Hands up who hasn’t lost their WordPress installation at some point because a file was corrupted, accidentally deleted or the database (DB) was lost?

A WordPress website is made up of two different components.

  1. The website files (.php .xml .jpg etc)
  2. The database (usually MySQL)

Both of these components need to backed up in order to fully restore a WordPress installation should something go horribly, horribly wrong.

Just in case you missed the importance of this, I’ll say it again – Both the website files and the database (DB) need to be backed up.

The Hosting Company

Some hosting companies offer a free scheduled backup service that you can access from your hosting control panel.

If this includes files and DBs then this is likely your best option as the process will be controlled by the hosting company outside of your WordPress installation, making it more efficient and convenient as long as you are planning to stay with that provider for a while.

In general the hosting company backups cannot be used elsewhere. If you are planning to move your WordPress website to another provider, don’t assume you use these types of backups to restore your site elsewhere.

Using Backup Plugins

Perhaps the most common method of WordPress backups is by using either a free or commercially bought plugin.

The real difference between the two is mainly for support.  If you buy into a commercial plugin, you expect a certain level of customer support if you have any issues.  With a free plugin, there are no guarantees of a response to your issue, although the development community is usually well switched-on.

Commercial plugin examples: Backup Buddy and VaultPress .

Free plugin examples: WordPress Backup to Dropbox, WP Complete Backup and XCloner.

Just make sure that whichever plugin you choose is creating a full backup of all the files and all the tables in the DB.  This information should be available in the plugin documentation.

Some backup plugins will default to backing up only core installation folders such as /themes/ and /uploads/ and DB tables, so you will have to go into the settings and modify them according to your website setup.

This may mean including additional directories such as the /wp-content/gallery/ folder that NextGen gallery uses.

Also worth noting is whether the plugin provides a restoration feature.  Most of the free plugins will backup your website files to a .zip file and backup the DB to a .sql file.

This is fine if you know how to use these files to restore your site, otherwise you’ll end up having to pay a developer.

The commercial plugins usually come with a relatively easy to use restoration function.

Website Maintenance Service

An alternative method of making sure your website is backed up is by using a website maintenance service offered by some larger web design agencies.

Typically billed monthly, you pay for a consultant to manage your website administration.

As well as regular backups, the service plan usually includes making sure your website is running the current versions of plugins and WordPress, fixing errors, securing the website and making small design changes.

This is the perfect solution for those business website owners who just don’t have the time for constant plugin and core updates or sorting out web page loading errors.

The “Old School” Way – FTP & SQL Dumps

There is of course the manual method of backing up your WordPress website.

This involves using FTP to transfer the files from the server to a local machine (or a zipped up archive) and making a data dump of all the DB tables, usually via PHPMyAdmin.

At first glance this may seem the cheapest option, after all you’re not paying anyone.  Or are you?

If you’re a seasoned pro then you can probably do this in your sleep so no worries there but the whole process could take 30 mins of your time per backup and that’s 30 mins you’re not using to charge customers on a project.

Your Backup Schedule

So that covers the “how to” backup your WordPress website.  The question now is “how often do I backup?

Your backup schedule should reflect the frequency that your website content is updated and how important you feel that content is.

For busy websites and blogs, you may need an hourly or daily backup schedule.  This can produce extra strain and resources on your already busy WordPress website, so perhaps try to use the hosting company backup system if that’s available.

Small business and brochureware website can likely adequately run on a weekly or fortnightly backup schedule if the site content does not change very much.

There are usually options in the backup plugins to schedule monthly backups, however, in this fast-paced on-line world, a month is probably too long to go without a comprehensive backup.

In Summary

There’s no perfect backup solution to fit everyone’s needs.

Choosing how you backup your WordPress website will be determined by the cost of the service verses the time you are willing to spend performing the backup.

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