WordPress Backup and Restore Best Practices: How to Protect Your Website from Unexpected Downtime
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WordPress Backup and Restore Best Practices: How to Protect Your Website from Unexpected Downtime

We’ll break down some of the backup and restoration methods for your WordPress site that can help you recover from the schmucks of the digital world

It’s never just a matter of if but rather when something goes wrong with your WordPress website. That’s not a dig against WordPress, it’s just the reality of running websites. Getting your site back up and running is not just time consuming but it’s also expensive. Of course, the fastest way to fix any issues and to get it back up and running is to use a WordPress backup and restore solution.

Regardless of why your site is down — whether a hacker decided to compromise your website or something happened to your servers — if you have a WordPress backup and restore solution in place, this snafu won’t cause much of an issue. Just restore your website right away, and you can get things back up and running pretty quickly.

But what if you’re one of those who never took the time to make a WordPress backup? Then you, my friend, are traveling up an infamous brown creek without a paddle.

So, if you’re wondering “what is a WordPress backup and do I really need it?” we’ll answer that and share some solutions, tips, and best practices that can help you to protect the future of your organization and website.

Let’s hash it out.

WordPress Backup and Restore: The Basics

Without trying to sound overly negative or critical, something is always going to go wrong at one point or another. Whether it’s a cyber attack, a server failure, or an electrical overload, data can get destroyed in any number of ways. And having a WordPress backup and restoration tool (or web hosting backup or database backup for those of you who use web hosting solutions other than WordPress) in place can help you restore your website quickly and easily when it does.

That’s because a website backup, in a nutshell, is like a snapshot in time of your website’s most essential components — your databases, files, etc. This is true of any website, including WordPress sites. And I’m sure that you’d agree that all of those things are worth protecting.

Some WordPress backup best practices we can share include:

  • Backing up site code files, databases, and images and other media.
  • Backing up any plugins, add-ons, and templates or themes.
  • Ensuring your WordPress backup is recent and up to date.
  • Using a solution that makes backup and restoration tasks easy.
  • Using off-site storage, preferably cloud storage.
  • Encrypting and protecting your onsite and cloud backup storage.

A WordPress backup and restore tool is what you’d use to replace your database, files, and other pertinent information in the event that something goes wrong. And, as Murphy’s Law would indicate, “whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.”

It’s like keeping an insurance policy on your business: While it may not stop bad things from happening, a reliable WordPress backup and restore plan helps you to ensure that you get back on your feet when they do. It’s also like having a handy save point in a video game — this way, you don’t have to start all the way back at the beginning!

Why Do I Need to Worry About Having WordPress Backup and Restore Capabilities?

Did you know that 59% of survey respondents report human error as the leading cause of unplanned downtime? That data is according to research from Information Technology Intelligence Consulting’s (ITIC) 2019 Global Server Hardware, Server OS Reliability Survey of 1,000 global businesses between October 2018 and January 2019.

According to the survey: “Human error (59%) and security (51%) are the top external causes of downtime and unanticipated reasons for taking servers offline.”

Other causes include:

  • Software bugs and flaws (29%)
  • Inadequate server hardware (22%), and
  • Challenges in provisioning new applications (21%)

Unfortunately, downtime is a costly problem for organizations of all sizes, including enterprises. Statista reports that downtime from critical server outages cost 34% of enterprises at least $1 million per hour on average according to its 2019 survey data. Another 25% of respondents globally reported an average hourly downtime cost of between $301,000 and $400,000. 

When something goes wrong, 99% of the time restoring from a backup (or at minimum have a backup to compare file differences) is going to be the fastest (and easiest) way to fix the problem. So, if you value keeping your website up and running, I’d suggest implementing a WordPress backup of some kind immediately.

Methods of Backing Up Your WordPress Website

If you’re someone who likes options, then you’ll feel right at home when it comes to choosing a WordPress backup and restore solution for your organization. That’s because WordPress website backup tools typically fall within a few basic categories — and we’ll talk about the pros and cons of each:

Manual Backups

Some people may opt to use manual backup methods for their WordPress websites (you know, because they’re just gluttons for punishment). There are a few different ways you can manually backup your WordPress site, including:

  • Log in to your WordPress admin area to back up your site database and files.
  • Use FTP to download your files and phpMyAdmin, an open source software, to back up your MySQL database.
  • Use the control panel (e.g. cPanel) through your web hosting provider and manually create backups there.

But remembering to do that as frequently as you should for regular website backups is, frankly, a real hassle. And, if you’re like me and you must continuously set reminders for yourself to ensure you don’t forget to do something important, then a manual backup might not be for you. This is why many people opt for using automatic backup options instead.

