Backing up WordPress gives you options in the face of a server failure, malware attack, or accidental data loss. You’ve put countless hours into building a valuable website, so losing any of it simply isn’t feasible. You need a disaster recovery plan, and an archive of backups can provide one.
Before delving into the various ways to back up WordPress, let’s distinguish between backing up your WordPress database and backing up your WordPress files. Your WordPress database contains:
- posts and pages
- post-related data like meta descriptions, authors, and categories
- comments from readers
Since posts and pages likely form the foundation of your website, backing up your WordPress database is crucial. However, the database doesn’t contain your WordPress files, which include:
- themes and plugins
- images and other uploaded files
- core installation files
These files create your website’s unique look and feel and enable any custom functionality. You would need them to restore the total experience of your website in the event of a disaster.
At The Theme Foundry, we recommend backing up your entire WordPress installation – not just the database, but all of the files that make your website “work.” Any of the following three options will help you do just that:
1. Back up WordPress automatically with a reliable plugin.
A variety of well-supported plugins can back up your WordPress database and files. They generate backups automatically at the frequency you prefer, provide intuitive, self-service interfaces, and may even offer customer support. Here are a couple to consider:
VaultPress creates complete backups of your WordPress installation, stores them on secure servers, and offers on-demand site restores in the event of an emergency. The servers where your backups reside are the same ones that host millions of blogs on WordPress.com. Here are the details:
- Price of least expensive service: $5/month for one site
- Backup frequency: Daily with the least expensive service plan; other plans include real-time backups.
- Where it stores the backup: On secure cloud servers; you can also download backups to your own hard drive.
- Support: “Concierge” service guides you through a restore if you need assistance.
- Extras: malware scanning, 30-day backup archive, full backup archive available with premium service plans
For most bloggers, the most economical service level should be more than sufficient. Unless you’re publishing several posts per day or performing frequent backend WordPress maintenance, 365 backups per year is plenty. And since you will rarely need anything other than your most recent backup, the 30-day archive provides ample breathing room.
Like VaultPress, BackupBuddy backs up your complete WordPress installation and provides automatic restores. However, its price point, feature suite, and overall backup delivery method are a bit different:
- Price of least expensive service: $80/year for two sites
- Backup frequency: A scheduler lets you set up automatic backups at the frequency you prefer: daily, weekly, monthly, etc.
- Where it stores the backup: On your server, unless you opt to download the backup to your own hard drive or send it to a cloud storage provider
- Support: Access to a forum
- Extras: malware scanning, access to offsite storage, ability to specify full or database-only backups, ability to send backups to Dropbox, Amazon S3, and other popular cloud services
Here’s the thing about BackupBuddy: If you don’t download backups to your local hard drive or otherwise save them offsite, you could lose your website and your backups if the server fails or falls victim to a malware attack. While VaultPress stores backups offsite by default, BackupBuddy does not. Thankfully, the plugin makes it easy to specify where you want to send the backup files. Just don’t forget to do it!
2. Use a WordPress management tool.
If you manage multiple WordPress sites and have a hard time juggling updates, WordPress management tools like WP Remote and InfiniteWP will connect to your sites, display a multi-site status dashboard, and help you keep things organized. The bonus: they provide complete database and file backups, too.
While these tools solve a variety of problems for busy WordPress administrators, consider the following points before using them as a backup solution:
- Backups aren’t the main purpose. If you’re a blogger with one website, a comprehensive WordPress management tool might be overkill. While it will definitely back up your site, its other features may be of limited value to you.
- The apps may lack important features. WP Remote, for example, might be a fantastic time saver if you have to update and back up multiple WordPress installations. The thing is, it doesn’t provide automatic site restores. Bloggers with limited FTP knowledge will find it hard to use their backups in the event of a disaster, which brings up another issue…
- The apps may be difficult to use. Generally speaking, WordPress management tools are designed for developers and tech-savvy website administrators. Depending on your skill level, they may feel unwieldy or even inaccessible.
It all comes down to understanding your needs. If you’re already in the market for a platform that will help you keep on top of multiple WordPress installations, these apps’ integrated backup tools may be just what you’re looking for. But if you only have one website or just need a backup solution, you should probably go with a plugin like VaultPress or BackupBuddy.
3. Invest in managed WordPress hosting.
Managed WordPress hosting is quickly gaining popularity. Even established shared hosting providers like Media Temple and DreamHost offer premium packages for WordPress users nowadays, and complete, automatic backups are just one of managed hosting’s various advantages.
That being said, don’t purchase premium hosting just for the backups. You should determine whether managed WordPress hosting makes sense for your website based on traffic levels, technical support needs, and unique security concerns. Automatic backups are really just a bonus feature.
In the event you are in the market for premium hosting, never go with a provider that doesn’t include WordPress database and file backups as part of the package. Most of them will, but you should always check before you commit.
Weighing your options
For most WordPress users, the best way to back up WordPress is to use a reliable, well-supported plugin like VaultPress or BackupBuddy. There are other plugins available, many of which may be perfectly adequate. Just make sure the backup plugin you choose:
- backs up your entire WordPress installation: This includes the database and all of your files.
- lets you download a local copy of the backup: Storing backups on the same server where your WordPress installation lives isn’t sufficient. At the very least, you should be able to download backups to your hard drive.
- is actively supported: Older, out-of-date plugins could jeopardize the security of your website. Make sure the plugin you choose is compatible with the latest version of WordPress.
The other backup options – WordPress management tools and managed hosting arrangements – will work well for some users, but remember that backups are only a part of what’s involved. Look into these services if you have a legitimate need for them. Otherwise, plugins are probably the way to go.
Ultimately, the most important backup-related decision you’ll make is deciding to back up WordPress at all. Approach it as a simple, but essential, exercise in digital housekeeping. In the event of a disaster, you’ll be glad you did.
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