How to back up your WordPress website

If you’ve worked hard to create an amazing website with WordPress, the last thing you want is to somehow lose some of your hard work. Whether it’s a failed update, getting hacked, a problem with your host, or even user error on your part, it’s possible that something can happen to your site and it’s important to be prepared. One of the best things you can do to protect yourself is to create a backup of your website.

What needs to be backed up in WordPress?

Like most content management systems, a WordPress website consists of two key components, your WordPress website and your WordPress database.

So what’s the difference? Your website contains files that make it run correctly and look like you want it to look. Themes, plugins, and WordPress software itself are all loaded on your site.

Your database contains content you — and perhaps your site’s visitors — have created. Posts, pages, comments, the media library, and any custom post type data is a part of your database. As the name suggests, your database stores the data that makes your site unique.

If you’re wondering why this distinction matters, it’s because each of these is backed up differently.

Automatic backups with your hosting provider

There are a few different ways to backup the files on your site. The easiest way is to use software your hosting provider offers if your provider does so. Many providers offer automatic backups, which often include backing up your both site and database. Check the instructions here for 1&1, Bluehost, and SiteGround, or if you have a different host, you can probably find instructions with a Google search. Note that some providers make backups easier than others.

Using a backup plugin

Like most things in WordPress, many plugins exist to help you back up your site. Many of these plugins will allow you to schedule backups automatically or perform them manually. You’ll want to make sure you use a plugin that backs up your site and your database. Some popular options are UpDraft Plus, BackWPup, and Duplicator. You can find many more options on WordPress.org.

Backing up your site manually

If your provider doesn’t offer automatic backups — GoDaddy, for example, only offers instructions to back up your site manually — and you don’t want to use a backup plugin, you can use an FTP client to perform a manual backup of your site. You’ll need to set up an FTP account with your hosting provider and download an FTP client like Cyberduck or FileZilla to back up your files to your personal computer. You can also use your host’s control panel to back up your files. For more information, read the WordPress Codex article on FTP clients.

Backing up your database manually

If you don’t have the ability to back up your database automatically or with a plugin, you’ll want to be sure to do so manually. Because your database contains the content you’ve created, it is perhaps the most important part of your site to keep backed up. Your database is not accessible via FTP, so you’ll need to follow different steps to back it up. It’s a fairly cumbersome process but you can find all the details you need on the WordPress Codex.

Regardless of the method you choose to back up your site, it’s important to do it. Having a backup could save you from heartache and wasted time should something go wrong. It’s much better to take the time to back up your site and never need it than it is to skip the process and wish you had a backup later on.

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