How To Backup Your Website

backup_by_brian_j_matisIt’s vital to backup your website regularly.

Sites get hacked, servers fail.

When disaster strikes and you have no backup available, then you have a double disaster on your hands.

How To Backup Your Website

There’s a kind of unspoken law about backups.

If you backup, you probably won’t need the backups. But if you don’t – you sure as anything will!

You’ll be investing hundreds, possibly thousands of man hours in creating and maintaining your site.

And it’s for these reasons we need to have some form of “insurance” to save us if and when disaster suddenly strikes.

Fortunately for WordPress users it’s not difficult to back up your site.

Once you’ve configured the backup routines you only need to spend a few minutes each week on maintaining the backups.

There are a number of different ways of backing up your website.

Make Sure Your Web-Hosting Provider Backs Up Your Server Regularly

The first thing I recommend you do is to arrange with your web hosting provider to perform automatic backup of your web space.

Your hosting provider may do this for free – or it may cost a few extra dollars or so each month. But even if you have to pay for the service, it will be money well spent.

However, this doesn’t help you if your web-hosting provider suffers a catastrophic data loss at their site. So you need to have a system in place to create regular offsite backups as well.

There are a number of backup solutions that integrate with WordPress. Some are paid-for solutions and others are available for free.

None of the free versions are 100 percent perfect, but there are two pretty good free solutions I recommend.

These are the DB-Backup Plugin and the Time Machine Plugin.

Install the WordPress DB-Backup Plugin

The default way of backing up a WordPress site is to use the DB-Backup Plugin. This is very easy to get up and running and it provides for regular automated offsite backups of your website.

The problem with DB-Backup is it only backs up the the MySQL database of your site.

Although the MySQL database contains your site’s posts and pages, it doesn’t hold your WordPress theme and all the other plugins and structural configuration information that you have spent a lot of time and effort on installing.

These extra but vital items for your site will need to be backed up – onsite – by your web hosting provider’s automatic backup routine.

You can download DB-Backup free from:

breakfreerebel.org/extend/plugins/wp-db-backup

Installation is simple. Full instructions can be found at the above link.

Create an Initial Manual Backup of Your Site With DB-Backup

Once you’ve installed DB-Backup, you can access it via the WordPress Dashboard under Tools -> Backup.

I recommend you first create a manual backup straightaway using WP-DB-Backup.

There are three options for this:

  • save the backup on your server;
  • download straight to your PC; or
  • send it to a designated email account

The backup routine runs very quickly (for a small site a minute or so). Don’t close the browser during the operation or the backup will be interrupted.

Schedule Your Backups To Run Automatically

The most useful and time saving feature of WP-DB-Backup is its ability to backup your site automatically at regular intervals.

How often should you backup?

This depends on how often your site content changes.

If you have a completely static site which never changes, then a one-off backup will be enough. In this case you don’t need to bother with configuring a backup schedule.

However, most websites – especially blogs, have dynamic content which is modified or added to regularly. How often the content of your site changes will determine how often you should backup.

How to configure DB-Backup

Choose the schedule in DB-Backup that best suits your site’s content publishing level.

Next scroll up the page back to the Backup Options box and determine what should be done with the backup.

Once again, DB-Backup gives you three options:

  • save the backup on your server;
  • download straight to your PC; or
  • mail it to a designated email account

Note that you can only choose ONE option for this.

In addition to DB-Backup, you should arrange some backups to a third-party location.

Maintain Offsite Backups

I recommend you configure DB-Backup to download the backup to your PC or to an email account that is NOT on your web hosting server.

This is because if you save the backup on your server, then all your backups are located on the same machine as your website.

This is not a good idea.

If disaster strikes at the file system, operating system or hardware level, then not only your website, but also your backup will be lost.

Remember the first golden rule of backups:

The First Golden Rule of Backups: Never Put All Your Eggs in One Basket

I suggest sending your backup to a specially created email account. This ensures you always have an OFFSITE backup.

DON’T use an email account on your server or website – this would defeat the whole point of the backup. It needs to be on a separate account at a separate location. You can use one of the free popular web mail providers such as Hotmail, Yahoo or Gmail.

You can then also download your backups to your PC and to a cloud storage provider, for example once a week or once a month.

Open a Free Account With Dropbox

Dropbox is an online cloud storage service. You can use it to backup files from your PC and from your website. Dropbox integrates into your filesystem on your PC, so you can easily add files by point and click in your File Explorer.

Dropbox is free for the first 2GB, so take advantage of this and grab yourself a free account straightaway if you haven’t already done so.

Maintain multiple backup copies on different media

I also like to have a backup of my sites on my own PC as well as a copy on a USB stick. But guard them carefully. Because of their small size they can easily get mislaid.

I also keep a copy on an external USB hard drive.

Dropbox are at www.dropbox.com

Install WP Time Machine Plugin

There’s also a plugin called Time Machine which backs up your site and sends it to your Dropbox account.

The great thing about this method is that, like DB Backup, it’s automatic and enables you to save the data to a file system – in this case, Dropbox. You can then access the backup directly from your PC or laptop’s own file system, as well as via a web browser from anywhere else.

Also, once you have it up and running, the backup procedure takes care of itself.

