Back Up Your WordPress Website or Blog: What Are You Missing?

by on September 6, 2010 · 55 comments

You are backing up your self-hosted WordPress blog, aren’t you?

Well, if not, you’re not alone. Most people I’ve surveyed are not backing up their WordPress site. That’s because up until recently, there haven’t been many good solutions for it.

But it is super important to have these backups. And you can’t rely on your hosting provider to do it for you. Even if they say they have complete backups, I’ve heard too many stories of this not turning out well.

The last person I talked to, his hosting provider had a server failure, and he lost EVERYTHING. What do you really expect from your $7/month budget hosting provider?

Or what if your site gets hacked? You’ll want to make sure you can recover quickly, and without backups that is nearly impossible.

WordPress Back Up – The Whole Picture

So what does a complete WordPress website backup include? Here are the elements you’ll want to make sure you back up:

WordPress Storage Diagram

WordPress Storage Diagram

  • Your WordPress Database: Your content – blog posts, pages and comments are stored in the WordPress DB. This is absolutely essential to back up or you risk losing all of your hard work, and the contributions of the people who comment on your blog as well.
  • Your Images: Any images or other files you upload are stored in the wp-content directory under your WordPress install directory. This includes the images in your blog posts and pages. Location: /wordpress/wp-content/uploads
  • Theme customizations: If you have customized your WordPress Theme, you may have changed some of the .css or theme files. You’ll want to make sure you’ve got backup copies of these or you could lose many hours of work, or expensive web design customizations. Ideally you should back up your entire theme folder. Location: /wordpress/wp-content/themes
  • Plugins: This one is debatable, but if you are using more than a few plugins, it can be easy to ‘forget’ which ones you had installed and activated. Some parts of your blog might depend on these plugins for proper functionality, and for the easiest and fastest restore you should have your plugins directory backed up as well. Location: /wordpress/wp-content/plugins
  • System Files: There are several system files that you will need to back up as well, including your .htaccess file (which gets updates by WordPress if you change things like your URL structure) and your wp-config file. Location: /wordpress/

Note: In all the examples above, I’m using /wordpress/ to indicate the directory on the server you installed WordPress in. This may be called something else, or it may be the root of your domain.

WordPress Back Up Options:

I’ve experimented with a lot of ways to back up WordPress for my sites and for my clients. Here are the tools that I’ve found the most value in.

Your hosting provider

Many hosting providers offer the ability to back up your website and download it to your computer. One of the reasons I recommend BlueHost as a WordPress hosting provider to my friends and clients, is that they have a nice backup capability that you can run. It is a manual process, but it backs up all of your WordPress sites and databases. Ideally though, we want an automated process.

Bluehost Backup and Restore Wizard

Bluehost Backup and Restore Wizard Screenshot

WP-DB-Backup Plugin

One plugin that I’ve been using for a while and really like, is WP-DB-Backup. It’s a nice tool because you can schedule it to backup your WordPress database automatically, and email a copy to you. For example, if you update your blog every week, just schedule this plugin to do a backup for you.

WP-DB-Backup WordPress Plugin

WP-DB-Backup WordPress Plugin Settings

But this plugin does not back up everything you need. It only backs up your WordPress database files, and as I mentioned above, you’re going to want to back up your files as well.

VaultPress

VaultPress looks very promising. This is the only truly complete solution available that I know of. But it is only in a limited beta right now, and it will cost $$ if you can get in.

VaultPress will back up everything mentioned above: your database, your theme files, plugins and your uploaded content. And it performs the backups continuously. There is even a premium version that will perform security scans on your blog.

I’m testing it now on my primary site. The only problem is the pricing: they’ve set it to be $15 per month per blog that you want to back up. And the security scan is an upgrade to that, weighing in at $40 per month per site. This pricing is out of range for many people if you have multiple blogs that you want to back up.

Anyway, this is a good solution to watch. I’ll keep you posted on how it works out for me, and hopefully they will do something to make the pricing more attractive if you have multiple blogs you want to back up.

VaultPress WordPress Backup

VaultPress WordPress Backup Results

wp Time Machine Plugin

I just discovered this plugin, and it looks very good. wp Time Machine will help you back up your WordPress database, your entire wp-content directory (including themes and plugins), and your .htaccess file.

You can specify off-site locations to store the backups, including DropBox, Amazon S3 or FTP.

