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How to Backup WordPress

Frustration abounds when your website goes down.

But what if you get organized with backups - ahead of time?

Up-to-date backups are worth 10x older ones.

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1. Introduction

[a “backup” is a techie word for saving a duplicate copy of your website]

Why backup your WordPress site?

The reason to backup your website is because you make changes to your site, or there are updates, and what about all of those blog posts? They have taken a lot of blood, sweat and tears to create and need to be cherished.

You’d kick yourself if they got lost…

It’s easy to overlook the critical job of backing up your website.

Normally we rely on our hosting company or server to keep our website files safe. This thinking is severely flawed.

Because anything could happen.

Then your files could be lost for good. Servers die, crash and get hacked, not to mention natural disasters and outages. Not only that, even experienced web developers can accidentally delete files.

There are many reasons why you want to make sure that you’ve got an up to date backup of your WordPress site. Let’s explore the best approach to backing up your WordPress site for peace of mind.

Before I go into detail on how to backup WordPress I’d like to address a common question…

2. Are Hosting Company Backups Enough?

Some hosts provide free backups, while others have you pay an extra fee on top for the privilege. Some do daily backups, while others will do backups once a week.

It depends on your host. Have you looked over your backups recently?

Do they even exist? When was the last time you checked?

It can take a while to request a copy of your site from your host.

Which can leave you wanting to scream.

Don’t get me wrong, hosting company backups can be great. Just make sure to get all of the nitty gritty details on how your hosting backups work, and do your own backups as well, to be double sure.

PRO TIP: Always backup your backups. If you take your own backups then you’ll be in control and not reliant on a third party. 

3. Prevention is Better than a Cures

… as the old adage goes. 

Before you go ahead and set up your backup strategy. It’s important that you’ve put security measures in place, to ward off hackers (the most common cause of downtime/ loss of data).

Shockingly, Security Magazine reports that there’s a hacker attack every 39 minutes. 

Worry not…

For hackers hate…

Multi-factor authentication (the security measure that sends a code to your mobile phone) and encryption. So ensure that you use these wherever possible. 

PRO TIP: The professional advice is to keep three backups in three different locations. This could be hard drives, cloud storage, and on your thumbdrive. 

 

4. 5 Safety Measures You Should Deploy on Your WordPress Site

OK, so you need backups, that’s a given. But prevention is just as important. Here are five steps that you can take to ward off hackers:

  • Use multi-factor authentication
  • Use encryption
  • Update plugins and themes to the most recent version
  • Choose a strong username and password (plus change it regularly)
  • Create strong database table prefixes

PRO TIP: Before you upgrade your WordPress theme or plugins, make sure to do a manual backup.

5. Understand What Files to Backup (the 6 elements)

When backing up your website, you’ll want to make sure that you backup both your database and files. 

A WordPress frontend website is made up of six elements:

  • WordPress core installation
  • WordPress plugins
  • WordPress themes
  • Images and files
  • Code files like – JavaScript, and PHP
  • Additional files and static web pages

Your database will contain posts, pages and some data. But it won’t contain the above elements.

6. Sync Your Computer With Your Site (save website on computer)

You can create a Sync with your website and computer hard drive, so that the latest versions of data are in both locations. Checkout WinSCP – an award winning FTP client for Windows. You can copy files onto your computer and zip them up for compact storage.

Check the zip file, and store it in a few locations for safe keeping. You’ll want to do this once a week, or as often as you update your site. For example, if you add new blogs to your site, or make changes then it’s a good idea to back everything up.

7. Backup WordPress Automatically with a Plugin (in 3 steps)

Best for – ease of use (but can put pressure on your server and slow your site down)

WordPress plugins can be very useful. They allow you to change links, add forms, add in cool twitter share features, and much more. According to TorqueMag there are over 50,000 different WordPress plugins that you can use. Some free and some paid. 

Plugins can take the heavy lifting out of backing up. Automating them is easy and saves you having to worry if you forget to take a backup once in a while. 

STEP #1: Download & Install WordPress Backup Plugin

BackupBuddy is a paid solution, and is a feature rich plugin that supercharges your WordPress backups. 

Alternatively, you could go for a FREE option, such as “Updraft.”

You install the backup tool, the same way you install any plugin. It’s self explanatory. You can find the plugin tab in the left-hand side of your WordPress admin dashboard, as seen below:

 


Then search for Updraft. (If you choose BackupBuddy then you’ll have to go over to their site and purchase the plugin.)

Click here to checkout BackupBuddy

The process to install the Updraft plugin is really simple. All you have to do is search for “Updraft” (1.) and it will magically appear (2.)  as shown below:

 

 

 

There’s nothing to the process. All you have to do is go over to settings or click the blue button to start as follows:

 

STEP #2 | Take Your First WordPress Backup

To take a backup of your site, simply click on the blue “Backup now” button. Your backup should automatically run and it takes less than a minute to backup your site. 

 


 

Once this is all complete, you can check out your backups in settings, by simply scrolling down to the “Backup Logs.”

STEP #3 | Scheduling Automatic WordPress Backups

The automatic backup feature of Updraft is excellent. As you’d imagine, it allows you to schedule automatic backups. So that you can sit back and relax, safe in the knowledge that your content is backed up and secure. All you have to do is go to the settings tab (1.) and then set the files and database backups (2.). 

