How to Efficiently Back Up Your WordPress Website

by Rose Wheeler | Published on May 18, 2022

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Preserving and backing up your WordPress site is an essential part of data recovery. Here’s our step-by-step guide to making the most of your backup and recovery tools.

One of the internet’s most widely used CMS software is WordPress, which means there are plenty of questions about how to use it, especially when it comes to data backup. Backups are an integral part of website maintenance because they protect precious data, and WordPress has plenty of avenues to back up files.

Overview: What is a WordPress backup?

In the name of staying safe rather than sorry, file backups within your site builder essentially preserve your data, files, media, and content at various points in time.

Although we like to think (and hope) that nothing bad will ever happen with our site and content, reality actually skews closer to Murphy’s Law: If anything can go wrong, it will.

And anything can go a bit wrong, from the human error of accidentally deleting important files, to malware infecting your site, plug-ins crashing, host outages, and more. In the event of any such issues, you’ll be glad you have already downloaded and stored previous data.

When it comes to backing up your business site, WordPress breaks it down into two parts: WordPress files and WordPress database.

Files include your theme, associated plug-ins, and media uploads. Your database covers things like your actual content and pages, form submissions, etc. You will need to back up both types of files and your database as part of your WordPress backup.

How do I back up my WordPress site?

For most people, a WordPress plug-in that automatically backs up your site will probably be your best bet.

You can opt to manually back up your site if you’ve got a knack for coding and know how to work with WordPress databases. To do so, you’ll need to:

  • Connect to your WordPress site’s server via FTP or cPanel File Manager.
  • Download all of your site’s files to your local computer.
  • Then, using phpMyAdmin, open your WordPress site’s database and go to the Export tab.
  • Select the quick method, choose SQL for the Format, and proceed to export.

How often should you back up your WordPress website?

There’s no frequency period set in stone for backing up your site since it mostly depends on how often your site changes. For business sites that are more static, such as portfolios or informational websites, you should be fine with just monthly backups.

For websites that are constantly evolving, such as content-heavy blogs, e-commerce stores, or sites with a high number of comments (or form submissions), you will want to back up more frequently, meaning at least weekly and possibly even daily.

To determine your best maintenance schedule, consider how much your site operations would be negatively impacted if you lost information for X amount of hours or days. If losing even a day’s worth of data would impact you, you should opt for daily backups to be safe.

You can also choose to back up different parts of your site on various days and times. For example, if you update content once a week yet receive lots of comments or form submissions, you may opt to back up your site files once a week while backing up the database every day.

The top 4 WordPress backup plug-ins to save your files and data

As a free CMS, there are a number of excellent additional WordPress backup plug-ins you can install to help you, whether you choose to do so manually or opt for automatic backups.

1. UpdraftPlus

Free to download, UpdraftPlus is a very popular WordPress database plug-in option active on millions of WordPress sites. It gives you the option to choose either manual or automatic backups, and if you go for the automated route, you can even set up a custom schedule that works best for your content management goals and site needs.

You also have flexibility in choosing what to back up. You can back up your entire company site every time, just files, or your database. It also has several remote storage options, including Google Drive or Cloud, Dropbox, Microsoft, Amazon, etc.

UpdraftPlus also has its own tool included to make restoring backups simple. And, while all these features are available as part of the free plan, you can upgrade to a premium paid version if your site has more complex needs.

The process for backing up a site with UpdraftPlus.

With UpdraftPlus, you can set your preferred storage options. Image source: Author

2. BackupBuddy

Another WordPress plug-in option is BackupBuddy, which is a premium download that starts at $80 for one site license. Similar to UpdraftPlus, it allows you to choose entire or partial backups and set your own custom schedule (starting at hourly increments) for automatic syncs.

It gets even more detailed on what types of content to back up, offering files or databases, but it also gets specific about themes, plug-ins, media, etc.

You can use its included storage option for storing backup data or export it to Google, Dropbox, or Amazon storage. BackupBuddy also makes restoring backups simple, offering full restorations or just partial restores.

3.Total Upkeep Premium

A third automated WordPress plug-in is Total Upkeep built by BoldGrid, which is a website builder powered by WordPress. All from one place, it lets you schedule site backups, restore site data following a crash, transfer data when switching hosts, set an automatic backup schedule, and initiate a manual backup with one click.

The frequency selection tool to automate backups with Total Upkeep.

You can easily automate backups with Total Upkeep. Image source: Author

There is also an automated fault protection feature that automatically makes backups of your site before any updates. That way, if an update fails, Total Upkeep automatically restores your WordPress site to the last backup. You can also store up to 10 backup archives across various remote storage platforms.

Total Upkeep has a free version and a premium one, which starts at $30/year. Total Upkeep Premium has expanded capabilities that can help to restore single files, update history for the site (and its tools), and provide additional support.

4. Jetpack Backup

Formerly known as VaultPlus, Jetpack Backup is another automatic option in the form of an all-in-one plug-in. Depending on your plan choice, you have options about which type of backup you prefer.

The Jetpack Backup Daily plan starts at $7.95/month (billed yearly), and it ensures daily automatic backups to remote storage platforms. It stores all backup data for 30 days, which you can then use to restore your site with one click.

The Security Daily option upgrades you to real-time, incremental backups. It will back up your entire site every 24 hours for $19.95/month, which is billed yearly.

It will automatically update any smaller changes made to your website in real time. The Professional tier also stores unlimited backups for one year.

For businesses needing marketing tools with their backup plan, the Complete tier includes the basics of the other two plans, plus design and CRM options. That plan is billed yearly and starts at $79.95/month.

Should you back up your WordPress site automatically or manually?

It really comes down to a personal preference and the amount of content changes or user-submitted data on your site, as well as how involved you want to be.

Automated backups are great for peace of mind and an assured plan, and they don’t require any developer or backend WordPress knowledge to make it happen. However, if your site rarely changes or accrues new data, it's best to just do a monthly automated backup to be safe.

If you have the knowledge, saving only what matters to you (in terms of content and data) can be done manually relatively quickly every week just by using a cloud storage tool like DropBox to store the backups.

The benefits to backing up your website

Backups are an essential part of maintaining a well-functioning site. Any kind of mistake (from user error to failed updates) that could compromise data and files stored in your CMS is a nightmare.

By having site backups ready to restore in the event of an error or data loss, you’re protected against potential problems.

Depending on your site needs, you may choose to have frequent backups or more widely spaced out. No matter the timing, though, you’ll need a contingency plan against data loss, and WordPress backups are the key.

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