How to backup WordPress blog

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One of the first things after you install your WordPress blog is to establish regular backups. This is very important to understand because as your blog grows, its value grows as well and all your effort and work you have put in may be at risk if something goes wrong. Anything can goes wrong: your WordPress database may get corrupted, servers crash, or some plugin may crash the blog, hackers may break the blog for fun, etc.

How to backup WordPress blog? There are many ways how to backup WordPress blog, but most common and most practical approach is through a specialized WordPress backup plugin. The backup plugin has to be capable to backup the WordPress database and The WordPress site, but also to be able to successfully restore the entire blog when needed.

The WordPress database is the place where all your posts, comments and links are stored.

The WordPress site consists of the following:

  • WordPress Core installation;
  • WordPress plugins;
  • WordPress Themes;
  • Images and Files;
  • JavaScript and PHP scripts, and other code files;
  • Additional files and Static Web Pages;

So, when talking about how to backup your blog with a backup plugin, you need to ensure that the plugin you choose has the both options, to successfully backup and successfully restore the blog.

How to choose a WordPress backup plugin

When choosing a backup plugin, you need to think of couple of features that the plugins has to have: does it backup both WordPress database and the site, what are the backup methods and what are the backup locations. Don’t forget also to look for a backup plugin that can also restore the blog. Without the restore feature, your backups are (almost) useless.

Backup methods:

  • Manual or on demand backups: this method is usually used before making some changes to your blog, such as: updating the WordPress core version, updating the plugins, installing a new plugin, doing some changes in the WordPress theme or CSS, etc. The main purpose of this is: if something goes wrong after the changes you made, you can easily revert the blog to the previous state.
  • Scheduled or automated backups: this is self-explanatory and this method is used to set the backups on autopilot, so for example every night the plugin does a full backup of your blog, without your presence.

Backup locations:

  • Locally on the server where your blog is hosted: most of the free backup plugins have this functionality. In short words, the backups are stored on the same location where your blog is hosted, i.e. on the same server.
  • Remote locations or locations in the cloud: in this case, the backup plugin can copy the backup files to a remote location such as Amazon S3, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc. The main idea is to have improved redundancy, so in case something goes wrong with the server where your WordPress site and backups are hosted, you can relatively easy pull the backup from a remote location and restore the website, thus avoiding loss of your past work. This option to have copy of your backups stored in remote locations usually does not come free and you will need to opt-in for the premium version of the backup plugin.

How often should you back up your blog

There isn’t a general rule for how often you need to backup your blog. That depends on how often your write and publish blog posts, how often you make changes in order to improve the visual appeal of the blog or new functionalities you want to test or implement.

For example, if you publish a new blog post once a week and do nothing else, than probably doing a full backup once a week would be enough. But, if you publish a new post every day and constantly working on improving your blog, such as layout, responsiveness, or modifying the CSS, then doing a full backup each day would be highly recommended, especially initiating a manual backup prior the changes.

How many backups should you keep

Experts say that you should keep at least three backups and keep them on three different locations such as on your local computer, on USB drive, CD/DVD, or any well known cloud storage: Dropbox, Amazon S3, Google Drive, OneDrive, etc. By implementing diversification you significantly improve the backups integrity.

This is also known as 3-2-1 backup strategy.

This is because you will keep a total of 3 copies of the backup, 2 of them will be stored offsite (one on your computer and another on an external hard drive or USB drive), and 1 copy will be stored to a cloud storage provider such as Amazon S3, Google Drive or Dropbox.

Most of the backup plugins I’ve met so far do have the option to configure the retention policy or in simple words how many backups to keep. For example: if the retention policy is to keep 3 backups, then the forth backup will cause the oldest one to be deleted.

What if the hosting company makes backups

Most well established hosting companies make backups for their clients, but the thing is that we can’t solely rely on them. There are several reasons and here are some of them:

  • You never know how really often they perform backups and whether the backups are operational, meaning whether they can successfully restore the website in case of emergency.
  • their backups include not only the WordPress site, but entire hosting account. Restoring your hosting account will cause loosing your emails potentially (in case you use it as service from the hosting provider).
  • their backups are not specifically designed for WordPress and it may cause a trouble when restoring your site.
  • in case you have multiple websites hosted, restoring a single site may not be possible without restoring all of them. This will cause a mess and will hugely impact your business. Perhaps they will be able to isolate and restore only your lost website, but talking from experience it will cost you money.
  • Being dependent solely on your hosting company and begging for mercy in case of emergency is not a situation you want to be in.

Backup WordPress blog from CPanel

Although there are many guides on Internet explaining how to backup a WordPress blog from CPanel, it is usually complicated to follow them especially for a non-tech person.

You will need to backup separately the WordPress database, but first find the right database in phpMyAdmin within the CPanel. Then, you will need to go to File Manager and backup the WordPress site (core installation files, themes, plugins, etc).

All this leave room for costly mistakes.

So, as a general rule of thumb – do not backup your blog from CPanel.

How to test WordPress backups

Doing regular backups of your blog means nothing if you can’t successfully restore your blog with those backups when it is needed. This means that from time to time you need to test the backups to be assured they really work. This can be achieved by creating a demo environment where you can try to restore your blog.

The demo environment can be set up locally on your computer or it could be set up by creating WordPress staging site.

The most popular software for setting up a local environment on your computer is WampServer and XAMPP. The first one is only available for Windows, whilst the latter is available for all three: Windows, Linux and OS X.

Creating a WordPress staging site can be done using a couple of different options:

  • through your hosting provider;
  • by using a special WordPress plugin for creating staging site;
  • by using third party software or hosted staging solutions;

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