The topic of backups may not make us jump for joy but when disaster strikes, they can be a real lifesaver for your website. Here’s a startling statistic for you: More than 90% of websites that lost their data for 10+ days end up filing for bankruptcy within a year. (Source: Ontech) Coincidence? I think not.
But what could possibly go so wrong with your site?
- An improper update of an installed plugin or theme could cause your website to malfunction
- A design or layout change could bring down your entire website
- You could accidentally delete or modify an important website file
- If you don’t have security measures in place, your site could get hacked
- Your entire web hosting platform could get compromised for multiple reasons
- External factors completely beyond your control such as natural disasters could affect your website
In all these cases, a backup makes recovery simple. A previous version of the website can be quickly restored to get your website up and running – in no time.
In this guide, we’ll be discussing how to backup a wordpress site and how to decide which method is best for you.
How to Back Up and Restore Your WordPress Website
Here are the different ways you can backup and restore a WordPress site.
- Backups from your WordPress hosting company
- Manual method for backups
- Automated backups using WordPress plugins
Let’s explore each of these in more detail.
Backups and Restore Services from your Hosting Company
Many web hosts, including Siteground, Kinsta, WPEngine and Bluehost, offer backups and restores, either as part of their standard hosting plans or as an additional paid service.
So when you need to access your backup files, you can simply contact your web host and ask them to restore your website through their stored backups. Depending on the company, the entire “backup and restore” process can take a few hours or even a few days. For example, Siteground typically takes less than 30 minutes to restore your site while WPEngine takes less than 10 minutes once initiated.
As an alternative, some web hosts like GoDaddy and Bluehost give you the option to log in and select the backup file that you would like to restore to your website.
Through Siteground’s Restore Tool
If you are using Siteground (My recommended budget web host) you have access to a backup facility within your Siteground control panel.
If you are using a legacy Siteground account which still uses the popular CPanel software you will need to login to your account and then navigate to your CPanel.
Once there you will find the tool called “Backup Tool” click on this and then you will be presented with a calendar showing you backups from each day for the last 30 days.
Within a few clicks you can create a new backup and it will be saved on the calendar.
To restore you simply need to click on a restore point on the calendar and then follow the instructions to restore to that backup.
If you have a newer Siteground account using their own propriatary Control Panel software, you will need to login and navigate the “Websites” on the menu.
Then find the website in question and click on the “Site Tools” button.
Once this page loads you should see “Security” on the left sidebar. Clicking this will expand the section to reveal more options, one of which is called “Backups”.
After you go to the Backups section you will see a screen where you can easily create a new backup in a few clicks and a list of all of your restore points.
Click “Actions” on the right-hand side and you can choose to restore just your database, just your files or both.
Bluehost’s Site Backup Pro tool
Customers with legacy accounts on Bluehost can use the Site Backup Pro tool to backup and restore their websites. You can either download the backup to your local computer or restore the backup directly. As a general practice, Bluehost stores backups for 30 days, so it’s a good idea to regularly download and save a backup copy on your local computer.
Through Bluehost’s Restore Tool
Alternatively, you can perform backups or restore a site from the “Backup” section of the Bluehost Dashboard. You can select the site you need the backup for and then store the backup in the “Saved Backups” list.
To restore, first, select your WordPress site from the Backup panel and then choose your backup from the list of saved backups. Keep in mind that the restore process can completely delete the existing WordPress site and replace it with the backup version. Hence, it is better to first take a backup of your existing website before restoring it with a previous backup version.
As a WordPress site owner, should you rely on your web host for backups? The answer is YES, particularly if you are starting out and do not have the time or resources to perform backups yourself. However, you must also evaluate the quality of the backups being provided by your web host to ensure your website is in good hands. I’d personally suggest Siteground for budget shared web hosting and WPEngine for premium managed hosting.
Alternatively, you can choose to manually backup your WordPress website. Manual backups can get quite complicated if you are not tech-savvy. You need to follow the proper procedure and know how to troubleshoot issues that may arise.
Manual Backups include:
- Backing up your WordPress files:
- Using cPanel that is accessible on your web host account OR
- Using an FTP tool (like WinSCP) that is connected to your WordPress server.
- Backing up your WordPress database:
- Through the phpMyAdmin tool (usually installed on your web hosting account).
Confused about where to start? Let’s take a closer look to these steps.
How to backup your WordPress files using the cPanel of your web host:
Log in to your web host account and navigate to the “File Manager” tool.
The File Manager displays a number of folders, including the “public_html” folder which contains your WordPress installation files.
