How to Backup Your WordPress Site (and why you need to)

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What would you do if you lost your website?

If you lost all of your blog posts?

If your site stopped making money while you rebuilt it, and you didn’t get your search rankings back?

Losing your website is a catastrophe that is also completely avoidable.

To give yourself peace of mind and stop that from happening, all you need to do is backup your site.

And like most things in WordPress, you can do it for free with a single plugin.

How to secure your site with backups

I’ve tried a lot of backup plugins and I think UpDraftPlus is the best of the bunch.


The interface is a bit confusing at first, but once you learn how to use the plugin it’s not a problem. Then you can appreciate how full-featured and useful it is.

UpDraftPlus has scheduled backups, automatic restores, and remote storage options which make it a complete solution for site backups.

This plugin also does freemium really well. They give you a robust and complete product for free, and there are paid add-ons if you need more advanced functionality like complex backup routines, incremental backups, and multiple simultaneous backup destinations.

We’ll just cover the basics which should be enough for 99% of people.

Now let’s get to the backup process.

Install the plugin

As a free plugin, you can find UpdraftPlus on the website or by searching for it in your dashboard.

Visit the Plugins > Add New menu, enter “UpdraftPlus” into the search bar at the top right, and it will show up right away.

Updraftplus Search Results

Once installed, you’ll find this new UpdraftPlus Backups menu under the Settings menu.

UpdraftPlus Menu

With UpdraftPlus installed, you can begin your first backup immediately.

Complete your first backup

Completing your first backup is simple. All you need to do is click the big “Backup Now” button on the main settings page.

Backup Now

Depending on the size of your site, it could take a few minutes to run.

Once the backup is finished, you’ll find it listed at the bottom of the page here:

Backup List

That’s all you need to do to backup your site.

Now let’s talk about how to restore your site when something goes wrong.

How to restore your site

The problem with most free backup plugins is that they don’t have a restore option.

Be honest, if you had a zip file and a .mysql file, would you know how to use those to get your site back?

Without a way to restore your site, your backup won’t do you any good.

With UpdraftPlus, restoring your site is extremely easy. In the main settings page, there is a Restore button next to every backup.

Site Backup

When you click the restore button, you’ll be taken to the restore wizard where you can choose exactly which parts of the backup you want to reinstate on your site.

Site Restore Wizard
Your database includes all of your posts and pages

It’s a straightforward process and well-designed by the developers. For most sites, the restoration will only take a couple of minutes.

Now that you know how to backup your site and how to restore it, let’s talk about automation.

How to automate backups

The whole point of this guide is to help you avoid disaster, so we need to think about everything that could go wrong.

Here’s an obvious one: You forget to backup your site.

If your backup is months old then everything you’ve done since then is at risk. This is why it’s a good idea to set an automated backup schedule so you never have to worry about forgetting. UpdraftPlus makes this easy.

If you click on the Settings tab, you’ll see the backup scheduling options at the top of the page.

Backup Scheduling

I would recommend setting both your file backups and your database backups to take place daily and retain 14 days worth of backups.

Setting Backup Schedule

Your file backup will include your themes, plugins, and media files. The database backup is much more important. It has all of your posts and the settings used for your themes and plugins. Make sure to backup both files and your database regularly.

Once you click the Save Changes button at the bottom of the page, your backup schedule will be saved.

With daily backups scheduled and a simple restore solution, there’s only one way left you could still face a disaster.

Save your backup to a remote server

What if something happens to your server?

Your website and the backups are stored on the same server, so you could lose them both making your backups utterly useless. Talk about a forehead smack moment…

This is why it’s always a good idea to keep your backups on a different server than your website. UpdraftPlus makes this very easy too.

In the same Settings menu where you scheduled your backups, there’s a large variety of cloud services you can send your backups to:

Cloud Storage Options

You probably already have a Google Drive account, so you can use that if you’re not sure which one to choose. The authentication process is simple – you just login to your Google account to give the plugin permission to send the files to your Google Drive.

Once you’ve selected a remote storage option, your site will automatically deliver the backup to your cloud storage platform of choice.

How cool is that?

At this point, your site is thoroughly secured from disaster. The worst-case scenario is that you lose your last 23 hours of work, and while annoying, that’s a pretty manageable worst-case.

Let’s discuss one more thing before you go.

What if I can’t login to my site?

You probably had this thought while reading:

“I can restore my site by clicking a button in the dashboard, but what if I can’t even login to my site to click the button?”

Before I share the solution, one note:

Just because you can’t login doesn’t mean you need to do a full restore. For instance, if a plugin update breaks your site then you can delete the plugin via FTP.

That said, if your site is totally broken and you can’t login, then the solution is to completely delete your site and create a new WordPress install. You should be able to do this from your hosting cPanel, but if any of this is overwhelming you can email or live chat your host to get some help.

You’ll end up with a fresh install of WordPress without any content or plugins. Then you can install the UpdraftPlus plugin, and click this link in the settings menu to reveal the backup uploader:

Upload Backup Link

Lastly, you would drag-and-drop your backup files into the upload area pictured here.

Upload Backup Files

Once the backup files are finished uploading, all of your posts, pages, settings – everything will come right back and the empty new site will be your old website again.

It might seem like magic, but that’s the point of a backup! Your backup is your website.

Other ways to secure your website

If you want more ways to prevent problems and aggravations on your WordPress website, check out this post:

11 Ways to Prevent Errors on Your WordPress Site →

It’s not the most exciting topic in the world, but I promise you’ll have an easier time running your website after following the steps in that guide.

Thanks for reading and if this post helped you out today, please share it with someone else before you go.

Ben Sibley
Ben Sibley
This article was written by Ben Sibley. He is a WordPress theme designer & developer, and founder of Compete Themes.