The recent challenges of dealing with Hurricane Katrina brought up the issue of bank security and record keeping. While many banks were destroyed and access to people’s money and accounts were limited temporarily, their money is still secure. Banks are required to backup all their information and store it offsite. One bank was described as backing up their information and having it stored in huge, climate controlled caves holding massive storage facilities for computer and paper data.
This reminded me of the importance of backing up your precious WordPress blog.
While you may or may not have your blog entries saved on your own computer, all of your WordPress core programming and data files are on an web host server. Even if your computer crashes, that information is still on the server. But what if that server goes down? Or the data gets corrupted in some way?
Check with your host provider for how often they backup your site’s data and how to retrieve it if something happens. Print out the instructions and save them in a file in your desk – just in case. You should do the same with the instructions on the WordPress Codex which outlines how to backup and restore your WordPress site.
The process of backing up your WordPress blog is an easy two step process. While step-by-step backup instructions are available in the WordPress Codex, let’s look at the two steps here.
Step One to Backing Up WordPress
The first step to backing up your WordPress site is to backup the database. You have a few choices. You can back it up manually through your PHPMyAdmin program as an exported file. You can also back your WordPress database up by using the
WordPress Backup Plugin WordPress Database Backup Plugin by IfFilosofo.
Backup options were included in WordPress 2.0, but with WordPress 2.1, the built-in backup is gone. The newly updated WordPress Database Backup Plugin backs up your database with an option to backup automatically, on a schedule of your choice. You can set it to backup hourly, daily, or weekly. Backups can be automatically emailed to you, too. And it works with WordPress 2.1.
Once activated, it adds a menu to your Manage panel that says “Backup”. Click it and choose your options. If you want to backup manually, you can do it now and have the backed up file downloaded to your server, to your computer, or have it sent to you by email. I recommend you download to your computer or have it emailed to you. By default, the saved file is compressed to save space and bandwidth. That’s it. No fuss, no muss.
Among your options, whether backing up manually or via the Backup Plugin, is to choose tables in addition to your core WordPress database tables. Many of these are created by plugins and not necessary for you to backup unless you want to preserve that data.
DO NOT BACKUP comment spam, blacklists, or statistics. These tend to be huge database tables and can grow to several megabytes in size. The priority is to save your posts, categories, comments, and core information, not the junk. This can make the difference between a 1 MB backup file and a 12 MB backup file.
Save your WordPress database backup file to your computer, and put a copy of it on a CD, DVD, or some other backup storage media. Like the banks, if your website is critical to your business or life, consider storing this off your premises.
Step Two to Backing Up WordPress
Your database holds your posts and critical information that generates your site’s content. The framework that displays that information is based upon the core WordPress program files, your WordPress Theme, and your WordPress Plugins, as well as any customization you have made to any of those files. These need to be saved, too.
Using any FTP client program, simply download the files to a folder on your computer. Be sure to include the
wp-content folder, as this contains your WordPress Themes and Plugins. If you are using a translation or localization version of WordPress, be sure that your translation files (
.po) are also backed up.
Your photographs and graphics are also important to your site, so make sure you backup whatever folder(s) you use to store these valuable images.
Once you have the files saved to your computer, you can select that entire folder and zip it to a single file, saving the file hierarchy structure. Like your database, store this zipped file to any removable storage media, and if precious, store it offsite.
Reversing the Process – Restoring WordPress
The process of recovering from a server or database crash is almost the exact reversal of the process. Begin by making sure all of the old stuff is cleared out and deleted. When you restore, you want to literally start with a clean plate.
This is very important. The uploading process isn’t perfect and frequently the process of replacing an old file with a new one doesn’t work. Delete the old files and upload the new ones.
Restore the file structure first. Install a new, updated version of WordPress. Then open the zipped files for your site’s data files and upload the
wp-content, translation files, and other modified core files. Avoid copying any non-modified core files if you have upgraded to a newer version of WordPress. Make sure they all go to the same folders as before.
To restore the database, follow the step-by-step instructions in the WordPress Codex, Restoring Your Database From Backup.
Login to WordPress, check all of the options and settings to make sure they are the same and change them if they are not. Check the Manage panel to see if all your posts have been restored. Also look at the categories and comments to make sure they are also where they should be.
Then view your site and poke around and make sure everything is working right.
Backing Up WordPress.com
WordPress.com bloggers can now backup their WordPress.com blogs through the Export panel. Export your WordPress.com blog as an XML file for easy importing back into WordPress or another blog program. Or just save the file as your backup.
The Export will not backup your WordPress.com Theme, only the post and Page content, along with comments. If you are using the Paid Extras for customizing your WordPress.com Theme, make sure you save a copy of the CSS stylesheet file in a safe place. Same with the images you upload to your WordPress.com blog.
The WordPress Themes and program are backed up by WordPress.com and since you have no control over the tweaking factors, it isn’t “yours”. So that leaves content and images. Actually, you should have backups of your images because they were on your hard drive in order to upload them, so make sure you have backup copies of those.
How Often Should I Backup
The question of how often you should backup your WordPress site is based upon how often you add to or change it.
The core files, such as your WordPress Themes, should be backed up after you have finished many any major changes. It does not have to be backed up again until you make more changes.
The database needs to be backed up anywhere from once a week to once a month, depending upon how frequently and how much content you add to your site. At the least, you should backup once a month.
In general, again depending upon how critical your site’s information is to you, the general rule of thumb is to have three backups saved. These are the three most recent or three copies of the most recent. A non-breakable, indestructible, impervious to fault technology for backups still doesn’t exist. If your site is of critical importance, consider backing up via CD, hard drive, Internet storage, and/or other removable storage medium, just in case one of the choices goes bad. This way you will have backups of your backups.
As we have learned from Hurricane Katrina and other recent disasters and catastrophes, prevention and protection also can mean faster recovery.
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