You got a new WordPress website launched. Congratulations! But don’t think that just making content changes is enough. There are some regular care and maintenance tasks that need to be regularly performed. This is the first in a series of articles on WordPress website care, starting with backups.
Why do I need more than a web hosted backup?
There are a number of things that you need to do to maintain a website built in WordPress, but the first thing to do is set up backups.
If – more realistically, when – something happens to your site, your insurance policy is having a backup to restore from. Your host may tell you they make backups, but you should never rely on this!.
Even if a backup from your host IS available, it’s likely only one backup from the last 24-48 hours, and if your site was hacked for a week or two before you noticed, that won’t help. Make your own backups.
Where do you store backups for your website?
These backups should be stored outside of your hosting account. If the issue with your site is that your hosting company’s server has a catastrophic failure, and you lose all the files in your account, having your backups on that server won’t help you.
A number of WordPress backup plugins let you send backups of your website to independent cloud storage like Google Drive, Dropbox or Amazon S3, just to name three such services.
What kind of things should be in your website backup?
Your backups need to be of both your files AND your database. WordPress runs on a database and files.
The database holds things such as:
- All your settings
- The words on your pages and posts
- The links on your pages and posts
The files hold things such as:
- Images (JPG)
- Graphics (PNGS)
- Documents (PDFS)
- Your theme
- Your plugins
- These are some of the most things you have uploaded or installed on your site!
Most WordPress backup plugins will let you make a full backup including both database and files, as well as database only or files only. Just be sure to get both. If your backup isn’t very large in size, you’ve likely not backed up everything.
Your backups need to go back far enough and deep enough.
We recommend being able to go back at least 60 days, if not 90 days. It’s not uncommon for WordPress site owners to not realize for weeks that their sites are hacked – sometimes hacks are subtle. Being able to go back to a clean backup of your site can be very helpful, even if you need to further update it with text, media or orders that came in after the hack.
Our recommended redundant backup strategy:
- the most recent 3 daily backups
- 3 weekly backups
- 3 monthly backups.
Additional precautions for eCommerce website backups
If you have an eCommerce site with moderate to high sales, you may want to also throw in another one or two daily database backups (where orders are stored) equally spaced through the day, and save all those database backups for 3 weeks.
Productivity: automate and check your backups
Automating WordPress backups isn’t difficult
Automating your backups is easy. you can use a plugin to schedule and automate your backups. There are a number of free plugins that will do this. One we use a lot is BackWPup.
How often do I check on my backups?
For a variety of reasons, backup plugins can sometimes “hiccup” and stop making backups. At least once every two months, log into your cloud storage and make sure backups are still happening like they should be. Check also to make sure that the backups are usable – that they have both the files and database you need.
Be ready to restore. Don’t wait until a crisis with your site demands a restore to figure out what to do with a backup. You might choose to learn how to restore yourself, or identify a trusted web developer who could be available on short notice if you needed their help.