The importance of backing up your WordPress website

So, tell me the truth… how long has it been since you backed up your entire website?

Mm hmm. I’ll tell you what – why don’t you start that now, and then you can read the rest of this article with a smug sense of superiority, rather than a growing sense of insecurity. Don’t worry. I’ll wait.

Back already? It doesn’t usually take long, and is well worth it.

So, why did you just do that? (You actually did, right?) Let me give you a worst-case scenario that literally happens many times, every single day. You sit down to get some work done, maybe check if the changes you made on your site last night have affected your advert revenue and…. Page not found.

Um… reboot the router. Starting to feel nervous now, because your email come up fine… Try it again… Page not found. Log into your dashboard on the server and… no dashboard. Just a corrupted mess on your server partition. No overnight income. Well, you can reinstall, right? Ok. That’s a few hours out of your life, but nothing horrible. Now your site is back up…

…and empty. It was all there yesterday. How many posts? How many reply threads? How many adverts and income streams… You can rebuild it, but you’ll be starting over from scratch.

You are responsible for backing up your site

Unless you have specifically contracted for it, no one else will be backing up your site. Even if you have contracted backups, you should do it manually from time to time. Bad things happen to servers all the time. Are you sure your company can be trusted not to back it up to the same drive as your site? Are you sure they will never spill a bottle of coke and kill a whole server? What if the building burns down?

Even if they do back up your site, have they backed up every scrap of data with the same care as you would, or would it be automated, and therefore potentially failing to back up the same bit of data every time – there might be fifty backups to restore from, but the same ‘hole’ in all of them. Make sure you have one good backup that you keep for yourself.

Malware and hackers are both real.

There are real threats out there, and they don’t only happen to other people. Most attacks that destroy websites and data aren’t committed by a teen in a black leather trench coat typing away like mad. They attacks come from other infected servers automatically, just trying to spread themselves, and maybe email a few credit card numbers back home. They can’t tell a blog about hypoallergenic recipes for cats from Santander’s customer records, and they’ll happily tromp all over each. Every website is vulnerable, even ones there is ‘no good reason to hack’.

A WordPress plug-in could crash your site just like that.

Word press is open source, so there are a LOT of plugins out there. It doesn’t take malware, a simple incompatibility or typo could cause a crash, and not necessarily right away. You might have 30 plugins running on your site. Say your hosting service updates WordPress automatically overnight. Suddenly the plug-in that worked perfectly for three years burns up your site.

Once your site does go down, having a backup ready to hand will get you back up fast.

Of course, the fastest way to get back online is to use a backup stored at your hosting company. If they don’t answer the phone 24 hours a day seven days a week, though, it might be faster to reload it all from home. Every day you’re offline isn’t just one day’s earnings gone. It is disappointed customers or users who will immediately go elsewhere, and might not even check to see if your site come back up. User confidence is huge.

So what should you back up?

You need to backup not just your database but everything else. The database will contain all of your posts and most of your other data, but there is a lot it doesn’t cover.

‘Everything else’ in this sense consists of six classes of data: the Core Installation of WordPress, your Plugins, your Theme(s), Your Images and Media Files, any Coding, including JavaScript and PHP scripts, and any Static Web Pages you may have.

You might not have all of these, but if you lose something you did have, your site will not work or feel the same, even if you did save all of your data.

Published: 17/07/2015

Last modified: 12/06/2019

Timothy Oxendale
I'm an award-winning plant-powered (Vegan) freelance WordPress Developer/Web Designer. I work with great individuals, small-to-medium sized businesses and start-ups. I aim to have a great relationship with all my clients where I can add value to their business by being dependable, honest and by doing the type of work that makes a difference.

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