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Automate Your Backups

Losing data is no fun. Losing lots of data is even less fun. Losing an entire website can pretty much bring you to your knees.

Unfortunately, losing data is one of those things in life that we don’t usually think about until it’s too late. Of course, unless you’re one of those people that has thought of losing data and puts it off because… well, it’s work.

And there are way more fun things to do, right?

For all you people out there that have better things to do than backups, here’s a process that makes backing up your WordPress site a walk in the park.

It ain’t just a copy

First, let’s clarify a few terms: A backup is not just a copy of your site’s template and images. A backup is a backup of your entire database, which includes every single thing on your site down to the very last comma. The WordPress Codex puts it quite nicely:

“Your WordPress database contains every post, every comment and every link you have on your blog. If your database gets erased or corrupted, you stand to lose everything you have written.”

Timing is everything

When you choose to back up your WordPress site is up to you, really. The best way to figure out when you should schedule your backups is by asking yourself this question:

How much work do I NOT want to lose and have to redo from scratch?

If you post once a month, a backup every six months or so might do just fine. If you post to your blog every single day, frequent backups are more important than if you only post once a month. It’s up to you.

The bottom line is that you have to reconcile the headache of doing backups with the headache of redoing lost work. There’s a middle ground somewhere, and only you can decide the point that works best with your workflow.

Quantity over quality?

In an ideal world, you’ll only need one backup: the most recent. You can delete older backups, of course.

But keep in mind that you’ll only need one backup in an ideal world. If that single backup file goes kaput (and yes, it can), you’re done. Like any other file in the world, your backup file can be accidentally deleted, become corrupted, or get lost because of a poor naming structure. Having a few backups handy can really save your butt, and the files won’t make a significant dent in your system’s resources.

Oh, and just as with any other important file, backing up a second time to a CD or external drive certainly doesn’t hurt.

How to backup

The easiest way to back up your WordPress site (we mean the true lazy man’s version) is to use a backup plug-in. Without a plug-in to automate your backups, you’d have to dip into into sections of your site’s database that might not make you feel very comfortable.

We recommend the WordPress Database Backup plugin. Upload and activate this baby like you would any other plugin. Once you’ve activated the plugin, follow the instructions located on the WordPress Database Backup plugin.
Pretty simple, eh?

When you reach step 4 in the installation, it may be a good idea to select the download method. First, you might never receive that backup file via email if your email account has a hiccup. Second, downloading the file allows you the opportunity to burn to a CD or copy to an external drive.

In the Admin panel for the plug-in, there are automatic update options. You can choose to update your WordPress blog as often as you like, and it will all happen automatically. That renders all the great excuses like, “I don’t have time to backup,” and, “I forgot” completely null and void. The problem with that is that you no longer have an excuse not to back up your blog (which is bad for procrastinator junkies).

The big bang: how to restore from your backup

You never thought it would happen, did you? (We told you it would, but you didn’t listen…)

You wake up with a great idea for a post and, still in your underwear, you head over to your computer to log on. Instead of your usual WordPress welcome screen, you see this:

“We came here looking for money but couldn’t find any. So we hacked your site instead. Thanks for nothing. – The Cranky Monkey Crew.”

Good thing you have that backup file. Now you’re going to use it.

But before you dip your feet into the databases of your site, please note that there is no “Undo” or “Undelete” or similar life-saving miracle for your actions. If you delete something, it’s gone.

That said, let’s get rolling on your restore, with thanks going out to the WordPress Codex:

  1. Login to phpMyAdmin.
  2. Click databases. Select the database where you will import your data. You will then see either a list of tables already inside that database or a screen that says no tables exist. This depends on your setup.
  3. Across the top of the screen, there is a row of tabs. Click the Import tab.
  4. On the next screen, there is a Location of Text File box and next to that a button named Browse. Click Browse.
  5. Locate the backup file stored on your computer.
  6. Make sure the SQL radio button is checked.
  7. Click the Go button.

Want to see this restore process with screenshots? Just click here.

Good luck – and don’t forget to back up!



  • DJ
    August 22, 2008

    I swear I hear angels singing when I saw this post. I was just thinking that there has to be an easier way to backup. THANKS!

    I backup all my blogs (over 20, I use wordpress for almost all of my websites) once a week. Today is that day. I’ll definitely be trying this out.


  • antiquarian books
    December 11, 2008

    Thank you for this information. :)


  • scratch and dent
    January 22, 2009

    great post !!
    Thank you for sharing.


  • Keith Davis
    November 24, 2009

    WP database backup it is then.
    You guys write very readable posts.
    For the technically challenged such as me they are perfect.


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