There are numerous reasons to routinely backup WordPress sites. Whether to recover from hacking or a bug in a recent update or just to restore an older version of your site, ensuring backup WordPress sites is an important component of site maintenance.
While many popular hosting providers offer automated, regular backups, it is useful to know how to make a backup of the latest instance of your site prior to site maintenance or transferring your site to another hosting provider. Making a backup can take as little as 15 minutes, but this quick process can mean all the difference between securely keeping your data and losing it irretrievably. This blog post will outline several different options to properly create and restore a backup of your WordPress site, as well as explain important intermediate steps.
Methods for creating a backup
There are various methods of backing up your WordPress website. From automated processes via plugins to manual methods such as via FTP clients and cPanel, WordPress users have many options to backing up their web content. For a tutorial on manually backing up your WordPress files and database watch the video below.
Use a Plugin
Plugins are a convenient method of regularly backing up your WordPress site, often automatically. There are many free WordPress plugins available specifically for the purpose of doing a full backup your site, including your database. Backups can typically be downloaded as a .zip archive file. Conversely, these plugins usually offer a feature enabling you to restore a backup from a.zip file. Listed below are five highly used WordPress plugins designed to backup your site.
1. UpdraftPlus : UpdraftPlus is one of the highest-ranking backup WordPress plugins in the world—many technological institutions such as NASA and Microsoft rely on this popular plugin. Both free and premium versions of the plugin are available for installation onto your WordPress site.
2. BackWPUp :Like most WordPress backup plugins, BackWPUp allows users to easily set automatic backup schedules for their site. The pro version of BackWPUp also provides full user support and useful additional features to maintain your site’s security to the fullest.
3. BackUpWordPress: BackUpWordPress is a reliable free plugin that also comes with automatic scheduling of site backups. A notable disadvantage to the free version of BackUpWordPress is that it does not provide cloud support, so investing in the premium plugin may be worth the cost.
4. Duplicator: This free plugin allows the user to easily clone, migrate, or redistribute their WordPress site; however, users must upgrade to the pro version to unlock the popular automatic scheduling feature for this plugin.
5. All-in-One WP Migration: Lastly, All-in-One WP Migration is a simple-to-use plugin that enables you to backup your WordPress site with a simple drag and drop action. The plugin is compatible with all hosts. The premium version offers cloud transfer services.
Backup Manually From Your Account Dashboard
Hosting providers such as WP Engine and BlueHost can manually create backup at any given time, generally right from your account dashboard. In both instances, they also regularly make daily or at least weekly backups.
Manually Export your Site’s Database
It is an essential housekeeping practice to backup your site’s database regularly. While there are many WordPress plugins that speed up this process, it is a good idea to have an understanding of how your site’s database can be directly managed. Below are instructions to manually export your WordPress site database onto your computer.
- Log into your cPanel admin account (shared by your web host provider).
- Click the “Databases” dropdown menu and select the “phpMyAdmin” option.
- In the new browser, locate and select your WordPress site’s database on the left hand side of the window.
- Select the “Export” tab. In the following dialog box, set the Export method to “Quick” and the Format option to “SQL.” Hit “Go” and a file will begin downloading.
- Relocate the file to your “Database” folder. To identify the file to be moved, it should have the suffix .sqlattached to the end.
- Export the site files via cPanel or FTP client.
Using an FTP client
FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is an extremely useful software for web developers because it connects your website’s live server online to your computer’s local server. If you have the FTP credentials to your server, you can simply download your site directory directly from the server. This is ideal when other methods may not be available, such as a cPanel or plugin. The downside is that transfer time can generally be slower than other methods. There are many popular FTP clients to choose from.
This FTP client is a powerful tool for Windows users. Its easy-to-use interface, wide range of features, and compatibility with various protocols makes WinSCP an essential for all WordPress users.
Cyberduck is optimized for both Windows and Mac. However, its seamless integration with the local environment in Mac computers makes it an obvious choice for Mac users. In addition to FTP, Cyberduck supports a wide range of host servers.
FileZilla is compatible with multiple host computers and is a popular option for Linux users. Web developers commonly gravitate towards this user-friendly plugin.
Transfer via FTP
If you have the FTP credentials to your server, you can simply download your site directory directly from the server. This is ideal when other methods may not be available, such as a cPanel or plugin. The downside is that transfer time can generally be slower than other methods.
If you choose to transfer sites manually via FTP, you should check that you are downloading the entire site’s file directory. This includes the WordPress Core Installation (the actual files for the WordPress CMS itself), your WordPress Plugins folder, WordPress Themes folder, media assets, etc. An equally important component of your site to backup and retrieve is its WordPress database. The MySQL database stores much of your WordPress site content, such as Posts, Comments, User accounts, and other data. Downloading your site content from your web server is a fairly simple process.