The only challenge is that it can be a little technical to set up, especially if you want to schedule the backups to happen automatically. The plugin provides a script for this, but it is up to you to set up a CRON job to kick off the backups.

Still this is an impressive plugin, and I’m using it on one of my sites now. I look forward to seeing how this plugin develops over time. I’ll keep you posted on how it works out for me.

WP Time Machine WordPress Plugin

WP Time Machine WordPress Plugin

Conclusion – Start Your Backups!

So after reading this, I hope you will take action and start backing up your WordPress website or blog right away. The options are growing in number and sophistication, so I’m optimistic that it will get easier to keep your content safe and secure as time goes on.

If nothing else, just set up the WP-DB-Backup plugin on a schedule so you have a backup of your content at the very least.

If you have a good backup solution that I’ve missed here, please share it in the comments below!

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Don is an entrepreneur based in Silicon Valley. He founded Expand2Web and is the publisher of the Expand2Web Blog, the SmallBiz WordPress Theme and the GetFiveStars Customer Feedback and Reviews service.

Don has written 279 articles on Expand2Web

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{ 55 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeff Hope September 6, 2010 at 9:48 am

I’ve been using BackWPup – which works great. Backs up all files, sends to email, S3, FTP, etc.

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/backwpup/

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Don Campbell September 6, 2010 at 2:09 pm

@Jeff, thanks – that looks interesting. I haven’t heard about that one but I’ll check it out. How does it handle scheduling the backups?

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Pit September 6, 2010 at 7:33 pm

Great work!
Question:
Which elements of the database are necessary to backup when migrating to another host provider and what are thing to keep in mind?

Keep on sharing knowledge!
-Thanks.

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Don Campbell September 6, 2010 at 8:15 pm

Thanks @Pit.
I’d say you should back up your entire WordPress database if you are migrating your blog to another host. Unless you wanted to drop your post revisions or entries from a plugin you no longer use, I’d just back up the whole thing.

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Pit September 6, 2010 at 8:26 pm

Would not be any problems when I restore the entire backup in a new host provider ( I mean, I don’t have to worry with file paths, name conventions or other things)?

-Thanks.

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Don Campbell September 7, 2010 at 11:12 pm

Pit, not in the database. The only time you would need to worry about this is if you changed the directory that WordPress lives in, or changed the domain name. Then you’d need to worry about image file paths. A great tool for updating those is the update urls plugin by Velvet Blue.

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Lisa Wood September 12, 2010 at 4:40 pm

Nice rundown. Thanks for sharing. I used the WP-backup plugin for a long time, and just started using Backup Buddy. It’s a premium plug in, but backs up everything. It’s got a migration feature too, which comes in handy for a developer.

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Don Campbell September 12, 2010 at 6:17 pm

Thanks Lisa, it’s good to know of other solutions out there. Which hosting provider are you using it with?

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Lisa September 12, 2010 at 7:13 pm

I’m using it mostly with hostgator.

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Laura October 22, 2010 at 3:47 am

I had done something to a site (basically messed something up) so I called the host (blue host) they were able to restore it back to where it was a few hours prior. That saved a lot of time. I may have just been lucky but they seem to have there back ups in place. I also use wp-db-back. Thank you for this great information!

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Mike Claggett October 22, 2010 at 8:36 am

I have been using

http://www.backup-technology.com/online-backup-for-wordpress/
By these guys:
http://www.backup-technology.com/free-wordpress-backup/

Backup Technology’s Online Backup plugin offers you 3 backup options as well as a smart scheduling feature to ensure your information is always kept safe. And you get 50MB free on their server if you don’t want it emailed to you. I know that may not be enough for really big WP blog sites but is for a lot of folks.

It only backs up the database, but the rest I back up by FTP myself downloading to an external drive. I just set a bookmark for each account in FileZilla, and download the other files.

I have only had to do a restore once but by just following their instructions it only took me about 10 minutes.

Looked like one you missed and thought I would throw it in the mix.

Mike C.

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Keith Davis October 22, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Thanks for the backup alternatives Don.
I back up my domain via FTP and the database using phpMyadmin on Cpanel.

I can see that if I was running more than one site, manual backups would become a problem.

Look forward to seeing how your various backup methods progress.

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Zach October 29, 2010 at 5:59 am

Hi Keith/Don, Do I just need to FTP the contents in mysite/wp-content to a location in my PC, is that what you mean ?

