Take independent backups and verify them

As part of your website maintenance, check your backupsAlways have a tested backup -Murphy’s law says “Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong” and in the world of backups this means that when you need it you will find something wrong with it.

This article is part of a series on regular website maintenance that you can do yourself.

There are some fantastic plug-ins available for WordPress that will automate your database and your file backups. Some will even email them to you or store them on Amazon or DropBox (make sure you don’t store your only backups on your web server – if you loose the web server then you may not be able to get to your backups when you need them most).

Backups provided by your host

As part of my monthly website maintenance I always take an additional backup using my hosting companies control Panel. I use Bluehost who provide a dedicated backup service so it is easy to just download a backup of the whole site including not only the files and database for my WordPress site, but also all my email and other settings.

backup icon on bluehost control panel

Backing up files using a file manager

For other providers you may need to use their file management tools to make a compressed archive of your site and then download it to your computer. Then use the database management tools to make a copy of your database. Here is how you could do that with BlueHost.

Select the file manager iconBlueHost file manager icon for doing backup

Use the file manager to find and select the place where your website files are located and click on the compress or archive button to compress them all into a single file which you can then download onto your computer.Select and compress your website files

BlueHost give some options – enter a file name, and to make the file smaller so it will download quicker I use zip or GZip. I also create the file in the tmp directory. Using the tmp directory is not critical but I find it neater (check which directory is available on your server – or just ignore this part)
Choosing the file name and compression for a maintenance backup

The archive file may take a little while to generate – when it is done check the results screen to make sure there are no errors then go to the file in the tmp directory (or wherever you saved it on the server) and download it. After downloading the file to your local computer, delete it from the serverDownload and then delete your maintenance backup file

Backing up the database using phpMyAdmin

Files are only part of your WordPress website – make sure you back up any databases you use too. Most hosting providers have a tool called phpMyAdmin, on BlueHost it is under DatabasesIcon for phpMyAdmin

When the tool starts and you have entered your password if prompted, choose the database you want to back up and then the export button (if you don’t choose a database then you export all databases). Database export from phpMyAdmin

If you did choose a database then the next screen will say something like “exporting tables from “xyz” database and depending on the version of phpMyAdmin you will be able to select a simple download or all the options. I usually pick a simple download but make sure it is in SQL format.

Verify your file and database backups

Once you have downloaded your backups to your local computer make sure they are OK. The amount of verification you do will depend on your needs and experience.

  • At a minimum make sure you can open and extract files from your backups.
  • Browse through the backups and make sure all the files are there.
  • Make sure that you can see all the tables and data in your database backup
  • For extreme verification you can upload the files and database to another server or onto your computer and run the website, but how to do that is a whole other series of articles.

Keep your copies of these backups in a safe place and hopefully the inverse Murphy’s law will apply – if you have good backups and a worst case scenario plan, then you won’t have to use it.

Check my website maintenance summary page for other articles and ideas on keeping your website safe and secure