What are WordPress backups and restore?
Let’s talk about WordPress backups and restore. A backup is a copy of your site at a precise point in time that you can restore if something doesn’t go as planned. When you work with backups, you have peace of mind and can safely make changes to your website without the fear of breaking something that would be irreversible.
Restoring is the act of replacing the current version of your website with a backed-up one, reverting everything to the way it was before you started making changes.
The importance of website backups
Now that we know what a WordPress backup is, we’ll explain why it is essential to your WordPress site to have scheduled backups and a restore strategy in place.
Likely, you have been in one or several of these situations (they’re only a few examples):
- Modifying your website on the live version.
- Adding articles in WordPress directly (without a local copy).
- Updating WordPress core, themes and plugins.
- Having your site hacked.
- Collaborating with a team on the same website.
These situations can sometimes lead to a crashed website or unwanted results such as a broken page or layout, incorrect content being pushed, etc. Having backups prevents this from happening, or more precisely, drastically reduces the time your site will be down or impaired. This is because you don’t have to go back to your admin panel and fix things. Instead, you can restore your site and start fresh.
Try restoring your site before actually running into issues
You need to test your restore process before something goes wrong. It hasn’t been said enough in similar articles, in my opinion; having a backup and restore strategy is one thing. Making sure it works is another one.
Backing up your site is usually easy and smooth, and we’ll see how to do it in several different ways in this article. Restoring on the other end can either be a 5-minute process or a long, stressful and troublesome experience if anything of the following happens:
- White screen of death (literally a blank page with no error message).
- Database connection errors.
- Internal server errors.
- 404 error for single posts.
- Redirection/login issues.
We will not explain how to fix those errors in this article (they all can be fixed, though). Keep in mind that it slows the whole process, mainly if you don’t know how to fix them right away.
It costs nothing to try your restore process once to see if there are issues, in which case you can work on them or switch to a better solution. This will save you considerable time in the future.
Beware of cheap backup features from hosting providers
Hosting providers will often offer backups as part of their plans. While some of them provide quality backup and restore tools (FalconStack, WP Engine, Kinsta), many will only set up scheduled database backups for you without taking care of your files. Let alone a restore process.
You can’t do much with database backups if you crashed your site when working on the theme’s code. They’re also going to be unusable if you recently updated plugins and something went wrong. You are going to need file backups to solve these kinds of issues.
Most of these cheap hosting providers may not have a restore system in place, meaning you will have to do it yourself or hire someone. On top of this, if your hosting provider (ever) backed up your files, it sometimes can be a complicated process to get your hands on it.
We recommend making sure your hosting provider has everything in place to ensure smooth backing up and restoring of your WordPress site. The names above are companies we think are great for this; we are not using any affiliate links.
To give you an idea, here is what our tool at FalconStack looks like. You can take backups and restore your site at any point in time in one click without the need to touch any files, URLs, database entries.
What are the different backup and restore strategies?
There are three ways you can set up backups for your WordPress site, and although we won’t go into details each time, we’ll go over all of them and share our opinion.
- Use your web hosting provider’s backup system.
- Install a WordPress backup plugin.
- Manage backups manually.
1. Using your hosting provider’s backup feature
Although costly sometimes, this is by far the best way to backup and restore your WordPress site. Backups are scheduled (automated), and you can often restore your site at a click of a button.
With most serious WordPress managed hosting providers, you will be able to take extra manual backups and restore your site from the admin panel. This not only saves you valuable time, but you also often get technical support if something goes wrong in the process.
At FalconStack, backups are incremental and off-site, meaning that only changed files are backed up, and everything is stored remotely, so the whole process does not impact your server (i.e., your site’s performance).
Restoring your site with us often takes less than two minutes; everything is taken care of for you. Once the process is complete, you can immediately go back to your site and start working. If you made a mistake and restored to an undesired backup point, repeat the process and pick another date. Now imagine you went too far back in time; you can also restore to a more recent entry (a bit like time travel, essentially).
As mentioned above, this is the easiest way to have backups in place for your WordPress website. You don’t need to install any plugins, backups don’t slow down your server, restoring is a breeze, and you get technical support if anything goes wrong.