Advantages of Manual Backups

  • You have the ability to back up your website, databases, and files whenever you want.
  • You have full control (and responsibility) over your website and database backup tasks.
  • There’s no cost — you can use the tools you’re already using.

Drawbacks of Manual Backups

  • It’s not a time-efficient method for regularly backing up files and databases.
  • You need to know the processes for successfully performing the backups and restorations.
  • You may accidentally miss one (or more) backups, resulting in downtime costs and issues.
  • May be less secure than automatic backups (after all, someone must manually back up everything and secure the backups).

Automatic Backup Services

We can’t emphasize enough the importance of running automatic backups. What if you miss a day? Or, worse, a week of backups? With an automatic website backup solution, you’ll never again have to worry about missing a day again. It’ll automatically schedule and execute the backup task for you to ensure your website always has a backup available. What’s even better is that most automatic backup services connect to your website via FTP and/or SSH, so you won’t need to install anything on your server.

Advantages of Automatic Backups

  • Ensure you never miss a day (let alone a week) of backups.
  • You can “set it and forget it” with regard to scheduling backups at regular intervals.
  • Saves you on time and labor costs of backing up your site and databases.
  • Automatic backup tools often save to the cloud, which provides you with a secondary backup for your local storage.

Disadvantages of Automatic Backups

  • If you make major changes to your site, they won’t be recorded until the next scheduled backup.
  • This backup method may fail if improperly configured or your credentials change (but you should get an email notification so you can fix this).

Meet CodeGuard

At Hashed Out, we don’t really like to hawk our wares and push products to our readers. We take pride in simply being able to share our knowledge with you on a variety of subject matter. However, we’d be remiss if we didn’t at least mention CodeGuard. This solution automatically backs up your website files and database daily without you ever having to lift a finger.

Accidentally made the wrong change or deleted a file? No worries. CodeGuard offers a one-click restore option that allows you to revert your site to a previous version to get it back into working order.

Worried that your backups are stored in the same location as all of the rest of your files? This isn’t an issue with CodeGuard — it stores your backups on an Amazon Web Services Simple Storage System (AWS S3). 

Made a bunch of major changes to your site and want to make sure they aren’t lost if something goes wrong? You can choose to perform a manual backup, too, right then and there.

As an additional bonus, CodeGuard also:

  • monitors your website for changes or instances of malware,
  • alerts you of any issues or changes to your site,
  • updates your plugins automatically,
  • offers email backup capabilities, and
  • makes website migrations easy.

WordPress Backup and Restore Plugins

Some people choose to back up their website using a website plugin. Since most WordPress users are familiar with WP Admin, adding a backup feature there is most comfortable for them. (Note: with CodeGuard, you can choose from using FTP or the WordPress plugin to create your database and website backups.)

Other plugins listed on WordPress.org include:

  • UpdraftPlus WordPress Backup Plugin
  • BackWPup — WordPress Backup Plugin
  • Jetpack by WordPress.com
  • Migrate & Backup WordPress — WPvivid Backup Plugin

Advantages of Using WordPress Backup Plugin:

  • Adds backup functionality to the WordPress Admin panel you’re already using.
  • Some plugins have scheduling capabilities.
  • Many WordPress backup plugins are free or low cost.

Disadvantages of Using a WordPress Backup Plugin:

  • Many plugin backups aren’t stored off-site (unless you connect or purchase a cloud storage account).
  • A hacker or disgruntled employee who gains access to your site can delete your backups, too.
  • Many web hosts block backup plugins because they can place a large load on the web server (an external service connecting to your site via FTP will put a much smaller load on your server).

Best Practices for Restoring Your WordPress Site

Now, we know that you’ve got an important decision to make. Regardless of whichever backup method you choose, here are a few quick WordPress Site restoration tips to keep in mind:

  • Backup your current site files and databases before performing a restore (or an upgrade)
  • When in doubt, compare your databases first to ensure you don’t lose the most recent information — this is especially critical for ecommerce and other websites that accept real-time user submissions
  • Always keep at least three backups available (in different locations and formats) for ease of use and to ensure if one backup fails, you can rely on another

Final Thoughts on Choosing a WordPress Backup Solution

When you back up your WordPress site or database, you create a safety net for your website, database, or digital files. As such, it’s essential that you not only choose the tools and methods, but that you also follow some industry best practices as well.

Weigh the benefits and costs of each backup method and tool to ensure you’re choosing the right one for your organization. Rather than resorting to storing the backups of your digital files in just one location (depending on the method you choose), you have the option of keeping them safe and readily available through a trusted cloud backup solutions provider.


Casey Crane

Casey Crane is a regular contributor to and managing editor of Hashed Out. She has more than 15 years of experience in journalism and writing, including crime analysis and IT security. Casey also serves as the Content Manager at The SSL Store.