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Don Campbell October 29, 2010 at 8:23 am

Zach,
You would also need your wp-config file, and the whole wp-content directory if you wanted to keep your themes and plugins. You also need to export the WordPress Database and back that up too.
It’s great if you know what you are doing, but it’s too much for me – I keep putting it off and that’s why I am automating my backups. Plus I have many sites to back up.

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Zach October 29, 2010 at 8:55 am

Thanks a lot Don..! Thanks for your help. Yeah it’s a lot difficult if you have lot of large databases to back up manually. :)

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Don Campbell October 22, 2010 at 1:08 pm

@Laura, Mike, Keith – thanks for sharing your solutions.
-Don

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ag November 11, 2010 at 8:40 pm

Don,

How about an article on restoring a wordpress site?

i see a lot of articles on restoring wp database but how do you restore wp files?

Reply

Sarkari Naukri November 26, 2010 at 8:53 am

Will you please provide info about how to upload the backup data on server

Reply

Plymouth Roofer December 3, 2010 at 11:19 am

Useful information for my wordpress website Plymouth Roofer.

I’d like a complete package that does everything automatically.

Thank you

Reply

Website Backup December 29, 2010 at 7:19 am

Good advice to do an automatic and free backup of
wordpress. But it has some limitations like maximum allowed upload,
and no data encryption. SiteVault is out of budget for many
website, and limited to wordpress. There are another solutions like
Website 2 Backup to do automated and encrypted website files and
databases backup stored on Email, FTP, or locally.

Reply

Ted Vinzani December 31, 2010 at 6:51 am

Don,

Great article. Where can I find step-by-step procedures to back up my WP blogs and then transfer them intact to another hosting service?

My host of several years appears to be destroying its reputation as fast as possible by letting up time go to pot, and shrugging when I ask what they are doing to stop it.

You write such important posts on blogging and do so in plan English better than most.

Thanks,

Ted

Reply

Don Campbell December 31, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Thank you Ted.
Here’s an article that Thomas Hasch (on my team) wrote about moving your WordPress site: Moving WordPress.

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Crawlcraft January 26, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Wow. Thank you so much Don for this article. Just tested most of the plug-ins found here and they work nicely. I am more confident now because so far my wordpress installation cracked twice and lost everything (caught offside and had to reinstall). Thanks again. Hat off!

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Don Campbell January 28, 2011 at 8:45 am

That’s great to hear Crawlcraft. Thanks for the testing and sharing your results!

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Don Campbell January 28, 2011 at 8:46 am

Update: I recently ran across this plugin that looks promising. I’m testing it out on one of my blogs now: Automatic WordPress Backup.

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Spafford Ackerly November 6, 2011 at 10:12 am

I’ve been using this, with automated backup to my Amazon S3 account, and it works great!

Reply

Mike Claggett January 28, 2011 at 9:06 am

This looks VERY promising Don.

Have you or Thomas tested it yet?

Inquiring Minds Want To Know :)

Reply

Tayler Cox April 12, 2011 at 5:49 am

Thanks so much for this post, really useful for a beginner to WP like me.

Just a quick question, for the BlueHost manual backup option using the Backup Wizard, do you suggest a full or partial backup? How does this affect ease of restoration (assume person doing the restoration has little tech background in web stuff).

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Don Campbell September 8, 2011 at 8:25 am

Hi Tayler,
I usually do the full backup. Then you download a ZIP file to your machine. So if you want to restore specific files then you can unpack the ZIP file and restore just the file(s) you want.

But recently BlueHost came out with a service called Site Backup Pro that automates the backups of both files and db for you, and it has a nice user interface to restore the files or DB. That is what I use now – it’s very well done.

Reply

Don Campbell November 10, 2011 at 2:39 pm

This looks like a promising new WordPress Plugin: Backup WordPress

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Keith Davis November 10, 2011 at 2:49 pm

Have you tried it Don?
Backs up site and database!
Looks fantastic.

Thanks for the heads up.

Reply

Don Campbell December 15, 2011 at 1:35 pm

Yes I’m using it on a couple of sites in addition to the BlueHost Backup and it works very well so far.

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sara November 13, 2011 at 4:34 am

thanks for the great info which ill def use

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Sarkari Naukri 2012 April 12, 2012 at 10:05 pm

Will you please provide info about how to upload the backup data on server .

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Don Campbell April 13, 2012 at 4:16 pm

We have some instructions in our SmallBiz User Guide that show you how to upload the files and Database for WordPress. These instructions will work no matter what theme you use. Here are the instructions -> How to Move WordPress.

