Learning how to backup your WordPress site (or non-Wordpress site) is vital to website management. So that’s why I chose this topic to talk about first in my new website management series.. I will cover how to backup a non-Wordpress website in a future article, but first let’s explore your options for backing up a WordPress site.
Why Is Backing Up WordPress Important?
Let me briefly summarize why backing up your website is very important. It might be obvious, but it’s worth at least stating just in case this is a concept you’re unfamiliar with.
Backing up your website on a regular basis is important in case something unexpected happens. Whether this be a server crash, a transfer issue, a hacking attempt, or (with WordPress site’s specifically) a plugin install/upgrade issue. There are many things that can happen and it’s a good rule of thumb to be prepared ahead of time.
What Should I Backup?
When it comes to WordPress there are two things you’re going to need to backup: your database, and your files. You may also choose to use the Import/Export tool to backup individual posts. But for emergency purposes backing up your database and files are the two things you’ll need to get your WordPress site back up and running in the case of an unexpected emergency.
When Should I Backup WordPress?
The frequency of how often you backup your WordPress site really depends on how much you update it! If you update on a daily or weekly basis then at the very least backing up weekly (preferably daily) would be a good idea. But in general, no matter how often you post, it’s a good rule of thumb to backup your database on a daily basis and your files on a weekly basis if this is possible.
Another vital time to backup is when you are about to install a new plugin or update an existing plugin. Plugins can have bugs or incompatibilities with other plugins you have installed which could put your site completely down. But having a backup on the ready will prepare you in the case this occurs so you can get your site back up and running again in no time.
Choosing How to Backup Your WordPress Site
There are several options when choosing how to backup your WordPress site.
- Using a plugin to backup WordPress automatically
- Manually backing up your WordPress database and files
- Using cPanel to backup your WordPress site
- Backing up WordPress using a 3rd Party Tool
We will be focusing on the first two options in this article. The other two options we will be covering in a future article on how to backup a website in general (WordPress or not).
Using a Plugin to Backup WordPress Automatically
If you’re new to learning how to backup your WordPress site, then this is definitely the preferred method. Plugins make it easy to setup and automate so there’s not too much you have to learn. It’s also a good option for anyone because it makes it so easy to backup regularly.
What to Look for in a WordPress Backup Plugin
With a backup plugin there are several different features which are important to investigate. With each plugin we will be having a look at, we will be examining if they have these features:
- The Cost (free vs. paid): Depending on your situation you might not need a paid solution. But most paid solutions do offer more options and, in the case of backup plugins, more options for places you can backup your files.
- Saving to External Sources: This is an important feature to have in the case of server crashes or if your site is hacked. If you have a full site backup on your own server that you haven’t downloaded yet, then it could be lost in one of these situations. A non-external backup can be useful in most situations, but we want to prepare for anything. So being able to backup to a cloud server like Dropbox will be a crucial feature to look for in your chosen WordPress backup plugin.
- Scheduling Options: I recommend (at the very least) backing up your database once a day and your files once a week. But you might have different needs. So the ability to make multiple and flexible schedules for you backups to automatically run is a crucial feature when choosing a WordPress backup plugin.
- Backup Restoration: So you have an automated backup. Now what? What happens if you need to restore it? Of course, you can always do it manually. But a backup plugin which makes this process easier would be an even better option and save you a lot of stress.
- Multi-Site Support: If you aren’t running WordPress Multi-Site then this isn’t crucial for you. But, if you are then this is a determining factor when it comes to choosing a backup plugin. It must support the site that you are running and if it doesn’t, then it’s not going to be usable to you.
WordPress Backup Plugin Options
Let’s have a look at several of the plugin options available. Click through each plugin link to learn more, purchase (if necessary), download, and find installation instructions. If you have any issues please feel free to comment below for help.
Saving to External Sources: Yes. With the free version you can backup to Dropbox, S3 services (Amazon, Google Storage, Hosteurope and more), Microsoft Azure, RackSpaceCloud, SugarSync, or an FTP server. With the paid version you can backup to all of those plus Amazon Glacier and Google Drive as well.
Scheduling Options: Yes. They are known as Jobs in the BackWPup plugin and you can have multiple schedules/jobs with flexible options. In each Job you can choose what to backup (database, files, wordpress XML export file, and/or installed plugins list). You can choose where to backup per Job which is nice, rather than a universal option. You can also choose pretty much an unlimited amount of choices as far as frequency goes.
Backup Restoration: Manual Only. At this time the plugin does not have a built-in restore functionality. However it does have the functionality in development and in beta testing so it is something coming down the road.
Multi-Site Support: Yes. With Network Admin only.
