You can’t rely on your hosting company or anyone else to bail you out if something happens to your site. You need to back up WordPress yourself, and store those backups offsite.
Fortunately, backing up isn’t hard to do.
A Complete WordPress Backup has Two Parts
You need to back up two separate parts of WordPress:
- File system
The file system includes the way you’ve set up WordPress, including plugins and theme. The database is what WordPress provides behind the scenes, and where your content is stored.
Both should be backed up on a regular schedule, and before you make any changes to the site.
Use FTP to Back up the File System
FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. You can use it to download all your WordPress files from their home on your host’s server. You can keep those files on your own computer, on an external hard drive, or in the cloud with a service like Dropbox or Google Drive.
Once you’ve logged in, using an FTP program is a lot like using Windows File Explorer. You can drag and drop files, open them, and move them around in similar ways.
I use a free FTP program called Filezilla. It’s available for Windows, Mac and Linux, and you can download and learn how to use it here. Note that you want the Filezilla Client version.
#1. Install Filezilla or another FPT Client
Once you’ve installed Filezilla on your computer, set it up to connect to your hosting server. If you’re using a host that uses cPanel, like Siteground, find the information you need:
A. Log into your Hosting Account
B. Scroll down on your main cPanel page until you see this
C. Click the FTP Accounts link
D. On the new page that loads, scroll down until you see this
E. Click the Configure FTP Client link
You may see more than one FTP account listed. Choose the one that’s associated with the site you’re backing up. (Hint: you don’t want the account that has the word “logs” in it!)
F. Add the information shown to Filezilla
You can manually type in the information you need, or you can select the Configuration Instructions. This will download a small file to your computer, which you can use to automatically import the correct settings into Filezilla.
#2. Log onto your Hosting Account with Filezilla
#3. Copy your WordPress files
You’ll find your WordPress files on the right-hand side of the split screen. Files on your computer show up on the left.
On the left-hand side, navigate to the folder where you want to store your backup. I usually create a new folder and label it with the date.
On the right-hand side, locate your WordPress files. Most often, WordPress is installed inside the folder labeled public_html.
Inside that folder, you may see a folder labeled with your domain name. Select that folder and drag it to the folder on your computer where you want to save it.
Or, if you’ve installed WordPress in its own folder, just grab that folder and drag it into the folder on your computer where you want to save it.
Double check to make sure you’ve saved the following folders:
You’ll also need the individual files inside the parent directory. They’ll look like this — depending on your WordPress setup, there may be additional files as well.
Drag them into your backup folder on the left-hand side, and wait for Filezilla to do its work. Depending on the size of your site, this could take a few seconds or quite a few minutes. You can do other work while the files are downloading. (Just don’t make any changes on your website while that’s going on!)
Once Filezilla has finished, it’s good practice to disconnect from the server before you log out or shut Filezilla down.
Use a Plugin to Back Up the Database
There are several excellent plugins to use for backing up WordPress. If you want to store your backups on a cloud service, choose a plugin that will handle that automatically for you.
Here are several I recommend. They’re all available from the WordPress repository, which means you can install them directly from your Add Plugins screen, or you can go to the site and download them to your computer. (See this article for information on how to install a plugin, and this one to find out how to make sure you’re choosing a good plugin.)
I’m delighted to be able to recommend this plugin again! I started using it about four years ago. Then the creator got busy with other things and it went without updates for a couple years. Now he’s back, he’s updated it several times in the past few months, he’s responding promptly to support questions again, and it’s better than ever.
In addition to Backups, you can use this plugin to repair and optimize your database, and to schedule regular backups.
This plugin is very highly rated, and will back up your files to a variety of cloud services. You can also take advantage of lots of other options.
With over 1 million active installs, it’s highly rated (5 stars). The downside is, if you’re not already familiar with backup plugins, the choices can be a bit overwhelming.
Back WP Up
Another widely used, highly rated backup plugin, Back WP Up has 500,000 active installs, and a 4-star rating. It will back up to cloud storage, and also provides options to optimize and repair the database.
How Often Should You Back WordPress Up?
That really depends on how often you’re updating your site.
If you’re adding new material every day, then a daily backup is necessary.
If you’re posting new stuff once or twice a week, you should back up once or twice a week.
You get the idea.
I’m not saying you have to do a backup every time you put something new on your site, but you should schedule automatic backups for the same frequency that you update.
What about a site that’s updated infrequently? At a minimum, you should perform a complete backup monthly.
That’s for your regular backups.
You should also do a complete backup before making changes to WordPress — that includes adding, deleting or updating
- WordPress itself