 

 

How often should you backup your website

 

The answer to this question depends on how often you make changes to your website. Some busy sites might want to perform a backup every 4 hours, while most personal websites are best to be backed up weekly. 

Judge how often you backup by how often you change your website. 

Weekly or fortnightly should suit most. But judge this for yourself. 

Make sure to auto-backup BOTH your database and your files. 

Then choose how long you want your backups to be stored, as shown below:

 


 

Scroll down to save your backup. 

The next step is to choose where to save your files. Google drive is super easy. Alternatively you can choose OneDrive, Email, Dropbox – or whatever file storage service you prefer.  

Simply select it as shown below then scroll down. 

 

 

Optional email backup alert message – if you’d like Updraft to email you every time your site is backed up. If you’d like the alerts, you can scroll down and select the check box shown below:

 


 

Save changes, by clicking the blue button at the bottom of the screen. Then you’ll see a popup that requests permission to access your Google account. 

Follow the prompts and then you’re all set!

PRO TIP: Plugins can make your site more vulnerable, so minimize the number of plugins that you use on your website.

 Plugins can make your site more vulnerable, so minimize the number of plugins that you use on your website. 

 

 

9. Why Would You Want to Manually Backup Your Website?

There are two key reasons that you’d want to manually backup your website, as follows:

  1. Customized file backup approach – this becomes more applicable with more complex websites. A free or paid backup plugin is often limited to how and what you backup on your website. For some website owners, this restriction isn’t acceptable, as they want more control.
  2. Minimize plugins, for security and control – if you have a lot of plugins on your site then it will run slower, additionally there can be plugin conflict. Another issue to be aware of, is that plugins can make your site more vulnerable, meaning hackers can more easily hack your site (especially with free plugins).

10. How to Backup WordPress Without a Plugin (manual backup)

Best for: website owners who are more tech savvy

There are three main ways to backup your WordPress site without a plugin.

Via FTP, manual backups, use a third party tool.

If you’d like to learn more about these three manual backup options read on.

1. Take FTP Backups (5 simple steps)

 

Taking FTP backups will only allow you to download the 6 key elements of your front end site (as explained above).

Remember, you’ll also need to take database backups.

FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. Basically it’s a process to upload and download files to your server. It’s the most technical approach to backing up your website. However, it offers precise control over what files you backup. Here are 5 steps to taking FTP backups:

Download an FTP client such as FileZilla, Winscp, or SmartFTP

Open your FTP client

Connect to your website

Find your site files and select the ones you want to save

Download and save your website files

PRO TIP: Some of your files may be hidden. To make them visible go to Server>Force showing hidden files.

2.  How to Take Database Backups for your WordPress Site

To take database backups you’ll need to:

Login to your cPanel and locate phpMyAdmin.

With phpMyAdmin open, simply click on databases on the navigation bar.

Find your WordPress database

Then click “Export” and save in the best location.

PRO TIP: Once you’ve downloaded your files, you’ll want to upload them to several locations for safe keeping. File storage solutions such as Dropbox and Google Drive are great options.

3. Use a Third Party Tool

There are also third party tools that you can use to automate your backups. This is a great option for people that are not so tech savvy. An example of a third party backup service is Codeguard.

Codeguard is just one of the third party backup tools available for WordPress. It’s really easy to use and ideal for beginners. They run daily automated backups – but you can switch to a weekly or monthly backup frequency if that suits you better.

What’s great about CodeGuard is that they offer a one-click restore feature. Which is ideal to quickly restore your site in the case of hackers or any other unfortunate mistakes. Additionally they offer security features like email alerts, and 24/7 website monitoring.

If you use Hostgator as your hosting provider then they bundle CodeGuard as part of your hosting package. However, you can also use CodeGuard as a plugin for your WordPress website.

4. Perform a Basic Manual Backup

This step is easier than you think. All you have to do is go to your cPanel dashboard and find the “Backup Wizard” tool.

Instantly the software will create a full backup of your website.

If you want to download specific files (rather than backing up your entire website) then you can do this as follows:

  1. Login to cPanel
  2. Locate your “File Manager”
  3. To find your WordPress files look for a directory called “public_html”
  4. Select all and then click “compress”

This will allow you to backup your front end files. But make sure you backup your database by following the instructions in the (2. How to Take Database Backups for your WordPress Site) section above. 

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11. 5 Hosting Companies that offer FREE Backups

Still not convinced you want to backup your WordPress on your own?

We’ve got you covered…

Here are 5 reputable hosting companies that offer free automatic backups:

  • A2 Hosting
  • Siteground
  • InMotion
  • HostGator
  • DreamHost (only for
  • WordPress)
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12. Final Thoughts

There are a wide variety of approaches to taking backups of your WordPress website. It’s important to take the approach that suits you best. In all honesty, the approach you take doesn’t really matter. It’s the act of taking backups that’s important. Third party tools and plugins can be a great option for beginners. While the tech savvy among us might prefer to do manual FTP and phpMyAdmin backups. 

Now that you know all of the ways that you can backup your WordPress website – it’s over to you. If it all seems like too much, you might want to opt for managed WordPress hosting. Either way, it doesn’t really matter – the important thing is to take regular backups to allow you to restore your site to a previous version in the case of mistakes, unfortunate events or a hacked website. 

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Laura Hemmington

Laura Hemmington

Laura is an enthusiastic technology researcher, writer, and reviewer. She takes pride in her precision and dedication to the hosting market, and is somewhat of a seasoned pro in these realms.

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