CathLawson, one of my favorite bloggers, recently experienced every blogger’s worst nightmare. Her host shut down her account and turned off her site. The site took 3 days to come back up.
I think this was shocking behavior on the host’s part, as there should have been ways that they could have let her easily access her files and database without keeping her blog live.
But the sad thing is that not all hosts will give you warning or let you get at your files (right away, anyway). So it’s important to have good backups. This way, if something happens to your blog, you’ll be able to restore without depending on hosts.
So, here’s how to run a thorough backup of your Wordpress installation:
Your Wordpress installation has two key components, the database and the files. The database stores all your settings and your content posts/comments/categories/blogroll/active plugins/active theme/widgets/etc. The files include the actual Wordpress schema that makes the site display…from the key Wordpress files to things like your plugin & theme files.
Backing Up Your Wordpress Database
This is the most critical part of your backup process. You can always re-add plugins that weren’t in your last file backup, make the same theme changes again (though always backup major theme overhauls) or use a different theme, and you don’t even have to worry about the core Wordpress components (they only change between upgrades, and you can always re-upgrade, or they’re available at Wordpress.org). As long as you have one file backup, you’ve got a starting point.
But if you don’t have a very recent backup of your database, you’ve lost every post you’ve written, every comment you’ve received, and every setting you’ve changed in the interim.
For backing up your Wordpress database, I recommend installing the Wordpress DB-Backup plugin. Once you’ve activate it, download a copy right away and then configure it for daily backups…unless you blog infrequently, in which case weekly might do as well. Err on the side of backing up. I save the last several backups, just to be safe.
Make sure that the backups you’re receiving have actual content. I’d suggest using a trial installation of WinRAR to unzip them. This should produce ordinary .sql files, which will look funny if you open them in plain Notepad (though Notepad++ displays them great!), but you can at least see that there’s content.
If you’d like an extra backup, periodically use the built-in Wordpress export feature (now found in Tools, post 2.7). It doesn’t have nearly as much detail as a database backup, but this .xml file will have your posts, comments, and a number of other important pieces of information. If you have trouble restoring from the database, you’ll still be able to restore from the .xml file.
Backing Up Your Wordpress Files
In theory, you could restore your Wordpress installation without a file backup, but why would you want to? Having the files right there makes the entire process much easier.
There are two ways to back up your files.
1) Consider using the Blog Traffic Exchange Wordpress Backup plugin. It backs up your themes, plugins, and uploads directories.
You can opt to have the plugin e-mail you backups periodically or backup from your site’s back-end. If the backups are too large, you may have to do it on your site because the .zip files can’t be sent through e-mail.
2) You can download all your site files (which means that you can just upload them again and import your database if you need to restore). I suggest using an FTP client such as Filezilla. Your host should have given you FTP login information.
When accessing your site via FTP, you can just download your site’s entire “root” directory, if that’s an option. In the image below, the “” contains ALL the site’s Wordpress files, theme files, plugin files, and uploads (whether to the “uploads” folder, another img folder, or anywhere else). Click for a larger view:
Or you can download ALL the directories and files inside your site’s root folder. That includes wp-admin, wp-content, wp-includes, as well as all the .php files and whatnot. If doing it this way, create a special folder on your computer to serve as a root directory of sorts.
Restoring from a Backup
That’s an article for another day. Until that day comes, there are other websites which have information about restoring Wordpress from backups. And if you have the files and database backup, any blog professional should be able to restore your Wordpress installation to your website or transfer it to another host’s website with little difficulty.