Having a backup is essential for any WordPress site. Why? Simply because it’s hard work creating a website, and there are times when your site could go crash due to a hack, a human error, or a malfunctioning plugin, among other things. A backup can help you recover your site and get back to business in no time. Now, automated backup solutions are the easiest. Manual backups seem like a few simple steps, but in reality, it takes a lot of time to learn and to carry out the process. However, if you want to give manual WordPress backups a try, we’ve entailed the process for you.
Caution: This process is technical and risky. You must tread carefully and ensure you don’t accidentally delete anything or move things around. You could end up breaking your site.
Recommendation: Create a staging site (i.e., a test environment) and carry out the manual backup process. This will ensure your live site is never affected.
Preparing for a Manual WordPress Backup
Your WordPress site comprises two main components – Files and Database. Now, the data of both components needs to be backed up. You have different options available to access your website’s data and take a copy of it. Let’s take a look at what you need to keep handy before we start the manual backup:
For files – Your website’s files reside on the web host’s server. You can access them in two ways:
- Via cPanel – This is accessible through your hosting account. You need to keep your host account username and password handy.
- Via FTP – We can connect to your files using a software called FTP (File Transfer Protocol) like FileZilla. To connect to FTP, you need the following credentials that is usually available in your hosting account:
If you don’t have this information, you can contact your host or learn how to use FTP.
For database – This is accessible only through phpMyAdmin. Usually, phpMyAdmin comes pre-installed in the cPanel of your hosting account. You only need your host account credentials here.
If you do not have access to cPanel, you can download phpMyAdmin directly.
Once you have these things in place, you’re ready to start the manual WordPress backup. We would recommend creating a folder on your computer to store your backup, like so:
We take backups in order to restore them in case something goes wrong with our websites. It’s good to keep things organised and know where your backup is stored. In times of an emergency, you won’t have to hunt it down.
How to take a Manual Backup of WordPress
Now that you have everything ready, we can take you through the step-by-step process to manually backup WordPress sites.
1. Manual Backup of your WordPress Files
As mentioned above, there are two ways of backing up your files: via cPanel or FTP. Let’s take a look at each in detail.
A. Backup Your WordPress Files Using cPanel
We picked cPanel first because it’s the easiest. cPanel is accessible from your webhost account and you don’t need to download any external software to do a manual backup using this method. Now the steps may vary slightly, but generally, all hosts follow similar navigations.
Step 1 Login to your webhost account. Navigate to your ‘product’ and select it. For example, yourwebsitename.com.
As mentioned earlier, few of these steps may vary between hosts. On the GoDaddy dashboard, you would see an option called ‘cPanel Admin’. But if your using Bluehost, it would be under ‘Advanced’.
If you can’t find cPanel, check out the help section of your host to find out the exact steps.
Note: Many managed WordPress hosting providers like Flywheel do not provide access to cPanel. In these cases, you would need to use the FTP method.
Step 2 Once inside cPanel, you’ll see ‘File Manager’. We’ve arrived at the location of your files. Now, we just need to pick them up and drop them off on your local system.
Step 3 On the left panel, you should see a number of folders. Find one that says “public_html”. Expand the folder by clicking on the + symbol. If you have multiple sites, you’ll need to select the folder that bears your website’s name.
In the example below, the name of our website is ‘Demo’, so we’ve clicked on public_html > Demo. Now, this folder should contain three folders named wp-admin, wp-content, and wp-includes along with a bunch of files.
Step 4 On the right panel, you can ‘select all’, right click and download the files. We would not recommend this because it takes longer to download and could overload your server. A better way to do this would be to select the public html folder (or your website’s folder). Right click and choose ‘Compress’ like so:
It will give you a couple options to compress. We’ve selected zip archive.
This makes the process faster and lighter, and it reduces storage space required. Once the zip file is ready, select it and download.
We recommend moving the downloaded zip file to the folder we created WordPress Website Backup > Files.
B. Backup WordPress Files Using FTP
The reason why this is our second choice is because:
- You need your FTP credential
- You need to install a third-party software
- Your manual backup becomes dependent on the connection between FTP and the server. This can increase the time taken to perform a manual backup.
But FTP is just as easy and is an alternative to those who don’t have cPanel access. That said, let’s proceed with the steps:
Open FileZilla or the FTP client of your choice. You will see your ‘local site’ on the left panel with the folders that exist on your computer and the remote site on the right. It will be greyed out because we haven’t connected to it yet. Enter your credentials and connect to the server.
Step 2 Once the server connection is successful, you will see the directory populate on the remote website (right panel) like so:
Navigate to the public_html or the folder of your website xyz.com.
You can select a folder, right click and download it to your local system. Alternatively, if you want to choose specific files, you can also drag and drop files from the right panel to the left panel into the folder we created.
Once done, you’ve successfully created a manual backup of your files. We recommend you encrypt the data and store it in a zip file.
