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WordPress Backup Basics

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Welcome to this 14th and final lesson in our Build a professional website using WordPress and Thesis 2.3. In this lesson we are going to talk about all the administrative things that are necessary in order to be a responsible website owner.

There are a handful of things that you want to do but it’s not all just to be responsible some of it is to make your site faster and better. That’s what we’re going to talk about here for this next hour.

Why Backing Up Your Site Regularly Is Important

The first thing we’re going to talk about is WordPress backup basics. We finished off the first lesson by configuring BackupBuddy and backing our site up for the first time. And with each lesson we’ve been going through the backup process with BackupBuddy. I’ve been doing that to model the kind of behavior that I hope that each of you follow through on.

You want to backup your site as you go along so that when disaster strikes you have a fix for it. You have a way to get back to where you used to be.

Criteria For Choosing a Backup Plugin

But now I want to take a step back and and talk about it perhaps in a more general way. Because when you’re backing up it’s really starts off by choosing the right plugin. There are some criteria in choosing the right plugin.

Backup Entire Website

The first criteria is that it backup both your database and your files. We’ll talk about what that means here in a little while but if it just backs up the database or just backs up the files then it’s not backing up your entire website.

So you need something that does both. Those those plugins that just backup a database actually aren’t a full solution for you. It’s better than nothing by a long shot but it’s not a full solution.

Automated Backups

The second thing is you want the process to be automated. You want to be able to easily set it up so that it automatically backs your site up on a schedule without you having to think about it. I don’t want you to have to go on your site every week and manually start the backup. I want you to have a system that backs your site up automatically for you whether you’re getting on your site or not.

Store Backups Off Site

The next criteria is that it that it be able to take your your backups and store them offsite. Every backup we’ve made so far in this class has been stored on the website itself and that’s not bad but it’s not the perfect solution.

The perfect solution is to have backups that are automatically transferred to some kind of off site storage for you. That way when all hell breaks loose like if your hosting company shuts you down because you got hacked or if something bad happens you have a full copy of your website someplace where you can get at it. And nothing and nobody can prevent you from getting at it.

You need to be in complete control of your own backup. It should be somewhere you can’t lose it because you did something wrong or you violated some terms of service or whatever. Having your backup always available to you is the goal of this.

Those are that’s what I think are the your primary objectives for a backup plugin. It should back everything up, that it can be automated, that it’s easy to do on your own and that it stores your backups off site automatically.

Why We Recommend BackupBuddy

There are a ton of options out there for backup solutions and there are probably a ton of good solutions for for backups. It’s not that BackupBuddy is the only good solution, there are lots of other good solutions out there as well.


I like BackupBuddy better than anything else because it has been so reliable for me over the years and it’s been the only backup system that never failed me. Other backup systems I’ve had have failed me that goes for WP engines backup system and Vaultpress a real time backup system. That system failed me just about every time I needed it and even though I paid for it for a few years.

When those failed I ended up having to go resort to a BackupBuddy backup that I’d done manually because Vaultpress never actually worked. So BackupBuddy is my favorite.

Continued Improvements

It has also been constantly developed. It hasn’t sat idle, it’s always getting better, it’s always getting smarter and faster. That’s why I like BackupBuddy.

Easy to Recover a Site

But, as I said, there are lots of other options out there that you can consider. Just apply your criteria to it to make sure that it meets all your needs. You might think that there should be another criteria such as how easy it is to recover from. I feel like with BackupBuddy I can recover from a down website in a matter of minutes.

I used to teach how to recover and I still have seminars on the site for how to backup and restore your using BackupBuddy. But but these days, what I say is it doesn’t really matter that much how easy it is to restore because if your site goes down and all hell breaks loose, just call me.

Members Can Use Me To Help Restore Sites

It’s easy for me to restore a site. It’s hard for you because you haven’t done it a hundred times. It’s hard for you because when it’s mission critical and you care so much about it’s painful and scary when stuff goes incredibly haywire.

I don’t have those fears anymore because I know how to solve those situations. And resolving them is never a big deal as long as there’s a backup. So I now tell everybody yes, you can learn how to restore your own website from a backup but that’s not nearly as important as learning how to create the backups and actually doing it.

If you’ve actually got the backups an expert can help you do it quickly. For those of you who are long time members of the website that obviously comes as some kind of comfort. If you don’t know me maybe that isn’t much of a comfort. But the objective here is to be able to back it up easily and and then you can let an expert handle restoring it.

Where WordPress Stores Information

When you are an expert in the WordPress environment you know where everything is stored. WordPress stores its information in two places. It stores them in a database and it stores them in files.

If you come to this having built a website back in the 90s, you are accustomed to thinking of files. Each page has a master file and then little parts of files that get put together but that’s not the way WordPress works. There is no file for any given specific page.


All of the content that you have is stored inside the database. So every post, every page, every comment, every plugin setting, every skin setting, every theme setting, everything we’ve done here with agility 3.2, all of that is all stored in the database. There’s no file that stores it.

The consequence of that is that the database is extremely important. It does you no good to have all your files but not the database. You’re way better off having a database but no files because files can be re-downloaded and reinstalled but the database can’t be rebuilt from anything but an actual database.


