Regular AUTOMATED WordPress website backups are very important!
It’s not wise to rely solely on your website host to backup your website for you. Owning a website means you need to be proactive. You must make sure you have regular, reliable, automated website backups in place from the very beginning.
You can’t afford to lose any website data because a server crashed, an update broke something, or your website was hacked. Make sure you have backups you can restore immediately.
1. Website backups should be done automatically
Our lives are so busy that it’s virtually impossible to remember to backup your website. You should be automating your backups so they’re always running, even if you forget. Website backups should run at a time of low server load, as they can use a lot of server resources. We suggest midnight on a Sunday, or some other quiet time on your website.
If this is already seeming like too much effort, we can setup your backups for you.
2. WordPress backups must be stored offsite (i.e. off your server)
Many servers promise to back up your website for you. However, we have seen so many server companies fail or forget that we would rather run the backups ourselves. This way we can ensure they are being run correctly and on time.
Your website backups should be stored offsite – somewhere else besides your web server. These backups can be very large, so sending them to your email address is also a bad idea. We use Dropbox to store all our clients’ backups, but you can also use any cloud backup system. It’s the safest way to back up your WordPress website. We prefer Dropbox, but you could use Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Google Cloud, Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure or others.
If you store your backups off your server, you’ll also know they’re safe if your server is hacked. Server managers try to keep servers safe, but sometimes things go wrong. When they do, we need fast access to clean backups to get your website up and running again ASAP. Please ensure that your backups are safe and secure on a separate system.
3. WordPress updates can break your website
It doesn’t matter how long you have been working with WordPress, or how experienced you are. Sometimes plugin updates will break your website. There are many ways to fix these errors, but sometimes all you can do is restore a backup. WordPress themes and plugins are built by independent developers all over the world. There’s no central governing body to determine whether their software is compatible with the other WordPress plugins out there. So one developer might update their plugin, and suddenly it conflicts with something else. It’s frustrating, but it happens. Sometimes a backup is the only way to reverse the update and fix your website.
4. Your system should make it easy to restore backups
The best backup plugins backup your website in known chunks. These could be the themes, the plugins, the database, the uploads, and the core. If your backup system works like this, it’s much quicker to restore the part of your website that broke. You’ll only need to restore the broken piece, rather than the entire website. This save valuable time when fixing a broken site, so it isn’t down when users come to visit.
5. Your website could be hacked
However good your security is, there are likely some access points hackers can abuse. As web designers, we try to block as many of these points as possible. We monitor security, ensure software is patched, check password strength, and scan for malware, but nothing’s perfect. The sad truth is, sometimes websites get hacked anyway. A plugin or theme may have been badly coded, which gave hackers access. If you’re on a shared server, you’re vulnerable to other website’s security practices. If they get hacked and their website is on the same servers as yours, the hacker might be able to access your website too.
We need excellent backups to ensure we can recover a hacked website. This is also why we backup and update website software so regularly. WordPress theme and plugin developers are constantly updating their software to patch security holes. We want to make sure we have the latest version of your software, so we have the latest patches too.
6. Check your website backups are working
It’s extremely important to regularly check that your website backups are running correctly. Sometimes, things go wrong. The WordPress scheduler might fail and not trigger your backup. You should check that your backups are working and succeeding, without errors. Also remember to check if you are being transferred offsite and not failing on your server.
7. Always backup before updating software
Software updates can break your website. You need a clean backup on hand to restore quickly if this should happen. This is very important on ecommerce website shops. Shops receive orders all day, so their database is updated constantly. You don’t want to rely on a week-old backup of the site to restore if an update breaks the website. Backup right before updating software, so you have the most recent backup possible, available to use if necessary.
8. Keep enough backups!
You should keep AT LEAST EIGHT versions of your WordPress website, backed up offsite. Errors can occur at any time (particularly if you have auto-updates enabled, which is NOT a good idea). Sometimes you don’t know what caused the error, so you must restore an older backup to get a clean website version. This is especially important if your website was hacked, and you didn’t know about it. We backup websites weekly and store eight copies. We have at least two months of backups if we need them. This has saved us and our customers many times!
Website Backups Conclusion
WordPress website backups should not be taken lightly. You should be using a reliable backup plugin, set your backups to automatically backup at a low-server load time, and you should check them to make sure they are happening correctly and on time. You should backup before updating any software on your website and should backup after any major changes on your website, so you can be sure that you have a clean copy of your site, should you ever need it.
This list might sound complicated, but it’s critically important that each step is followed correctly, so you aren’t forced to rebuild your website from scratch, should anything go horribly wrong. And it CAN go wrong…