How to back up multiple WordPress sites

11 min read
Andy McIlwain

Editor's note: This post is part of our collection on managing multiple WordPress sites.


Picture this: You're woken up by your phone buzzing on your bedside table. A quick glance at the clock reveals the time - 4:30 am.

You answer, and it's your client. They're freaking out because it's the day of their big product launch, and their site is down. They need you to bring it back up as quickly as possible.

Rolling out of bed, you open your laptop and check what's wrong. Sure enough, someone has hacked their site and deleted most of their files. No problem. You quickly find their latest site backup, bring the site back up again, and within half an hour, your client is back in business, and you look like a hero.

Having a regularly-scheduled backup strategy is vital, especially for designers and developers managing multiple WordPress sites.

Your clients are busy running their businesses—many of them don't take website backups as seriously as they should. Perhaps they don't have the patience to learn how to set up a regular backup schedule, or they looked into it and decided it was too costly. Maybe they just assume that bad things won't happen to them.

The truth is, it's not uncommon for site owners and clients to ignore the importance of regular site backups until something goes wrong. And when an incident inevitably occurs, it's a hard lesson for them to learn, and one that isn't quickly forgotten.

As a WordPress designer or developer, though, you can help keep your clients' sites safe and secure by setting up a scheduled and automated backup schedule.

Using a WordPress site management platform like GoDaddy Pro Sites makes it quick and easy for you to manage backups for your clients' sites—and when you get that 4:30 am wake-up call, you'll be their knight in shining armor.

Why are regular backups so important?

No matter how safe or secure your clients' WordPress sites are, they're still vulnerable to a long list of failures and attacks. Backing up each of your client sites frequently is the best method for protecting against:

  • Hacking - Because of the platform's popularity, WordPress sites are frequently targeted by hackers and spammers for financial gain.
  • Human error - Even experienced site owners, designers, and developers make mistakes from time to time, overwriting or deleting the wrong files or changing databases.
  • Hardware failure - Even the best WordPress hosting companies cannot reliably offer 100% uptime.
  • Update problems - One bad WordPress plugin update or a failed theme change can prevent you from logging into your clients' sites.

When you're only managing one site that doesn't need frequent updates, you could get away with backing up that site manually. But designers and developers need a reliable, automated backup solution that can quickly and easily manage multiple WordPress sites for their clients.

Designers and developers need a reliable, automated backup solution that can quickly and easily manage multiple WordPress sites for their clients.

There are three main things to consider when creating your backup strategy for multiple WordPress sites: what you want to back up; where you want to store your backups; and lastly, when and how frequently it should be backed up.

Decide what you want to back up

The main components of any WordPress installation you might want to back up, in order of importance, include:

  1. The WordPress MySQL database
  2. Your WordPress theme
  3. Any custom files and scripts
  4. Any media and files you've uploaded
  5. The WordPress core installation files
  6. Any WordPress plugins you've installed

For every client site, you'll definitely want to have a regularly scheduled backup of the WordPress database, as this contains all the WordPress posts and pages on the site.

You'll also want to regularly back up the WordPress site theme, since that frequently contains customizations that you or the site owner made while developing the site, as well as any custom scripts or files you or the site owner might have added.

Depending on how the site you're working with is set up, the other components you choose to back up might vary a little. The WordPress core files and any plugins can always be re-downloaded from the source, so they may not need to be backed up.

GoDaddy Pro Sites makes it easy for web designers and developers to pick and choose which components to back up across multiple WordPress sites

When assessing what should be backed up, it's helpful to ask yourself two questions:

  1. How much effort would this take to replace if I lost this work? Prioritize any files, themes, or scripts you've customized that you can't afford to lose.
  2. How quickly does the site need to come back up if something goes wrong? If your client is an eCommerce retailer, for example, any downtime on their site leads to lost sales. In this case, you might want to back up everything more frequently, so you can bring the site back up more quickly—although this could mean backing up a lot more data.

Decide where you want to back up

Once you know exactly what you need to back up for each of your clients' sites, you should choose where you want to store each backup.

We recommend keeping three different copies of your WordPress data and relevant files for each of your clients:

  1. The active data on the WordPress web server, hosted with GoDaddy or elsewhere.
  2. A manual backup that you download and store locally on your computer's hard drive. Storing data locally is cost-effective, but restoring your files by uploading from your home can take a long time.
  3. An automatic, scheduled backup to a remote location, such as GoDaddy's secure cloud storage, Dropbox, or Google Drive. Depending on the plan you choose and how much you need to store, this can be a faster and more convenient, but potentially expensive, option.

