Best WordPress Backup Practices
For as long as there have been websites, business owners and web developers have stressed about the best way(s) to backup their websites. Savvy website owners understand that their site is a critical business asset and that having a solution and a plan reduces that stress.
Why are backups so important (besides that your website is you biggest asset, the cornerstone of your lead generation, and you have invested a lot of time and money getting it just right)?
It boils down to “stuff happens”, like all the time. Natural disasters, bad actors, coding flaws, software updates, shared servers, weak passwords, end even your own oops are the enemy of websites, and without a good disaster recovery program, you could lose everything.
Before you click away in favor of cool images of cats on Insta, you’ll want to take a few minutes to save yourself from a whole lot of heartache down the road.
In reality, there is no single best backup solution for WordPress. Different types of websites need different solutions. A website owner (or their developer) should evaluate their needs and pick the solution that suits them best. Or, frankly, any solution, if you have none.
If you aren’t backing up your WordPress website on a regular basis, read the rest of this article, pick a solution, and start backing your site up today.
Back-Up Your WordPress Site Without a Plugin
Premium web hosts (WPEngine, Kinsta, Flywheel etc.) include a robust backup service as part of their hosting package. These are strong automatic backup solutions with off-site storage.
Many other hosts (GoDaddy, A2, etc.) may take some type of backup, however, there are no guarantees on the frequency or completeness of those backups.
One of the advantages to this scenario is that your backups will run faster (depending on your host) as they are not done through WordPress and there is less “back and forth” communication required between WordPress, the backup plugin, and the data stored on your host’s server. If you have a large website or large database, backing up (and restoring if needs be) is faster.
Note: Just because you are utilizing your web hosting partner’s backup service doesn’t mean that you don’t still have a responsibility to keep a backup of your site locally. If no automated service is available, log in once a month and download the last backup of the month to your local computer as an absolute last resort.
Back-Up Your Website with a WordPress Plugin
WordPress plugins add the element of ease to creating dependable backups for your WordPress site. All you have to do is install your favorite WordPress backup plugin, configure a few settings and you’re good.
There are a number of free and premium WordPress plugins that you can use – we are big fans of UpDraftPlus for backups.
UpdraftPlus is a “freemium” plugin in that some of the features are free, and others are available with a subscription to the plugin.
Partner with an Agency for Website Care and Maintenance
A great alternative to having to manage your own website backups is to partner with a web agency who will take of these (and many other important tasks) for you.
Generally referred to as a Care Plan, it is arrangement with a reputable agency (or freelancer) to update your website, ensure backups are being made, monitor for security and performance etc. A reputable agency will ensure that a backup place is developed to suit the need of your website and business.
Frequency of Backups
How often you need to backup WordPress depends on how often your site changes.
If your website is rarely updated with content (a bad idea by the way) you don’t need to back up every day. If you have a blog where you publish a new blog post every week and your readers leave lots of comments, then you will want to backup more frequently.
If you have a busy ecommerce, elearning, or membership site, store where orders are always coming in, new members are joining, and progress is being tracked, you will likely want a more real-time backup solution that saves changes multiple times per day so that your chances of loss are lower..
To help come up with a schedule that makes sense for your site, ask yourself this question:
- If I lost the data from the last X days (or hours), would that negatively affect my site?
- If X equals one day for your site, you should run daily backups.
Remember to consider other content beyond how often you yourself create new content, though. Backups also capture user-generated content, like WordPress comments. Even though you may not be posting new content, your visitors may be leaving comments.
What Should Backups Include
There are 2 primary parts to your WordPress website:
- WordPress database
- WordPress files
Your website’s database contains your actual content, such as:
- Blog post content
- Page content
- and more
Your website files include:
- Theme and plugin files
- Content uploaded to your website in the media folder
Additionally, you have your WordPress core files (which you may choose to backup) and any files stored outside of your WordPress install.
Files outside your WordPress file structure may include any custom software that sits along side of WordPress, and files you may have uploaded directly to the server (i.e. not through the media folder). Generally speaking, if you have these, you would know.
Where to Store Backups
Regardless of whether you are using your web host, a plugin, or having your website backups under a care plan, you will want to ensure that you have full “care, custody, and control” of a recent back from your website. Recent, of course depends of how frequently your website changes.
This may seem redundant, but it adds an extra layer of security in case of some technology failure (stuff happens all the time), or you have some sort of dispute with your webhost or website care partner. Remember, your website is one of your most important business assets. You wouldn’t just have one copy of your will or other important papers (and store them both in the same place), so make sure you do the same with your website.
Now, where should you store these copies? A cloud service (belonging to you) such as Google Drive, Dropbox etc. is a fast and inexpensive solution. Chances are you already using one of these services for your business anyway.
Always Test Your Backups
What is the point of perfecting your backups if you do not test them? Backups are not foolproof. Remember we say that “stuff happens” well that can apply to backups as well. They can become corrupted or not include all your files if you run out of storage space. Moreover, your backup plugin could experience compatibility issues or bugs.
For these reasons, you must test the backups to ensure your files are present and easily accessible. While you can test the backup in a staging environment, copying the zip file from the backup to another location and inspecting the contents without restoring the entire site is a faster alternative.
Putting it All Together
Every WordPress site needs a backup – no matter how simple or complex, and now matter whether it is updated monthly or multiple times per day.
From mistakes that you make to mistakes or from attacks from malicious actors or website updates that break your functionality, websites can be complex creatures and a lot can go wrong. A reliable backup ensures that none of these potential problems can derail your business.
If you host with a quality company, your host might already have a reliable, off-site backup procedure in place. Do not rely solely on their services, and make sure that you routinely backup their backups to another location that you have access to.
You may also use a WordPress plugin to backup your website. Same applies here – ensure that you keep a fresh copy of that backup somewhere separate from your website.
The frequency with which you back up your site depends on how often you, or others, are changing its content.
There is no single best WordPress backup solution. The best solution is the one that gives you, the website owner, peace of mind and the ability to get a good night’s sleep because you know you’ve got a reliable and secure backup or your importance business asset – your website.
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