How to Backup a WordPress Site

Published on July 20, 2023 by Simon Wright

Backing up your WordPress site is not just an optional task but an essential one. Imagine investing countless hours, resources, and effort into building your website, only to instantly lose everything due to a hacking incident, a server failure, or a critical error. This is where the importance of a WordPress backup comes into play.

This guide will walk you through the process of backing up your WordPress site, ensuring you have a reliable safety net in any unforeseen circumstances. Whether you are a long-time WordPress user or just beginning your online journey, understanding how to create backups and restore them is crucial for your website’s long-term security and stability.

Implementing a robust backup strategy protects your website’s valuable data, including posts, pages, media files, plugins, and themes. Doing so provides peace of mind and lets you quickly recover your site to its previous state without significant downtime.

In this guide, we will explore various backup options available for WordPress users. We will then look at best practices and provide step-by-step instructions on setting up automated backups and testing their integrity. And, of course, we will tell you how to restore your site if needed.

So, let’s dive in and empower ourselves with the knowledge to safeguard our WordPress sites with efficient backup practices.

Why a WordPress Backup is Essential

Your website’s data is the lifeblood of your online presence. From your meticulously crafted blog posts to your customizations, user comments, and customer information, every piece of data holds value. Here’s why protecting it through regular backups is crucial:

1. Mitigating the Risk of Data Loss

Without a backup, your site is vulnerable to data loss caused by hardware failures, software glitches, human errors, or malicious activities. A solid backup strategy ensures you can recover your data if the unthinkable occurs.

2. Guarding Against Hacking and Malware

Cybersecurity threats pose a constant risk to websites. Hackers may exploit vulnerabilities in WordPress or its plugins, compromising your site’s integrity. Regular backups provide a safety net to restore your site to a clean state and minimize the impact of an attack.

3. Recovering from Human Errors

Mistakes happen, whether it’s accidentally deleting important files, misconfiguring settings, or making unintended changes. With a backup, you can quickly roll back to a previous version and undo any undesired or erroneous modifications.

4. Maintaining Business Continuity

For websites with e-commerce functionality or critical content, downtime can result in lost revenue and a damaged reputation. Having a recent backup available allows you to restore your site swiftly, minimizing disruption to your business and ensuring a seamless experience for your visitors.

5. Enabling Seamless Website Migration

A backup is crucial when moving your WordPress site to a new hosting provider (such as if you sell it) or making significant changes. It allows you to clone or restore your site on the new server effortlessly, eliminating the risk of data loss or website downtime during the transition.

Remember, prevention is always better than cure. By proactively backing up your WordPress site, you establish a safety net, providing peace of mind and the ability to recover swiftly in the face of any unfortunate events.

Choosing a WordPress Backup Solution

You have two primary options to back up your WordPress site: manual backups and automated backup plugins. Let’s explore each option in detail:

1. Manual Backups

Manually backing up your WordPress site involves exporting the database and files manually. While this method requires some effort, it does provide complete control over the backup process. Here are the manual backup options:

a. Exporting the Database

WordPress stores all your website’s content, including posts, pages, comments, and settings, in a database. To manually back up the database, you can use the built-in export feature in WordPress. Simply navigate to the WordPress Dashboard, go to “Tools,” and select “Export.” Choose the “All content” option and click “Download Export File” to save a copy of your database.

b. Backing Up Files

In addition to the database, your WordPress site contains files such as themes, plugins, and media uploads. To back up these files, you’ll need to access your site’s files via FTP or a file manager provided by your hosting provider. Connect to your site using FTP, navigate to the WordPress root directory, and download the “wp-content” folder. This folder contains your themes, plugins, uploads, and other customizations.

c. Storing Backups Securely

After exporting the database and backing up your files, securely storing them is crucial. You can use external storage options such as cloud storage services, external hard drives, or a separate server. Ensure the backups are password-protected and encrypted for added security.

While manual backups offer control, they require you to remember to perform backups regularly and execute the process manually. If you prefer a more automated and streamlined approach, backup plugins can simplify the backup process.

2. Automatic Backup Options

Automated backup plugins provide convenience and peace of mind by handling the backup process for you. These plugins offer scheduled backups, one-click restores, and additional features to enhance backup management.

