Last Updated on April 20, 2022 by WP Knowledge Hub
WordPress is a Content Management System that works by combining two parts that make a whole: a database and files.
The files component are the code itself – the templates, the WordPress core files, the media (images, PDF, etc.), and the database is more like a massive spreadsheet, a table or rows and cells, that stores all the content information on your website, like the posts, pages, comments, links, and more.
Loosing either part is bad, but loosing your database is like loosing anything you’ve ever added to your site. Your content, your settings, all your hard work.
That’s why it’s important to know if your setup has a backup process in place, and how to proceed if you don’t.
How to back up your WordPress site
- Hosting level backups
- Automatic WordPress backup options with plugins
- Manual WordPress website files and database backup
Before I start, here are some common backup questions client ask me on a regular basis:
Common Backup Questions
How often should I back up my WordPress website?
It really depends on how often you make changes to your website. If you are a large team, and you post several new articles each day, then I would say a daily or weekly backup is a good idea.
How many backups should I keep?
I typically keep two backups that continually override each other, but if you do daily backups, you might want to keep a week’s worth.
Can backups be automated?
Yes, you can automate backups. More info below.
Do the backups take up free space on my hosting account?
If that’s where you choose to store your backups, then yes. If you use a backup plugin like Updraft, you can choose where you want to store your backups, like in your hosting account, dropbox, One Drive, Google Drive, etc. Some options are premium though.
Backing Up Your WordPress Site
There are two parts to backing up your WordPress site: Database and Files. You need to back up the entire site, but especially your WordPress database.
Your WordPress files consists of the following things:
- WordPress Core files
- Images and media
All of these are used to generate the visual part of your website. The database contains your posts and pages content and a lot of stuff on your site, but it does not include the above list.
Hosting level backups
Most modern hosts will offer backup services. Some, you have to pay, and other include it in their package. Big web hosting companies like GoDaddy or Dreamhost typically keep two weeks worth of shared server backups, meaning if something happens, you can simply call them and ask them to roll back the website a few days, before the problem occurred.
It’s important to know how your specific host operates, and how they can help in case of an emergency.
Automatic WordPress backup options with plugins
The best way to backup your website is with the popular UpdraftPlus WordPress Backup Plugin. UpdraftPlus simplifies backups and restoration. It is WordPress’ best ranked and most popular backup plugin, with 3 million+ currently-active installs. With this plugin you can backup your files and database backups into the cloud and easily restore if something goes wrong.
They offer services to backup into the cloud directly to Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon S3 (or compatible), UpdraftVault, Rackspace Cloud, FTP, DreamObjects, Openstack Swift, and email. The paid version also allows you to back up to Microsoft OneDrive, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Storage, Backblaze B2, SFTP, SCP, and WebDAV.
The final option is to manually backup your files and database using your hosting panel like cPanel or Plesk and phpMyAdmin.
Note that this is only for developers or WordPress veterans. If you are a newbie or even a designer or hobbyist and are not perfectly familiar with system administration, please don’t attempt to do this manually.
How to Manually Backup the WordPress Files and Database
Backing up the database with phpMyAdmin:
Log into your hosting panel, like cPanel for example, and look for the Database section where you will find phpMyAdmin. If you are not using cPanel, it will still likely look very similar to the screenshot below:
- Make sure you click on your database on the left side of the screen.
- Click on EXPORT in the top tabs
- Make sure you select Quick Export from the options available. Don’t attempt a CUSTOM export.
- Click GO
- Save the file to your computer.
Similarly, in cPanel or other hosting panels, find the label called FILE EXPLORER and open it up.
- Click on Public_HTML
- Click on Select All in the top navigation
- Click Compress just to the right of that.
- Select ZIP archive in the box that pops up
- Click Compress Files
- Save your files to your computer.