Regular WordPress Maintenance – Backups

In this series of posts I want to talk about the regular maintenance tasks you need to do as a WordPress site owner.

Maintenance tasks are often the dull and repetitive stuff that doesn’t really propel your business forward but are a MUST of you want a healthy WordPress site to serve your customers or readers.

In this post I’m going to talk about THE most important thing you need to do; backup your site.

You Are Taking Backups Aren’t You?

All too often I will work with clients who have had major issues with their site, and I ask them do you have a backup.

The answer is often:

“No, but I’ll check with my hosting company”.

It will go quiet for a couple of days and they will come back to tell me that the hosting company said backup was my responsibility and there was no backup, pleading in their voice:

“Can you fix it Neil?”

Most often I can (I’m pretty mega like that) but sometimes nothing can be done without a good backup.

There are a few good hosting companies that will backup your site but the majority do not.  You need to setup your own backups.

You Are Only As Good As Your Last Backup!

When I was working in corporate IT, that used to be the mantra of an old boss of mine, and I 100% agree, but lets paraphrase it a little

Your blog is only as good as it’s last backup.

Think about all the hard work you have put into posts and pages, think about the money spent on custom coding and plugins.  Think about the links and comments made.

If you don’t have a backup all of that effort and expense can go in an instant.

What Needs To Be Backed Up?

There are two areas of a WordPress site that need backup attention

1) WordPress database – this contains all your content; posts, pages, comments, tags, categories etc, along with all dynamic data such as what plugins are installed which theme are you using, what are your user details and much more.

2) File system – these are the  files you upload to make your site work, including WordPress core script files, themes, plugins and uploaded data like images, video, pdfs etc.

Both Need to be backed up to have a full and complete archive.  Many people think they have a backup but they only have a database backup.

How Often Should I backup?

I recommend a daily database backup and a weekly full backup of everything.

If you have a catastrophic failure, you can recover all your posts and pages and in a worst case scenario you will loose one week of updated plugins themes and uploaded items.

Off Site Backups

In the good old days of the nineties when I was a wage slave in corporate IT departments we used to backup everything to magnetic tape, then pack those tapes up in a strong box and send them offiste to a data storage facility.

We kept backups offsite so we had a copy of our data away from the data centre just in case the was a fire or disaster where the tapes were kept.

There is no need to go to these lengths for a WordPress site, but modern services like Amazon S3 or Dropbox allow us to copy our backup archive and automatically keep it off site just in case there is a hardware failure at your hosting company and your archives are unavailable.

Know How To Recover

This is the next problem, people have multiple backup archives but have no idea how to extract the appropriate scripts files and recover their site.

It’s beyond the scope of this posts to talk about recovery, but check with your backup system to understand how to recover your database and file system from an archive.

Test Your Archives

Here’s something no-one does , and that is validate your archives.

You may have setup a plugin to take backups, but do you occasionally select and archive, open it make sure it uncompress correctly and inspect the contents to make sure it contains the data and files you need?

When it comes time to recover there is nothing like the sinking feeling when you realised the backup archive has nothing in it.

Backup Plugins

There are some great backup plugins out there, my favourite is BackwpUp, click on the previous link to see my review of that  plugin.

These plugins create regular scheduled backups to ensure you have a backup, they allow file system and database backup and they will allow you to create an offiste backup too, so all of hte above points are covered.  The only downside is that you need some technical skills to do the recovery.

Need A Nightmare Story?

A client’s son was building a blog, needless to say he had no backup.  The hosting company he was using went bust and the hardware was repossessed to pay creditors.

Three years of his young son’s blogging work was gone in an instant.  If he had a backup this could have been ported to a new hosting company.

Nothing like a nightmare scenario to make you think about backups;

Next Up

Next up we are going to talk about regular updates to WordPress core files, themes and plugins.

Need Help?

We are now offering an ongoing WordPress maintenance package.  We will look after all the tasks we talk about in this series of posts.

This service comes from a person with a background in IT operations, it is big IT maintenance condensed into a cheap package for small site owners.

See the other posts In This Series

Photo Credit: rpongsaj via Compfight cc

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