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How to Back up WordPress Websites (A Step-by-Step Guide)

November 14, 2019

8 Min Read
Backup WordPress
Reading Time: 8 minutes

WordPress has come a long way from its origins as a simple CMS. These days, WordPress is the preferred platform for almost every type of project you can think of.

This prominence is not without its dark side. There are simply so many WordPress powered websites out there that hackers and cybercriminals find it easy (and pretty lucrative) to pick WordPress websites for their misadventures.

In this context, WordPress security plugins are doing great business. However, every security plugin comes with a disclaimer that the plugin doesn’t guarantee a proper WordPress backup and restore process for your WordPress website.

Fortunately, for WordPress websites, recovering from disasters is a simple matter of restoring the last backup. In many cases, the website is up and running in a matter of minutes after the disaster.

In this tutorial on WordPress backup components and processes, I will highlight how users can easily create WordPress backups and use plugins for automating the backup processes for your WordPress websites.

Create a Backup for WordPress

Cyber attacks are capable of affecting sections of your website as well as completely destroying it. Your WordPress backup act as insurance in case it is compromised in an attack.

When it comes to creating a backup for WordPress website, you have three options:

  • Create WordPress backups through backup plugins
  • Contact the hosting provider and ask them to take the backup
  • Create a manual WordPress backup

I am going to demonstrate all three ways so that you can easily understand how each method works and pick the best fit for your WordPress websites.

Back up WordPress Using Plugins

The official WordPress Plugin Repository offers a host of backup plugins that include popular options such as BlogVault, BackWPup, and BackupBuddy. To save you the hassle of the trial-and-error route of selecting the right plugin, I have compiled the following list of top WordPress backup plugins:

  • BlogVault
  • VaultPress
  • BackWPup – WordPress Backup Plugin
  • BackupBuddy
  • BackUpWordPress
  • UpdraftPlus WordPress Backup Plugin
  • Duplicator – WordPress Migration Plugin
  • WordPress Backup & Security Plugin – BlogVault
  • WordPress Backup & Clone Master
  • Backup My WP to Dropbox
  • Multi-Plugin Installer – Plugin Backup and Restore

If you want to know more about these plugins, I have discussed these plugins in detail in this article on the best WordPress backup plugins for 2019

For the purpose of this tutorial, I am going to use one of my favorite plugin, UpdraftPlus WordPress Backup Plugin. With over two million active installations, this plugin has a very high rating on the Plugin Repository. The plugin is ideal for taking the database and web file backups. In case of disaster, the backups can be restored in a single click.

Let’s start with the plugin’s installation process.

Installing the UpdraftPlus Plugin on WordPress

For the purpose of this discussion, I am assuming that you have a functional WordPress website. Thus, I am going straight to the installation process.

To install the UpdraftPlus plugin, fire up WordPress Admin Panel and navigate to Plugins → Add New. You will find a search bar at the top right of the screen.

Simply search for UpdraftPlus. Once found, click the Install Now option and (once the installation finishes),  Activate the plugin.

Once you have successfully installed and activated the plugin, you will see that the UpdraftPlus Backups is now available in the Top tab.

UpdraftPlus plugin comes with a dedicated dashboard with options divided into tabs:

A brief explanation of the options in the tabs will highlight the major functionalities of the plugin and how you can use the plugin for your backup and restoration processes.

Backup / Restore Tab

In this tab, you have the Backup Now button that simplifies the entire WordPress backup process. Once the button is clicked, you will see a popup with two checkboxes for including (or excluding) database and web files in the backup.

Additionally, you can opt for excluding the backup from the automated cleanup/deletion process.

New Backups

After clicking on the Backup Now button, the backup will be generated and would be available in case if you ever need to restore the backup in the future.

Existing Backups

Migrate / Clone

Here, you can easily clone/migrate your WordPress website. Note that this option is only available in the premium version.

Updraft Clone

Settings Tab

This tab allows you to add and set up remote backup storage options including Dropbox, FTP, Microsoft OneDrive, Email, Google Cloud, Rackspace Cloud Files, and Google Drive.

You can schedule the frequency of the backup for either or both web files and database.

Backups Settings Tab

Ask Your Web Hosting Provider for the Backup

Many hosting providers have a backup policy in place. Some offer it as an add-on benefit that costs extra, while some offer it for free. Several best cloud hosting for WordPress providers take backups of the entire servers without individual backups for the websites hosted on the server.

