How to Backup Your WordPress Site

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You have put a ton of time and effort into building your WordPress site from scratch. What happens if your site suddenly crashes and becomes unrecoverable?

Backing up data is a fundamental principle of safe computer network use. It goes without saying that every website owner should have backups so that, in the event of an unrecoverable crash, the site can be restored to a state that existed prior to the crash. Failing to back up a WordPress site is inviting disaster.

This post will explain two ways to back up your site: manually and with a WordPress plugin. Note that your web hosting provider may offer automatic backups. You might also have automatic backups enabled in your WordPress configuration. Both are good. However, they will not help if your host’s servers crash. You need to keep at least one backup on your own hard drive, a flash drive, or a CD/DVD.

Backing up a WordPress site involves two basic steps:

  • Downloading and saving site data
  • Accessing and downloading the WordPress database.

You must get both your site files and your database, or you will not have a complete backup. Remember that WordPress is a content management system, so it relies on individual pages to display content. The content itself is stored in a database.

Downloading WordPress Site Files

Manually backing up a WordPress site starts by downloading the site files. You might be able to do this through the administrative panel you use to manage your site. For example, cPanel users can use the built-in file manager to download files. You just log in, choose file manager from the cPanel administrative area, navigate to your root directory, and download your entire WordPress directory.

The only caveat is that cPanel will not let you download extremely large files and folders, so you will have to compress before you download. That is an extra step that takes time. So instead, we recommend downloading with an FTP (file transfer protocol) app such as FileZilla or Transmit.

To download with an FTP app, you will:

  • install and run the app
  • enter your server information
  • connect to the server
  • navigate to the root directory
  • select and download your entire WordPress folder.

You can get FTP login information from your web host provider. The information is probably available in your administrative panel, so you shouldn’t have to contact support directly.

Once you have downloaded all your site files, compress them as this saves space. You can choose any number of compression formats including .zip, .tar.gz, .tar.7z, and others. Once compressed, it is time to move on to the WordPress database.

Downloading the Database

Backing up your database is a bit more complicated than grabbing WordPress files from the server. In most cases it is accomplished through the phpMyAdmin module located in your administrative panel. cPanel users will find it under the ‘Database Tools’ section of the panel.

Once inside phpMyAdmin, click on the ‘Databases’ tab to display your choices. If you don’t know the name of your database, use your administrative panel’s file manager to navigate to your main WordPress directory. Open the wp-config.php file; you will find the database name on the ‘define DB_NAME’ line.

Go back to phpMyAdmin and click on the appropriate database to open it. Select all the files in the list and click the ‘Export’ tab at the top of the page. Make sure the format selection is set to SQL and then click the ‘Go’ button.

You now have a copy of your database along with your WordPress site files. Store them in a secure folder on your hard drive. If possible, store a second copy on a flash drive or CD/DVD.

Backup WordPress with BackupBuddy

BackupBuddy is a paid-for WordPress plugin that makes backing up and restoring pretty easy. It offers a range of features, including:

  • automatic and scheduled backups
  • backups of both files and databases
  • site migration to a new host
  • automatic file compression
  • fast and easy recovery
  • database rollbacks.

The main advantage of using a plugin like BackupBuddy is that it does all the work. Backups are considerably less time-consuming than handling things manually. And because you can schedule automatic backups, you can configure the plugin once and then let it do its thing.

To use it, you first must install it through either the WordPress dashboard or by downloading it directly from the iThemes website. The plugin includes a configuration Wizard you are more than welcome to use the first time you run it.

Set-up requires entering just a bit of information:

  • Your email address
  • A separate password
  • A location to send your files to.

iThemes offers 1 GB of free storage when you purchase the plugin. You can store your backups there or have them sent to a cloud account. You can also download them to store on your own computer if you wish.

Creating a backup is as simple as running the plugin from the WordPress dashboard and clicking two buttons. One button backs up the files and database while the other one sends the backed-up data to your chosen destination.

Whether you do so manually or with the BackupBuddy plugin, backing up your WordPress site is crucial. Things crash. If your site crashes and you do not have a backup to restore, you will be rebuilding your entire site from scratch.

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