Suppose, one fine morning, you wake up and decide to start working on your website right from the beginning of the day. You sit before your computer, open your browser and enter the URL of your website. But nothing happens. You try again and again, but nothing simply happens.
A deep feeling of helplessness starts creeping into your veins as you have lost your years of hard work, time and investment. Everything is gone forever.
You certainly don’t want to have an experience in your life. Isn’t it?
Hopefully not. So, this is the article for everyone who wants to learn about backing up their WordPress site, from head to toe. If you are a beginner and don’t know much about backups, or if you are vested with a couple of years of experience but haven’t thought of taking backups ever, then this article is for you.
After you finish reading this article, you will learn almost everything you need to know about WordPress backups and will be able to build your own “perfect WordPress backup plan”. It’s simply not possible for me to give you a generalized backup plan that will serve the needs of millions of websites, as every single website is different, therefore there cannot be a single plan to protect every website in this world.
Armed with all the essential information’s and the right tools, you can create a “perfect backup plan” of your own and serve the main purpose of this article.
Why Only WordPress?
I am focusing this article mainly on WordPress, but the basic ideas should be applicable for every other CMS. This article can be a motivator for you and can clear your concept about WordPress backups, even if you are in any other CMS other than WordPress.
WordPress is an extremely popular CMS used by millions all over the World. This makes it increasingly a favorite choice for many hackers too. Every day, I see hundreds of automated login attempts on my own WordPress site. As my site is getting more and more popular, the number of attempts increases even more.
Moreover, as your site gets bigger and you install more and more plugins, the chances of conflict between various plugins also increases considerably too.
You need to take backups. Seriously, you need them. Let’s clear this idea even better in the next section.
Why Should You Take Backups?
If you have read the first paragraph of this article, then the fear of losing your hard work is a reason strong enough for you to take regular backups. WordPress, being one of the most user-friendly CMS, can make your work feel so smooth that you can even never imagine of losing all your work over-night.
But this can happen, anytime and to anybody. There are many reasons why you can lose your years of hard work, time and money overnight.
(Image Source: DotComFacts.com)
1) Server Failure
Server failures can happen anytime, and you should be prepared for it. Though the hosting company can claim to take regular backups of your site, but unfortunately those backups may not be an entire backup of your site. You may be missing the most important items in those backups.
Moreover, if you update your site quite frequently, then those backups will certainly not contain your most recent posts, comments, etc.
2) Hackers Attempt
You should never think that you are 100% secured. Whatever security measures you take, there are hackers who are intelligent enough to find potential loopholes better than you.
So the best idea is to take regular backups of your site. Even if by chance, all your security measures fail and your WordPress site gets compromised, then also you will simply have nothing to worry.
3) Virus and Malware
You may not get fully hacked, but can also be a victim of virus or malware attack. Mostly cheap shared servers poses the risk of malware and virus contamination.
You may not even be knowing but you may be a victim of a serious virus or malware attack. Best way to check is by using a free WordPress plugin, WordFence Security.
4) Other Technical Problems
Various technical problems can occur in the WordPress core files or the database too, and are very uncertain and unavoidable. Even while editing a theme or a plugin, you may have accidentally deleted some files and your entire installation gets corrupted at once.
The only thing that can save you in this situation is a complete backup of your site.
A Few Important Things You Need To Know
You need to understand the structure of your WordPress site to make your backup plan efficiently. We can divide the backup structure into three categories:-
i) Database Backup
ii) Wp-content Folder Backup
iii) Core WordPress Files Backup
The Database backup is the most important of all, so I decided to keep it in the top. Database is like the brain of your WordPress installation, which contains all kinds of textual information’s, like Posts, Pages, Comments and much more. It also contains the configuration settings of different plugins you have.
Second in the list is the Wp-content folder, which contains all your essential files, like the images, plugin and theme files. It’s also very important for you to take the files as backup too, because if you lose your site entirely, then just the database backup is not enough to get you in the track.
The plugin and the theme files can be re-downloaded any time, but the customizations that you have made on your theme or plugins will be lost forever if you don’t include those in your backup too.