How To Download & Install WP Time Machine

You can get the WP Time Machine plugin from the WordPress.org website at breakfreerebel.org/extend/plugins/wp-time-machine/

Install WP time Machine on your site via the your site’s WordPress Dashboard plugin installation section. Next you need to click on “enable” to activate the plugin.

How To Configure WP Time Machine

Click on Settings -> WP Time Machine. Next click “Show Plugin Options” and select Dropbox as the current offsite service. Enter your Dropbox email and Dropbox password details.

You can specify a directory where your backups are to be saved. The default is the root folder. Make sure you don’t select “public” because this is readable to everyone and you definitely don’t want that.

Make sure you enter the correct email address that your Dropbox account is registered with.

After you have entered your Dropbox password, make sure you click on “Save your password”. Otherwise your password won’t be saved in the Time Machine configuration and this will mean your backup won’t run.

Create an Initial Archive With WP Time Machine

To do this click on “Generate WP Time Machine Archive”. A folder should appear with some files inside in your Dropbox area on your computer.

If the folder does not appear then check that you have entered your Dropbox account details correctly.

Set The Automated Backup Routine For WP Time Machine

This step is a little more complex. At present this has to be done by using a Linux Shell command (operating system command) called “curl” which is run on your webserver at the Linux or Unix system level.

If you aren’t familiar with Linux or Unix then the easiest thing to do is to ask your web hosting provider to take care of this for you. Most hosting providers will perform this task for you without any problems.

Just send them a mail or contact them via their online help desk and tell them that you want to use the WordPress Time Machine Plugin to carry out automated backups of your site to Dropbox. Explain that to do this you need them to enter a specified “curl command” into the crontab system of your web server.

You can send them the command by email so they will know what needs to be entered.

This is the curl command that your web hosting provider will need to enter into your crontab file:

curl “http://mysitename.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-time-machine/cron.php?generate=1″

Your own site name will need to be substituted in the command in place of “mysitename.com”

You’ll also need to tell them when you want the backup to run – what days of the week and at what time.

For example, you can specifiy the backup to run once a week. Or, if you publish to your site more regularly, then daily may be better. It’s better to choose a quieter time eg the early hours of the morning, for the backup to run.

If you are familiar with Linux/Unix, then here are the instructions:

The “curl” command has to be entered into your web server’s crontab file. This will usually be accessible via your web server hosting user panel.

You need to enter the command into the crontab section and specify when it is to run (usually this is done via clicking on radio buttons or entering times and days or selecting them from a set of drop-down field).

Decide how often you want your Time Machine backup to run and enter the times and days accordingly in the crontab section.

The curl command line you need to enter into your crontab section needs to look like this:

curl “http://mysitename.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-time-machine/cron.php?generate=1″

Enter the command as above, but substitute the exact name of your own site in place of “mysitename.com”.

And with that you should have an automated backup system in place for your website that will generate regular backups without any manual intervention by you.

The above might sound like overkill.

Believe me, it’s not. Where backups are concerned you should always observe the Second Golden Rule.

The Second Golden Rule of Backups: Take nothing for granted

Even backups themselves can and do fail.

Backup servers, hard drives, USB sticks, DVDs, can all develop sudden read/write problems or even fail completely.

That’s why you need to have more than one type of backup in place. Then if one backup fails, you always have another one available.

Keep a Backup of Your Site In The Cloud

I strongly recommend that you utilize a cloud-based backup service for your backups.

Dropbox is ok as a temporary holding place for your backup. But Dropbox shouldn’t be regarded as a secure archive for backups. You need a more secure cloud backup for this.

There are other options available which you should consider, such as Amazon S3, or the free Symform.

The latter gives you 10GB of data free of charge.

The great thing about Symform is that it is a distributed storage system. All data is automatically encrypted and distributed according to a fail-safe RAID-style algorithm and stored on participants machines.

As the data is encrypted, only you can access it. And if one or more of the machines fail or are unreachable, the distributed storage algorithm used by Symform ensures that your data is still intact and fully retrievable.

Check out Symform at www.symform.com

Use ManageWP To Automate Your Cloud Backups

There’s also a great WordPress Dashboard system available called ManageWP which enables you to easily manage and automate your cloud backups.

ManageWP is also really useful if you operate more than one site. With ManageWP you can operate all your WordPress websites from one single Dashboard.

You can manage, monitor, and optimize your sites, as well as configure your backups – all from the one Dashboard. This saves you a great deal of time and admin overhead.

ManageWP is a paid-for product which is well worth the investment.

Check out ManageWP at managewp.com

Getting backup procedures in place initially involves a bit of grunt work with little visible reward.

But when your website or web server suddenly suffers a disaster you’ll be glad you made the effort earlier on. Your site is valuable intellectual property and investment and you can’t afford not to back it up.

So take a little time whilst the waters are calm to get these automated backup procedures in place ready for when a storm brews up.

When disaster suddenly strikes you’ll be glad you did.

Image Attribution – backup – Courtesy of Brian J. Matis

Disclosures: The above article may include affiliate links for products and services for which this site may receive remuneration. The author or authors may hold investments in the assets mentioned in this article.

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