How to Manually Backup Your WordPress Website

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You love your WordPress powered website. Maybe it’s old enough to contain thousands of articles, pages and media files. But what if something goes wrong?

If the server which hosts your website crashes tomorrow, can you retrieve your WordPress website without losing anything?

This question is important, and to answer yes, you should know about backups. Fortunately, if you don’t know how to backup your WordPress website, you’ve come to the right place.

Why Is Backing up WordPress Important?

Before learning the basis of backing up WordPress, it is important to talk about why you should care about doing this and why you should have backups of your website. This is actually independent of your choice of using WordPress – whatever your website is built with, you should always have regular backups.

Backing up your website allows you to retrieve a working version if something goes wrong or something is done that breaks it. Several things can break a website: a server crash, an external attack, an error happening during an update, or even human error.

More often, you are not responsible of errors occurring on the server you use and, just as you are human and can make mistakes, the people managing your server can, too.

These errors can be severe, where all or a part of your website is altered: you can lose articles, photos, videos, or you can even lose access to your website. That’s surely not a thing you want, and that’s why backing up your website is important.

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Backing up a Wordpress instance manually is, obviously, a good idea, but I have pretty much stopped doing it myself. Why? Because doing it manually means having to login via FTP and (slowly) download all your files, then login to the MySQL server and export a copy of the tables - too many steps, too many moving parts, and the end result is too clunky to be quickly and easily used if the site goes down.

Instead, I have been using a free Wordpress plugin called “Duplicator” - It automatically dumps the DB to an SQL file, along with all of the files within the Wordpress instance (although you can set filters to exclude any files you want to ignore), and creates a ZIP file of the lot. It also creates a PHP file which, when uploaded to a server alongside the ZIP file allows you to quickly and (insanely) easily reinstall the snapshot. It is also a dream for server moves or domain changes.

So much easier, so much more powerful, simple enough that I send my clients the two files (PHP and ZIP) when I finish a build for them and they can then install it onto their production server with very little effort on their part. I also use Duplicator to take snapshots of my sites at regular intervals and then store those files on Amazon S3 as a complete rolling history of the entire site (should I ever need to recover it).

In fact, the manual way isn’t the most practical, but I think it’s necessary to know what is behind the automatic tools: sometimes, it’s the only option we have.

But I agree that, if we can, we should use automatic tools such as plugins. That’s the topic of a future article by @chrisburgess. :wink:

I always advise to register your domain and hosting at a company that provides Plesk or Cpanel with Installatron or Softaculous. It’s super easy to schedule backups or to create a backup just before you install a new plugin or update. Backing up or restoring only takes 2 or 3 minutes with these applications.

Plugins in WP usually slow your website down so in this case it’s definately better to do the above if you have the opportunity.

I’ve been using Backup Buddy for about 2 years now and it has improved but it struggles when the websites get bigger and more complex. They still have a poor system of error codes to try and find the solution to the backup error. but I think the best way might be to do it manually and this is the right post for everyone.

I agree, a good topic for a future article :smile:

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