Why Should You Backup A WordPress Site?

Things happen when it comes to websites and having regular backups is something you should be doing and is often neglected and forgotten until its too late. Here is my simple guide to backup your WordPress website and the different ways you can schedule backups to save you time and allot of frustration. When you have a dynamic and complete backup of your WordPress database, files, and settings, you can quickly restore things back to the way they were or at least to the last known working configuration. Site backups are important because problems do occur and it can happen to the best of us. In this guide, I will cover the different ways to backup your WordPress website, the fundamental components that you should back up and how to layer your backups by plugins and hosting.

Layering Your WordPress Backups Gives You Peace Of Mind

The first part to backing WordPress up is to have a plan, and your strategy depends on how often you update your site with content. If you are adding new content daily then a daily backup is important and if you update less often then a monthly backup will be just fine, keep in mind the size of your site as well as storage can add up quickly. Once you have an idea of your backup plan you can add several layers or fallback strategies to create restore points, simply depending on a plugin alone may only give you a partial backup depending on the plugin, so you need to understand the elements that are needed and have a contingency strategy that is layered so you will have a full backup or partial as needed.

These include:

  1. SQL Database this contains all your wp configurations and data tables.
  2. All the elements of the WordPress install (Wp-admin, Wp-Content, Wp-Includes, Wp-config files etc)
  3. Content (Pages, Posts, Custom posts, Comments, Images, and Videos etc.) via.XML file export.
  4. Custom theme settings (Fonts, Color Scheme, Header Styles, Page Settings, Functionality settings and custom CSS, default page layouts, etc.)
  5. SEO plugin configurations (Meta titles, meta descriptions, permalink structure etc.)
  6. Widget content and settings

“What Is Down Will Go Up.

At The Same Time,

You Have To Prepare For What Is Up To Go Down”

William Shatner


Layer One Hosting

Your hosting provider should offer backup protection of your files and database for complete restoration of your website in a single click quickly. I personally use Siteground for myself as well for my clients because they offer the extra service of basic backups so layer one is to add a hosting backup service its well worth the few extra bucks to have it!
* One big tip to let you know about is even if you haven’t paid for or activated a basic backup service they still keep backups on file so you can retroactively pay and restore in case of an emergency. Contact your hosting provider and verify if you have restoration features implemented and if not go ahead and get it.


Layer Two Using A Free Backup Plugin 

There are tons of choices of backup plugins for WordPress, and pros and cons to all of them. Having limited time and low tolerance for tech frustration my go to plugin is Duplicator by Snap Creek. With Duplicator you simply create a custom backup title and run a package and you get a full complete backup of your site everything you need to get back to status quo.

Once your site is scanned you will get an overview of the scan results at this point you can review your site for large files and view them, this is something I always look at especially media files to keep my sites lean for load speed optimization there is no need to have images above 1Mb on your site so this is a great opportunity to trim and replace the bloat that is weighing down your site.
If you have a large website check out their pro plugin for additional features.

Once your package is completed all your database tables, theme settings, widgets, and content will be backed up and you will have a complete clone of your website to restore with two files an archive and an installation file. I store these on a USB memory stick as the files are compressed and zipped and don’t take much up much memory you can store them in a folder on your PC, Dropbox if you like, I prefer to have something in hand just in case my admin area isn’t accessible.


Layer Three Backing Up WP Manually
Pages, Posts, Custom Post Types, Theme Settings, Media And SEO Settings

To start you can either backup your site on your hard disc or onto an external drive. Having your backup on an external drive is the safest method. Start by creating a folder on your desktop or your choice of location, right click and create a new folder. Rename that folder to something like “backupseptember”. Keep it simple so that you can identify it easily. *

*Understand that a backup is a fail safe, you may have made changes since the last complete backup, update your backup based on your strategy. for good measure, both manually and automatically. Regardless if the restoration point is outdated it is far better to have a starting point than losing everything and starting from scratch.

This section is extremely important and probably the most overlooked method of a backup I have come across. In the past when I first started with WordPress, I was under the impression that backing up the database was enough; little did I know that it did not contain my content, widgets, theme settings, and SEO settings upon restoration of a site, the only elements that were restored were the core theme and all the plugins but nothing was the same it and was back to square one. To restore website elements reverse the process instead of exporting you want to import instead.

This may not be the traditional method of other WordPress professionals but I find this technique works every time without fail.

Two Plugins You Will Need:

  1. Default WordPress Export Plugin (Tools>Export) If you don’t have it installed, install the default WP plugin.
  2. Widget Exporter https://wordpress.org/plugins/widget-importer-exporter

Backing Up Your Content, Media Library, Post, Pages, Slider, Portfolios, Testimonials

Step 1) Log into your WordPress admin Dashboard go to the “Tools” section click export.and save the file to your destination folder. This will back up all the content (Posts, Comments, Pages, Media Library, Custom post types, etc)
Step 2) Save the file to your destination folder.

Backing up your widgets

Step 1) Once the plugin is activated go to tools>Widget Importer & Exporter and export your widgets a download file will be automatically generated. This backs up all your widgets and widget settings.

Step 2) Save the file to your destination folder. I typically create a sub folder in my backup folder and title it widgets so I can identify what is what.

Exporting your theme options in wordpress for backups

Backup Theme Settings

*Proceed only if you are using a custom template such as Avada or Divi or any premium template.

If you are using a custom template then you need to save the settings of the template that contain the overall theme configurations of the header, blogs, colors, and custom CSS rules of your site this is what determines the overall polish, look, and custom design of your site.

Note: That most premium templates have a backup or export and import option in the theme options page. If you dont know where it is, you will find it either titled the name of your template like Avada and then have a list of options and find Import/Export. If you dont have a dedicated location in your WP admin bar check under appearance for template options or ask a WordPress designer for help.

1) Locate your custom theme name Click Import/Export

2) You may see a few different options for exporting, such as a bunch of code or buttons to copy data, or download a data file. If your only option is to copy the data then do so and paste it into a notepad file and save as “Theme Options”. If you can download a data file then do so and save it in the backup folder you created in a sub folder called “Theme options” so you can identify it.

To restore theme setting after a backup restore point all you need to do is either upload the theme settings file or open the file and copy the code and paste it into the import data section if you have this option.

Tools Yoast SEO WordPress Backup

Backup SEO Settings

Here you will save all the configurations of the permalink structure, advanced settings, title structure and meta structures such as %%site%%-%%page%%. If you need to restore the files this will revert all the SEO settings in plugins such as Yoast but I have found all SEO plugins have an export/import option.

Exporting your settings:

  1. In the case of Yoast go to “SEO” then tools. Here you will find the import and export functionality. Go ahead and click that and a new window will open with the options you need to do. Tick the box for Include Taxonomy if you are using Yoast and export your settings.
  2. Save your settings for SEO in the backups folder in a sub folder called SEO settings.

To restore your settings simply import them and save and done.

The Wrap Up and Final Thoughts

Having backups are part of the essential maintenance tasks you need to do with WordPress, even though you might have an automated backup with your hosting provider you should be storing backups on your end as well, you can never be too safe or have too many backups.
One final tip I will give you is that themes require updating and one of biggest reasons why people need to restore their websites, aside from hacking and corruptions. If you are not using a child theme yet, you need to be doing it. Once you update your theme and only your theme without a child theme you will lose any and all customizations or CSS that you have done and in case things do go south you now have everything you need to restore your WordPress site and get back to business.

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