The Why and How of Backing Up Your Website

In today’s Internet age, it has never been easier to own and build your own website.  Whether you buy hosting and FTP actual files to the server or install a CMS ( Content Management System ), such as WordPress or Joomla, that doesn’t mean that things won’t go horribly wrong. I remember the first time a website for one of my clients was hacked: what a terrifying feeling that was! Even if your site doesn’t get hacked, you could do something that breaks your site by adding a plugin or script that conflicts with other parts of your site. And of course, you can always delete files that you didn’t mean to delete.

A backup of your website is a lifesaver in situations like this and they are simply to have, but most website owners do not. The question is, what is a backup and how can I get one, just in case.  The fact is, most methods are free, but you will need to remember to do the back up yourself. 

This post will explain the why’s and how’s of website backups.  You will be an expert in a matter of minutes.

What is a backup?

A website backup is simply a copy of your website site, either on the server or off the server, that allows you to reinstate your site at the moment the backup was created. Keep in mind there are good backups and bad backups.  A bad backup is one that is 2 years old and stored on the server. A good backup is stored in multiple locations and newer and more regular. We recommend keeping a local backup copy (on your computer or an external drive), and another in the cloud. Redundancy matters when it comes to backups.  The more redundant you are the safer you and your website are.

How to Backup a Website

The following will give you 3 options for backing up your website.

1. Back Up a WordPress Website Using a Plugin

If you use WordPress as your CMS, you will find dozens of plugins that will work for you.  Here are a few that we like.  Backup Buddy, UpdraftPlus, and All-in-One are our goto plugins for clients.  Each one offers different features.  Let’s go with Updraft for this example.  The setup process is rather simple.  Here we go.

 After you have installed and activated the plugin, you will need to go to the Settings page for the plugin.  There you will find a command center that has some options for you to choose from.

By clicking on Backup Now you will be taken to a screen with settings for your backup, including your database and files.  Leaving the settings as is will be the best option for you. All you need to do now is to click on Backup Now and viola, you are done. The backup will take some time depending on the size of your site.  Now that you have a backup, you can also restore your site, which is basically the reverse.  To Restore, you just will need to click on the backup that you want to restore.

You can also automate the backup process from the Settings area.  Simply set your schedule and set how many backups will be stored at one time.  Keep in mind that the backups will take up space on your web server.  So if you only pay for a limited amount of space, you could fill your directory up pretty fast.

2. Backing Up Your Website At Your Web Host

Most quality web services offer a backup tool from your control panel.  We use Cpanel, which has a built-in backup service called Backup Wizard.  At companies such as ours, we automatically include a 1 week backup for all our accounts automatically.

The Backup Wizard is simple, click on Backup and download a copy of your website. There is also a Restore feature.

3. Backup Your Website Manually

A manual backup is the most complicated of all options, but still doable.  Simply access the file server structure through FTP using any FTP tool.  There are different ways web hosting companies configure a file structure.  Most will have a public_html directory.

To back up, your website, download the entire public_html directory to your computer.  If your site is using a CMS, you will also need to download a copy of your database.  This is made easy by going to your control panel and locatingPHPMyAdmin.  Access your database and navigate to the Export tab, then click Export.

This will download a SQL file where you can store with your other backup directory.

In Conclusion

When you backup your site, you are taking control of the hours of work that went into creating the site in the first place. It will not only give you peace of mind, it will save you hours and money in the future if the worst were to happen. 

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