How to Backup and Restore Your WordPress Blog

This week we have a question about how to backup and restore your WordPress blog. It’s extremely important that all bloggers backup their sites! There are many ways to do it (some easier than others), but it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Here is Helen’s question:

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Could you do a how-to on backing up and restoring your WP blog to how it appeared at a previous date?

I’m terrified to make style changes and such on my blog currently, because I’ve had it backfire and then I’ve had to go to my host and ask them to restore it via a backup. I’ve tried to restore it myself, but can’t seem to figure out how. :S

Helen @ The Fiction Conniption

This is one of those things where there are a million and one answers. And furthermore, each web host can be slightly different, so that complicates things further! As a result, this won’t necessarily be a step-by-step guide, but I can help point you in the right direction!

Making backups when doing style/theme changes

This is super easy and straightforward as long as you are somewhat familiar with FTP! You will need an FTP client like FileZilla (available for Windows and Mac).

Connect to your blog and navigate to wp-content/themes. This is where all your theme files are stored! So if you want to make some edits to your theme, but keep a backup just in case, you can:

  • Locate your theme directory.
  • Download a copy of the entire theme folder to your desktop (or somewhere else on your computer).
  • Now you can modify the theme files on your live site (make sure you keep the one on your computer in tact).
  • If you mess something up and want to revert back to the old version, simply open the theme folder in FileZilla, then open the theme folder on your computer, and drag all the files over into FileZilla. If prompted, select “Yes” to overwrite all the files. This will completely restore your theme to its original state!
Tip: The exact same process can be done for plugin files. The plugin directory is located in wp-content/plugins.

Making complete blog backups

This is the method you will want to use if you want to be able to completely restore your blog in the event that it gets hacked, destroyed, or somehow deleted. This is the tricky section because there is no one right way to do this. So I’ll look at a couple options!

First, it’s important that you understand that there are always two parts to a WordPress site. 1) There is your database, which includes all of your posts, pages, users, and a bit more data. 2) There are your WordPress files (which you can see via FTP), which include your actual plugin files, your theme files, and your images. In order to do a complete WordPress restoration, you have to have both a database backup and a backup of all your files.

Option #1: VaultPress

Even though I’ve never used VaultPress, I’m fairly certain it’s one of the best (if not the best) options for WordPress. One of my employers uses VaultPress for his WordPress site, he had to restore from one of his VaultPress backups, and he said it worked flawlessly.

VaultPress provides realtime, continuous backup and synchronization of every post, comment, media file, revision and dashΒ­board setting across at least two separate cloud services in addition to the Automattic grid, ensuring no loss of content.

How? Using WordPress hooks to receive alerts when information changes on your site, VaultPress immediately syncs all of your changes with our servers. The net result? 11 copies of your data, backed up continuously and in realtime.

VaultPress

VaultPress backs up your WordPress files (plugins, themes, and uploads) as well as your database. Then it’s essentially a 1-click “restore” process to restore your site from a backup.

So what’s the catch?

VaultPress is not free. The cheapest price plan option is $15 per month, per site. For some people, that’s more than they pay for actually hosting their site! So I think this option is for people who can afford the extra $15 per month, and for people who are truly terrified of losting their content, aren’t that tech-savvy, and need a very easy/user-friendly option. But on the bright side, VaultPress has proven to work extremely well and seems to be very user friendly and easy to set up.

Option #2: BackWPup

There are also several free WordPress plugins for backing up your blog. The one I use is called BackWpup.

BackWpup allows you to schedule backups for your site on a schedule that suits you (I set up a weekly backup). You can also choose to backup your database, files, or both (do both)! You can also choose where to send the backups (to your e-mail, save to FTP, save to Dropbox, etc.). However, if you’re preparing for a possible hacking, do not save to FTP. Because if someone hacks you, it means they’ve gotten into your site and might have access to all your files. So the best thing to do is to save to an external source like your e-mail, Dropbox, or your hard drive directly!

So what’s the catch?

This plugin is a backup method only. It does not restore your blog. In order to restore it, you would have to know phpMyAdmin to restore your WordPress database backup, and you would have to be comfortable with FTP to restore your files (FTP is pretty easy—just overwrite the files).

Option #3: Relying On Your Host

This is the tricky section because all hosts are different. Some hosts will have something in the control panel for you to take a backup of your site. But this is where you have to be careful of what you’re backing up. Are you backing up the database? The files? Or both?

And also depending on your host, you may or may not have a built in option to restore from that backup, so you would have to do it manually (the same way as option #2).

However, some web hosts (like GoDaddy) save “snapshots” of your files automatically so you can restore your WordPress files from an earlier date with just one click. In GoDaddy this is in your control panel, under File Manager, then under “History”. You can select the date of your snapshot and restore your files to that point. However, GoDaddy does not have an automatic database backup, although you can easily do manual ones by clicking on MySQL in your control panel. You can easily backup and restore your databases from that page.

Wrapping it up

I’m sorry I can’t provide more of a step-by-step guide, because, as I said, it’s slightly different for every host and there are so many different options available! I hope this at least helps a little and can point you in the right direction!

Have you ever had to restore your blog from a backup? Was the process difficult? What method did you use?

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I'm a 28 year old California girl living in England (I fell in love with a Brit!). My three great passions are: books, coding, and fitness. more »

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12 comments

    1. You should definitely look into it Kelley! It’s scary to think about getting hacked. It just happened to BookTwirps and they lost MONTHS worth of posts. πŸ™ So you should definitely start backing up sooner rather than later!

    1. That’s great! You can never be too careful when it comes to backing up. πŸ™‚ My boyfriend set up an amazing script for me that automatically backs up all my sites every hour! Then at the end of the day it creates a “daily backup” and at the end of every week it creates a “weekly” backup.. and then it automatically switches out the old ones, so that yesterday’s “daily” backup gets deleted when a new one gets created today!

      So confusing but so awesome!

    1. I never had any trouble, although I don’t use the plugin anymore. The only reason I no longer use it is because since making this post I have gotten my own dedicated server and my boyfriend was able to set up an advanced, automatic backup system for me. It’s not something that can be done on shared hosting though.

  1. Sorry to keep bugging you but I have one more question if you get the time. On my Cpanel that my hosting company provides it has a backup and restore option. I can do a full backup but cannot use that for restore – it says it’s only for changing to a new domain but I still made a copy and sent to my email in case my host can use it in the future.

    On the partial backup which can also be used in the automatic restore it shows: Home Directory, My SQLDatabase and Email Forwarders and Filters so do those include all of my files? I may just look into that vaultpress plugin, the light plan is now 5 dollars instead of the 15 dollars that you had posted so that might be nice for those of us who don’t know much about wordpress.

    Jamie Pinson recently posted: Trouble (The Rebel Series #3) – Elle Casey
    1. You would need your “Home Directory” and “SQL Database”. Email forwarders and filters aren’t directly connected to WordPress. Those would probably only be compromised if your actual hosting account was compromised.

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