If you are a Cloudways user, you are already covered. Cloudways offers backups for your applications that allow you to set the backup frequency and retention duration. Not only this, you can even download the backups to local storage as well.

Let’s see how you can do that.

If you are new to Cloudways, sign up for a free trial so that you can test out the platform. To use the backup feature, you would need to upgrade your account to Full.

Signup Free Cloudways

If you already have an account, log in to your account.

Cloudways Login Screen

After login, select the server you wish to backup.

In the Server Management tab, you have all the server management options such as Master Credentials, Monitoring, Manage Services, Setting and Packages, Security, Vertical Scaling, Backups and SMTP.

Click Backups to start the backup process.

The tab contains the following options:

Backup Frequency: Set backup frequency between 1 hour to 7 days. The platform would take a full server backup at your chosen frequency.

Schedule Time: Set the time when the backup should be taken.

Backup Retention: Set up backup retention (from 1 week to 4 weeks). Your backup would be retained for your chosen duration.

On-demand Backup: You can take a manual (aka on-demand) backup with this option. This is a great option for taking an immediate backup of the site before trying out a new theme or a plugin. In case things go wrong, you can recover from the disaster by restoring the backup.

Local Backup: After enabling this option, a local backup folder is created on your server. You can connect to your server via SFTP, and browse to the local_backups folder. In the folder, you will check out the latest backup available in a compressed format ( usually .tgz).

Local Backups

Application Level Backup

Recently, Cloudways introduced Application Level Backups. Customers can now take backups of their application rather than taking a full server backup.

To do so, simply go to the Application tab and from the side menu, click on Backup & Restore.

From this option, you can take an instant backup or restore the previous backup of your WordPress site.

Restoring the Backup

Disaster can strike at any time. However, since you are on Cloudways, you don’t have to worry about losing all your data. Cloudways offers a simple and very effective backup restoration process.

Let me walk you through the Backup restore process.

Go to the Applications tab.

Application Tab

You will see all the applications hosted on the server.

Server Applications

Next, select the WordPress application you wish to restore. In the Application Management menu, you can see a host of options including Backup & Restore.

In the Restore tab, you can see all the available backups sorted according to the date on which the backup was taken. Select the backup you are interested in (typically it’s the latest entry on the list), and click the Restore Application Now button.

Backups Restore

That’s it! The backup will be restored within minutes.

Backup WordPress Sites Manually

If you are not a big fan of plugins or your hosting provider does not have a website backup process in place, you still have the option of creating a manual backup of your WordPress website.

This comprises of two essential actions:

  • How to Create a WordPress Backup?
  • How to Backup WordPress Database Database?

How to Create a WordPress Backup?

If you go to the root directory of your WordPress website, you will see several folders and files. The list of folders includes wp-admin, wp-content (contains all the themes, plugins, upgrades and uploads), and wp-includes. In addition, the list also contains very important files such as wp-config, and .htaccess.

Source Files

To take a backup of all these files and folders, you need to set up an FTP connection between the live website and the local storage where you wish to store the backup file.

Before moving further, you need to have the FTP credentials (username and password), host IP and port.

Use an FTP client such as FileZilla to connect to the server, you will need to provide all the above-mentioned information to set up the connection. Next, click the Quickconect button.

FileZilla Login

Next, download all the files from the live server to the local storage where the local WordPress instances can be installed.

How to Backup WordPress Database Database?

To back up the database, following these steps:

  • Log in to your cPanel account
  • Navigate to the Databases category
  • Open phpMyAdmin.
  • Select the Database and choose the Export tab
  • Click the Go button which will save the database to the local storage

That’s it! You now have successfully created a manual website backup on your local storage.

Wrapping up!

I hope by now you understand how to backup WordPress websites in simple steps. However, when it comes to security, you should not exclusively rely on WordPress backups because there is always a chance that the backup could get corrupted.

Remember that a cloud hosting provider such as Cloudways offers a secure and scalable cloud hosting solution with both automatic and manual backup capabilities. This saves you a lot of hassle and ensures that you are able to recover from disaster almost immediately.

If you have any questions and query feel free to ask anytime in the comment section below.

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Saud Razzak

Saud is the WordPress Community Manager at Cloudways - A Managed WooCommerce Hosting Platform. Saud is responsible for creating buzz, spread knowledge, and educate the people about WordPress in the Community around the globe. In his free time, he likes to play cricket and learn new things on the Internet. You can email him at m.saud@cloudways.com

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