Last updated: September 28, 2020
How to Backup Your WordPress Blog
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Keeping multiple backups of your WordPress website is advisable if you want to avoid downtime-related catastrophes in the future. And believe me, there are plenty of potential minefields out there: WordPress upgrades can fail, plugins can corrupt your install, unscrupulous hackers can take down the site, pets can walk across the keyboard as you're tinkering on the server (I've been there) and not-to-mention the overzealous office junior who accidentally overwrites your site's theme while he's FTPing.
Keeping backups is a necessity if your website brings home the bacon. Not being able to recover your e-commerce store or affiliate site will hit you hard financially - and let's not forget the users here: any downtime can test even your most loyal customers.
Whatever you use your WordPress website for, taking regular backups will make life easier if/when disaster strikes - and it's not just WordPress beginners who need reminding to backup!
You'll find there's a range of different ways to back up your WordPress install, ranging from the more labour-intensive manual export on the server to the easy option of hiring a third party to take care of things for you.
Below, we'll go through each solution in detail:
#1 Full Manual Back Up
Pro: Backing up your site manually is free, fairly easy to do and it won't it won't take more than 10 minutes to complete on a small- to medium-sized website.
Con: Exporting data and backing up files can feel alien to those with little website experience (if this is the case, one of the other two solutions is probably for you).
Here's what you need to do:
a) Log into your WordPress account and navigate to tools > export > "all content". Here you can download an xml file of your posts, pages, comments, custom fields, categories and tags. (You can later import from the same menu if needs be.)
b) Next, it's important that you make a copy of all the files on your server. This includes everything from the plugins to themes, the scripts to images. The easiest way to do this is to grab a copy of your site via FTP and download it to your computer. It's sensible to keep another copy safe 'in the cloud' too, perhaps on DropBox or Google Drive.
C) Next, you need to grab a copy of your MySQL database - this is where the bulk of your WordPress data and settings are stored, so it's vital you grab a copy for safekeeping. The easiest way to do this is by logging into CPanel or Plesk (or the equivalent used on your server) and then navigating to phpMyAdmin and exporting a copy of the tables (where the information is stored). The WordPress Codex tells you exactly how to do this here.
Pro Tip: There are plenty of tutorials out there that explain how to run "cron jobs" on the server. These are tasks automated by the server at a set time. You could programme your server into creating a database backup for you each week, for example. Click here for a tutorial.
#2. Use a WordPress Plugin
This is a perfect solution for those with limited time, skills or patience. If you understand how to install a plugin, you're pretty much sorted.
The most favoured backup plugins in the WordPress community is probably BackWPup. This plugin will create a copy of your complete install and store it in your server or preferred cloud storage system. It will backup of your database, xml export, plugins and files. Additionally, it checks, repairs and optimises your database. Handy!
There's a pro version too, which offers premium support and a number of other advanced features.
Other plugins include: Backup and WP-DB Backup
#3. Third Party Solution
Paying a third party is probably the simplest way to ensure your site is backed up correctly on a regular basis.
Personally, I use a paid account on ManageWP, which allows me to back up 5 different WordPress installs with the click of a button. ManageWP gives you the option to choose whether to backup only the database, or the database and all files. I also have a backup of my databases automatically uploaded to my DropBox every day. A paid account starts from $0.70 per month. A number of similar WordPress management systems offer similar options, including InfinateWP.
If you're looking for a good, reliable third party backup service then VaultPress by Automattic is a solid choice. Of course, WordPress is owned by Automattic, so you know you're in good hands. The site offers: "automated backups with easy restores", "daily security scans with one click repairs" and "help from the WordPress experts".