Having said that it does make restoration much simpler if you do, in fact, have all the files as well. The files in this case are plugin files and theme files and skin files and your uploads like your media library and gallery images and all that sort of thing.

All of those things are files and and the ones that really matter are all contained in a directory called wp-content. Not that you need to know that but WordPress has three big directories wp-admin, wp-includes and wp-content. You don’t really need to store wp-admin and wp-includes because you can always download that from the WordPress website.

But in all of these backups we’ve done here I’ve always backed those up as well. What does matter is wp-content because there may be things like images that’s all stored in wp-content. So when you do a backup, that means you want to backup both database and files.

How to Choose the A Schedule for Database and File Backups

The thing is that in a typical WordPress site the database changes much more frequently than the files do. Because of that I typically recommend that you backup your files up on a more infrequent schedule than you backup your database.

Base Scheduling On How Active and Type of Activity on Your Site

If you’ve got a really active website with lots of forum posts and lots of purchases and things that you don’t want to lose ever, you probably back up your database up once an hour but you might just backup your files once a week.

However, if you’re constantly adding posts and lots of images then maybe you backup your files once a day and your database once an hour.

If it’s a typical small business website that doesn’t see a lot of changes, maybe you backup your database once a week and your files once a month. I think that is probably the minimum for a website doing the database backup once a week and files once a month.

You can even do it less frequently on a site that doesn’t get comments or if it is just a static site that you don’t update very often. If you do a manual backup every time you do a post and otherwise let it go on an automatic schedule, maybe you just update your files every six months and update your database once a month.

Really your schedule depends on how active the site is. But I think for a website like we’re doing right here, a backup of the database once a week and a backup of the files once a month is probably the sweet spot. That’s especially true if you’re in the habit of doing a manual backup after you do any real work on the site.

Remote Destinations for Backups

BackupBuddy makes it very easy for you to set up remote destinations. Let’s go to our sample Professional Services Website. Come down here to BackupBuddy and let’s set up a remote destination. I’ve got all kinds of different remote destinations here don’t I? Let’s just delete this one.

Amazon S3

So the chances are you don’t have an Amazon S3 account but if you have an Amazon S3 account that’s the best place to send your backup. It’s best because there’s no limit on the size and because storage there is very inexpensive. So if you’ve got an Amazon AWS or Amazon S3 account then that’s the perfect way to do it.


If you’ve paid for BackupBuddy they give you Stash which is a remote destination that you could send your files. The problem is that if you stop paying for BackupBuddy then stash is no longer available to you. I suppose that’s the case for everything but but Amazon S3 is so much less expensive. It’s pennies for a backup and I would consider Amazon S3 to be more fail safe than Stash just because Stash requires you to maintain your subscription with BackupBuddy.


If you don’t have AmazonS3 maybe you’ve got a Dropbox account. You can always add Dropbox to these remote destinations. Just click add new here. And if you’ve got a small site you can use Dropbox and it’s very inexpensive.

The easy way to do it is with your Dropbox account is by clicking this button “to connect to and authorize”. And then it says I’m already logged into my Dropbox account. You can see my name and everything here because I use Dropbox all day long every day. So I just click allow.

And here is the authorization code that I have to add here. Do that and then click yes I’ve authorized it with the code above. And now you’ve set up a a connection a Dropbox. I have a Dropbox account that gives me 1 terabyte of of data. I’m only using 144 gigabytes of that but I’ve got tons of it.

You can just let this stuff be this way in terms of an archive limit. If you leave zero then it’ll always be backing up and will just keep on adding backups to your Dropbox. Instead let’s say we’ll only keep ten backups. Then after ten backups are completed the oldest one is deleted. I think that’s probably fine.

You can do the same thing with an Amazon account which is what I do. But you do that and you add that destination.

Setup the Schedule for the Remote Location

Now Dropbox is set up and so you can go to your schedule. I’m going to delete both of these schedules because they exist from an old class I taught. As I said here we have our schedule name and I’m going to call this weekly database.

We have to set up two schedules. We’re going to do complete backup of the database only and we’re going to do it once weekly. You can see that BackupBuddy lets you do it once an hour twice a day or once a day, etc. We’ll do this back up once weekly and we’re going to send that backup to Dropbox.

We’re going to delete the local back up after the remote has been sent and we’re going to enable the schedule to run. Next time it will run it says two twenty six so that’s tomorrow at three in the afternoon. I would rather do it at 3 in the morning. Change that. I do this really early, essentially the middle of night when I do it.

And so add the new schedule. That’s our weekly database one and now we’re going to add a monthly full backup. And this will be a complete backup that’s going to happen once a month. The next run will be in a week. We’ll run it every Saturday at 12 AM. That’s fine. Add the remote destination, that’s my Dropbox. And delete the local backup and set the schedule.

We’re now going to automatically backup and automatically send that backup to my Dropbox account to my Dropbox account. It will be sitting on my computer any time I need it. I never have to worry about it again. And that is the right way to do this.

If you’ve done a manual backup you can send it to your remote destination. And that’s my Dropbox. And this is going to send me an email if there’s a problem. You just heard it ding. I think that was a notification from my Dropbox account. In fact, here it is in my Dropbox account in the BackupBuddy folder. So very simple and straightforward.

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