So, both of them are very important aspects of your backup. But Database backup is the most important of all and you need to take regular Database backups (depending upon the update frequency of your site, as discussed later).
Last in the list is the Core WordPress files backup, which is the least important of all as you can download these core files anytime for free. It doesn’t matter much if you lose these files. But to take a complete backup, you need to include these files too.
Manual vs. Automated Approach
Now as you have understood the structure of your WordPress installation and what contains what, you are now ready to build you backup plan on broadly two possible ways – manually and automated.
It’s completely up to you to decide if you want to go, the manual or the automated way. But obviously, if you seek the manual way, then you surely need to spent a lot of time taking these backups, placing them in different places (like cloud storage, hard drive, FTP, etc.).
Not only that, you also need to keep yourself reminded every single day, that you need to take backups and this is really difficult if you have a big and popular site and need to spent most of your time on various other aspects of your site.
(Image Source: OnlineBackupReviews.org)
You can back up your entire site or parts of it, by entering the Export page from the Tools menu (Tools à Export). You are not done, with just downloading your database file as you also need to keep it in a safe place. You can either upload it to your cloud storage, or keep it in your email account, or have it in your hard drive or you can also keep it in your own server via FTP.
Very tiring, boring and tedious job, isn’t it?
You can also go for automated backups, as there are many benefits of it. You just need to spent time once while setting it up, and you are good to go after that. You don’t even need to keep yourself reminded every day that you need to take your backups.
You also do not need to take time to place your backup safely in different places as you can get that done automatically too. And you will have saved yourself some valuable time every single day to do some more productive work (than just taking boring backups).
Now as you have chosen to live the automated life, you have two options to choose from – free and premium.
Either you can opt for some free plugins available for WordPress or may go with some premium ones which can get your job done in an even better way.
Plugins like Wp-DB-Backup and WP-DB Manager can back up your database and do various other stuffs free of cost for you. There are other premium options for you like VaultPress and BackupBuddy which can give you an entire backup solution, but they’re paid of course.
And many of us are still not ready to pay for a premium plugin to take backups. So is there any solution, which have got everything a premium plugin offers but will not cost you even a penny?
Yes there is. BackWpUP is the plugin you can dream of. It has got almost everything you can do with a premium plugin. You can add Jobs to it and set date and time for the plugin to take automated backups. You can also authorize your email account, cloud storage and server credentials for the plugin to send multiple copies of the backups to these places safely.
Tips to Design your Own Backup Plan
Now as I have told you almost everything you need to know about backing up your WordPress site, you should be able to create your own backup plan by now. Many of you have even started thinking about backup plans, before you started reading this section.
But here are some tips which can help you even more –
I) You need to take Database backups very frequently than any other backup. This will typically depend on how frequently you update your blog. If you update your blog on a regular basis, then taking a database backup daily is the most judicious decision. And if you update twice or thrice a week, then taking Database backups every 2-3 days is the safest choice.
II) You do not need to take heavy file backups every single day. The files are not going to change massively every day. It is your posts, comments, pages which really matter to you the most. You can take file backups once a week or once every two weeks, depending upon your update frequency.
III) You also need to take care of the place you store your backups. Keep a separate email account to store backups. It is also better to have a separate cloud storage space just for the sake of storing backups. Don’t mess it up with any other stuff as it can actually maximize the chance of getting your account compromised.
IV) Keep a backup in a safe place in your personal hard drive because if anybody gets hold of it, then he/she can replicate your entire site easily within seconds with the full backup of your site. Don’t let this mess happen to you ever.
V) Keep all your backups organized in folders on the basis of different months so that you do not panic (even more) after losing your site. Delete the old backups from the cloud, email account and hard drive to free up some valuable space. Always keep at least 5 most recent backups in hand.
I hope now after completing this long article, you know why and how to take WordPress backups. You have also got a great insight about manual and automated backups and which one to choose. You also know about some free and premium plugins available to make your task easier.
If you have any more doubts, feel free to ask me in the comments section. I will try my best to clear all your queries and problems. So, stay secured, stay safe.