Backing up you site is not something you can skip. This is one of these maintenance tasks that have to be performed on regular basis, especially today, when hacker attacks are becoming ever more common.
You can back up a WordPress site automatically or manually. Automatic updates are set up via a plugin, or on the server. Manual backups are performed by using Softaculous’ (or other one-click solutions’) backup option, via the Backup Wizard, or by downloading your WordPress installation and database.
The easiest way to automatically backup your website is by using the free or paid backup service, offered by most hosting providers. In reality, when using a backup service, you don’t need to do anything. Backups are scheduled by your hosting provider, files are stored and secured by the hosting provider, and you can simply request the hosting provider to roll back your site to certain backup version, whenever necessary.
The only downside of using server-level backups is that they can be expensive, especially for those just starting up.
If you choose to use plugins to generate backups of your site, there are many backup plugins available. Which one you choose to use, depends on the features you want to have, as well as on the compatibility of the plugin with your current setup.
Using plugins has the advantage of providing you with easy access to stored files directly from the admin panel in WordPress. In the same time, the popular backup plugins are well documented, meaning that you can easily find answers to all your questions in connection to their use.
When choosing a plugin, you should pay attention to 3 factors: is the plugin regularly updated; is the plugin rated highly by users; and is the plugin popularly used. Each of these factors gives you a sort of security in terms of, whether or not you can depend on the plugin in the years to come or you risk that it won’t be supported any more.
The process of setting up site backups depends on the plugin you choose but common for all plugins is that you have to decide where the backups will be stored, how often a backup should be performed, and how many backups should be stored at any given time.
While the answers to these questions are individual, as they depend on your hosting and site dynamics, the rule is to not store an infinite number of backups, just the latest 3-5 (about a week back). This is simply due to the fact that backups can very quickly eat up your hosting resources. In the same time, it’s very rare to need to roll back to a version that is more than a week old.
How often you back up your site, depends on how often content is updated. For e-commerce sites, it’s not exaggerated to perform 6-12 backups every 24 hours. For non-commercial sites, where essential data isn’t that easily lost, a backup every 24-48 hours is just fine. For static business websites with no blog, it’s only necessary to perform backups in connection to events as updates or upgrades.
Another very important point, when using automated updates, is to keep backups in a separate directory, optimally on a different server than the one hosting your website. The reason is that keeping a backup the same place as your website exposes you to the risk of losing both your website and backup in the event of hacker attack. This is why most hosting providers, offering backups, maintain a separate backup server.
Back Up WordPress Manually
To manually back up your WordPress site, you must have access to the server, which it is hosted on. You can choose between using the built-in backup option in cPanel (or other server control panel), the backup option in Softaculous (one-click installs), and doing it all on your own (recommended by WPBN).
Using the Backup Wizard (cPanel)
In cPanel, you have all backup options gathered under the Backup Wizard. You can choose between performing a full backup and partial backups.To create backups that can be restored via the Restore option in the Backup Wizard, you must use the partial backup option. In order to be able to restore your website, you have to back up the home directory and your databases. If you wish to back up emails, you can do so but it isn’t essential in relation to website restoration.
While this is an easy and quick manual backup procedure, it has one enormous disadvantage: quite often, you can experience problems restoring the backup files created by the Backup Wizard. This means that you either depend on your hosting provider to help you or simply give up the idea.
The advantage of this method is that you store the backup files locally, not using server resources and minimizing the risk of getting your backup files corrupted by hacker attacks against your site.
Backing up WordPress via Softaculous
Softaculous is the most popular one-click solution, found in server control panels. It allows you to manually back up WordPress and store the files on the server, in a directory of your choosing.
Once WordPress is up and running, you can come back to the Softaculous section in cPanel and click on Installations at the top of the home page. Then, you should choose the WordPress installation you want to back up and click on the back-up button to the right (the folder icon with green arrow on top).
You can find created backups in the Backups section at the top of the home screen in Softaculous.
Backing up WordPress Manually, Independent of Server Software
The best way to back up WordPress is by downloading all files and databases and storing them locally. This method is the most secure one and the one that is least likely to result in errors. It is also quick and very easy to perform.
To back up WordPress the “pro” way, you have to follow these simple steps:
- Log in on the server
- Navigate to public_html (or the core subdirectory of your site)
- Select all folders and loose files there
- Click on Compress in the top menu of the file manager
- You’ll get a popup window, listing the files that will be included in the .zip archive. Check whether all files and folders are included and confirm.
- Wait for the .zip archive to get created. It is usually named after one of the folders or files, included in it.
- Once the archive is created, choose it and click on Download in the top menu. Save the file on your computer.
- From the server control panel, find PHPMyAdmin and enter it.
- Locate the database of your WordPress site (if you have multiple databases and you are in doubt which one it is, you can find the database name in the loose file wp-config.php in your site’s files).
- Click on the database in the list to the left of the screen, so you get an overview of included files to the right.
- Look at the top of the screen to find the Export button. Click on it.
- Choose the quick export with minimum settings. Click on OK.
- The database is now being downloaded to your computer.
That’s it. Armed with the WordPress files and database, you can easily restore your site following the instructions in this post on migrating WordPress sites (the process is identical).