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Don Campbell June 14, 2012 at 12:16 pm

I just saw a new plugin that looks very promising – it is called WordPress Backup to Dropbox.

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Keith Davis June 14, 2012 at 12:26 pm

June 14th – right up to date then.
Have you used it yet Don.

Looks like the complete solution.
I notice that they have a few premium add ons, but the basic plugin appears to do the whole backup.

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Don Campbell June 14, 2012 at 12:30 pm

No I haven’t tried it yet, but I do use DropBox and it claims to back up your WordPress files and database. Will definitely try this out.

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Keith Davis June 14, 2012 at 12:34 pm

I set up a dropbox account some time ago so I’ll give it a try.
Appreciate the updates on this post Don.

FTP for site files and phpMyAdmin for database all takes time.
Not practical for lots of sites.

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?????????????? July 13, 2012 at 10:07 am

I used your theme and will buying full version soon.

Reply

Huu Thong December 29, 2012 at 10:35 pm

I just test all plugins was recommended in post and comments. After that I using BackWPup Plugin to full backup my blog.

I’ll used that for my all blog.
Huu Thong

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Don Campbell December 29, 2012 at 10:42 pm

Thanks for sharing your results with us Huu!

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Wordpress Guru January 21, 2013 at 5:25 am

I have also made an article about Backing Up your WordPress blog :
http://www.squidoo.com/automatic-wordpress-backups-with-dropbox-free

And I also talk in that article about how to backup a free WordPress.com blog .

Hope that helps someone !
Cheers.

Reply

Make Money Online eBooks January 23, 2013 at 12:49 pm

I just active BackWPup to backup my another blog, but I don’t can connect to my Dropbox account… So way to fix it?
Thanks,

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Keith Davis January 23, 2013 at 2:01 pm

I use BackWpup to Dropbox – just fill in the dropbox section of the settings.

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Troy Stephen Augustine mugshot April 11, 2013 at 9:26 pm

Hello! I simply want to give you a big thumbs up for your excellent information you have got here on this post. I will be returning to your website for more soon.

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Don Campbell August 28, 2013 at 10:49 pm

Thank you Troy – I appreciate the kind words.

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Virginia Nicols August 28, 2013 at 10:27 pm

I absolutely love the Expand2Web theme, and after following Don’s course step by step I built my first site and now have several. I feel like I’m getting better and faster each time I start a new one.

To speed up the process I had a friend clone one of my sites — he ended up making 15 or so for me, all identical. But guess what?! Something happened with the BackUp plugin so the new sites started backing themselves up and then backing up their back-ups and pretty soon I exceeded my space limit at Bluehost!

So here’s my recommendation — when it comes to a backup plugin, you might want to add that to each site individually, and be sure it is working the way you expect.

Don, do you have any comment?

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Don Campbell August 28, 2013 at 10:48 pm

Thank you Virginia!

Which backup plugin are you using?

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Virginia Nicols August 28, 2013 at 11:02 pm

I’m now using Bluehost’s own Backup Pro service, and actually running a manual back-up regularly, too. But I want to send my backups to Amazon S3 and or Dropbox and haven’t yet figured that out. I see you said you were testing some of the automated ones. Any recent recommendations?

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Don Campbell August 29, 2013 at 7:45 am

Virginia – that is a great solution – use BlueHost’s Backup Pro service, and then another tool to store backups off-site (like on DropBox or Amazon S3).

I’ve found that the WordPress Backup to Dropbox plugin works well, and so does Backup Buddy (w/Amazon S3).

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Mohd maqbool September 16, 2013 at 7:56 am

thanks for the the useful info Don i am quite new in wp.now i will do backups regular
do you know any kind of plugin which will backup the whole website and save it to my cloud such as google drive,box etc.
any article to improve my website page there a quite lot article but i am not able to understand properly everybody says install that plugin some says that plugin can u suggest me
thanks

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roger vivier November 15, 2013 at 7:40 pm

do you know any kind of plugin which will backup the whole website and save it to my cloud such as google drive,box etc.

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Shylaja March 4, 2014 at 3:47 pm

Try blogVault (http://blogvault.net). It has all the features that you can ask for in a good WP backup – migration, upload to dropbox, real-time backups, etc.

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ARM June 11, 2014 at 11:43 pm

I use UpdraftPlus Backup and Restoration. It’s quite good.

Reply

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