- If your FTP client is not already connected, log in with your FTP credentials (provided by your web hosting provider). You should have a designated folder prepared on your computer that will contain site files and database.
- Open your FTP client. On your screen, your local server is typically displayed on the left side panel and the server on the right side panel.
- On the right panel, locate the “public_html” folder, which holds your site files, and transfer it into the designated folder on your local computer by dragging it into the left panel.
Download Backup from cPanel
You can also download a full website backup directly from cPanel. This would apply to all websites, whether the site is built via the WordPress platform or elsewhere. Other web hosting control panels such as WHM and InterWorx also often offer this feature.
Deleting your WordPress Site
In order to restore a backup version of your WordPress site, first you must delete the current version from the web server. To accomplish this, you must wipe two components of your live website: the file directory and database. Before continuing with the deletion process, there are two rules of thumb to follow. First, it is highly recommended to make a backup of your existing WordPress site in the case that something goes wrong. Second, you should note the name of your current database and its user(s) (all of which is information that will be useful later). For an in-depth tutorial on deleting your files and database watch the video below.
Deleting your website files
The first step wiping your WordPress site off the Internet is by deleting all associated files of your website. This includes any web-based content related to your site, such as your blog posts, themes, and plugins. This can be quickly completed through your cPanel or other web hosting platform account.
- After logging into your web hosting account, open the File Manager.
- Locate your website within your file directory.
- Select all existing files—hold the SHIFT key and select the first and last file to highlight all.
- Select the “Delete” button—you may have to right-click “Delete.”
Deleting your database
The final step to fully removing your site content is to delete your database. While your live site may have vanished (try refreshing your site after wiping the files), your website data remains, so it is very important to be thorough.
- Within cPanel, select “MySQL Databases” under the Databases dropdown menu.
- Identify your database (if there are multiple databases on the web server, you can search for your database with the name you noted earlier).
- Delete the database.
Before you proceed to restoring your backup site, it is important to delete any associated users of your website for thoroughness. To do this, simply scroll down to the Current Users subsection on the same page and identify the user(s) that had access to the WordPress database—this would be a good time to reference the username you noted earlier. Select the “X” icon to remove this user.
Restoring from a backup
Generally speaking, all of the backup methods mentioned previously have a complementary feature for restoring from a backup (typically a .zip file). In the case of FTP, you would simply transfer the backup directory (unzipped) over to the server. Many of the backup plugins listed above also offer features to restore your site within the same plugin. Similarly, WordPress users can restore their WordPress sites and databases to previously backed-up versions via FTP and cPanel. For an in-depth tutorial on restoring your WordPress files and database from a backup, watch this video below.
Restoring Website Files from a Backup Version via FTP
Uploading your site’s backed-up files from the local server is very simple if you have used an FTP client to backup your WordPress site: it is the same process, but in reverse. Select the files you wish to transfer from your local server to your remote server and drag them into the proper directory folder.
Restoring Website Files from a Backup Version via cPanel
Restoring your WordPress’ site files is a fairly simple process that all happens within the same window you deleted your files in. Ensure that you have followed the steps to remove your old WordPress files before continuing with the restoration process.
- Within the same File Manager in cPanel, select the “Upload” button from the menu options.
- In the window, upload your site backup (in .zip file).
- When the .zip file appears in your directory, “Extract” the internal files. It is recommended to remove the .zip file from your web server after the extraction process is completed.
Restoring Database from a Backup Version via cPanel
Reverting your WordPress database back to a prior version is fairly straightforward. Before restoring to your previous database, confirm that you have already downloaded the files to an identifiable location on your computer such as your desktop to simplify this process.
- Log into your cPanel account.
- Select “Backup” under the “Files” dropdown menu.
- Scroll down until you locate the subheading “Restore a MySQL Database Backup.”
- Select “Choose file” and locate the appropriate database files, which should be easily located on your computer.
- Select “Upload” to finish the process.
As we’ve seen in this post, there are a variety of ways to backup and restore your WordPress site. Regularly creating a WordPress backup is as essential as meeting basic security measures to protect your site or regularly updating your site content with new information. With a suitable plugin or familiarity with the backup software, ensuring that your WordPress site is safely backed up will be a breeze. Take the time today to confirm that you have a backup of the latest version of your site.
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While always deeply interested in technology since childhood, Nicholas has been involved in web development in a professional capacity since 2012, as both a front-end developer and project manager.