How badly would your business be affected if you lost your website overnight? Unfortunately, server and database crashes, site hacking, virus and other security problems are more common than you think. If you don’t make regular backups you risk losing all your hard work.
Luckily, it’s easy to set up an automated system for WordPress. The tricky part is knowing which plugins and services you can trust to do the job. After all a backup that isn’t made correctly – or can’t be restored when you need – it is just as bad as doing nothing at all.
How Often Should You Make Backups?
The short answer is often. Many developers recommend making the backup schedule match your posting schedule. If you post once a week you backup once a week, if you post twice a week you backup twice a week, and so on.
The problem with that is comments, post drafts and other content tend to be added more frequently. That means a better plan is to backup once a day, to minimize the chance of losing content.
Luckily, you can set this to happen automatically so you’ll never forget to do it.
Free WordPress Plugins
There is only one free plugin I trust to do the job safely and I’m happy to recommend and that’s WP-DBManager. This plugin allows you to set an automatic copying schedule and have the backup files emailed to you, as well as storing files on the server.
It’s vital you don’t only have your backup stored on the web server. If you do, in the event of a server crash you stand to lose both your original files and your copies.
That’s why I use the email option on WP-DBManager. I set the plugin to run once a day, to keep a maximum of 30 backups and to email me each file. This means that I always have a full month’s worth of backups both on the server and in my Gmail account.
There’s one catch with this plugin – it only backs up the database. It doesn’t make copies of your WordPress theme files. This doesn’t matter if you keep current copies of your theme elsewhere, but if not you’ll need to look for another solution.
Although there are plugins like WordPress EZ Backup which are designed to save copies of all your WordPress installation files, I’ve found they aren’t 100% reliable so I would steer clear of them. I’ve yet to find one that I can confidently recommend to do such an important job.
Better by far is to use an online backup service like Backup Buddy – which provides automatic backups that can be stored on Dropbox, Amazon S3, Rackspace Cloud or an FTP server. You can also have them emailed to you or download them directly to your desktop.
Backups For Moving Servers
If you’re moving your site from one hosting company to another, you’ll need to make a backup on one server and restore it on the new server.
Some web hosts offer a site moving service where they do all the technical stuff for you. Two examples are Hostgator which offers free domain, file and database transfers to customers moving from another host and Media Temple which recently launched its Otto Site Mover service (though it’s currently only for WordPress, Drupal and Joomla sites).
You can also use Backup Buddy to switch hosts.
If you need to move your site manually, check this fabulous step-by-step walk-through of how to backup and restore a WordPress blog on Problogger (it’s one of my guest posts, so I’m maybe a little biased, of course).