How to backup your WordPress website

wordpress backupOkay guys and gals – when was the last time you took a few moments to backup your WordPress website? And by that, I mean your database and your files?

If some of you are squirming in your swivelly chairs right about now, I’m not all that surprised. It’s a very impressive (and disciplined) blogger or business owner who backs up all of their data and files as often as they know they should. The rest of us… well, we have good intentions that often go unrealised. Sometimes, until it’s too late.

The ugly truth

Not backing up your WordPress site is kind of like playing chicken. We understand the dangers involved and know we should do it more regularly, but many of us get complacent and think a data dilemma will never happen to us, and it somehow always ends up at the bottom of the to-do list.

If you read Charles’ so you’ve been hacked post yesterday, you’ll understand why this topic is particularly timely. TechNewsDaily reported that more than 90,000 blogs have been compromised by the most recent WordPress-based attack, which begs the question how many users worldwide are currently lamenting not backing up their sites.

Yes, data backup isn’t sexy or exciting, and it may not even seem like a productive use of your time if you’d rather be focusing on writing. It can seem tedious and time consuming and confusing to the uninitiated – but it doesn’t have to be.

What is a WordPress backup?

A backup is like making a copy or two (or three) of everything on your WordPress site, so you can triumphantly restore everything back to normal should the worst happen. Think of your backup copies as the paddle you’ll need to get yourself out of an undesirable creek.

Backing up your WordPress site is a two-prong process. This means you’ll need to backup your database, that is, every post, every comment and every link on your site, as well as your files, which consist of you WordPress Core installation, plugins and themes, images and files, and a bunch of additional information you won’t want to disappear.

Essentially, all of your content and everything that shapes the look and feel of your WordPress site needs to be backed up. If you don’t invest in regular backups, you stand to lose everything you’ve taken the time (and money) to create online – and often that loss if due to circumstances beyond your control.

Now before you naughty backup newbies freak out and crawl into the mental foetal position that is denial, let me assure you that backing up your WordPress website or blog doesn’t have to be daunting, or a giant time-suck. All you need are the right tools (hi there, WordPress Codex!), a regular backup rhythm, and a handy automated plugin or two.

Handy how-tos

Remember a couple of weeks back we talked about WordPress communities and finding help within the WordPress Codex? Well, this is the place to start your journey if you haven’t had any experience backing up your website before now.

Codex offers comprehensive information and step-by-step instructions on backing up your WordPress files and database via the links below:

Remember, if you get stuck on any of the steps outlined in Codex, you can always seek help from the WordPress community via the WP support forums.

If you’re looking for the added convenience and security of an automated backup plugin, browse the WP Plugin Directory. Some of the most popular four and five-star rated plugins include:

A few things to remember

Your web host may say they backup your website – and they probably do, to an extent – but don’t trust them as your only form of backup. Create consistent copies of everything yourself to be on the safe side.

How often you backup depends on how often you update your website or blog. It might be once a fortnight, once a week, or once a day – this is a personal choice based on how much data you’d be prepared to lose should the worst case scenario become reality.

You don’t have to keep every single backup you ever made of your site. As a general rule, keep two or three of your most recent backups, and keep copies in different places or formats (different hard drives, CDs, via email) in case one becomes corrupted.

Even if you use an automated backup plugin or system, be sure to test those every so often to check they’re working correctly, and create manual backups once in a while for added security.

7 comments on “How to backup your WordPress website
  1. Hi.

    First I would like to say you did a good job on building the site. I was wondering how do I put an image on the site and how to make it that size? Thanks

    • Hi Perry, I can’t really comment on how to crop and resize images (I’m no expert on image handling), plus there is loads of tutorials around the web (try YouTube) on this. You’ll also find many tutorials on managing media in WordPress on YouTube. We just uploaded one of our own on settings featured images: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTQTa3guGJE

  2. Hi,
    I am assuming you wrote this great article for complete tech newbies such as myself…so with that in mind, I will work up the courage to ask you what is probably a very silly question….
    How would one go about testing their site backup??
    Thanks,
    Christine

    • Hi Christine, that depends on what and how you backed it up. Did you just take a copy of all your files via FTP? Use a service or a backup plugin? Some plugins/services offer a restore function so you can use this to test your backup. If you’ve taken a copy of your database in some form or another then only way to test that is restore the database file from your backup, probably via your hosting control panel. Does your host offer Cpanel or something similar with a backup/restore feature for your database?

  3. Hi Charles,
    I am using a wamp localhost server and would like to back up my wordpress site before taking it live. Can you point me in the right direction as to how I may back up my localhost website? Would it be the same as a regular backup?
    Thanks,
    Margie:)

    • Hi Margie, yes just like any other backup. As long as you have another functional copy of the site stored somewhere else then you are good to go. Saving another copy on your local machine of course is not a secure backup because if you machine fails then the backup is inaccessible too.

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