2. Backup Database via phpMyAdmin
The next thing to do is to copy your database via phpMyAdmin. Here, we’ll show you how to navigate phpMyAdmin using cPanel of your hosting account.
Login to your web host account. Navigate to your ‘product’ and select it. Eg: xyz.com. On the next page, you should see an option called ‘cPanel Admin’.
Step 2 Under ‘Databases’, you’ll see phpMyAdmin.
Upon clicking it, you’ll enter the area in which you can see your WordPress databases. From the tabs on the top, select ‘Databases.’
Step 3 Choose your database from the left panel, and it will expand on the right panel to show you the contents.
Note: If you don’t know which one is your database, download your wp_config.php file using File Manager or FTP. This will contain your database information.
Once you’ve selected the right database, simply select all the tables on the right panel and export it.
Pro tip: If there is no ‘select all’ option, select the top row, scroll to the bottom and hit ‘shift’ and click on the last row. It will select all.
You’ll be given the option to choose which format you want. We need MySQL databases, so unless your tech-savvy and want a different option, leave it at its default option ‘SQL’.
Once downloaded, you will have a .sql file. You can move it to the database backup folder we created to store it.
Congratulations, you’ve successfully taken a complete backup of your website! Pat yourself on the back, it’s a commendable feat!
But we aren’t done just yet. After you’ve taken a backup successfully, we recommend you carry out the following list of activities.
Things to do after a manual backup
Encryption – A backup contains all your website’s data. Therefore, if hackers get their hands on it, they pretty much have all the information they need. This is why encryption is so important.
Once data is encrypted, even if it falls into the wrong hands, there’s nothing they can do with it. Encryption software available that allows you to do this.
Test restore – Any backup is only as good as its restore. When you call on your backup to use it to restore your site, if it doesn’t work, then the whole process goes in vain. Therefore, you need to test restore it. Don’t wait for something to go wrong with your site to find out whether it works or not.
You can create a staging site (a test environment) and then test out the backup. This will ensure your live site is never affected. To create a staging site, you can check with your hosting provider to see if they have the option, or you would need to use a plugin.
Since you’ve taken a manual backup, to test restore, you might find this WordPress restore guide helpful.
Make multiple copies – Lastly, once you know you have a functional backup, make a couple of copies and store it in different places. This is just good practice because you don’t have to rely on one backup copy.
Storage includes cloud storage options such as Google Drive, One Drive, Dropbox, Amazon S3, etc. It also includes devices like pen drives and hard drives. You can check our guides on how to backup WordPress to Dropbox and Google Drive backups.
If one gets damaged or lost, you always have a few more handy.
That brings us to the end of the process of manual backups. We hope you are now savvy with taking a WordPress backup on your own.
This step-by-step guide might make manual backups sound like a piece of cake. But the truth is that things don’t always roll out smoothly.
The problems faced with WordPress Manual Backups
Manual WordPress backups can be done on your own at any time you like, and the best part is it’s free. However, there are too many problems that you could face.
Time-consuming – The time it takes to copy the files and database depends greatly on your internet connection, your device and also the connection to the host’s server. If you’ve attempted the process, you would realise that this is time-consuming and frustrating.
Server Disconnections – Sometimes the process runs smoothly, but a lot of times, you would run into hiccups as the connection between your computer and the server keeps disconnecting. You may also see error prompts that tell you the download was not successful.
Slows down your website – Further, the process of copying files and tables is resource-intensive, therefore, you would be loading your server and slowing down your site every time you attempt a manual backup.
Risky Process – If you don’t create the backup correctly, it won’t work and when the time comes, you could lose your website and all its data. Further, the slightest error can break your site. The manual method of WordPress backups is feasible as a one-time thing, but on a regular basis, it would take up much of your valuable time.
Conclusion: What’s the best way to take a backup?
If you own a website, taking regular backups should be a top priority. Most hosting providers offer backup services in the hosting package, but some do charge an additional fee for it. These backups have a lot of limitations and there are several reasons why you shouldn’t rely on your hosting backup.
We recommend using WordPress backup plugins like BlogVault that will take care of the job for you. It removes the complexities involved and makes the process simple. To use BlogVault, all that’s required is a few clicks and your FTP credentials the first time you sign up.
After that, you get access to a number of benefits that no WordPress site owner should live without:
- Backups are automated and can be scheduled as per your requirements.
- You can even opt for real-time backups that save every change as and when it’s made.
- You don’t have to worry about storage cause your data is encrypted and stored safely on Amazon S3 servers.
- The customer support team is available round the clock to help you resolve your queries.
- It also uses an incremental sync technology that ensures there is no load on your site, so its performance is never affected.
- The best part is, you can create staging sites and test restore your backup any time to ensure it works!
With a 100% restoration rate, BlogVault is the most reliable backup solution for your website.
To sum up, it’s good to know the manual process of backing up your site. But spending valuable time on backups is just something not a lot of site owners can afford to do. This is why we recommend using a WordPress backup plugin.
Whichever one you choose, we hope you have a reliable backup handy at all times!