Want to know a secret? Third party services, such as web hosts, aren’t perfect. And yet, we rely on them so much for both our business and personal needs. Unfortunately, they are capable of failing.
It happened to me recently. A server crashed and I was advised that some data may not be recoverable (gulp). A comedy of errors on the host’s part meant that a remote backup wasn’t available. Days past. Tears were shed. Clients were angry.
While I had database backups sent to me on a regular basis, there were some sites on that server where I didn’t have an updated copy of the
/wp-content folder. You know the one – it contains your themes, plugins and any media files you’ve uploaded to your WordPress-powered website.
Back in the days of static HTML websites, keeping a full backup of your site was simple. Since there was no content management system (CMS) to worry about, you simply uploaded all the files you had for the site via FTP and replaced updated files as necessary.
Not so with WordPress or other CMS. Since content updates are done through a browser-based interface, there are two items you’ll need to keep backups of:
The WordPress database is vitally important and contains all of your content, structure (like menus, for example) and settings. Can you imagine not having this info? Without it, you’re basically starting over from square one.
There are several ways to get a copy of your site’s database. Most web hosts offer backup functionality through their control panel (or phpMyAdmin). Beyond that, there are a number of WordPress plugins that will make backing up and restoring your database a breeze.
Keeping the database backed up will ensure that you will have the latest settings, posts, pages, comments and if you have an ecommerce site – product sales information.
Obviously, we all run themes and plugins on our WordPress websites. And I’d venture to say the overwhelming majority of site owners have uploaded some images, videos or other documents to their media library.
All of this data resides in the
/wp-content folder of your WordPress install. You’ll want to back it up so that you don’t end up like me!
How you back up and how often you back up are the key decisions you’ll have to make.
From time-to-time, WordPress plugins fail, that’s a fact. To help you recover from a potentially disasterious scenario, I’ve published a short guide that describes how to fix plugin issues and even prepare for them.
How to Back Up
Ideally, you’d like to have a backup reside both on your server and one that is stored somewhere else. This could be a third-party cloud service or on your own computer. It’s good to have that extra copy in a remote location – just in case.
For the sake of convenience, I would highly recommend using a backup regimen that archives both the latest copy of the database and your site’s files simultaneously.
The easiest way to accomplish this is to use an automated backup plugin. Look for a plugin that allows you to:
- Perform backups at the interval of your choice.
- Automatically store backups on your web server and/or third-party service like Google Drive, Dropbox, Amazon S3, etc.
- Backup all of your site’s data – database and
This really depends on how often you update your site. If it’s a busy blog with new content being uploaded every day, then you’ll want to do daily backups. If your site is a small 5-pager that doesn’t see that many updates, it’s okay to backup on an as-needed basis.
And it’s not just content updates that count here. You may very well want to perform incremental backups as you update your themes and plugins. In fact, it’s often recommended that you do a full site backup (database and
/wp-content folder) BEFORE you update your themes and plugins. That way, you can restore the site to its previous state if something goes awry during the upgrade process.
Take a moment and think about the worst possible scenario with your web host. I can tell you from experience, it’s not at all fun. In my case, files were eventually restored (thankfully). But you might not be so lucky.
Now, take the time to back up your site. Doing so will give you the peace of mind in knowing you are prepared for the worst.
Do you have any backup-related horror stories? Leave a comment and let us know.
I’ve also published a post about WordPress Maintenance that covers some small, yet very important, things you should get into the habit of doing while running a WordPress-powered site.
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