Here are four popular backup plugins for WordPress:

a. UpdraftPlus

UpdraftPlus is a widely used backup plugin with a user-friendly interface. It enables you to schedule automatic backups, store them on cloud services like Dropbox or Google Drive, and quickly restore your site. It also offers incremental backups, allowing you to back up only the changes made since the last backup, thereby reducing storage requirements, backup duration, and bandwidth.

b. BackupBuddy

BackupBuddy is a comprehensive backup plugin that offers a range of features, including full-site backups, scheduled backups, and remote storage options. It also allows you to migrate your site and scan for malware, thereby ensuring the integrity of your backups.

c. VaultPress

Developed by Automattic, the company behind WordPress, VaultPress is a reliable backup solution. It offers automated backups, easy restoration, and real-time syncing of your site’s data. VaultPress is part of the Jetpack plugin suite, which provides additional features like security, performance optimization, and website analytics.

d. JetBackup

JetBackup is a comprehensive backup solution designed specifically for cPanel-based hosting environments. It offers automatic, incremental, and customizable backups to optimize storage usage. Moreover, JetBackup’s easy restore options and advanced features like remote transfers and backup retention policies simplify the backup process and ensure data integrity.

JetBackup is an optional upgrade with the fast, reliable VPS (virtual private server) hosting plans offered by WP Bolt. VPS hosting is superior to cheaper shared hosting, providing significantly better performance and security.

Before choosing a backup plugin, consider factors such as ease of use, backup frequency options, storage space requirements, and compatibility with your WordPress setup. Read user reviews, explore the plugin’s documentation, and ensure it receives regular updates and support from the developer.

Best Practices for WordPress Backup

To ensure the effectiveness and reliability of your WordPress backups, it’s essential to follow certain best practices. Let’s explore some key considerations for establishing a robust backup strategy:

1. Backup Frequency

Determining the frequency of your WordPress backups depends on several factors, including how often content is updated, website traffic, and the importance of data freshness. Consider the following guidelines:

a. Do Regular Automated Backups

Set up automated backups to run at regular intervals. For most websites, we recommend you do them daily. However, running them more often, such as hourly or in real-time, would be better for high-traffic or frequently updated sites.

b. Backup Before Major Updates

Make a backup before performing any significant updates to your website, such as installing new themes, plugins or making core updates. This ensures you can revert to a stable version if compatibility issues or errors arise.

c. Prioritize Content-Heavy Websites

Where your website relies heavily on user-generated content, such as forums or e-commerce platforms, consider more frequent backups to minimize the risk of data loss and maintain continuity.

d. Consider Backup Retention

Determine how long you want to retain your backups. It’s common to keep multiple backups spanning different timeframes (e.g., daily backups for the past week, weekly backups for the past month, etc.) to provide flexibility when restoring.

2. Offsite Storage Options

Storing your backups offsite adds an extra layer of protection, ensuring they remain intact even when a server fails or sustains physical damage. Consider the following offsite storage options:

a. Cloud Storage

Cloud storage services offer secure and scalable storage options. Backup plugins often integrate with services like Dropbox, Google Drive, or Amazon S3, allowing you to store backups directly in your preferred cloud storage.

b. Remote FTP or SFTP Servers

You can use remote servers via FTP (File Transfer Protocol) or SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol) to store your backups. Ensure the remote server is secure and access credentials are correctly configured to protect your backups.

c. External Hard Drives or Network Attached Storage (NAS)

For an offline storage solution, consider using external hard drives or a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device. Regularly transfer your backups to these devices and keep them in a safe (preferably fireproof) location, disconnected from your network.

3. Testing Your WordPress Backup

Creating a backup alone is insufficient; you must verify its reliability. Testing your backups involves restoring them to ensure you can successfully recover and use them when needed:

a. Select a Testing Environment

Set up a separate testing environment, such as a local server or staging site, where you can restore your backups without affecting your live website.

b. Restore the WordPress Backup

Follow the restoration instructions provided by your backup solution to restore the backup to the testing environment. Ensure the restoration process completes without errors.

c. Verify the Website’s Functionality

Once restored, thoroughly test your website’s functionality, including pages, posts, media, plugins, and themes. Ensure everything appears and functions as expected.

d. Check the Integrity of the Database

Verify that all your data, including comments, settings, and customizations, is intact and accurately restored.

By regularly testing your backups, you can have confidence in their reliability and ensure a smooth restoration process should the need arise.

Creating a WordPress Backup Schedule

Establishing a backup schedule is crucial to ensure the consistent and timely creation of backups for your WordPress site. Let’s explore how to create an effective backup schedule:

1. Setting Up Regular Backup Schedules

a. Evaluate Your Website’s Activity

Consider the frequency of content updates, user interactions, and website traffic. Websites with high activity levels may require more frequent backups than those with lower activity.

b. Determine the WordPress Backup Frequency

Based on your evaluation, set a backup frequency that aligns with your website’s needs. While daily backups are preferred for most websites, you should adjust the frequency to match your specific requirements.

