WordPress makes it so easy to add content to your website so before long you’ve built up a huge archive of pages and posts. And as your site is vital in promoting your business, you want to make sure that all that content is kept safe.
So it’s super important that you keep that sucker backed up. Imagine how gutted you’d be if some or all of your content was lost due to hacking, technical issues or good old user error. Implementing a regular schedule for WordPress updates and backups is really important for preventing that and keeping your site healthy.
Update alert! This was originally posted in 2012 and has been updated with new screenshots and more info to help make it easy for you to keep your site healthy.
From time to time you’ll be notified of available updates to plugins, themes and WordPress itself in your dashboard.
That’ll show as a number appearing beside Updates on the menu. If there’s a new version of WordPress available that’ll also show in a message at the top of your screen, and updates to Plugins will show in the menu too.
It’s really important to install these updates as they’re usually released to fix security issues, bugs and to introduce new features. Pretty much every time I’ve seen a hacked or broken site, the cause has ultimately come from out of date software, so don’t risk it. Set aside some time regularly to install your updates.
To install the updates go to the Updates screen where you’ll see a list of the plugins or themes with updates or a new WordPress version, then click the Update button beside each section.
It’s super important to backup your site before installing updates though, especially if you’re installing a new version of WordPress. And if you have a lot of plugins to update, I’d recommend doing them 2-3 at a time, as on some web hosts, updating loads at once can slow down the server or cause errors.
It’s essential that you backup your site regularly.
If your files get damaged by hosting problems or user errors, or compromised by hackers, a backup will let you quickly fix the damage and get back to normal.
I’ve tried many backup options and one I currently like is UpdraftPlus WordPress Backup Plugin.
With UpdraftPlus you can do both manual, on-demand backups – like right before you install updates! – and scheduled backups.
It will backup both your database – which contains all your posts, pages and comments – and your files – your themes, images and so on – and package them into zip files. You can set it to email the files to you (if your backup files a reasonably small), manually download them to your computer, or you can connect Dropbox or Google Drive and store your files there.
Backing up your site
Once you’ve installed and activated UpdraftPlus (check out this post for a handy guide to installing plugins), go to Settings > UpdraftPlus Backups in your dashboard.
Click Back Up Now to start the backup process. If your site is quite small, this should be quite quick, but on larger sites with oodles of posts this can take a bit longer. You’ll see a progress bar at the bottom of the screen.
Once that’s complete, go to the Existing Backups tab and you’ll see a list of your backup files.
You’ll see the site has been split into 5 zip folders: Database, Plugins, Themes, Uploads and Others. This is handy if you ever need to restore just part of your site, like if you accidentally delete a theme, you can just restore the Themes folder.
Click each folder, then click on Download to your computer to save it.
That’s how you do a manual backup. To set up automatic backups, head to the Settings tab. On that screen you can connect your site to a service like Google Drive or Dropbox and set a schedule for your backups. You can also customise other settings, like how many backups are stored – I’d recommend a minimum of 3, depending on how often you back your site up.
Set a maintenance schedule
It’s important to keep your site backed up and updated, but other things can easily get in the way. But if you regularly set aside time for site maintenance, you’re way more likely to get it done.
Set a recurring task or appointment in your calendar for site maintenance. How often will depend on how often you add new content.
If you post weekly, then a weekly backup and update should be fine. Even if you post less often than that, it would still be advisable to do weekly backups and install updates at least once a month.
When planning a maintenance schedule, think about how often you post and how much content you’d be willing to recreate if you had to revert your site to a backup version.
You should also store several backups – the most recent one plus at least two previous versions. If you’re really unlucky and your most recent backup file is damaged just when you really need it, if you keep slightly older versions too, you’ll have less content to recreate.
For added security, store copies of your backup files in several locations. For example, store one copy on your hard drive, another on an external hard drive, and another on an offsite solution such as Dropbox. It sounds excessive, but files can get damaged and hard drives can fail, so if you’ve taken these extra precautions, you’ll avoid a lot of problems should the worst happen.
With all the effort you put in to creating content for your site, it makes sense to make sure it stays safe. Create a regular schedule for WordPress updates and backups to keep your site healthy.
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