Conclusion: BackWPup is packed with features (even the free version). Although it doesn’t offer backup restoration at this time, it is an excellent free option which will allow you to backup your WordPress site to an external location. The only downfall I see with this plugin is that it’s not the most user-friendly interface. It’s not awful, but it’s not as clean as some of the other options. I think it’s worth it though for all the features you get.
Saving to External Sources: With the Free version you can have the backup emailed to you (if it’s less than 10MB which is SMALL). With the Paid version you can backup to FTP/sFTP, Google Drive, DropBox, Amazon S3, Dreamhost DreamObjects, Rackspace Cloud, or Microsoft Azure.
Scheduling Options: Yes. There are multiple scheduling options with flexible settings. You can backup the database and files separately or together. There are multiple options when it comes to backup frequency including hourly, daily, weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly. You can also set the time which the backup is performed.
Backup Restoration: Manual restoration only. There is no easy restore from backup option in free or paid versions. They include a guide on how to restore a backup here.
Multi-Site Support: Yes, as one backup (not individual sites). After installing the plugin, Network Activate it and it will only be available to manage from the Network Admin.
Conclusion: I’ve personally used this plugin for years and it functions great. It’s lightweight, and doesn’t include it’s own bulky admin menu (which I like). It just has a simple “Backups” link under the Tools menu. However, I’ve come to see the importance of saving to external sources, so the paid version would be a must if you choose this plugin. Be prepared, however, to have to manually restore a backup if needed.
The Cost: Paid (different plan options available)
Saving to External Sources: Yes. Offers backup to Amazon S3, Google Drive, Dropbox, BackupBuddy Stash (1GB space included in all plans), Rackspace Cloud, Remote servers (sFTP, FTP), and Email.
Scheduling Options: Yes. You can setup multiple flexible scheduling options including hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, and more. You are also able to choose the time that the backup is performed as well.
Backup Restoration: Yes. BackupBuddy includes a tool called ImportBuddy which allows you to migrate/restore a backup from within the WordPress Admin.
Multi-Site Support: No. BackupBuddy does not offer Multi-Site support at this time. So if you run on a multi-site WordPress install then no matter how great the features sound, this plugin IS NOT for you.
Conclusion: BackupBuddy has all the bells and whistles but it comes at a price. It’s not cheap. But it does offer free cloud storage for your backups (up to 1 GB) with all their plans, which is nice. You can also buy more space if needed (not sure on cost though). The only thing it seems to lack is multi-site support, but hopefully they will introduce that as a feature down the road.
Saving to External Sources: Yes. The free version offers backing up to Amazon S3 (or compatible), Dropbox, Google Drive, Rackspace Cloud, DreamObjects, FTP, Openstack Swift, UpdraftPlus Vault and email. The paid version offers all of those options plus Microsoft OneDrive, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Storage, SFTP, SCP, and WebDAV.
Scheduling Options: Limited. You can create two schedules (one for database and one for files) and that’s it. You have several options when it comes to frequency including several times a day, daily, weekly, fortnightly, and monthly. It doesn’t appear you can choose the time which they backup.
Backup Restoration: Yes. Offers a one-click restore option for database and files. The paid version also restores and migrates backups from other select backup plugins (currently supported: BackWPUp, BackupWordPress, Simple Backup, WordPress Backup To Dropbox).
Multi-Site Support: With Paid Version Only. This one is only multi-site compatible with the paid version. However, it does offer some unique features including the ability to restore from an individual site on the network or all sites.
Conclusion: UpdraftPlus seems like a great free option with lots of external backup choices. The restore option seems to be one of the more intelligent so if that’s a concern for you, then this might be a great option. The biggest downfalls would be the limited scheduling options and the multi-site support only being available with the paid version. It also doesn’t have the cleanest, most user-friendly interface, but it’s not unbearable.
Which WordPress Backup Plugin is For You?
Have a look at all of the options above and know what your priorities are.
For those who are on a multisite install your best options would be BackWPup, the paid version of BackUpWordPress, or the paid version of the UpdraftPlus plugin. If you’re not concerned with manual restores then I would choose BackWPup or the paid version of BackUpWordPress. If you want an easy one-click restore option then BackupBuddy or the paid version of the UpdraftPlus plugin would be great options.
As for me and my sites, I believe I will be switching to BackWPup for a time to see how that goes. I’m really impressed with all of their external backup options and advanced scheduling. Plus, they have a restore functionality in the works so it could very soon have all the features you could want in a WordPress backup plugin. Although, as a web developer, I’m not super concerned with a one-click restore feature.
Important Note About Setting Up a WordPress Backup Plugin
No matter the plugin you choose to go with, I want to stress an important next step. After getting your WordPress backup plugin all setup and good to go, it’s crucial that you test it to make sure it’s backing up properly.
