How to backup a WordPress site

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While a savvy small business owner learns many skills, how to backup a WordPress site usually isn’t one of them. However, without this skill, you’ll get much more than a headache if something goes wrong with your site — it could ruin your bottom line.

Backing up your website is imperative if your income relies in any way on its content. Not doing so could be business suicide. The good news is that there are a lot of quick, simple tools and solutions available to help you out.

In this post, we’ll talk about why you should backup your WordPress website, then look at the site elements you should prioritize. We’ll also explain how to backup a WordPress database, and discuss the tools at your disposal. Finally, we’ll walk you through how to backup a WordPress site using the UpdraftPlus plugin.

Why backing up your WordPress site is important

Updraft Backup/Restore Backup List
Backing up your WordPress website could literally save your business.

Backing up important information is now a familiar concept for many. It’s an automated transfer of your files to a location of your choosing, with easy access in case the worst happens.

It’s vital to have recent backups in place, especially for small businesses. Here are just two of the many benefits:

  • You have a “get out of jail free” card if you’re hacked and need to restore your website.
  • You can use the backup to set up a local or staging site to work on its development without affecting your live site.

The first of these benefits will likely be the most attractive for business owners, given the pressing need for round-the-clock site security. With that in mind, let’s look at the specific elements you should keep safe.

Which site elements you should backup (and when)

While backups are important, choosing the parts of your WordPress website to backup is just as pressing. Although some larger sites have a complex backup strategy, smaller sites and beginners should backup everything (in most cases). This ensures that your entire site can be re-installed in a matter of minutes.

How often you backup, on the other hand, will ultimately depend on your site’s size and content.


For sites without much interactive content — i.e., sites with no comments or blog — you can probably get away with backing up once a week. However, for most other sites, once a day is optimum. Fortunately, GoDaddy offers free daily backups on all WordPress hosting plans.

Finally, bear in mind an oft-repeated rule for backups: If your data doesn’t exist in three different places, it doesn’t exist at all. The tools we’ll look at later can all help with achieving this goal.

How to manually download critical files

You can download important files through your web hosting control panel. Another option is using FTP. What should you download?

1. Download the entire “wp-content” folder off your server. This folder is the heart of your WordPress site, containing all of the themes, plugins, and media uploads on your site.

2. From your root directory (which is usually public_html), download a copy of your .htaccess, robots.txt and wp-config.php files. These contain important configuration settings for your website.

3. Go to your backup folder and download a copy of that database file. This may be saved as a .sql or .gzip file, depending on your backup settings. The database backup contains all of your site’s content and settings that are stored in the database.

4. Last but not least, go back into your WordPress dashboard and go to Tools > Export and download your WordPress XML file. This is similar to the database backup in that it contains your content, posts, and pages.

How to backup WordPress database

An alternative option is to only backup your WordPress database, as opposed to your entire site. For the uninitiated, your database contains absolutely everything related to your WordPress installation, so it arguably warrants special attention. Since this type of backup only applies to your core files and database, it’s ideal for those who install a lot of themes and plugins or have many images that aren’t crucial to their site.

However, how to backup a WordPress database can be quite complex if you’re not technically minded. Unless you have a specific reason to the contrary, full backups offer more flexibility and a quicker route to getting your site back online.

3 tools to help you backup a WordPress site

When it comes to a backup, there are two main options: plugins or your host’s native solution. The latter offers a low-effort approach. For example, GoDaddy’s Managed WordPress accounts provide 30-days worth of backups and can be restored within minutes. What’s more, this feature is automatically enabled, so your site will be safe from the moment you purchase hosting.

However, there are also a number of dedicated plugins that let you avoid wondering how to backup a WordPress site.


For starters, WPBackItUp provides one-click customized backups that can be regularly scheduled. It offers a variety of cloud storage options, too, so you can make backups to multiple locations. While there’s a free community version of the plugin, the premium version is available for a reasonable fee and includes additional functionality.


Next up is UpdraftPlus. This is arguably the most popular backup plugin available, and the free version should be enough for practically all your needs. Using this plugin is a breeze, especially since it also offers one-click backup and restore features (with a number of options for cloud storage). There’s also a premium option available, and a number of add-ons to enhance UpdraftPlus’s functionality.

How to backup a WordPress site using UpdraftPlus

Now let’s talk about using UpdraftPlus to carry out a full WordPress site backup. It’s one of the best-loved and easiest-to-use solutions available, and the free version is likely all you’ll need to get going.

First, you’ll need to install and activate the plugin within WordPress, then from your dashboard go to Settings, and then select UpdraftPlus Backups.

UpdraftPlus MenuWhile there are a wealth of options on the Settings tab to tailor your backups (which are worth a look), to carry one out you can simply click Backup Now on the Current Status tab:

Backup Screenshot in UpdraftPlusYou’ll see a screen with two checkboxes relating to your backup content. For now, keep them both checked. When you’re ready, click Backup Now again. UpdraftPlus will carry out a backup, and you can access it by either clicking Restore or navigating to the Existing Backups tab.

In conclusion

Now that you know how to backup a WordPress site, you should do it on a regular basis. However, you might not be sure how difficult the process will be, or you might be confident that you’ll never need a backup. Just know this could backfire if something happens to compromise your site.

In this post, we’ve offered a primer on how to backup up a WordPress site, since it’s sadly inevitable that you’ll have to restore your website at least once in your career. We’ve explained why backing up is necessary, then looked at some tools to help you carry out a backup, such as your host’s own native solution. Finally, we walked you through how to backup a WordPress site using the UpdraftPlus plugin.

Editor’s note: One of the easiest tools? GoDaddy’s Website Backup, which features automatic daily backups and one-click restore. 

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