Have you ever broken your blog? I have. Self-hosted WordPress makes it so easy to automatically update themes, plugins and even WordPress itself that I’ve just got into the habit of updating whenever I see a new version of anything. About 6 months ago I saw my theme had an update available, so I applied it. I didn’t realise I had broken my blog at first, it was very subtle. It was only after a few minutes when I was checking everything looked OK that I realised I’d broken the comments system. People were entirely unable to post comments on my blog!
My heart sank. It’s a horrible feeling.
Thankfully I had a backup, and I was able within about thirty minutes to “roll back” to the old version of the theme. What about you? When did you last back up your blog? Do you know how to back up your blog?
If your answer to this is “I don’t need to do backups – my host does them for me” or “I’m on Blogger/Wordpress.com so my blog is backed up by them” then I strongly recommend that you start doing your own backups as well. Yes, your host may be doing backups for you, but that makes you dependent on them to restore your blog as well. How fast do they respond to a support ticket? Then they’ve got to find the backup, and if they host many other sites or blogs it’s going to take them a while to find your files. In some cases they may only backup so that they can restore their servers in the case of major outage, and might not be able to restore individual components of individual blogs at all. I wouldn’t take the chance.
Maybe you know you should be backing your blog up regularly, but you don’t know how to do it. I can help you with that.
First of all, if you are a Blogger user then the lovely Nickie has written a great tutorial on how to back up your blog on her new Geekalicious blog.
If you’re on WordPress.com then backups are very easy. Simply go to the Tools menu in your dashboard and choose “Export”. You can choose to export posts, pages, feedbacks (comments) or everything. It probably won’t suprise you to learn that I recommend you backup everything! Please note that this does not back up your theme or any images you have uploaded to your blog, and I’ve not been able to find a way of backing those things up on WordPress.com (but I’m not really a WP.com expert, so if you know better please let me know in the comments below).
Finally self-hosted WordPress users. You have a vast array of tools available to you to back up your blog. Just as with WP.com you can manually export your content using Tools/Export, but again it’s important to remember that will only back up content, not images or themes. If you’re comfortable with FTP (File Transfer Protocol) access to your blog you can manually back up the non-database stuff by using your FTP client of choice (I recommend FileZilla) to copy the files to your local computer.
There are a myriad of free backup plugins for WordPress.org sites, and it’s very hard to assess which ones work and which don’t. I always used to use one called WP-Database-Backup, but I noticed whilst researching this article that it hasn’t been updated for two years, which rings alarm bells for me – if a plugin isn’t being regularly updated then it may not work properly, or even worse it might have security holes which could open your blog to the risk of hacking. So I went searching for an alternative that I could recommend. I haven’t used it personally, but I must confess that I very much like the look of WordPress Backup to DropBox, which allows you to automatically make a full backup of your blog (both database and file system files) to your DropBox account. If you haven’t got a DropBox account already and want to be nice to me, sign up through my link and you and I will both get an extra free 500Mb storage – that’s a good amount of extra backup space!
The final option for self hosted WordPress is to pay for a premium backup plugin. I use VaultPress on my geekmummy blog, and that’s what saved my bacon with the aforementioned theme disaster. It’s quite expensive at $15 per month, but it really is the ultimate backup solution, as it works in real time – this means any time anything changes on your site, it gets backed up to the VaultPress servers immediately, which means you can always restore your blog back to the way it was at most an hour or so ago. Having restored from my backups several times, I know this works and I can 100% recommend it.
A cheaper alternative, especially if you have multiple blogs to back up is Backup Buddy. There’s an annual charge of $75 for two blogs and $100 for up to 10 blogs. I’ve only just discovered this and have started using it with my smaller blogs. It’s a more traditional scheduling-type backup plugin, but it backs up all of your blog (content and appearance), seems to work very nicely, and has the added bonus of being able to stick your backup files onto your DropBox account (did I mention how useful DropBox is?). You can choose to back up daily, weekly or monthly, and you can get email updates as to the status of your backup. I haven’t restored anything through this system yet, but it’s looking good so far.
So there you go. A pretty comprehensive round up of how to back up your blog. Your only remaining question might be how often should I back my blog up? Well, it depends how often your blog changes, and how much you’d be willing to lose in the event of a disaster. Weekly is probably OK for most people, although if you publish multiple posts daily you may prefer a daily backup. And always take a backup before making any major changes to your site, including updating the theme or applying a core WordPress update.
Do you have any other questions you would like me to answer in a future edition of “Ask geekmummy”? If so, please leave them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to help.