Website Back Up Guidelines for WordPress

Someday, you will lose some important file that hasn’t been backed up… Wait – of course you won’t – You already know the importance of backing up files and data, including your website. It’s common sense really, so, let’s just skip past the question why should you back up your site? The following is a basic set of guidelines to ensure you feel confident in your website backup plan.

Don’t rely on your web host for backups

Most web hosting companies keep some kind of backup of your website, sort of. Usually the backup is of the server your site runs on and not your site individually. These backups can be used in an emergency, but relying solely on your host is a mistake for a few reasons:

  1. Most hosts keep only a day or two of backup data. If you were hacked a week ago, restoring to a previous version wouldn’t be possible.
  2. Getting your files will take time. Depending on how responsive your host is, it could take days to get your files back.
  3. The files may or may or may not be WordPress specific. The database may or may not be formatted in a way you can easily restore it.

It’s better to keep your own backups, or rely on a service you trust and can reach quickly in case of an emergency. Take charge!

Choose a backup method

Yes, you can manually backup a site by logging onto your server and downloading files and exporting the database – but don’t. Not as an ongoing backup strategy anyway. Your time is precious. Choose a method that is automated and can run on a schedule.   Thankfully there are quite a few backup options available for WordPress: Plugins such as BackupBuddy and UpdraftPlus; Subscription services such as VaultPress; and full-fledged WordPress management services such as we offer here at Cinch (Check out our site maintenance plans). Each and every one of these options can remove the burden of human error and automate the process.

Choose an appropriate backup schedule

How often should you backup your site? Here’s a few guidelines depending on the type of site you have and your personal risk aversion level:

  • Weekly: You could probably get away with running a full backup once a week, but only if you don’t blog often and don’t mind losing something you wrote a week ago.  This was my method for a long time before realizing that daily backups were better.
  • Daily:  Best for most sites. Best for peace of mind. Best for not having to re-write that fabulous post you wrote yesterday.
  • Real-time:  For high-traffic and e-commerce websites that make a lot of changes to the database, real-time backups take a snapshot at every change. Ultimate peace of mind. Note that not every backup option offers real-time backups.

Save your backups off-site

If backups get saved on the same server as your website, if one goes, so will the other. Most WordPress backup plugins have the ability to save off-site, and the backup subscription services save to their servers. Here’s a few good options for off site storage:

  1. Amazon S3. Cheap storage, but they get you with transfer charges
  2. Dropbox. Who doesn’t love Dropbox? Saved everywhere you go.
  3. FTP to another server. You can, but 1 or 2 are easier.
  4. Subscription Data Centers. Services like VaultPress (the service Cinch uses) store backups in their own data center and include redundancies and overlap*. El primo.

Don’t set it an forget it

Take the time to get to know the backup software or service method you’ve chosen. Understand how it works and spend enough time to get it set up right. Once it’s set, however, don’t forget it. Here’s a few things you’ll want to check on over time:

  1. Test a backup. Go through the restore process (another subject entirely) and make sure the backups you have can easily, and correctly, restore your site.
  2. Make sure the schedule is running. Many of the plugins listed rely on WordPress cron to manage the schedule, which can sometimes be flaky. Make sure that schedule is actually being run.
  3. Test another backup in a year. Just because it worked before… well it’ll probably work again but it’s better to make sure.

Okay great, but what’s the best option for me?

Choosing the best option is dependent on what type of person you are, how much time you have to spend on such things as backing up your website, and also how much you want to spend:

1. DIY or DIAY (Do it ALL Yourself)

If you’re logging into your website regularly to blog or keep WordPress updated, like to do things yourself,  and don’t want to be strapped to a monthly subscription: Get a license for BackupBuddy and an Amazon S3 account and dig in. It’s not hard but does take diligence and understanding. You can do it.

2. Bootstrapped, with Cash

If you’re building a business along side managing a website, like to delegate some tasks but keep tabs on others, and find value in a solid service, a subscription with VaultPress is a great option. They store changes to your site on a daily or real-time basis and make restoring a cinch (hey, but so do we). You’ll still have to run updates and scan for malware, but your backup plan will be rock solid.

3.Let the Experts do what the Experts do

If you’re busy running a business and your time is better spent delegating than doing all the little things, then get onboard one of our WordPress maintenance plans! We’ll keep your site backed up among a few other sweet website maintenance tasks we manage daily. Check out our plans!

These guidelines should be a great start towards helping secure your website and your peace of mind. Each step will have its own challenges that I’ll be writing about. Leave  comment if you need any help or give us a shout through the contact form!

* Since we use VaultPress I asked specificially how the backups are stored and protected. Here’s what they had to say:

The VaultPress datacenters are the same ones used by WordPress.com. All data is backed up and synchronized between multiple datacenters, so there is no risk of data loss.
Stefan, Happiness Engineer

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