Think about a time when you’ve been working on an important file—a year-end report, maybe, or a strategic plan that’s taken weeks or months to develop. Ever felt that panic of wondering if you had saved the document recently, or finding that you’d accidentally saved over work that now you can’t get back?

It’s always a good idea to save your work, and keep saved versions well-organized, even if we sometimes forget. Backing up your website is like saving your work, but on a larger scale. If your website crashes, your server gets hacked, or you want to try out something new on your site, but still have a safety net in place, backing your site up can give you peace of mind.

If your website is hosted by a reputable organization, they should back up your website for you. While that’s a very useful service, you might not want to rely completely on that. What if that working relationship turns sour, or their server gets hacked, or the company gets bought out by someone else and your website gets lost in the shuffle?

What you should back up

So when I say, “back up your website,” what does that actually mean? There are two main components to your website: your site files and your database.

Your site files make up your theme and the way your website looks. Your database includes all your content (including posts, comments, pages, and your media library).

It’s important to back up both of these elements; one without the other will leave you with a half-finished website if you ever have to rebuild from a backed-up version of your site.

Ways to back up your WordPress site

You can back up your WordPress site with or without a plugin. It’s a good idea to have a couple of different options in your tool kit, so here’s an overview of both.

If you’re backing up with a plugin, make sure to use a reputable plugin that’s been updated frequently and has lots of good reviews. BackupBuddy is a good option.

Whatever plugin you use, make sure to save the backed-up files somewhere off your website—plugins on your site will typically save the backup in a content folder on your site by default, but that kind of defeats the purpose of a backup, unless you have the backed-up files somewhere independent of your site. A secure folder on your computer or in Dropbox will do the trick.

You can also backup your website manually, without using a plugin. This article on Skillcrush offers a great tutorial on how to do that a few different ways. You might want to do that if you’d like to have more control over what elements you back up, or just want to have additional security in case something goes wrong with the backup you’ve created with your plugin.

Have more questions about backing up your WordPress site? Want to talk to a real person about the security and functionality of your website? Let’s have a conversation.

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