Your website is an essential part of your business – so when was the last time you backed it up?
Websites can be lost for any number of reasons. Maybe you were in there tinkering with the setup, and something went horribly wrong. Maybe your hosting company accidentally deleted your account. Maybe your site ran an automatic update, and now something is incompatible with something else, and all you’ve got is a white screen of death.
Or the worst case scenario: you’ve been hacked, and the damage is somewhere deep in the site.
It’s the kind of thing that makes a business owner panic. Don’t be that business owner!
All will be well if you have a recent backup of your site.
What’s a backup, anyway?
If you have a WordPress site, a backup should contain:
- An export of the database – this is an SQL file that contains all the actual content of the site, as well as the settings for any plugins, themes, or widgets
- A zip of all the plugins and their associated files
- A zip of all the themes and their associated files
- A zip of all the uploads – all media, including images and documents – that have been uploaded to the site, in all sizes and formats
That’s the bare minimum. You can also consider adding the WordPress core files – this will help do a full restore in the case of total wipeout, or if there’s an incompatibility between one of your plugins and the latest version of WordPress.
When I’m taking a manual backup of a site just before launch, I also throw in a screen capture of the site so I can see where all widgets are located and how the layout is supposed to work; I also use the Tools –> Export menu item on the Dashboard to grab an XML file containing the basic content of the blog posts and pages, for last ditch, absolute horror emergencies when the database has been corrupted beyond all help.
So, how do I make one?
There’s a few options. The most direct way is to do it all manually – this would involve logging into your hosting company to export the database using PHP commands; then using FTP to directly access the files on your website itself and downloading them all to your local computer. It works, and it’s thorough, but it’s annoying, long, and takes up the most storage space. Plus, you have to remember to actually do it on a regular basis.
A seemingly easy way to handle things is to pay your hosting company to do it for you. Most hosting companies take loose backups from time to time, or you can pay a premium to increase your rate and storage of backups. This is never a bad thing – I’m all in favour of multiple backups in multiple places! But if you read carefully, you’ll probably see that your hosting company offers no guarantees – ultimately, the responsibility for having a backup always falls on you.
So, what’s a business owner to do?
It’s easiest, safest, and most reliable to install a plugin to do it for you.
You’re looking for a plugin that will:
- Run on a regular basis (daily, weekly, or monthly)
- Allows for the backup files to be stored in a remote location
- Backs up everything – not just the database
- Ideally, has a restore feature that will restore backups easily and automatically
I’m not going to dig deep into which plugin you should use – there’s several great articles out there on the web already comparing backup plugins. I was going to list a few of my favourites here, but frankly, they’re all covered, and covered well, by this excellent article on backup plugins over at WPBeginner – although I will say that I use UpdraftPlus and BackUpWordPress myself.
But the point is – make sure you have one running on your site, making regular backups.
If you don’t have one, install one now, or ask your friendly neighbourhood website developer to take care of that for you.
If you aren’t sure how yours works, do a little research or again, ask your website developer to take a look.
What should I be keeping an eye on?
If you’ve got a good backup plugin installed, configured, and running, then you’re halfway there. You just need to make it a point to stop in every now and again – maybe once every couple of months – to make sure it’s all happening.
Make sure your backups are being uploaded to a remote location, like DropBox or GoogleDocs or even being sent to you by email (this is usually only an option for very small sites).
Make sure you check the remote location every once in a while to make sure the backups are arriving safely and are stored properly.
Make sure your backups contain all the files and did not fail with any errors.
It’s always, ALWAYS, a good idea to have a full backup before upgrading any themes, plugins, or core files on your WordPress site. So before doing an upgrade is a perfect time to double check your backups. If you’re generating backups, but storing them locally (i.e. on the site itself, instead of uploading them to a remote location), then pre-upgrade is the perfect time to manually download the most recent backup and keep it somewhere safe.
What do I do with all those backups?
A good backup plugin will store perhaps three to five backup sets before clearing out the old files. If yours does not, make sure you’re clearing out those old backups yourself – they get very big, very quickly, and take up a lot of storage space.
If you are hacked, or lose your website for any reason, then it’s time to run to the backups! If you’re starting over from scratch, you should be able to install WordPress, install the backup plugin you used, then import and restore the backup using the plugin.
Creating backups is part of regular maintenance on your website – you want to make sure they are always there, always running smoothly. They’re part of keeping a great website intact – so make sure you’ve got access to yours and you know exactly how they work. Don’t assume that it’s all taken care of! Ask, make sure, then double check again.
And if the world of websites really is too boring – make sure you’re paying someone to have a look into this stuff for you. It’s just too important to ignore.