A couple of weeks ago, I saw a poll on Twitter by The Yachtless asking whether folks backup their blogs. Inside my brain there was that sound that a Mac makes when it powers on. I’m an IT guy by trade, so this immediately piqued my interest. I thought to myself, of course I do backups. However, is my way the best way?
So, here’s a post about backups in general and some different techniques for WordPress in particular.
First Things First, What is a Backup?
Some of you out there may not have ever been exposed to backups or the need for them. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), I have and not always in the good way. Have you ever had a hard drive fail and lost all your stuff?
Well, no fear. Backups to the rescue. A backup is basically a copy of the important data that you want to keep. We can’t assume that some thing won’t go wrong with the computer where the data currently lives, so we make a copy and keep it safe in another location.
If for some reason your website host ever crashes and loses your data, you now have a recent backup (good hosting companies should too) that you can have restored to the site. All is well.
Great! Where Do We Keep It?
Before we get into the how’s of performing a backup, I wanted to talk about the choices one has for storing the backup. Our choice of storage could affect the decision on which backup tool to use.
- Local Storage – This is probably the simplest choice. Just download the file directly to your Laptop or PC (even tablets or phones these days) and stick it somewhere that you’ll remember. For most use cases, this will suffice but there’s always the risk that you laptop will crash someday too.
- Cloud Storage – This includes items like Google Drive, Amazon S3, Dropbox and Box.net. Most of these offer a limited amount of storage for free with additional capacity available for a fee. Depending on the size of your blog and the amount of time that you want to hold onto a backup, you may or may not use more than the free allotment. I also like the fact that most of these have a desktop agent for your PC that can sync your files locally. Now you have the backup in more than one place!
- External Media – This is the old school method. Once your backup is done, you copy it to some type of external media. This could include a CD-RW, DVD-RW, thumb drive or, if you really want to geek out, a tape library (it’s DoD approved!). You could do this once a month or so if you want to be extra careful.
How Do We Make a Backup?
There are a couple of different methods of backup depending on what you want to accomplish. I’ll go through a few of the ones that I’ve discovered and some that I’ve used. This is by no means an exhaustive list and there may be more out there.
- CPanel – Up until recently, I had done all of my backups at the hosting level through CPanel. I have more than just WordPress running on my hosting platform, so I still do this. There can be some hoops to jump through to perform a restore based on the level of access that you have on your hosted platform.Here are the instructions from Hostgator:
- Log into cPanel.
- In the Files section, click on the Backups icon.
- Under Full Backup, click Generate/ Download a Full Website Backup.
- On the next page, select the Home Directory option from the Backup Destinationdrop-down menu.
- For Email Address, select whether or not you wish to receive an email notification once the backup is complete. (You may also change the notification email address in the provided field if you wish.)
- Click Generate Backup.
- WordPress.com – The WordPress.com site offers a fee based plan that will enable site backups as well as additional spam protection. I have not tried this service so I cannot speak to the effectiveness, but the price seems reasonable if you want to put the burden on a third party.
- WordPress Plugins – There are many plugins available to help you manage backups. Your choice might be influenced by the storage method that you choose. I went with UpdraftPlus Backup and Restoration combined with a Dropbox account. This runs nightly and I have a five day retention period. At the end of each month, I go in to Dropbox and copy that backup to a monthly backup folder outside of UpdraftPlus’s control. With Dropbox, I also have the desktop agent which syncs the file to my local PC for extra protection.
Now that we’ve got all of the backups set up and scheduled, we can head out for a beer! Hopefully, we’ll never need to make use of the handy backup files but it feels good to know that we have them.
Give me a shout and let me know that you’re covered.
Affiliate link: I’ve really enjoyed using Hostgator since 2007 when I signed up to host a simple web gallery. I’ve never had an issue with the hosting service or WordPress. If you’re looking for hosting, give them a try…