Backing up Your WordPress Site

01 Feb 2014, Posted by EPoff in Web development, Wordpress
Backing Up Wordpress

As I helped my son put the final touches on his school book report last week, something scary happened.  I sent the document to print and for whatever reason the application crashed and the book report disappeared.  Behind me came a wail.  My son was devastated as he had put so much time and energy into that report and with one click it was gone, or was it?  Word does have an automatic backup feature, but the hardest part had been reworking the last couple of sentences of the report which weren’t saved in the auto-backup.  The great thing that happened that day was that I clicked SAVE right before I hit the print button.  Nothing was lost, the report was printed, and everything was fine.

Almost losing this report, made me think of the devastation that would come if you lost your WordPress site and its contents.  Backing up your WordPress site is something that should be done – period.  Read this article to find out how easy backing up your site can be.

Unfortunately, sometimes backing up becomes a bit of an afterthought for many, including myself. For years, I never backed up my site. I just didn’t worry about it too much. First, I didn’t have much on my site – my blog posts were saved in Word, and my content was saved on my computer. My theme was also saved on my computer, so I knew, if anything happened, I could probably recreate the site pretty easily. Fast forward a few years and my site has really grown – complete with more blog posts, more plugin integration, special theme settings, etc. Though I could probably “recreate” this beast now, I really wouldn’t want to try and scotch tape everything back together. And so, I got smart. I started doing what I should have been doing all along — backing up my site —regularly!

What Needs to Be Backed Up In WordPress?

Since WordPress is a Content Management System (CMS), it stores all of your content in a MySQL database. All of your site information along with content from every post and page resides in one database file. That means, everything you write on your blog or site is contained in this database. Things like images and video (Media) that you upload to your site and include in posts and pages are referenced in the database but are actually stored in separate files. The themes and plugins you use are also stored separately in their own files and folders.

Uploads File Folder in WordPress

So what does all that mean for you? Minimally, you should backup your database. Most likely, you can reinstall your plugins and theme from WordPress. Your media (images and video) would have to be reloaded, but your site could be rebuilt by backing up the database and nothing else. Of course, this minimal method leaves you piecing things back together.

Optimally, you’ll want to backup your database, media files, plugins that you use, and your theme. If you do these things, and you lose anything, you can recreate your site fairly effortlessly if you have all of the pieces backed up and ready to go.

How Do I Backup My Site?

Knowing what to backup is the first step, but knowing how to back it up is something else altogether.

FTP and WordPress Export

**If you want the easy automatic solution, you might want to skip right to the Plugin Solution section.  If you would like to backup your site without using any plugins, you can use an FTP client to access your files. You’ll only need to copy the wp-content folder as shown below.

My Content Folder

Backing up via FTP requires you to do a couple of things. First, you’ll have to access your files via FTP and to do this might require you to contact your host for login credentials to get into your files. Also, accessing your files via FTP will not help you backup your database. This is stored separately. Often, you can access the database through your hosting account, login separately to this – typically using phpMyAdmin – and export the contents to your computer (or wherever you’ve decided to store your site’s backup). If you aren’t familiar with MySQL or phpMyAdmin, this can be a headache, and probably isn’t your best route.

WordPress also has an Export feature under Tools > Export which will allow you to save the actual content of your site. You can do this without installing any plugins and since this is native to WordPress, you can Import this content back into WordPress using Tools > Import. The FTP/Export solution is a workable option, but may be difficult if you aren’t familiar with dealing with FTP.

Wordpress Export Option

Simple is better, right? So why not use a great plugin…

Plugin Solution

There are plenty of plugin solutions. And I think many of them are wonderful. I’m highlighting the one that I use on a regular basis and really like. BackUpWordpress is my favorite, has worked seamlessly for me on several sites, and is one I highly recommend.


This is a free backup solution. Once you’ve installed the plugin you’ll see a Backup option under tools – Tools > Backup. Here you can setup how you would like to backup your site. You can backup the database only, backup just your files, or backup both your files and database. You can also choose to schedule your backups hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, etc. And the best part about this program is it will run automatically depending on the options you set. It will also send you a copy of the backup to your email if you wish! Awesome!!Backup with Times

You can set this plugin up depending on how you use your site or blog. For instance, I have a client who uses WordPress as a “Brochure Site”, meaning the site is setup like a website with general information about her business. Currently, she’s not blogging on a regular basis, so the site doesn’t get changed very much. To take care of this site, I initially ran the backup of both database and files, by selecting the Run Now option. Wordpress Run Now BackupOnce the backup was created, I copied it and saved it. Then, I went back in to Settings and set the plugin to backup the database only once a month and have it emailed. Please note that the plugin will only send you an email copy if the files are less than 10MB.

If you blog daily or weekly, you might want to have it set to a daily or weekly backup. Typically, I backup my database daily and have it emailed to me, and then I have it backup both files and database every week. I’m actively changing my site and adding content to it on a weekly basis, so this makes sense for me. If you aren’t as active, you can probably choose a weekly or monthly option.

The best part about this program is that you can set it and forget about it. It does all of the work for you. You don’t have to go in and set it every time you want a backup AND it will send you an email with the backups if they are small enough to be sent.

Backing up your site shouldn’t be a major issue. If you don’t mind using a plugin, you can setup your backups to run automatically and you can sleep well at night knowing your site is being backed up according to schedule.

Have questions? Leave a comment!

  • Intriguing Networks (@IntriguingNW)

    Thanks for the post, it is a constant worry if clients do not know how to deal regularly securing their sites. I get no affliate fees but two tools you might like to consider/share when supporting a number of WP Users, or multiple sites, ManageWP.com you can backup remotely complete site in 1 pass to Cloud using Dropbox or Amazon S3 AND/or BackupBuddy which is highly rated too. I am not putting links so you know its not an affiliate post. Thanks for the article, found you via Lost4Girls I am the one with the Dragon sellfie for the Monday morning feeling. Have a great week.

    • E Poff

      Intriguing Networks – thanks for your great comment and helpful tip! I have a war chest full of wonderful plugins that I use for different things, but I’m always open to adding more. ManageWP is one that I am familiar with and the cost is very low if people are interested in checking that out as an option. Glad that you found the blog and hope to share more with you in the future. Thanks so much for stopping by. 🙂