By having three copies of each WordPress site you manage, you'll always have a full-site backup that's quickly accessible, regardless of what happens to the WordPress server, your clients' computer, or your own laptop.

Choosing different backup intervals for multiple WordPress sites is easy with GoDaddy Pro Sites

It's worth noting that backing up your site too frequently can use a large amount of storage, which can add additional cost, depending on the storage provider you choose. GoDaddy Pro Sites include free daily backups for managed sites, but the costs can quickly start to add up when using storage providers like Dropbox or Google Drive.

To help make the best use of limited storage, WordPress site management tools like GoDaddy Pro Sites let you choose how frequently you want to back up your data—anywhere from monthly backups up to real-time. You should set the backup schedule for each client site according to how frequently the content on the site is updated.

For example, an online publication producing dozens of new stories each day could benefit from real-time backups, whereas a blog or marketing site that's updated less frequently could suffice with daily, weekly, or even monthly backups.

You can also choose different backup intervals for different locations. Let's say you want to back up your WordPress database to GoDaddy's cloud storage every day, but only back up your content, theme, and other files every week to Dropbox -- GoDaddy Pro Sites lets you set that up quickly and easily.

How to manually back up multiple WordPress sites

Now that you've chosen what data you need to back up and where you want the backup data to be stored, the final step is to decide when you want to run backups.

You've got two options for backups - manual and automatic. Manual backups are great for performing a quick one-time backup of a client site, but we don't recommend them as a solution for ensuring the ongoing security of your clients' sites.

Remembering to frequently run manual backups is an ongoing challenge for busy designers and developers, and it only takes one forgotten backup to create major headaches for your clients.

It's your responsibility to your clients to keep their sites backed up frequently. They're the ones that are impacted when their site goes down or loses data due to poor backups.

You can always run a manual backup anytime by using the Export tool in WordPress, but there are a few caveats with this method.

When backing up your sites directly from WordPress, you can only download the backup files to your local drive—there's no way to upload the files directly to cloud storage.

Backing up multiple WordPress sites using this method is also very time-consuming, since you need to log into each site separately to start the backups.

While manually backing up your site using WordPress is one option, scheduled automatic backups are a much more effective solution when managing multiple WordPress sites

You can also create a manual backup from within GoDaddy Pro Sites on demand, in addition to any scheduled backups.

It's important to remember that a dependable backup strategy for your clients doesn't rely on manual backups. That's why it's vital to use a WordPress site management platform like GoDaddy Pro Sites to automate your backups, especially when managing multiple WordPress sites.

How to automatically back up multiple WordPress sites

Automated backups are the best solution for most web designers and developers managing multiple WordPress sites for clients. Instead of relying on your own memory to run manual backups of each site, it's well worth the time and effort to set up automatic backups of your clients' sites.

A WordPress site management tool like GoDaddy Pro Sites lets you quickly set up scheduled backups, managing all your clients' sites in one place. Keeping all your backups within a unified tool comes with a lot of advantages:

  • You get peace of mind knowing that your client backups are always up to date - even at 4:30 am.
  • You'll save significant time by managing all your client sites in one tool, instead of logging into each site separately.
  • Each site can be backed up to multiple locations at the same time.
  • You get notifications whenever an automated backup fails, so you can quickly fix what went wrong.

GoDaddy Pro Sites makes it easy to set up automated backups for all your client sites. You can set different schedules for each site, with the ability to back up to multiple locations on different schedules. You can even set up notifications, so you'll know straight away if something goes wrong.

Learn more: Backing up sites within your GoDaddy Pro Sites account

Configuring event notifications in GoDaddy Pro Sites

How to restore your backups when things go wrong

Let's face it - even when you've done everything you can to prevent problems, things can and will go wrong, and often at the most inconvenient times for you and your clients. And when something does go wrong, the last thing you need is to lose even more time searching for that manual backup you think you saved last month.

Fortunately, GoDaddy Pro Sites makes restoring from your scheduled backups quick and easy. You can choose the exact date and time you'd like to roll back your site to, or you can clone an entirely new site from any of your backups.

If you're storing your backups externally, either locally or on cloud storage services like Dropbox or Google Drive, you can upload the backup zip file to use as the recovery base for your site. And if you've forgotten your administrator username and password for WordPress, you can even create a new administrator account automatically.

Learn more: How to restore your site from a backup using GoDaddy Pro Sites

Every site needs a backup before it's too late

Don't be fooled into thinking that just because you've never had a client call you at 4:30 am, nothing bad will happen in the future. Incidents happen when you least expect them—and when they do, they cost you and your clients time and money.

It's important to be prepared in advance, and have an automated backup strategy for all your client sites. You'll be glad you did.

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