Backing up your website isn’t something to overlook. Having a backup of your WordPress site can save a lot of headaches in many situations. For example, if you run into an error that breaks your site or an update affects its functionality, you’ll be able to roll back the saved version.
Restoring a WordPress backup can save you hours of troubleshooting. Plus, having one means that you can duplicate your site or move it to a new host. We’d go as far as to say that if you don’t have a recent backup, you should add it to the top of your to-do list.
In this article, we’ll show you precisely how to do that. We’ll discuss what parts of your website you need to back up and show you four methods for doing it, including the manual approach, using plugins, through your web host, and on a local site. Let’s get to work!
An Introduction to WordPress Website Backups
A WordPress website is more than just a simple collection of files that you can copy and paste from one location to another. If you’re asking yourself, “What files do I need to copy to do a WordPress site backup?” then know that your question has an answer in two parts:
- All of the files that live inside your WordPress root directory
- Your WordPress database
The WordPress root directory is the folder where you set up the copy of WordPress that powers your website. You should access that directory by connecting to your server via File Transfer Protocol (FTP) or Secure Shell Access (SSH) and then finding the folder called root, public, or public_html.
In some cases, the directory can also have your website’s name:
That root directory contains everything from your themes to your plugins and media files. Some of its files include rules for how your website interacts with its server, new functions that you’ve added to themes and plugins, and more.
In short, that directory contains all of the files that make WordPress work. However, your actual website’s content resides in a unique database. Each table that you see below stores a WordPress site’s data:
Backing up your database involves exporting all of those tables (usually in SQL format). You then import the contents of that file, and your database software will overwrite existing values.
If that doesn’t make much sense yet, don’t worry. We’ll show you how to manually back up a WordPress site in one of the following sections. If you don’t like the idea of messing with your database or copying files manually, use backup WordPress site plugins.
In essence, WordPress backup plugins create copies of both your site’s files and its database (together or separately). Then those plugins enable you to choose which backup files to “restore.” That means overwriting your existing files and database tables with those within the backup files.
If you use a reputable web host, it probably also offers automatic site backups. This feature means you don’t have to worry about creating backups manually or using plugins since your web host will do it for you. It should also store those backups for a while in case you need them.
When to Back Up Your WordPress Website
The short answer is that you should always have a recent backup of your website. Imagine running into a site-breaking error today without any idea how to troubleshoot it.
If you have a backup that’s a day old or less, you’ll probably be fine. However, if it’s a week old, it might not include some of the most recent updates to your website. More than a month, and it may be missing critical changes you’ve made in the meantime.
Ask yourself how much recent data you think you could lose without impacting your website negatively. If you run a static site, occasional backups should be okay. However, for forums, online stores, blogs, and most huge sites, consistent backups are a necessity:
If you shop around for a web hosting service, you’ll notice that many of them include daily backups as a significant selling point. If you opt for managed WordPress hosting, you should receive daily backups at a minimum.
It might seem like overkill, but if it saves you from losing critical data even once, it’s certainly worth the added price — which is usually negligible. Many WordPress plugins also enable you to schedule backups, which can come in handy if you’re using budget shared hosting that doesn’t include backup functionality as part of the deal.
That brings us to the significant downside of backing up WordPress manually: you cannot automate the process. For something so critical, we recommend a streamlined approach that minimizes the chances of someone forgetting to make a backup or even missing a few files by mistake.
One last caveat is that you should always back up your entire site before making significant changes to it, moving it to a new host, or changing your site’s domain. If you’ve ever asked yourself, “How do I back up my WordPress site before an update?” then go ahead and read the following sections to find the best method for you.
How to Back Up a WordPress Site (4 Methods)
Now that we’ve covered the importance of backing up your site, it’s time to explore how to do it. Let’s take a look at how you can back up a WordPress site using four methods.
1. How to Manually Back Up a WordPress Site
As we mentioned before, backing up a WordPress website involves copying all of its files and exporting the contents of its database. You can carry out the first of those two tasks using a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) client such as FileZilla.
Your web host should provide you with a set of credentials that you can use to connect to your website via FTP, or SFTP in our case:
Using those credentials, you’ll be able to connect with your server and find your WordPress root directory. In many cases, that directory is called public. To get started, go ahead and copy or download the folder in its entirety:
The download might take a while, as most WordPress websites include hundreds or thousands of files. Once the backup finishes, we recommend that you rename that folder to the backup’s date and then store it in a safe location. It lets you keep your entire WordPress site (including all media) on your PC or in a cloud storage solution.
That answers the question, “How do I back up my WordPress site with FTP?” — which leaves us with your database. The easiest way to back up that element is by going to your hosting control panel and looking for your database management software.
If you’re using Kinsta, you can access your database by logging into your hosting account dashboard (MyKinsta if you’re a Kinsta user), selecting a website, and browsing to the Info tab:
When you click on the option called Open phpMyAdmin, it will launch the database manager. Select your site’s database from the menu to the left, and you should see a list of tables like this one:
Next, select Export in the menu at the top of the screen. phpMyAdmin will ask you what export method you want to use. The Quick option will automatically include all of your site’s tables in an SQL file, which is what we want.
Make sure to select SQL under Format, and then click on Go:
Your database file should download immediately. That’s it!
