go wrong. When that happens, you need to have access to your website’s backup in order to resolve the situation.

VaultPress
VaultPress remains a popular backup solution today.

From the launch of VaultPress I was a big advocate of their service. I told friends to use them and I recommended others to use WordPress in hundreds of articles.

Sadly, I cannot recommend the service anymore.

In the last few years the service has went downhill.

In this article I would like to explain why I, a loyal customer of VaultPress from day one, decided to stop using their service.

A Loyal Customer

It is no exaggeration to say I was a loyal customer of VaultPress from the start.

If you perform a quick search online you will find a ton of references about VaultPress by me on this blog and dozens of others. They never operated an affiliate program. Had they done so, I suspect I would have made thousands of dollars in commissions from the customers I sent their way.

Go back to 31 March 2010 and you will see I announced the beta launch of the service. I then previewed the service in November that year and then published a full review at the end of 2010. I continued to rave about the service for years in articles such as “VaultPress Just Became Even More Amazing“.

I used the service to backup this blog and three or four other WordPress websites I ran, though I later stopped VaultPress for those other websites as I stopped developing them.

To this day VaultPress lets me go back to 2012 and access any backup. Being able to go back and access backups from any point over the last several years remains a big selling point of VaultPress. It is a feature that I still love.

Sadly, the rest of their service is lacking.

Restores Rarely Work

As mentioned above, backups are one reason why I used VaultPress, however it is not the main reason.

In addition to using VaultPress, I have backed up all my websites to Amazon S3 for years, so I have always had additional backups of this blog saved somewhere else.

There are many great free WordPress backup solutions that allow me back up to places like Dropbox too; so I have always had options.

The main reason I paid $15 per month to use VaultPress was website restores.

I was happy to pay $180 per year for a fast and efficient restore system as it convenient and saves me time.

Having restore functionality means that if anything goes wrong, such as a plugin update crashing my website, I can quickly restore my website to a version from a few hours ago; and I can do so at a click of a button.

The problem is that restores have not worked correctly for a few years. I generally only need to use restores once or twice a year, but over the last few years, most of the restores I have attempted have failed.

I have then had to wait days for VaultPress to address the situation or do a manual restore myself (which defeats the point of using a service like VaultPress).

Truly Awful Support

When you pay for a premium service, you expect it to work.

When it does not work, you expect the support team to resolve the issue as quickly as possible and in a professional manner.

VaultPress fails on both counts.

Whenever I contacted them about restores not working, I would wait hours for a response. It would then take days for the issue to be resolved.

Earlier this year I was actually warned about querying why no one was responding to a ticket and told that I would be put back to the end of the queue for asking. Ridiculous.

Two weeks ago I attempted to restore a backup from this blog on VaultPress to Wetopi. I wanted to make sure a full copy of this website was transferred there so that I could test their service thoroughly before deciding whether to host with them.

I was unable to transfer the website. Initially, this was due to a lock setting at Wetopi, though I was still unable to transfer my website over once it was resolved. VaultPress advised that there was a problem with restoring (again) and they would have to refer it to an engineer to resolve the issue.

For 5 or 6 days I got “We’re working on it” replies whenever I asked for an update.

* Note, the tweet below should have said 2010, not 2012. I incorrectly quoted 2012 as that’s as far as my backups go.

After a week of VaultPress not resolving the issue, my patience was wearing thin. They had added three months of VaultPress backups to my account to apologise for poor service, but there was no sign of them actually being able to restore my website.

I was tearing my hair out at this point. I pay $180 per year to be able to restore my website in situations like this and they were unable to do it and did not seem to care.

I got frustrated and said “Nevermind. I will restore it myself”. You would have expected a premium service to realise their customer support was sub-par at this point, but all I got was a response asking me if I wanted to close my ticket.

The whole experience last week sums up what is wrong with VaultPress.

They are not reliable anymore and the support team cares more about closing tickets than actually resolving problems.

