when and how to do a website backup

You know that having the option to backup files on your WordPress website is incredibly important. By regularly backing up your website, you have a fail-safe in place in case your site is hacked, or you need to restore your site to a previous version. 

Without a backup system in place, you run the risk of losing all of your hard work. This is an experience you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. 

Still, you might not want to use a plugin to backup your WordPress site. There are a variety of different approaches you can take, including using a different type of backup software, or even running a manual backup. 

Below you’ll learn all about the importance of backing up your website and creating a backup schedule. Plus, we dive deep into the different methods you can use to backup your website with ease. 

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Why You Should Do a Website Backup

Think of a website backup as an insurance plan. Just in case anything goes wrong with your website, you’ll be covered. Most people know the importance of backing up computer files, but it’s also smart to do the same thing for your website.

There are all kinds of things that can take down your website and destroy all the hard work you’ve put in, regardless of whether it’s intentional or not.

Here are some of the most common reasons you’ll want to conduct regular website backups:

1. Accidents Happen

Have you ever accidentally spilled coffee on your keyboard, or had your phone slip out of your pocket and crash onto the floor? Accidents are unavoidable.

This is especially true if you have other users who have backend access to your site. Often, all it takes is changing a single line of code to bring your site offline. Clicking the wrong button, accidentally deleting a file, and a few seconds later you can no longer login to your site.

The ultimate safeguard against these mistakes is having a backup of your website ready to go. So, instead of having to hire an expensive third-party company to fix your site, you can just replace your site with the functioning backup.

2. Hacking Is More Common Than You Think

Website hacking occurs constantly on the internet. Just because you haven’t experienced it yet, doesn’t mean you’re safe. Now, there are steps you can take to help improve the security of your site.

But, no security solution is 100% bulletproof.

This is especially true for WordPress site owners. WordPress is the most commonly used CMS, but as a result, it’s also the most likely to be targeted by hackers. Missing a core, theme, or plugin update can leave the gates open and your WordPress site vulnerable.

So yes, you should definitely harden the security of your site by installing a security plugin and following security best practices.

But, another important step is backing up your website to multiple locations. So, instead of having to recover your site from a hack, you can just wipe the slate clean and restore it from a fresh backup. This is a cost-effective approach to recovering from a hack, instead of having to work with a team of experts to try and recover your files and data.

3. Website Updates Can Break Your Site

Updates don’t always go the way they’re supposed to. Most websites have a lot of moving pieces, and when you update one thing, it won’t always play nicely with other aspects of your site.

In comes cases, it can bring your entire site offline. Then, you have to go through the time-consuming process of troubleshooting your site, to try and figure out what the issue was.

Website crashes seem to happen at the worst time. So, instead of spending hours troubleshooting the issue while your site is offline and losing you money, you can restore to a functioning version quickly.

This isn’t a fix to the problem, but it can save you a real headache when profits are on the line.

How Frequently Should You Backup Your Site?

The frequency of your backups will depend upon how frequently you update your site. Some website owners should backup their sites daily, where other website owners can get away with a backup every couple of months.

For instance, if you run an active blog that publishes multiple posts a day, then you’ll probably want to backup at the end of every day.

The best rule of thumb is backing up whenever you make a large change to your website.

If any of the following situations occur, then it’s a good idea to backup your website:

  • You just published a new blog post
  • You updated your site and it’s running perfectly
  • You redesigned your site (and don’t want to lose your customization options)
  • You installed a new plugin

If you do something to your website that you don’t want to have to do again, it’s a good idea to run a backup.

Think of it this way: the more recent your backup, the easier it will be to make up lost time if you need to restore your site.

Should You Use a WordPress Backup Plugin?

If you’re running a WordPress site, then the most common backup approach is to use a WordPress backup plugin. 

But, this might not be the best fit for every website owner out there. 

There are tons of WordPress backup plugins out there. These plugins are generally pretty simple to use and can be quickly configured to run automated website backups for the entire site. 

For most WordPress site owners, using one of these backup plugins will be more than enough. Still, there are some reasons you might want to stay away from a WordPress backup plugin and instead pursue an alternative approach. 

1. You Want to Minimize Plugin Use

With multiple thousands of plugins available, it can be tempting to install as many plugins as possible. Even though some are incredibly useful, it’s important to take a minimalist approach to utilize WordPress plugins. 

The more plugins you have on your site the slower your site will perform, and you have an increased chance of a plugin conflict taking down your site, or a compromised plugin creating a security hole in your site.

2. You Want a Customized Backup Approach

Although WordPress backup plugins can be useful, they tend to have a basic file backup approach. This is especially true for free backup plugins. This isn’t always a bad thing if you have a very simple website, but as your site grows more complex you might want more control over what aspects of your site you’ll back up. 

3. You Want to Enhance Site Security

A lot of WordPress users are rightly concerned with the security of their WordPress site. To minimize the number of third-party plugins and programs that have access to your data, you might choose to conduct backups yourself. 