Read more about FalconStack‘s backup feature on this page.
2. Installing a WordPress backup plugin
Let’s go over a few options for reliable WordPress backup plugins. Note that we are not using any affiliate links. We have decided to feature these products because we believe they can help you if you go the “plugin route”.
In our opinion, Jetpack‘s backup feature is one of the most reliable options for making sure you always have a copy of your site somewhere. Jetpack makes it easy to restore your site at any point in time. It is perfect for WooCommerce sites since it can “restore your site to any past state while keeping all orders and products current”.
Much like with FalconStack, their backups are incremental and off/site, so there’s no load on your server.
Jetpack comes with unlimited storage, unlimited restores and includes technical support. Their first plan starts at $9/m, and they also have a real-time backup plan for $45/m.
This fantastic and viral plugin can be used to save your WordPress site and push it to an external backup service, like Dropbox, Amazon S3, etc. It has been downloaded over 11 million times and has many satisfied users (5-star reviews).
Their PRO version will cost you $69 for the first year and renew at a discounted rate of $39. We recommend BackWPupPRO so that you end up with a full backup and restore system in place, including but not limited to:
- Database and files backups
- Third-party backup storage
- Local backup storage
- Automated restore (they’ve added this feature recently)
Another excellent option for backing up your WordPress site is UpdraftPlus. This is one of the highest-ranked WordPress backup plugins in the repository, used by many.
It is similar to BackWPup with features like backup storage on third parties such as Google Drive, Dropbox, etc. It allows quick restore, backup scheduling and can split large sites into multiple archives.
UpdraftPlus Premium is priced just like BackWPupPRO at $70 the first year and then $42. With the premium version, you get access to extra features like:
- Multiple storage destinations
- Automatic backups before updates
- Fix backup times
- Migrator tool
Please note that if you are using BackWPup or UpdraftPlus, you might need to subscribe to a third-party storage service like Google Drive, Amazon S3, and the likes. This has a cost and shouldn’t be underestimated. It can get quite expensive if you have a large site with many assets. Jetpack has its own storage system, so you don’t have to pay anything extra.
3. Manage backups manually
Manually managing backups for your WordPress site can only be done by people that have experience working with website backends. We will not go into this in detail as we do not recommend it to the average user. As WordPress developers ourselves, we do not manage backups manually because it’s time-consuming and error-prone.
You may want to backup your site manually at some point if you have a specific task to accomplish or in some cases where your automated backup tool isn’t correctly working. The same goes for restoring your WordPress site. If things don’t go as planned with your hosting provider or backup plugin, you might want to look into the issue yourself.
Again, picking the right solution from the start is the best thing you can do for your WordPress site and to ensure everything runs smoothly in the future.
This being out of the way, let’s take a look at the steps you would take if you were to manually backup and restore your WordPress site. Backing up your site can be done this way:
- Using an FTP client or cPanel-like interface from your web host: download all the files located at the root of your WordPress installation. Store it somewhere as an archive.
- Log in to your database, most of the time through your web host’s PhpMyAdmin installation. Locate the database you want to backup and export it. Store the exported file with the site files saved earlier.
- Date your files, so you know what to restore when something goes wrong.
Restoring a WordPress site manually is a much more challenging task than creating a backup. Here are the steps you would need to take:
- Make sure you have a backup ready with your files and database for a particular time in the past.
- Replace all files at the root of your current site’s installation with the files from the backup archive.
- Log in to your database manager and replace the current database by deleting it and importing your database backup file.
- If you are using the same domain name, things should work as usual. If not, then you will need to change the URLs in the database.
- After restoring your site, it is good practice to flush the permalinks (under Settings > Permalinks).
These steps above are for information purposes only, and obviously, web hosts can have different tools to help you backup your site. We do not recommend managing backups and restoring manually; it is inefficient and often leads to website downtime.
Make the right move
To conclude this article, we suggest you pick a reliable all-in-one site management service, a good web hosting provider, or try one of the above-mentioned WordPress backup plugins. This will get you started fast with WordPress backups and restore.