Websites are fragile things and problems sometimes occur for all manner of reasons. You might install a plugin or add-on that clashes with the others that are installed, or it might have a bug in it. When it is activated it wipes out files or even takes the site offline.
You should never install anything into your website unless you have a backup. It is always a risk and you must be prepared for it.
Sod’s law applies though. If you make a backup then everything will go smoothly and the backup won’t be needed. If you don’t make a backup, there will be problems.
You might insert some code into your site, try to customise the template, or perform some other administrative task that screws things up. It happens.
Your website is running on a computer at your web hosting company and computers sometimes crash. If the one that your website is on has a disk failure, you might lose everything without a backup.
Hardware problems are nobody’s fault and they just happen. It is rare, but is something you need to prepare for.
Hackers are constantly testing website security and looking for ways to get control of them. Flaws in the website code can let hackers gain access to your site and once in, they can change anything.
They might redirect links or ads depriving you of income, change the home page to post their own content, delete your account so you cannot log in and more.
Could you cope with any of these situations?
A backup of your website would enable you to recover by putting everything back as it was when it was working.
Does your web hosting company back up?
This is the first question you should ask. The answer is probably yes, but you must check with them and make sure they do.
How often are backups made?
If your web hosting company backs up once a month, you stand to lose a lot of content, updates and changes on a busy website when the backup is restored.
You will get your website back up and running, but every change you made and article you posted since the last backup will be lost.
If you have a fairly static website that does not change very often then weekly backups might be OK.
If you post daily to your website then daily backups offer the best security. Being able to restore your site to what it was yesterday means that little is lost if a problem occurs.
Back up files and databases
Modern websites, such as WordPress sites, are a combination of files and databases. Both need to be backed up to protect your site.
It is like running a database program on your computer. There is the program and then there is the database file where all the information is stored.
With a website, WordPress is the program and MySQL is where all the content is stored. Both must be backed up.
Check your web host
You should log into your web hosting account and see what facilities are available. With Bluehost for example, go to the cpanel in the menu bar at the top.
In the files section is Site Backup Pro. The name says it all and it is a backup tool for websites.
Click the icon and there are five backup options. Basic backups are included for free with a Bluehost web hosting account and you can back up and restore your site for nothing.
However, a few dollars extra each month upgrades Site Backup Pro and provides more features, like the ability to restore individual files and folders, which is useful if just one or two files have become corrupted and you want to restore the originals.
All you need to do to back up your website is click the Download link, but which one?
Full Cpanel Backup backs up everything in your account, including your website files, email, MySQL databases, and so on. Your account can grow quite large and the backup can take some time, but you’ve got everything you need to restore your site.
Manual backups for your website
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There are other ways to back up and the MySQL link downloads just the databases that are used by your website. This can be useful if you have several sites, such as a main site running WordPress and forums running phpBB, Vanilla Forums or something else.
You can save the individual databases and this enables you to restore them separately. It is a bit more flexible than a complete backup or restore of everything when you have multiple sites.
It is more flexible, but more work because you then need to back up the site files separately.
One way to do this is to use the File Manager in cpanel. It has an option to zip files and folders and download them. You just select all the files in your home folder and zip them. Don’t leave the zip on the server though, delete it after downloading it otherwise someone else could download it.
Another option is to use ftp. Does your web host provide ftp access to your website? An ftp program is a sort of remote file manager. It is like Explorer in Windows or Finder on the Mac and it lets you browse the files on the web server.
Using ftp you can download the files for your site. Some ftp software, such as WinSCP, FileZilla or CyberDuck are able to sync the files on the server with a folder on the computer’s disk.
The first time you do this will require all the files on the server to be downloaded. There are a lot of them and it takes some time to complete. Subsequent syncs are faster because only new and changed files need to be synced.
Backups with WordPress plugins
Tools like Site Backup Pro are very useful for backing up your whole web hosting account. In addition to this, it is a good idea to create your own WordPress backup. Manual backups of databases and files are possible, but tedious, so you might want to consider a plugin.
There are many WordPress backup plugins and you are spoilt for choice. Free ones are OK, but do you really want to trust backups to a free app? If you are serious about your website, you should pay for a backup plugin.
Jetpack, which is often installed with WordPress for free, is available in a premium version and for $3.50 a month it will create backups of your WordPress website and store them for you. It is designed for simplicity and backups are made daily. Restoring from the backup is a one-click process.
This plugin is more than just a backup tool and it provides many more WordPress features. It is great if you want lots of extras, including spam protection.
BackupBuddy is a pure backup tool that is focused on making sure your site is protected. It’s not cheap and the least expensive option is the Blogger plan which provides one year of plugin updates for $80.
You get 1GB of storage space for your backups. That is enough for quite a large site and backup will probably be less than 100MB unless your site is huge.
VaultPress is available in Basic and Premium versions and if all you need is daily backups then the $9 a month Basic version is fine. Some top websites are updated many times a day and real-time backups are available in the $29 a month Premium plan.
Backups are archived for 30 days and restoring is initiated with a few mouse clicks and is mostly automated.
If you want a free backup, apart from doing it manually, you should consider BackWPup. It enables you to schedule backups and then they can be saved to the computer, online storage like Dropbox and other places.
It zips up all the files and the WordPress databases, makes a list of all the plugins and more. There is a paid Pro version which the developer says is better.
BackUpWordPress is another free plugin and it has an excellent rating in the WordPress plugins directory of 4.7 out of 5 stars and over 200,000 installs.
Backups are stored in a folder on the server and you would need to download them using an ftp program for safekeeping on your computer.
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