To do so, first test both the database and files manual backup. If that seems to be working good, then setup a scheduled backup for a short time in the future (like 20 minutes or so). Get everything setup as you would want it and see how it goes. If the backup works as it’s supposed to then adjust the schedule to your desired frequency.
After everything is setup and working properly be sure to check in on your backups every so often to make sure that they are still functioning properly. Most of the plugins above offer the ability to receive notification emails when there is a successful or unsuccessful backup. Opting in to do that would make these checks a lot easier on you.
How to Backup WordPress Manually
If you don’t want to go with a WordPress backup plugin for whatever reason, then learning how to backup your WordPress site manually is another option. I wouldn’t say it’s the easiest and most convenient option, because it’s a good idea to backup quite frequently. If you’re doing this manually then it could become quite a tedious task to ensure that you backup regularly. However, if that’s what you’d prefer to do then here is how to backup WordPress manually.
Prerequisites You’ll Need
Before we get into how to backup your WordPress site manually, you’ll need to gather a few things first. I will briefly tell you how to obtain these things, but if you’re unsure or need help, please feel free to comment.
- Your FTP Login Information – You should have received this information when signing up for your webhost. Look through your emails for your welcome email and if you can’t find it then contact your web host to assist you in acquiring it.
- Your cPanel and/or phpMyAdmin Login Information – Again, this should have been emailed to you when you signed up for your webhost, most likely in the same email where you found your FTP Login Information.
- An FTP Client – There are many to choose from, both free and paid, but the one I personally use and recommend is FileZilla and it’s free. 🙂 You can visit their site for installation and usage instructions.
- Your WordPress Database Name – If you don’t already know it, you can find this in your wp-config.php file after backing up your WordPress files.
Step 1: Login to Your Site via FTP
After obtaining your FTP login information, downloading your FTP client, and setting up your site to connect via FTP you will need to login to your site. In FileZilla there is a button on the top left under the File menu. Click on the down arrow next to it and you should see your website listed there. Click on it to login to your site via FTP.
Step 2: Create a Backup Directory on Your Computer
Before downloading any of your files it’s a good idea to create a designated place on your computer to store your website backups. This could be named whatever you’d like, just make sure to put it somewhere and name it something that you will be able to easily find later. A simple “Website Backups” folder in the Documents folder would suffice.
Within the “Website Backups” folder you created, you’ll want to create dated folders for each backup you download. Putting the date in a format where the year comes first, then the month, then the day will make sure they stay a little more organized (i.e. 2017-05-29). If, for some reason you have more than one backup for a day, then you can just add a number to the end (i.e. 2017-05-29-1 and 2017-05-29-2, etc.).
Step 3: Downloading Your Website Files to Your Backup Directory
Now that you have your backup directory all setup, head on back to your FTP client. After logging in the files listed on the left are the files on your computer, and the files listed on the right are the files on your website.
You will need to navigate to the backup directory you just created on your computer in the left panel. Then, you will need to navigate to where your WordPress installtion is in the right panel. If WordPress is all you have installed then it could be right there when you login. However, if you have your WordPress installation in a subfolder (like http://example.com/blog or http://example.com/wordpress) then you will need to go there.
Once there, you can verify it’s your WordPress installation because you will see all the same folders and files you see in the screenshot below (wp-admin, wp-content, wp-includes, etc.)
Now you’ll need to select all of the files in the right panel and drag them to the left panel.
It will take awhile, but you can track the progress in the “Queued Files” window below the two panels.
Step 4: Login to phpMyAdmin
Now that you have your files backed up, you’ll need to backup your database. Most websites use cPanel, although some do not. Either way the easiest way to backup your database is to login to your phpMyAdmin. To get there via cPanel go to the phpMyAdmin link in the “Databases” box after logging into cPanel. This will automatically log you into phpMyAdmin.
Step 5: Select Your WordPress Database
Once logged in to phpMyAdmin you will see a list of databases on the left. You will need to know which one is your WordPress database. It might be obvious by the name. But if not, then it might be a good idea to look in your wp-config.php file which you downloaded when you backed up your files in the first 3 steps.
Step 6: Backup Your Database
Once you’re inside your database, click the “Export” tab along the top. Leave the settings the same (Export method: Quick and Format: SQL) and click on the “Go” button on that page. This will backup and download a copy of your database in an “sql” format (i.e. user23_mywordpressdbname.sql).
Most likely this will download to your “Downloads” folder. It would be a good idea to move the file to the same backup folder you created for your files and even add a date to the filename.
Get Help Backing Up Your WordPress Site
WordPress is a great platform because there are so many options out there for you to choose from. As with most other things, backup options are in no short supply.
But, if learning how to backup your WordPress site is still seeming overwhelming and you’d like some help getting your WordPress site setup for backups. Then please use the form below to contact me and I’d love to talk about how I can help you with this crucial step in your website management plan.