Ultimately, backing up your site will provide you with peace of mind and likely save you hours of time spent recreating part of a site or a whole site that has been hacked, crashed or compromised in some way.
WordPress is an online Content Management System which means that you access it online – it is not stored on your computer. It is stored with your Web Hosting Provider, on their server.
A WordPress site is made up of files and a database. Themes, media files and plugins are stored in the files whereas posts, pages, comments, users, categories, tags and links are stored in the database. If you back up the files, you have only done part of the job and you will not be able to fully restore your site – especially your blog.
Any changes to the content are saved when you Publish or Update posts and pages. You can also add or delete media files in the media library. When you create or edit a page, you may have noticed the Revisions link (beside the clock icon) under the Publish section on the right side of the page. This does allow you to revert to previous versions of your page content but it is limited. If your site is hacked or compromised, or you accidentally delete a page or a post, this function will not help. Or maybe you are the adventurous type and want to modify some of the .php files or the .css and you crash your own site.
In January 2017, WordPress sites made up 27.4%  of the web sites on the internet. Unfortunately, this has attracted the attention of hackers. There are many preventative measures WordPress users can take, but having a good backup goes a long way in providing peace of mind.
Before You Start
With anything related the internet, there always seems to be a few necessary steps to complete BEFORE the thing I set out to do. I find myself sidetracked on little adventures that run parallel to my original purpose. If I want to set up a Social Media account, for example, I find myself suddenly racking my brain to remember people in high school that I might want to “connect with”, or sifting through Hollywood to decide who are indeed my 5 favourite famous people.
Fortunately, backing up your WordPress site does not take you that far off course, but there are some things you should consider before you start:
- storage space
- backup method and tools
- what to backup
- how frequently
By establishing these parameters, you will be better prepared for the backup process.
You can build a small, light site or a heavier site with a lot of images, video and/or photo galleries. WordPress recommends that your Web Host provides a minimum of 512 MB (0.5 GB). There are several places WordPress sites can be stored, each having varying degrees of security and storage space.
WordPress can be stored: on your computer, on the server, in your email account, with free or paid online (or “cloud”) storage services (such as Google Drive, OneDrive or Dropbox). Some of the paid services have free trial or starter accounts. Usually the “free” storage services have paid upgrades for increasing your storage. Dropbox however, has a few fairly painless ways to “earn” increased storage. Often if you purchase a backup plugin, it will come with a small amount of free storage with a paid storage service. If you are interested in free storage, read Jason Cipriani’s article: How to Get the Most Free Online Storage.
At the very minimum, you should have your website backed-up in two places. For example on your server (your Web Host) and on your computer’s hard drive. If something happens to your web site on the server (and if they only keep daily backups), you may need to retrieve a copy of your site from somewhere else in order to restore it.
Email Account Storage
Storing your site in your email account is one of the easiest places, but not the most secure, depending on your email account and provider. Also, if you are going to schedule regular backups, you may run out of space, depending again on your email account.
Back Up Methods and Tools
These are some of the most common methods for backing up WordPress sites:
- Manual Backups via c-Panel and FTP
- Plugins (VaultPress, Backup Buddy, or UpDraftPlus, etc.)
- Web Host Supported Back Ups that your web host provides (i.e. Host Gator Manual Full Backup & Restore)
If you have your web site hosted by Host Gator, you can manually save the backup in your home directory, then access it through your c-Panel and download it to your computer. Follow these steps as posted on the Host Gator site. It is important to note that this is a manual backup and cannot be scheduled.
If you have your web site hosted by WebNames, you can manually save the backup in your home directory, then access it through your c-Panel and download it to your computer. Follow these steps . It is important to note that this is a manual backup and cannot be scheduled.
What Should I Back Up?
A full backup includes your database and all of your files. Â If you are backing up manually, first back up the database using your Web Hostâ€™s c-Panel. Then backup your files.Â If you are using an ftp (a file transfer protocol program such as Filezilla) to back up your files, you should back up the following:
- wpconfig.php file
- ht.access file (if your site has one)
- wp-content folder
The files for plugins are usually in the wp-content folder, but if there are any outside this folder, I add them – especially if I have something like an events calendar and I have spent a lot of time entering information.
How Often Should I Back Up?
Of course, this is up to you. However, consider how you would feel if, at this very minute, your site crashed or was hacked.
The general consensus is that the database should be backed up in at least 3 places daily and that the files should be backed up in at least 3 places weekly. However it is a good idea to back up immediatelyÂ if you have just spent a lot of time updating or making big changes to your site or if your site starts acting strangely (hopefully its not too late).
Check out the WordPress.org site for further information about backing up WordPress.