Expand or go into the “public_html” folder and select the name of the website that needs to be backed up. The folder name should be obvious but if you only have 1 website on your server these files may be loose in the root folder rather than in another subfolder. If you see wp-admin, wp-content and wp-includes folders inside public_html and only have one website these will be the files you want to backup, so in this case, you could backup the entire contents of the public_html folder.
Select all the files and folders and compress them to a zip file. This makes it easier to download and upload as one zip file will download a lot faster than lots of individual files.
It also makes it easier for you to upload later when restoring your site later.
How to backup your WordPress files using an FTP tool:
Install an FTP tool like FileZilla or WinSCP.
Use your FTP credentials to establish a connection to your web server. The credentials can be found in the “FTP Accounts” section of your CPanel. If you’re unable to locate the credentials, you may need to contact your host or create an account.
Once the connection is established, navigate to the “public_html” folder that displays all the WordPress installation files and folders.
Select the folder or selected files and download them to a local folder on your computer. A recommended practice is to encrypt the data and store it as a zip file but this isn’t always possible with an FTP program which is why using CPanel and File Manager are the preferred option.
How to backup your WordPress database using the phpMyAdmin tool:
Log in to your web hosting account and navigate to Databases > phpMyAdmin.
Open the phpMyAdmin tool to view all your WordPress databases under the “Databases” tab.
Next, you need to select the right database and then export all the database tables to create the backup. However, finding the right database can be a pain as they don’t always have useful names. To make this easier, download your wp_config.php file via FTP or using your File Manager. This will contain information about your database using which you can identify the right one.
How to restore your website manually
First, to restore the WordPress files:
Using either cPanel or the FTP tool, log in to your WordPress account and delete all the existing website files.
Now all you need to do is upload all your backup files on the new WordPress Installation using cPanel or your FTP tool.
To manually restore your WordPress database:
Log in to your web hosting account and navigate to PHPMyAdmin tool.
Once you are in there, click on the database that’s connected to the website. You can find this by going to the website files and finding the wp-config.php file in the root folder. Open this file and it will show you the database name listed like below.
define( ‘DB_NAME’, ‘database_name_here’ );
When you click on the database in PHPMyAdmin you will want to empty all of the current tables. You can do this by selecting all tables via the top checkbox and then going down to the bottom of the page, clicking on the drop down and selection the option “Drop” under “Delete table or data”.
This will completely empty your database.
Next you want to import your database backup to replace the tables.
Click on the “Import” tab, select your .sql file and then click “Go”. You seldom need to worry about the other settings on this screen.
Once that completes your old database tables will be restored and you are good to go.
Automated Backups using WordPress Plugins
If you are looking for the easiest way to backup your WordPress site, then backup plugins could be the answer. Just like any other WordPress plugins, backup plugins are easy to install on your WordPress installation.
Here are some of the leading WordPress backup plugins along with their pros and cons:
Rated as the most reliable backup plugin, BlogVault has a 100% success record in backup restoration. Some of the features of this backup tool include:
- Incremental backups that put less load on your web server
- Use of dedicated BlogVault servers for all processes so your server is not impacted
- Real-time backups for WooCommerce sites
- Additional built-in features, including website staging, website migration, and website management
This tool has one limitation, though, it has no free version, only paid plans.
Among the most popular backup plugins, UpdraftPlus is available with both free and paid versions. Some of the features of this backup tool include:
- Compatibility with WordPress multisite networks
- Support for a variety of cloud storage platforms to store backups
- Additional features like website cloning and website migration
A few limitations of this tool include:
- Not suited for large WordPress websites
- Backup process can impact your website performance
- Can be problematic with some servers / hosting companies
BackupBuddy is an efficient and reliable backup plugin. It is easy to install and configure. Some of the features of this backup tool include:
- Automated backups that do not require any human intervention or manual steps
- Can be used for WordPress database repairs and optimization
- Supports a variety of cloud storage platforms for storing backups
- Easy and user-friendly backup restoration process
A few limitations of this tool include:
- Does not support on-demand backups that can be performed at any time
- Advanced backup features only available with paid plans
- Not suited for large websites
It can be quite a challenge to recover and restore your site after a crash. The key takeaway here is that a backup is an absolute must as part of your WordPress Security.
While backups from your web hosting provider are the most convenient, you need to exercise some caution.
On the other hand, manual backups are definitely cheaper but only recommended if you know how to perform the entire process safely and smoothly.
WordPress backup and restore plugins are user-friendly and especially suited for people who are just starting out. Purchasing a backup plugin can be an added expense though so it’s best to choose a plugin with built-in features like website migration and staging.
Given the fact that there are many ways you can backup your site, you should choose a plan based on your website needs. But more than anything, and I can’t stress this enough, you should always be backed up!