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It goes without saying that you should backup your website(s). Anything can go wrong: a plugin or theme update can break your site, the server may go down, the site may be compromised by hackers. Sometimes the webmaster simply makes a blunder while developing the site. If you have a proper backup plan, data loss will not be a disaster.
Because WordPress is a content management system and as such it relies on a database, it will not be sufficient to copy all files from the server to your local drive. Many years ago, when static html websites were popular, people developed such websites locally on their computers and uploaded ready files to the server. This is not the case with modern content management systems. They require a database and most of the work is done in a browser. Backing up a CMS site means backing up the database and the files.
If you use WordPress as your CMS, you have many tools at your disposal that will make your life easier. I have been using two WP backup tools for several years now, and they have always done a great job. They rescued me on a few occasions. To express my gratitude to the plugin authors, I award the first one of them the title “WordPress Plugin of the Month”.
This title goes to UpdraftPlus. This plugin has more than 1 million active installs currently and excellent reviews. There is a free version available from the official WordPress repository and a premium one. While the premium version offers some very convenient features, the free version is definitely usable and very capable. In most cases, the free version will be good enough.
The one thing that I like best about UpdraftPlus is that you can set up automatic backups and configure the time intervals. The backups can be sent to your email address or uploaded to external storage, e.g. DropBox, GoogleDrive, OneDrive. The premium version offers more choices than the free one. When I switched to WordPress from Drupal in 2013, I was amazed how easy and convenient backups were in the WordPress world compared to Drupal.
I have been using UpdraftPlus since then and it has never failed me. A couple of times I had to restore a backup and it worked flawlessly. When I start to develop a site, I usually set up short backup intervals, for example every 12 hours for the database. Later, I increase the intervals, depending on how often I change things or add new content.
Here is a screenshot of my settings in UpdraftPlus:
The free version of UpdraftPlus doesn’t offer the possibility to migrate your site to a new address. You have to restore the backup at the same address. If you need to clone your website (for example to perform some “experiments”), you must buy the premium version or their Migrator add-on. Alternatively, you can do it with another plugin and I will write about it some other time.
All in all, UpdraftPlus is an essential plugin and one of the first things that I install and configure on every new site. However, a good backup strategy basically boils down to one word: “redundancy”. The more backups you have, the better. “More” in this case means backups created with different tools and stored at different locations. While UpdraftPlus has never failed me, my advice is to use also at least one additional tool to create backups. You may never exclude the possibility of software bugs or file corruption. But the chance, that such errors will affect two or more tools and your wonderful site breaks at the same time, is very low.