If you use an automated WordPress backup plugin, configure the backup schedule within the plugin’s settings. Specify the preferred backup frequency (daily, weekly, etc.) and the time when backups should occur.

c. Consider Off-Peak Hours

Schedule backups during low traffic or off-peak times to minimize the impact on website performance.

2. Monitoring and Maintaining WordPress Backups

a. Monitor Backup Completion

Regularly check if backups are running successfully according to the scheduled frequency. Also, monitor the backup logs provided by the backup plugin for any errors or failed backup attempts.

b. Storage Space Management

Keep an eye on the storage space consumed by your backups. Over time, backups can accumulate and consume a significant amount of storage. Set retention policies to remove older backups that are no longer necessary, thereby freeing up space for newer ones.

c. Promptly Address Backup Issues 

If you encounter any issues with your backups, such as failures or errors during restoration, take immediate action to resolve them. Consult the plugin’s documentation or seek support from the developer if needed.

d. Update Backup Plugins

Ensure your backup plugin is up to date with the latest version. Regular updates often include bug fixes, performance improvements, and security enhancements.

By regularly monitoring and maintaining your backups, you can ensure the integrity and reliability of your backup strategy.

Restoring Your WordPress Site from a Backup

Despite taking preventive measures, there may be situations where you need to restore your WordPress site from a backup. Understanding the recovery process is crucial to ensure a seamless restoration. Let’s explore the steps involved:

1. Prepare for Restoration

a. Create a Backup of the Current State

Before initiating the restoration process, back up your current website, including the database and files. This step ensures that you have a fallback option in case any issues arise during the restoration.

b. Set Up a Staging Environment

It’s advisable to perform the restoration process in a staging environment as opposed to on your live website. This allows you to test the restoration without affecting your live site.

2. Restoring Your Website

a. Access Your Backup Files

Retrieve the backup files you previously created. If you are using a backup plugin, follow the plugin’s instructions to access the backups. For manual backups, ensure you have the database backup file and the files (wp-content folder) on hand.

b. Restore the Database

If you used the WordPress export feature to back up your site, you can restore it using the import option. This is also accessed via the WordPress Dashboard, namely by going to “Tools,” selecting “Import,” and choosing the “WordPress” option.

If you are using a backup plugin, most offer an easy restore option within the plugin’s settings. Follow the provided instructions to restore the database backup. You can import the database backup using tools like phpMyAdmin or a similar database management interface if you have a manual backup.

c. Upload the Backed-Up Files

If you have a manual backup, upload the backed-up “wp-content” folder to the appropriate location on your server using FTP or a file manager.

d. Update URLs and Paths

After restoring the database and files, you may need to update URLs and file paths to match the new environment. This step ensures that internal links and media references are correctly configured.

e. Test, Verify, and Go Live

Once the restoration is complete, thoroughly test your website’s functionality to:

  • verify that all content, plugins, themes, and settings are as expected, and
  • that no security issues arise from the restoration process.

If everything works correctly in the staging environment, it’s time to go live. Deploy the restored website to your live server, replacing the current version with the restored backup.

Be sure to follow the instructions provided by your backup solution, as the restoration process may vary depending on the plugin or backup method you are using.

3. Post-Restoration Tasks

While your site should now be back up and running, there are still a few matters to attend to for the sake of good housekeeping:

a. Update Core, Themes, and Plugins

After restoring your website, ensure that WordPress core, themes, and plugins are up to date to patch any vulnerabilities and ensure compatibility.

b. Implement Ongoing Backup and Maintenance

Once your site is restored, maintain regular backups and adhere to best practices for ongoing backup maintenance.

Following the proper steps for restoring your WordPress site from a backup, you can recover quickly from any website issues or data loss, ensuring minimal downtime and preserving your hard work.


In today’s digital landscape, safeguarding your WordPress site through regular backups is essential. A comprehensive backup strategy is your safety net in case of unforeseen events or disasters, protecting your website’s data, reducing the chance of data loss, and ensuring business continuity. It gives you the confidence to navigate challenges, safeguard your data, and recover your website efficiently.

Establishing a reliable WordPress backup system is relatively simple when you follow best practices and utilize the right tools. Therefore, be sure to make backing up a priority, adhere to best practices, and implement a reliable backup solution to ensure the ongoing success of your WordPress site. You won’t regret it.

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