At this stage, you have both your WordPress root directory and a copy of its database. You can zip the site directory and the database SQL file together and save them for a rainy day.
Restoring Your Manual Backup
If you need to restore your manual backup, the best way to do so is to upload the backup root folder to your server (at the same level as the current one) with a different name. Once the directory is up, you can delete your current root folder and rename the backup to its original value.
After that, it’s time to restore your database backup. To do so, return to phpMyAdmin and find your site’s database. This time, select the Import option at the top of the screen.
phpMyAdmin will ask you to select a file to import and to specify its format:
Select the database backup file you want to import and click on Go at the bottom of the screen. Once the import process is complete, you’ll see a success message.
At this stage, if you visit your website, your backup will have replaced its most current version. If you restored a backup to fix a problem with your website, it should be working correctly now.
2. How to Use a Backup WordPress Plugin
There are a lot of WordPress backup plugins that you can use. However, we can divide them into two broad categories:
- Full-site backup plugins: This type of plugin generates complete copies of your website and saves them for a rainy day.
- Incremental backup plugins: This family of plugins only generates backups when you make changes to your website, so you avoid taking up unnecessary server storage space.
Another difference between those two types of plugins is that incremental backup tools tend to cost money. However, there are a lot of free full-site backup tools you can use.
If you’re interested in incremental backup plugins, we offered a roundup of our favorite options in a previous blog post. For this section, we’ll show you how to use one of the most popular free solutions, UpdraftPlus:
Most WordPress backup plugins work similarly, which means that if you know how to use one of them, you should be able to find your way around other tools of the same type. UpdraftPlus is no exception, and you can use it to create complete site backups in a matter of minutes.
To get started, install and activate the plugin, and then go to Settings > UpdraftPlus Backups in your WordPress dashboard. Next, click on the Backup Now button:
As you can see, UpdraftPlus also offers incremental backups. However, that feature is only available for the plugin’s premium version, so we’ll ignore it for this tutorial.
Once you click on the button, UpdraftPlus will ask you what parts of your website you want to include in your backup. By default, they have both your site’s files and its database:
Hit the confirmation button at the bottom of the window, and wait while the plugin generates your backup file. Now, if you scroll down to the Existing backups section, you’ll see your most recent backups (there should only be one now):
UpdraftPlus enables you to download any of your backup file components separately, such as its plugins, themes, upload files, and even databases. You can also delete backups or restore them by clicking on the corresponding buttons.
Restoring Your UpdraftPlus Backup
Restoring a UpdraftPlus backup is a simple affair. The plugin will ask you what components you want to restore, and you should select all of them:
You’ll need to confirm that you want to proceed with restoring the backup. Once you do, the plugin will take care of the rest. After the process is complete, your site will return to its previous version.
That, in a nutshell, is how most WordPress backup plugins work. However, one feature missing from most free tools is scheduling WordPress site backups, where the following method comes in.
3. How to Back Up Your WordPress Website Through Your Web Host
If you use a reputable web host, it should offer you automatic backups. However, the frequency of those backups might vary. For example, at Kinsta, we provide automatic daily or even hourly backups, which you can access by logging into your hosting dashboard.
However, that’s not the only type of backup we offer. In the following sections, we’ll show you how to access your automatic backups and how to use DevKinsta to create local copies of your website.
If you’re not a Kinsta user, we recommend checking with your web host about your backup options. It may handle the process for you or point you toward ways to do it manually.
How to Access Your Automatic Kinsta Backups and Create New Ones
The first thing that you need to do is log into your MyKinsta dashboard. To see an overview of your existing backups, select your site and navigate to the Backups tab:
Kinsta stores automatic backups for two weeks (30 days for Kinsta Agency Partner Program clients). Moreover, we enable you to restore backups to either your live or staging environments. The last feature can be helpful if you want to test changes to previous versions of your website.
We also provide you with the option of generating backups on demand by going to the Manual tab and selecting the Back up now option:
You can create up to five manual backups, which the system will store for up to 14 days. It is a valuable feature that you can use right before making significant updates to your website.
4. How to Back Up a WordPress Site Locally Using DevKinsta
DevKinsta is a free local WordPress development tool that anyone can use. It’s perfect if you want to test new projects locally, work on plugin or theme development, and more.
If you’re a Kinsta user, you can connect DevKinsta with your hosting account and use it to backup your localhost WordPress sites. To do so, open DevKinsta and select the Import from Kinsta option under Create new Site:
If you haven’t done so yet, DevKinsta will ask you to verify your hosting credentials. Once you do, you’ll see a list of all your existing Kinsta websites, including staging environments:
Select a website, and DevKinsta will do the rest. The import process might take a while, depending on how large the website is. However, once the backup process completes, the copy will double as a local backup.
Learning how to back up a WordPress site is easier than you might imagine. You can do so manually, use plugins, or even let your web host take care of the entire process.
The easiest and safest approach to WordPress site backups is to use a hosting provider that automates them. At Kinsta, we offer automated daily WordPress backups with every plan. If that’s not enough, you can create manual backups at will or use DevKinsta to set up local copies of your website.
Do you have any questions about how to back up your WordPress website? Let’s go over them in the comments section below!
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