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

Updated on December 8, 2021

9 Min Read
Backup WordPress

Are you looking for a way to back up a WordPress site?

It’s very important to create a full backup for your WordPress site as it helps you recover or restore your site when something goes wrong. You don’t know when something bad will happen and you lose your site’s important data. Therefore, you need to be prepared yourself and do your homework for the worst-case scenario. Even the best WordPress themes need regular backups, so this backup guide is important to follow no matter what theme you want to use.

In this tutorial, I will show you how you can quickly create free WordPress backups and you have three options:

  • Backup your WordPress site through backup plugins
  • Hosting WordPress 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. But before that, I will share what is a WordPress backup and why it’s important.

What is a WordPress Website Backup?

WordPress backup is a copy of your site (data, files, and folders) that can be stored on your local desktop, hosting server, and file storage servers. It acts as disaster recovery and helps you restore your site after a data loss event.

Why WordPress Site Backups Are Important?

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 attracts numerous hackers and cybercriminals to pick WordPress websites for their misadventures. Cyber attacks are capable of affecting sections of your website as well as completely destroying it. Your WordPress site backup acts as insurance in case it is compromised in an attack.

In another scenario, if you are working around a website and after updating the code, plugin, theme, or core, you see errors and the site isn’t working well. In that case, you can take the backup and rollback to the previous running version.

Taking regular backups can prevent you from losing your website and data in case of a security disaster. And with WordPress hosting providers like Cloudways, you can remain carefree of such losses thanks to its automatic backups feature.

How to Back up a WordPress Site From a Hosting Platform

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. Many reputable WordPress providers like Cloudways takes care of the server and application backups as well. It backups the entire server. This means that if you are running five WordPress applications on a single server, it will create the backup for all five WP applications.

Disaster can strike any time. However, with Cloudways, you don’t have to worry about losing all your data. Cloudways offers a simple and automated backup restoration process for its customers.

If you are new to Cloudways, sign up for a free trial (without a credit card) so that you can test out the platform. To use the backup feature, you would need to upgrade your account to Full.

cloudways signup

If you already have an account, log in to your account and just follow my instructions.

In this method, I will walk you through the backup & restore process of Cloudways. So, first, go to the Applications tab where you will see all the WordPress applications.

cloudways applications

Next, select the WordPress application you wish to restore then a new screen will appear (Application Management panel). From this panel, you can manage all the application related configurations and you can see a host of options including Backup & Restore.

cloudways backup and restore

Once you open the Backup & Restore section, you can take an instant backup or restore the previous backup of your WordPress site.

Backup: You can take an on-demand backup (files and databases) 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.

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.

backup and restore

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

Also, Cloudways allows you to set the backup frequency and retention duration. Not only this, but you can also download the backups to local storage as well.

Let’s see how you can do that.

Manage Your Website Backup Configuration

Cloudways offers automated WordPress backups but if you want to change the default backup settings then you can do it from the (Server Management) Backups section.

Open your server and go to the Cloudways server management panel and there, 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 manage your backup configurations.

manage wordpress backup

The backup section contains the following options:

Schedule Time: Set your preferred time when the backup should be taken (1 am to 12 pm).

Backup Frequency: By default, the frequency of backup is scheduled for every single day (1 day) but if you want to change the backup frequency rate then you can do it from this option. You can set the backup frequency between 1 hour to 7 days, all it depends on your desired requirements. The platform would take a full server backup at your chosen frequency.

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 for the server (for all applications) on-demand 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.

How to Backup a WordPress Using a Plugin

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, we have already compiled the list of the top WordPress backup plugins in one of our articles.

For the purpose of this tutorial, I am going to use one of my favorite plugins, UpdraftPlus WordPress Plugin. With over three 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 with 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.

install updraftplus plugin

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

updraftplus option

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

updraftplus dashboard

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

In this tab, you have the Backup Now button that simplifies the entire backup process.

updraft wordpress back up

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.

updraft take a backup

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

updraftplus backup now

Migrate / Clone

Here, you can easily clone/migrate your WordPress website. Note that this option is only available in the premium version or you need to purchase the UpdraftClone tokens that start from $12.00 (5 tokens for 1 month).

Note: Cloudways offers a free migration plugin to all its WordPress users to securely migrate their sites conveniently.

updraft clone website


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.

updraft settings

If you are looking for a free way to backup WordPress sites then the UpdraftPlus plugin is a good choice, which offers very powerful features to manage your backup process.

How to Backup a WordPress Site 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 file Backup from an FTP client?
  • How to Backup a WordPress Database?

How to Backup WordPress Files Via an FTP Client?

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.

wordpress 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 Quickconnect button.

filezilla connection

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

How to Backup WordPress Database?

To back up the database, following these steps:

  • Log in to your account
  • Navigate to the databases section
  • Launch database manager (in my case i.e. Cloudways). If you are on another hosting provider then open phpMyAdmin. Then, check the Table and click Export.
    wordpress database files
  • Next, the export tab will appear on your screen to choose the output type and format. So you need to select Save output and SQL format.
    export output format
  • Next, click the Export button which will save the database to the local storage

That’s it! You have now 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 queries feel free to ask anytime in the comment section below.

Q. Can I download my WordPress site?

Yes, you can download your WordPress site by creating its backup. Create a WordPress backup by using a plugin or by downloading the files from the server.

Q. How do I create a local copy of a WordPress site?

To create a local copy of your WordPress site, simply backup WordPress site and its database. You can do this manually or by using a plugin.

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Farhan Ayub

Farhan is a community manager at Cloudways. He loves to work with WordPress and has a passion for web development. Mostly, he spends his time interacting with the people in the WordPress community. Apart from his work life, Farhan spends his time gaming and playing sports. Feel free to contact him at [email protected]


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