Being offered three months of service free sounds good on paper, but what they should have done was given me a refund for three or six months, as I had been paying for their service all year on the promise that VaultPress would be there when I needed them. They were not.

Cancelling my plan was handled badly too.

I had another few weeks until I was originally meant to be billed and the three months additional service postponed my next bill until 21 March 2019.

I was disgusted with the way I was treated and asked for my plan to be cancelled. They did so in seconds. VaultPress had over a week to restore my website and could not restore my backup, but were able to cancel my account in seconds. If only the technical team worked as hard as the billing team.

They did not simply cancel my billing and let my account expire on 21 March 2018. They completely deactivated my account and removed my right to access my backups; despite the fact I had paid for another few weeks.

This was a concern as when they had did so I had not transferred my website over and had not found an alternative backup solution. All I wanted to do was ensure I would not be billed again and wanted my service to run its course.

After complaining, they restored my account and allowed me access up until 21 December 2018. The three months of service they had offered was gone, but they later added it back after raising the issue.

From start to finish, the VaultPress team treated me poorly.

So much so that they have converted a loyal customer to someone that is unlikely to ever pay for any Automattic premium service.

Better Backup Alternatives

I have stopped using VaultPress for three reasons:

  • Their service is unreliable
  • Their customer support is poor
  • There are better alternatives

The WordPress backup market is very different to what it was eight years ago. There are many free and premium alternatives available today that were not around when I first started using VaultPress.

I have been aware of these alternatives for years, but as I have said many times, I was blindly loyal to VaultPress.

One of the best premium WordPress backup solutions around today is BlogVault. I had the pleasure of meeting BlogVault founder Akshat Choudhary at WordCamp Europe 2016 in Vienna. He’s a lovely guy and really knowledgeable about WordPress, backing up websites, and website security. I have since met him at subsequent WordCamps.

When he heard about my issues with VaultPress last week, Akshat reached out to me on Twitter and offered his help.

Akshat Choudhary and Asmos Struck
With BlogVault founder Akshat Choudhary and Pixel Rockstar founder Amos Struck.

VaultPress was unable to transfer my website to Wetopi in over a week, however I was able to migrate everything in less than 30 minutes by using BlogVault’s free WordPress plugin Migrate Guru. I highly recommend trying it out if you are looking to transfer a WordPress website.

So at this point the question is: What I am going to use to back up this website from now on?

Well, there are many great free solutions available such as UpdraftPlus, BackWPup, All-in-One WP Migration and BackUpWordPress.

I could go down the free route to reduce my monthly costs, though I do not mind paying money for a reliable backup solution. That is why I am looking at BlogVault. Akshat asked me to test his service out years ago. I was really impressed, but continued to use VaultPress (as I said, I was loyal).

BlogVault
BlogVault has made a name for itself for offering reliable backups and security scanning.

BlogVault’s plans start from only $7.40 per month and include website staging, though their backup and security plan at $12.40 per month is enticing me as it offers malware scanning and malware removal, login protection, website hardening, IP blocking, and more. I may opt for their WooCommerce backup plan instead to get real-time backups and backup storage up to one year.

I will let you all know in the future what solution I opt for and why :)

Final Thoughts

It should be no surprise that this article was born out of frustration. It stemmed from a popular WordPress company taking their customer for granted.

I believe this is a problem that exists in many companies within the WordPress world. I have listened to theme companies at WordPress camps complain about customers and I have had to point out that they perhaps need to expand their knowledgebase or FAQ area so that common questions are addressed. Companies need to remember that the market is competitive and they should do their utmost to keep paying customers happy.

Of course, I need to shoulder some responsbility for putting myself in this situation in the first place. I have seen the quality of service from VaultPress drop over time and did not jump ship to a better alternative.

It is a stark reminder that it is a buyer’s market and if a company is not delivering the service they promised, you should go elsewhere.

Thanks for reading.

Kevin