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Lesson 14 – Part 1 – WordPress Backup Basics

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Well good morning everybody and welcome to Lesson 14 of the Build A Responsive Professional Website Using WordPress and Thesis 2. Today we’re going to be talking about administrative tasks that you need to be able to manage in order to successfully operate your site including backing your site up and upgrading your site and that sort of thing.

WordPress Backups

The majority of what we’re going to talk about here really is WordPress backup and how to perform WordPress backups, what you backup and that sort of thing. There are other aspects to this Lesson 14 but they’re similar to Lesson 13 and they are the same in essentially all themes.

Where WordPress Stores It’s Information

Where WordPress stores its information is something that you need to have a reasonable understanding of. WordPress stores its information in two places. It stores its information in a database and it stores its information in files.

And so any kind of backup that you do is going to require you to backup both of these things. It’s something that you have to do deliberately. If you do a database backup, it doesn’t automatically back up files. And if you do a file backup, it won’t automatically update the database. So you’ve got two things you have to manage here when you are backing up.

What’s Stored in the Database

WordPress stores on the database all page and post content. If you’ve had any experience with Dreamweaver and HTML pages and the like, you’re used to the idea of having a file that has the content on it. And so your post would have a file, you’d create that file and you’d be able to go find that file some place in a file structure. WordPress does not work that way. WordPress does not store any post or page content in a file. All post and page content is stored inside of a database.

It also stores the addresses of images and other media files. So it doesn’t store the files themselves there but it stores the location or the address of all of those things inside the database.

It also stores all plugin and theme options in the database. All Thesis 2 skin data is stored in the database and all WordPress settings is stored in the database. So anything that you set from inside the WordPress dashboard is stored inside the database.

What’s Stored in the Files

On the other hand, WordPress also stores files and first off, all of the core operating files that WordPress uses are all, of course, files. WordPress stores all plugins as plugin files. It stores all themes as theme and skin files.

There are customization files so custom css files and things like that that are stored as files. There are uploads, that means, anything you upload with the media library or when you upload plugins or your plugins upload things, all of that is stored as files although the address to those things are stored inside the database.

Thesis 2 stores the skin images as files and then you also end up storing some upgrade files. That is, after you’ve had a WordPress website for a while, you have upgraded it several times and WordPress keeps track of that upgrade information inside of files that it stores in the file structure.

Where the Thesis Theme Stores It’s Information

Now Thesis stores information in two places and you actually end up interacting with that a bit in Thesis which generally doesn’t happen with other themes. Thesis stores all skin data and all Thesis settings in the database. And it stores all of the Thesis 2 theme files as files, all skin, box and package files as files and all skin images as files.

You’ve already seen instances of backing up skin data and saving skin data and importing skin data. That’s all stuff that is stored inside of a database. Whereas when you’ve uploaded a background image to the Thesis skin images folder, that file itself is stored as a file. Okay so Thesis stores those things as both files and in the database.

What Should You Backup?

So what do you need to backup? Well, obviously, you need to backup both your database and your WordPress files. And at a minimum, what that means is the database, your customization files, your Thesis 2 skin data and your WordPress content.

There are lots of files that you probably don’t actually need to back up except that if you backed them up, you can rapidly deploy a backup. But they are easily recoverable. All of the WordPress core files are easily recoverable. And if you don’t back them up, all you have to do is download them again because they’re going to be the same.

What You Absolutely Must Backup

Theoretically, there are lots of files you could exclude from your backup. However, what you cannot exclude from your backup is your database. You cannot exclude the customization files because you don’t have access. Those customization files are generally either created or edited by you.

You can’t ignore the Thesis 2 skin data because again, that’s something that is not easily recoverable if you haven’t backed it up. And you can’t do the same thing with WordPress content. WordPress content can easily be exported and imported. But it’s not something that can be downloaded from some other location in case that your site crashes.

So at a minimum, you’ve got your database, your customization files, your Thesis 2 skin data and your WordPress content.

When or How Often Should You Backup?

