I see backup systems for WordPress in much the same way I see car insurance. I don’t need them until I need them, and then I need them really bad.
Without a doubt one of the first things a person should do after installing WordPress (or any other CMS) is to install a backup system. This is so easily done using plugins that I can’t imagine why I was such a slow adopter myself.
The first website I owned was one that I built using Microsoft FrontPage. That was in 1999 and I’ve been online continuously since then. The first few years my sites were all static. WordPress wasn’t around then and neither was Joomla or Drupal, at least not in any large scale way.
Then, between 2000 and 2005 WordPress, Mambo (later forked to Joomla) and Drupal came along. Websites developed on each of those were database driven. The old static websites had been hard-coded, meaning the text that was visible to the reader was manually written into the code that made the website possible. WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal changed that, providing a way to have dynamically updated content instead of having to put up another entire page.
I don’t remember ever installing Drupal, but I experimented with Mambo, and later, a fork of Mambo called Joomla which was released in 2005 . WordPress had been around since 2003 and in 2006 or 2007 I installed it for the first time.
A backup system is vital.
I wish I could say I’d taken steps to protect my websites back then. I don’t know if it was a case of simple ignorance or of me flying with blinders on, but several passed before it dawned on me that I should be taking steps to keep the software that my websites ran on updated, meaning the WordPress or Joomla core files, themes, and plugins. I can’t say exactly what year I started doing so, but somewhere along the line I began keeping regular backups as well.
Nowadays, I would never develop my own site nor one for a client without a backup system in place. A backup plugin is one of the very first things I install on a new website. Backups are equally important on Joomla, but because most of my work is on WordPress sites, I’ll discuss it here.
Why are Backup Systems for WordPress Necessary?
WordPress is easy to use from the front end. Behind the scenes, however, it is a complex piece of software. WordPress is comprised of approximately 400,000 lines of code and can be extended by your choice of more than 50,000 plugins. Some very basic websites have only three or four plugins. Other more complex sites may have dozens of plugins installed and activated. Any piece of software with that level of complexity is going to have a hiccup or two at some point in time. Sites break. When they do, you may find out in a hurry how badly you needed that backup system.
Another thing to keep in mind is that WordPress, because it powers a huge percentage of websites on the Internet, is a sitting target for people who seem to think their appointed role in life is to wreck other people’s websites. WordPress itself is much more securely written than it was just a few years ago, but the possibilities of problems still exist. That’s not because there’s something wrong with WordPress. Rather I think we could say that it just comes with the territory, as my friend used to say.
- Catastrophic server failure.
- External forces such as DDOS attacks.
- A hacking event.
- Webhost backup doesn’t work.
- Host’s backup doesn’t include your most recent work.
How Can I Protect My Site with Backups?
Make sure your WordPress website is hosted with a company that follows a strong security protocol. If your website is hosted by a conscientious company, they most likely have regular backups that you could fall back on in an emergency. But even that plan can fail if all the stars line up just right. Events such as DDOS can play havoc with even the best web hosts.
A better idea is to create your own “plan b” by installing your own backup system using a high-quality plugin from a reputable developer. There are some powerful backup systems for WordPress.
Sites can, and do, break.
There’s No Way I Could Break My Own Website, is There?
It is easy to underestimate the possibility that a backup file might be needed. I can break my entire site with a simple bump of a delete key or a misplaced curly bracket in the code. A plugin that is misbehaving might cause issues for which the easiest fix is a backup.
A few months ago I had an update go wrong on a client’s site. A site that was up and happy one minute was critically broken a couple minutes later. The thing that saved me was a copy of a recent backup. For several years I have used BackupBuddy, and it saved me that day. To date, it has never failed me. BackupBuddy is worth more than its cost just for the quality of it backup system, although there are also a number of features that take it beyond a simple backup tool.
More recently, an update went sideways on one of my own sites. If I’d been able to access the control panel I might have been able to fix the issue. I couldn’t get in, though, no matter what I tried. I went through the steps of manually disabling the plugins via cPanel’s file manager. That didn’t help. I tried several other tactics that also failed to help the issue. Again, thanks to a backup .zip file I had stored, I was able to get the site up and running in less than an hour.
In addition to the backups that our hosting provider keeps, we multiple backup facilities running on our own sites. Of course, BackupBuddy is installed on all of those sites.
I’ll write more about how to use BackUpBuddy in another article. You can find out more about BackupBuddy here.