Backing up a WordPress site is very important and very simple, yet many people don't realize this until it is too late. The intention of this article is to provide a reference for people new to backing up WordPress websites without the bias of pushing a particular backup product. Let's dive in...
Emergency Blog Recovery?
Before we dive into the reference guide, if you have lost your website and do not have a working backup already then we strongly suggest reaching out to your web host to see if they have a backup handy. Backups from web hosts can be deleted quickly (sometimes within 24 hours) so act quickly.
Reasons to Backup Your WordPress Site
Creating a backup process for your WordPress site can seem unnecessary, so it's fair to want some compelling reasons to do it.
These are common reasons people make backups, or wish they had made a backup:
1. You upgraded WordPress and now your website is broken
2. You installed a plugin, and now the website is just a white screen
3. You accidently deleted a file, page, post, and it's gone for good
4. Your site gets infected with a virus and you don't have a clean backup to revert to
You really don't want to deal with rebuilding your site when something bad happens, right? So now that you understand the importance of backups, let's take a look at how to make them.
Overview: How to Backup Your WordPress Blog or Website
A good backup process for your site will automatically create a full backup of your website at certain intervals and will alert you if there were any problems that stopped the backup from being created. The first time you setup your WordPress backup, you'll have to test it to make sure that the backup it creates isn't faulty. Let's take a look at what exactly needs to be backed up...
WordPress "Pieces" That Require Backing Up:
WordPress is made of two separate pieces that need to be backed up. They are:
1. MySQL Database (all of the posts, users, pages, and more...)
2. Files (this includes themes, images, movies, and the files that make WP run...)
A surprising number of so-called backup solutions only backup either the MySQL database or the files. Make sure that you are getting full backups of both the files and database, or you won't be able to recreate your site when it needs to be backed up. Let's take a look at some common backup solutions...
Free WordPress Backup Plugins:
There are a lot of backup plugins out there. Some are free and some cost money, and paid plugins aren't nessesarily better. The free plugins I've used and like are...
Paid WordPress Backup Plugins:
1. BackupBuddy - A lot of people seem to like this plugin, but I personally had a hard time getting it set up.
2. VaultPress - Vaultpress is run by the folks behind WordPress.org, so they are very qualified. Vaultpress also scans your site for viruses while it makes backups. This is a great solution but you pay for it!
Non-Plugin Backup Options:
If you are technically-minded or your web host offers the service then you can always have your web host create the backups on your behalf. In my opinion, this is the easiest way to have backups continually created. You just want to make sure that your backups are stored either in multiple physical locations or in a different location than your host. In other words, if your host's physical location gets hit by a tornado, you don't want your backups to be ruined with your site!
Some hosts make this easier than others. Arguably the best host available, RackSpace, has an excellent service called CloudSites that didn't have an easy backup solution so I helped create one at Backup Sites in Cloud. What I mean to show you is that your host may have the ability to make backups, or may be making them already, but it's crucial that you don't just assume that there will be backups if you need them.
How to Create Your WordPress Backups
Once you choose your favorite backup plugin, follow the instructions to get it setup. I won't discuss the steps for each plugin as they all differ and there are plenty of resources out there to help you. If you have specific questions, feel free to contact me or ask in the comments.
You Must Test the Backup!
Most people don't test the results of their backup build and occasionally it can really bite you on the rump. So to ensure that your backups work perfectly, make sure to take this extra step and test your backup.
Testing your backup is as simple as using a throw-away url (or make a subdomain url if you don't have a throw-away domain for this) and trying to restore your site on the new blog. If you restore your blog and it doesn't look exactly the same as the blog you backed up, you have some problems to solve.
Your WordPress Backup Should be Automated
Backups need to be automated to protect you from forgetfulness, procrastination, and allow you to focus on more important things than backing up your website. All of the plugins list above allow you to automate backups with cron jobs. Make sure to setup the recurring backups when you install the plugins.
Now Your WordPress site is Backed Up!
If you have automated backups being created and you've tested the backups to ensure that they are valid, then you can rest easy knowing that if your WordPress site gets a virus or you accidently delete something essential, you'll have a backup handy.
Photo from flickr.