How to Back Up WordPress for Free
Nobody likes talking about backups - they just ain’t sexy!
Some might say they are Another Shade Of Grey...not that I've read the book nor seen the film!
But what about a way of backing up your WordPress site whilst you are asleep?
Why Should I Back Up WordPress?
Have you considered the downside if you don’t have a backup in place and your WordPress website crashes? Your website would be unreachable, which means:
- No visitors
- No customers
- No sales
You can either have a backup plan in place so that you can quickly get your website back online. Or you can wait until disaster strikes and then spend hours with your website offline.
You can be proactive or reactive.
It Won't Happen To Me
It's not a case of if - it's when!
Here are some WordPress crash stats:
- 15% of all system failures are due to hardware problems, which means your web hosting service has a server problem.
- 85% of all system failures are due to software errors and user faults, which means you have a rogue theme or plugin, or you did something wrong.
Why Do WordPress Websites Crash?
Some possible scenarios are:
1. Security breach or hacking
Remember we discussed what happens when you don't protect your website and the 5-Step Protection Plan you should put in place.
2. WordPress upgrades
It’s best practice to keep WordPress updated to the latest version, so that you have the latest fixes in place. However, sometimes when you upgrade to the latest version of WordPress your website might crash.
The reason is not because this latest version of WordPress is ‘bad’ - it's more likely because WordPress might be incompatible with your theme, or one or more of the plugins that you have installed.
3. WordPress plugin conflict
Sometimes when you install a new plugin it will cause your WordPress website to crash. The main reason for this happening is because of bad or outdated coding issues.
- The plugin is badly coded.
- The plugin is well-coded, but
it conflicts with another plugin on your website.
- The plugin is well-coded, but it conflicts with your WordPress theme.
- The plugin clashes with WordPress itself.
Remember that themes and plugins should be tested and verified against the version of WordPress that you are using. You can check this is in the WordPress repository.
Therefore, it's good practice before you upgrade WordPress or install a new theme or plugin to ensure you have a backup first. That way you will have a known working version that you can revert to immediately. It'll save you a load of work, time, and money.
Pro Tip: I recommend having a Test WordPress site or a Staging Site where you can test the latest version of WordPress with your theme and plugins. If you create a copy of your Live installation on your Test site, then you can safely test and verify everything works together.
WordPress Backup FAQ
Why should I do a backup?
For the same reason you back up your documents on your computer, a WordPress installation should be protected regularly.
Why does my Web Host not do my backups?
Most web hosts back up the entire server, including your site, but it takes time to request and retrieve a copy of your site from their backups, and a speedy recovery is critical.
You need to learn how to back up your own site files and restore them.
Check with your web host to find out what services and programs they provide.
How often should I back up?
The more active your site is, the more frequently you should create a backup.
WordPress stores most data (posts, pages, comments) in the Database system, whilst other elements are stored in the File system.
Therefore, it is recommended to back up the database more frequently than the file system as more changes occur there.
Your WordPress File System consists of the following:
- WordPress Core Installation
- WordPress Plugins
- WordPress Themes
- Images and Files
- Additional Files and Static Web Pages
All of these are used in various combinations to generate your website. The database contains your posts and a lot of data generated on your site, but it does not include the above elements that all come together to create the look and feel of your site.
Where should I save my backup?
When it comes to backing up your website it’s wise to remember the computer backup rule of three, also known as the Backup 3-2-1 Rule, to help ensure that your data is stored safely.
You will need a combination of off-site backup storage, plus backups to different media types, plus multiple copies of everything you want to protect.
WordPress Backup Plugins
There are many different WordPress Backup Plugins.
Here are some of the more popular names you may have come across:
The first Backup Plugin that I installed and used was WP-DBManager. This was fine as a starter because I was literally learning about WordPress and trying different things out on my Test website.
The drawback with WP-DBManager is that it only backs up the Database. Remember above we said that most data is stored in the database, but other files are stored in the file system.
To get both the Database and the File systems backed up you would need its partner product: WP-DB-Backup
The next Backup plugin I used was BackWPup. This is a free plugin, but there is a premium version called BackWPup Pro. BackWPup backs up both the Database and the File system to give you a complete back up.
Why do I like it?
BackWPup allows me to choose the ‘what, when, and where’ of my WordPress Backup.
What is backed up?
In this example, I've chosen to back up all the data and files:
When is it backed up?
You can configure several different jobs to back up different components at different intervals. You can also run a manual backup whenever you wish; e.g. before installing a new plugin. I prefer to back up everything on a daily basis overnight at 3am:
Where is it backed up to?
BackWPup offers various storage locations for your backups. You can send it via email, store it on the server, or save it to the cloud. You can even schedule different jobs to store backups in different places and make it more safe. For instance, daily backups could be saved on a server and weekly backups could be saved via email.
In this example, I've selected to back up directly to the cloud with Amazon S3:
What if there are any problems?
BackWPup gives you the flexibility to configure your WordPress website backup as you choose. If any errors are encountered, then it emails you a warning so that you can investigate:
Here's what you have learned today:
- It's better to be proactive, rather than reactive.
- BackWPup is a good choice for a free WordPress backup plugin.
- You need to back up both your own computer and your WordPress website.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below:
- Have you experienced a website crash?
- Have you got a backup in place?
- What backup solution service do you use?