How to Backup your WordPress Site

For most people who have used a computer for any length of time, there is nothing in the world quite like that feeling of losing a whole load of data.

That knot which instantly develops in your stomach when the computer won’t turn on or it seems to crash while saving an afternoon’s work is familiar to all of us.

Branch out to start working online, blogging or running a website is exciting but adds a whole new dimension to the fear of losing data.

What if your blog crashes and you lose everything?

What if your website crashes and you lose all of your sales and order histories?

It can all disappear in a puff – unless you’re prepared.

I wrote some time ago about the need to back up regularly and often so today I want to focus on how to backup your data – specifically for self-hosted WordPress users.

You’ll know if you’re a self hosted WordPress user because you had to find a host (like or dreamhost) and you’re using WordPress. If you’re using blogger or, these instructions do not apply specifically to you but the concepts do, so stick with us.

What Needs Backing Up?

First, let’s gain a very basic understanding of the two distinct parts of your website and then we’ll see how to back each one up.

Your website consists of both files and data.

  • FILES are the WordPress application itself and all of your plugins, themes and images.
  • DATA is the content of your site and all the settings associated with it. It’s your preferences, posts, comments and any user information, orders, products and history. The data is all held in a single database (usually).

When you are thinking about backing your website up, you need to have a system in place to back up your files and another to back up your database. Let’s look at how to do that.

I recommend a two-tier approach:

TIER 1 – Automatic Backups


There are several WordPress Plugins which can automatically backup your images, current theme and plugins.

It doesn’t backup all of the basic WordPress files but those are easily recovered and we’ll deal with them in Tier 2.

I have installed one handily called “WordPress Backup” by Blog Traffic Exchange. It’s very simple to use, simply install and activate it then go to its ‘Configuration Page’ and set the options you want.

For most of us, the only options we need to set are how often we want the backup to happen and the email address that we want the backup file emailed to. I must point out though that once the backup files start reaching a certain size, they will be too big to email.

If you use an image in your post every day, you’ll reach that size pretty quickly.

The backup file will still be kept on the server though, even if it can’t be emailed to you.


As with the files, there are several plugins which can back up your database for you.

As an example, I’m using one called WP-DB-Backup by Austin Matzko.

The procedure is the same as for installing the files backup plugin, simply install it, activate it and visit the settings page.

There are two ways to backup your database using this plugin:

  1. Do an instant backup
  2. Schedule a regular backup

I suggest you do an instant backup now and then schedule regular backups to be emailed to you from then on.

The plugin allows you to select which tables to back up. Unless you really know what you’re doing it’s best to back them all up. Better safe than sorry!

…and that’s it. You have a backup system in place for both your files and your data – so you can breathe a little easier… except that is, for tier 2.

TIER 2 – Manual Backups

OK, so you’ve got an automatic backup system in place – but do you really trust it?

It’s supposed to regularly backup your files and data but in a few months, will you really be checking that it’s doing its job right?

Will you remember to check for that emailed backup file once a week?

If you do check, do you have any idea to find out if all your data is actually in it?

I didn’t think so.

That’s why you need a manual backup system too, and you need to discipline yourself to use it regularly.

Every web host is different so giving exact instructions on how to do it is difficult to say the least  but basically it goes like this:


When you signed up for your web hosting account, you should have been sent an email giving you all the details you need to access your account. In that, you were most likely given your FTP details.

FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol and it is simply a way to upload files to and download files from your website.

Get yourself an FTP program like the easy-to-use (and free) FileZilla , plug in your ftp details to it and download everything to a folder on your computer – or onto a CD or DVD or wherever. Just put it somewhere safe where you can find it again.

Do this regularly!


Data is more tricky, but hopefully in your web hosting control panel, you have link or icon labelled “phpMyAdmin”.

Click on phpMyAdmin and you’ll see a screen that looks a little like this:

Click on your database name on the left hand side (hint: it’s not the one called “Information_Schema” and then click EXPORT on the menu at the top.

Click on SELECT ALL just in case and then hit GO at the bottom of the screen.

A few moments later, your entire database should be backed up and downloaded to your computer.

File it somewhere safe and sit back, relax and rest easy in the knowledge that hours and hours of writing blog posts will not go down the tube if anything ever happens to your website.

If you need any more help with any of this, please feel free to email me or leave a comment with your question(s).