WordPress needs to be updated to take advantage of current technology updates, software progression and security updates. BUT before you update you should always backup your WordPress website.
The important thing here, is that your website is like all of your normal business files, if you have a copy stored somewhere safely you can be quickly backup and running. If you don’t – then you have TROUBLE.
The second important thing here is that this is no different to the warnings you have on your computer before you run updates – there can be unpredicted (and unwanted) results of the upgrade, so if you have a backup you can quickly revert to the way things were. In other words prevention is better than the cure.
Getting started: How to Backup Your WordPress Website:
There are basically two types of WordPress backups. A ‘full’ backup and a ‘database only’ backup. You will need to be comfortable with installing plugins in your website to do use the plugins recommended and the catch here is that before installing a plugin you should always backup your website! You could use the manual WordPress recommended backup option below to do the first manual backup and save all the files to your computer or you could ask for help from a professional. The other option is to do a backup through your website host (there are usually backup options provided through your Cpanel if you have one).
What’s the Difference between a database backup and a full backup of my website?
WordPress Database Backup:
Your WordPress website runs on a central database that contains every post, page and link in your website. That is a LOT of important data. Your links for instance tell each page and post where to find images, music, video, other pages, other posts, etc. Note, this does NOT include those image files, video files and other content you may have associated with your website (theme files, plugin files, etc.).
WordPress Full Backup:
This is a full backup of your entire website contents INCLUDING your database.
So – site backups are essential because if something goes wrong you need to be in a position to take action when disaster strikes.
Spending a few minutes to make an easy, convenient backup of your website will give you peace of mind, and a ‘get out of jail’ card if something happens.
How often should you backup your website?
This depends on how often you make changes to your website. I recommend you run a full backup whenever you have done work on your website that you wouldn’t want to risk losing. For instance, if you get used to treating a backup as a ‘Save As’ after you have worked on your website, then the next time you log in, you know that all your work is already backed up and so the first thing you can do is run any software updates you may need.
If you have a blog with a lot of traffic, including comments and you post regularly then you may want to run more regular automated database backups and compliment these with a ‘full backup’ when you do additional site work.
It is your decision and there is no hard and fast rule. I suggest you think about what you would be most comfortable with. Remember if you have a site with a LOT of content (perhaps built up over years) then a full backup may be 1GB or higher in file size – it is always recommended that you store your backups away from your main website files, for instance on Google Drive, Amazon or Dropbox for instance. All these services will also handily being keeping backups or your backups, but importantly it means that if you have a hacker access your website files – you know your backup is safe! More information on creating a website backup strategy here.
Generally keeping at least 3 backups is a good option, but again – use your own judgement and what you feel comfortable with.
Can backups be automatic?
Yes – and this is highly recommended! Unless you are a super-organised and onto it webmaster that is able to be very proactive in your website backup routine then you will probably be more like me and think “if there is a piece of software that can take care of this for me – that is one less thing to worry about and AWESOME”.
We have been using Backup Buddy
on customer websites for around 18months. You know what we love about it? It works, it has got us out of hot water and it does a lot of the thinking for you, including saving your backups to a remote site! Please note, it is not free (unless your website was built by us – then we included it for you – you’re welcome!) and there are options that are free such as UpdraftPlus (which also has a premium upgrade). There other options, but we have direct experience with these two and Backup Buddy
has worked well for us. So here are the top four often recommended / reviewed, in no particular order:
A few years ago we used to use another plugin that ran backups automatically and just “worked” but it wasn’t so awesome when we spent hours trying to retrieve a site from a backup after a hack and the backup – so take that as a word of warning before randomly choosing a backup plugin and letting it just do the work. You want to know that it is going to restore your website quickly if disaster strikes!
Also – make sure you tell the backup software how many backups you want to keep so they don’t max out your hosting / online storage (if it keeps automatically creating 1GB backup files you are going to be using a lot of space!
If you want to do manual backups then I recommend you learn and read the way WordPress recommends you do backups
. By the way – they actually suggest you do both automatic and manual backups so you are covered both ways.