That way you’re solely responsible for your website’s data and the secure storage of your backups. Since WordPress plugins have been prone to hacking, by controlling your backups you improve your levels of security. 

If you want to avoid using a WordPress backup plugin, keep reading to learn how to backup a WordPress site. 

How to Backup Your Website Without a Plugin

As we reviewed above, even though using a WordPress backup plugin might be easier, it still might not be the best choice for every kind of site owner. Below you’ll learn how you can backup your site without the help of a WordPress plugin.

1. Use a Tool Like CodeGuard

If you don’t want to use a plugin, another great way is to use a service that conducts automated backups. This frees up your time and mental energy since your backups will run without you having to do anything.

If you’re less technical and don’t want the hassle of running manual backups yourself, then using a service like CodeGuard will probably be your best option.

Out of the box, CodeGuard will help you run daily automated backups of your entire website (or whatever frequency you decide is best).

It’s also equipped with features like one-click restore of your entire website, or just a single file. This can help to mitigate all of the issues mentioned previously.

Finally, you’ll find bundled security features like 24/7 website monitoring and security scans, plus instant email alerts for any unauthorized changes that were made to your website.

If you’re a HostGator user, then this will be the most seamless option for ensuring that you always have a backup of your site ready to go. For users on a managed WordPress hosting plan, this is included with the plan. Users on different hosting plans can easily add this service with a single click.

Once you have CodeGuard active it’s super easy to backup your site. 

Just follow the steps below:

  1. Login to your HostGator portal
  2. Click the ‘Hosting’ tab, then click on ‘Manage’
  3. On the next page look for the CodeGuard image and click ‘Manage’
  4. On the next page you can add CodeGuard to your existing hosting package, or if it’s active, manage your backup settings
set up codeguard website backups from hostgator portal

2. Do a Manual Backup

A manual backup might sound difficult to do. It is more technical than using an automated tool, but it’s not impossible.

You can create your own manual backups from directly within your hosting control panel. The steps below are for existing HostGator customers. 

To create your own backups navigate to your cPanel, and find the tool called ‘Backup Wizard’

backup wizard in hostgator cpanel

Open the tool and the software will automatically create a full backup of your current website. You can also use this tool to restore your site to a previous version as well.

If you don’t want to use the bundled software (maybe you only want to backup certain portions of your site). Then, you can still conduct a completely manual backup.

Make sure you’re in your HostGator control panel and follow the steps below: 

  1. Open file manager. Locate the tool called ‘File Manager’ within cPanel. 
  2. Find your site’s directory and download your backup. Locate your WordPress site files. They should be under a directory called ‘public_html’. Once you’ve found your site click ‘Select All’. Then select ‘Compress’. You can also choose the type of backup you’ll save, and where you want to save your backup. 
  3. Download your WordPress database. You’re not quite done yet! Now, you’ll need to download your WordPress database as well. To do this locate ‘phpMyAdmin’ within your cPanel dashboard.

With this tool open, select ‘Databases’ from the navigation bar. Then locate the database that’s associated with your WordPress installation. Open up that database and click the ‘Export’ tab on the top window. Save this file in the same location as your other backups.

Keep in mind that beyond storing backups on your local computer, you may want to upload your backups to a cloud storage tool like Dropbox too. That way if one of your backups is compromised you know you’ll be covered. 

Make sure you regularly complete these backups as well. After all, there’s no point in restoring from a previous backup if it’s a few years old. 

3. Backup Your Site via FTP 

Another approach to backing up your site is using FTP. This is probably the least frequently used approach, as it’s more technical. But, some users prefer working via an FTP connection. 

If that sounds like you, then follow the steps below: 

  1. Open up FileZilla
  2. Connect to your site 
  3. Locate your site’s files 
  4. Download and save

When you open up FileZilla you may need to show hidden files. There are certain WordPress files that are hidden by default that you’ll need to include in your backup. 

To do this navigate to Server>Force showing hidden files

Once you’ve downloaded and safely stored your backup you’ll also need to download your WordPress database. To do this you’ll need to login to your cPanel and follow the steps for phpMyAdmin above. 

What’s the Best Approach for Backing Up Your Website?

As you can see there are a ton of different approaches you can take to backup your website. The approach you take doesn’t matter as much as actually doing it. If you find the process too time-consuming, then you probably won’t do it at all.

The best course of action for most website owners is probably going to be using a service like CodeGuard. It offers enough customization options to create a backup schedule that works for you, without being overly complex. Just set your preferred backup approach once, and never think about it again.

By now you have a better understanding of the different approaches you can take to backup your website and have your eyes narrowed on an approach.

If the entire backup process is too much for you, then consider using WordPress managed hosting. This style of hosting will fully manage, backup, optimize, and secure your WordPress site. 

Once again, the method you use isn’t as important as having a regular backup schedule in place. If a problem occurs with your site you want to be equipped to restore your site to a previous version. The only way to do that effectively is with a website backup.

Kevin Wood writes about technology and human potential. You can find him at his virtual homes Wooden Writing and Counter Culturist.