Core updates and more advanced plugins have made it easier to put together a WordPress site. But once it’s up and running, you want to ensure it stays that way.
But many things can mess up your website, from hackers and thieves to messed-up software and everything in between. If you back up your website regularly, you’ll always have a copy you can use if something terrible happens. Keeping a copy of your website is not as easy as it sounds.
A few essential tips can help you make things easier, though.
Why Is a Backup Necessary?
When you back up your site, you make a copy of it and all the data that goes with it and then save it.
The backup includes your theme and any related software, like plugins, and your entire database. If something happens that puts your site and its content at risk, you can use the backup to get things back to the way they were.
But if you don’t have a backup, you won’t have anything to restore from and will have to rebuild the site by hand, which isn’t always possible, especially when it comes to your database.
You can compare making a backup to put a copy of a file in the cloud. You put a copy of that important work presentation, your progress on the Great American Novel, or your financial information in your Google Drive, Dropbox, or OneDrive folder so that it’s always there and nothing can happen to it.
It’s the same thing as backing up your website.
An Ounce of Prevention
Even though there is no way around regularly backing up your website, you should do everything you can to avoid having to restore it in the first place. Quite a few things come into play here, especially if you want to keep hackers from getting into your site. You will have to:
- Use good password hygiene and good password management.
- Make sure that your plugins are always up-to-date and that you get rid of any that you no longer need.
- Make sure you’ve made solid prefixes for your database tables.
- Use strong user names instead of the default ones.
Let Your Host Help
Let your host help you back up your site. This might be the easiest and least time-consuming way to do it. If your host is WordPress-friendly, which many are these days, they likely offer automatic server-level backups.
This will usually back up everything without extra cost, including your core files, plugins, and database. Depending on your host, however, they may only give you a primary backup option for free and an option with more features for a fee.
Do It Manually
You can do it yourself if you don’t want to pay your host to do it or if your host doesn’t offer a server-level backup option. This takes a little time, and if you don’t have much experience, let someone else do it.
Most of the time, you can back up by hand through the cPanel interface of your host. Note that the layout of each host is different, so you need to find the backup option and then choose what you want to back up.
Most of the time, we’d do a full cPanel backup rather than separate ones.
Use a Plugin
If you dislike either option, you can back up your website with a plugin. There are many out there, but before you choose one, you should do your research.
Ensure the developer is honest, and check how often the plugin has been downloaded and how many people are actively using it. Make sure it has been updated recently and works with WordPress core, and ensure there is good documentation on how to use the plugin.
Keep Only a Few Backups
It can be tempting to have more than one backup. If they can help it, some people never delete a backup. This makes almost no sense, though. The server has to make room for all of these backups. They can also be hard to keep track of if you have a lot of them.
We think you should only keep the two most recent backups on hand. Get rid of the rest. We also suggest that you save a copy on a cloud service of your choice, like Drive, Dropbox, etc., so that you can access it even when you’re not connected to your host’s server.
Mix and Match
Complete website backups are good, but you need to do more. Sometimes you need to restore data, but you don’t want to restore the whole site. Then, you could do it from a certain kind of backup. We suggest you back up your theme, database, and website files every so often.
How often should you back up your website? That depends on where you are. A site that doesn’t change much might only need to be backed up once every two months, but someone who blogs every day might need to back up once a week or twice a week, depending on how sensitive the information is. Your backup schedule should be made to fit your needs. There is no “one size fits all” solution here.
In the end, you can’t choose to back up your website. It’s a must, at least if you want to have a chance of putting things back together if the worst happens.
But there’s more to it than just making a copy of your whole site once a month and sticking it in a folder on your server. When you back up, you really need a plan to make sure you’re meeting your own needs in case you need to restore all or part of your website.