So when should you back up? Well, you have 2 different types of backups.

Automatic Backups

You should have an automatic backup system that automatically backs everything up on a regular schedule. So essentially, something that backs you up monthly or daily or weekly or hourly basis. This is something that does not require you to intervene in any way, doesn’t require you to do anything. It just automatically happens. So you just set it and forget it knowing that you are getting everything backed up.

Manual Backups

You should also manually maintain backups as well. And generally, a manual backup is driven by an event. It’s not very often that your site crashes out of the blue and that you have to recover from it. Generally, when something bad happens, it happens when you were doing something else. So when you are doing some kind of an event, right?

Before Upgrading WordPress or Important Plugins

So before any significant upgrade, if you were going to upgrade WordPress, you should backup manually before you do that. If you’ve got any significant or big plugins that you’re upgrading, you should back up before you do that.

And so you’ve got these events that could cause you problems that you want to back your site up immediately before you do the upgrade.

After Successful Upgrades

And then you should also do a full backup after any successful upgrade. So once you’re all finished doing the upgrade, you may as well do a backup then and there so that you have a nice, clean starting place from the last time you did some major backup or the last time you did some major upgrade. And this means you’re going to be doing lots of backing up.

How Often I Backup BYOB Website

Now, I back up BYOB Website every single hour. I back it up hourly using my hosting system. It has a mechanism for backing the site up that does not require any of my server’s resources.

When I Use My Hosting System Backup and When I Use BackupBuddy

I used to use BackupBuddy every hour but as my site got larger and larger, BackupBuddy required more and more resources to back the site up. And I found that there were times where it would slow down other people’s access to the site. So we stopped using BackupBuddy on an hourly basis and now we use this other system to back the site up hourly.

However, any time I’m going to do some significant upgrade, I also backup with BackupBuddy. And I do a full backup so it’s easy for me to very quickly restore my site from that backup.

When I am upgrading something, I generally do a quick manual backup of my database because often, if something is going to fail, it fails in terms of screwing up the database. And so restoring the database can restore the functionality so I will do a full backup. I’ll do a manual backup of the database.

And then in fact, I also do a routine manual backup of my site by creating a local copy of my website. And that’s essentially cloning my site and then installing it on a local server. That’s how I do major edits to my site and that’s one of the backup methods I use. I do that probably every couple of months. And before any time I do any major changes and immediately after I’ve made any major changes to the site. So that can be a very useful tool and that’s how I back up BYOB website.

Why Do I Backup My Site So Often?

Now I do that because you all paid of access to the site. And so since you pay for it, you expect the site to always be up. And if the site goes down, you expect it to come back up quickly and to have access to the material quickly. So I can’t afford to lose any data.

I can’t afford to lose your comments or your questions on the forum or anything like that. And I can’t afford for my site to be down for any substantial period of time. So for me, the backup is mission critical. It could be the case that there are sites that you want to run and manage that don’t have that same level of need.

Practice Restoring Your Website from your Backups

Something that I think is critical to this is practicing restoring your site from all of your backup methods and doing that before you have a problem. 99% of you will not do this. You’ll say, “Yeah, I should. It would probably be a good idea if I did it.” But really, very very few people ever actually practice this. But you should practice it.

Once you have your backup system in place, you should take some aspect of your backup system and use it to replace your existing site information and make sure that it works. Make sure that you’re comfortable doing it.

Make sure that you know how to do it when things go sideways. Because the more important your website is to your business, the more stressful it is when stuff doesn’t work right. And the easier it is for you to do this, the happier you’re going to be.

The only way to really be good at this is to practice it routinely. And so I encourage you to do that, to practice restoring your site from all of your normal backup methods so that when problems arise you’re ready. Because problems do arise, it’s not a question of ‘if it’s going to happen’. It’s a question of ‘when it’s going to happen’. When problems arise, you can get back to it and make it work right.

Okay well all of this presupposes that you know how to find your site’s files and your database. And that’s what we’re going to discuss next.

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