There is a saying in the web business regarding WordPress backups… “If you haven’t had problems with your website, you are either lying or you just started.”
Okay, I made that up. But the honest truth is at some point in the life of a WordPress website, a backup will be needed. After operating websites for more than 25 years, I’ve compiled a list of lessons I’ve learned from creating backups for WordPress sites as well as other websites.
1. Backups allow a good night’s sleep.
I now can rest at night knowing that if anything does happen to my site I have an easy restoration process. I remember one client who had a WordPress site that generated new content multiple times a day. They called me one Thursday to let me know the site had “problems.”
Sure enough, the server’s hard drive had failed and, at the time, I had been relying on the hosting company’s backup capability. This proved to be a poor choice because the backups the hosting company created were only on a weekly basis and took place on Sunday. So not only did I have to struggle getting the backup from the hosting company restored, (at one point there were three copies of the same site on the server), but I had to chase down all the content that had been written on the site that week.
Enter BackupBuddy. BackupBuddy provided the ability to schedule both full site backups as well as a basic database backup whenever I want so that I can almost guarantee I’ll never have to scramble to find content or wrestle with site reconstruction projects when something goes wrong with my WordPress sites.
2. Simply having a WordPress backup isn’t enough. You need to be able to use the backup for whatever situation presents itself.
I learned quickly that simply having a backup is not the important part of the equation. I can schedule and make backups 24 hours a day, but if there’s no easy way to get the data out of the backup or to restore the site quickly, the security WordPress backups provides is wasted.
When deciding on your backup solutions for your WordPress site, you need to take three factors into consideration:
- Can I quickly restore my complete site in just a few seconds?
- Can I recover an individual file from the backup in just a few moments?
- Can I transfer my site to a new server, domain and/or location at the drop of a hat?
If you can answer yes to all three of these questions, then you have a quality backup solution. For WordPress sites, you will be hard pressed to find anything coming close to the power of BackupBuddy. In addition to answering yes to those three questions, BackupBuddy can do so much more.
3. The process of making a backup doesn’t have to slow your server or take up your working time.
It is surprising how many people I’ve talked to over the years who say they do not have the time to do backups on their site. They claim they are too busy and backups take too much time. I have even heard people tell me that they don’t do backups because when they start a server backup during working hours they slow everything down in the office and co-workers get mad at them.
Over the years I have learned that we need to make our WordPress backup solutions work FOR us and avoid putting ourselves in situations where the WordPress backup solution makes US do the work.
Two of my rules of WordPress backups are:
- Always schedule backups to occur automatically so forgetting isn’t an option.
- Take advantage of “slow” times on your site to make your backups. (Even if that means 3am on a Sunday morning.)
4. Knowing when you need a backup is not a difficult decision if you follow these simple rules.
Rule #1 – All content (posts, pages, ‘things you write in the WordPress admin area’) are stored in the database. If you write a post you need a database backup.
Rule #2 – A full site backup must include plugins, themes, files on the server, or additional folders that may or may not be part of WordPress. Any time you upload a new theme, add/update a plugin, modify the functions.php file of the theme … you need a full site backup.
If you follow these two rules you will NEVER be left with lost content when something goes wrong with your WordPress site.
5. Choosing a storage location to use for WordPress is not as important as choosing how many locations to use for the backups.
It happens way too often that someone comes to me asking for help with their WordPress backup because their server is down and when I ask them where their backup is located they tell me its on the same server. The usefulness of a backup goes to almost zero if it is stored in the same location as the site it is backing up. In fact, simply sending that backup to one other location may not be the best solution either.
Here’s a scenario that may be all too familiar:
You have an important client that is about ready to launch their brand new website you built for them. The morning of the launch, their hosting company is having troubles. So you quickly go to grab the backup files so you can transfer the site to a new server but Amazon S3 is down for maintenance because Netflix got hacked. Now there is no way to get a copy of the backup files and you are stuck at the mercies of other companies.
Having backups stored in multiple locations, even physical burned CD copies of the backups, can make the difference between successfully navigating the storms of a broken site and sitting around waiting for hosting company’s support tickets to be answered.
6. WordPress backups are not just for restoring hacked websites.
A WordPress backup does not have to be a virtual storage of bits and bytes on some cloud storage device. It can be a physical deliverable in an ongoing contract with a client. For many freelance web developers the idea of a physical deliverable as part of a milestone-based contract can be very foreign.
A physical copy of a backup can also serve as an easy method of keeping the communication channel open between the client and the developer. Many freelancers have stated that they find it difficult to stay in touch with clients after the initial development/design finishes. Having the ability to physically mail a burned CD of the “monthly” backup to the client along with a short letter about the status of the site (data points, basic analytical stats, etc.) can keep that communication line open. I had one client who had no clue what to do with the backups but he kept them all in order on a shelf in the office and he admitted that it made him feel safe that at any time he could grab the latest copy of the site and take it with him.
7. Most people don’t realize they need a backup until they need a backup.
What is one of the primary purposes of having insurance? Car insurance exists to financially protect IN CASE of an accident. Life insurance exists to provide for those that remain IN CASE of something happening to the insured. Business insurance policies exist to protect the continuance of a business IN CASE something outside of normal operations occurs. In all these cases the key term is “IN CASE” something happens. Therefore, would it not make sense that our website carries some sort of “insurance policy”?
Have you learned any life/work lessons regarding WordPress backups?
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