Save the Day: Knowing Which WordPress Files to Always Back Up

Ask any WordPress designer or seasoned administrator what is one of the most important aspects of keeping a website safe and secure and you’ll no doubt get a vehement answer: back up! From targeted hack attempts to denial of service attacks to unexpected—and all too common—server failures, not having the correct data backed up can cause headaches and even total ruin for a site owner. Imagine having all your client’s personal information stolen and manipulated? Think of the nightmare of losing years of blog posts, original images and all the custom tweaks and add-ons you’ve slaved over to build your dream page?

In short, backing up on a regular basis is the best protection for keeping your content safe and can absolutely help, in the event of some catastrophic failure, in getting your site up and running quickly and easily. And the sad reality is that too many WordPress users—especially beginners—believe that having a backup system in place is of no importance.

That said, those same WordPress experts often preach that it’s not completely necessary to do regular backups of everything your site needs to run. So what do they suggest focusing your attention on in order to keep things safe and secure? Here are some rules to mind regarding what you absolutely should be backing up and what you needn’t worry about too much. And for those who thing doing so is a hassle, keep in mind that there are some great plugins—BackupBuddy is a great free choice, while a terrific paid option is VaultPress—that automatically do the work for you, synching current settings with any changes you’ve made and taking almost all the guesswork out of the process.

The Core WordPress Files

The core refers to any and all files that essentially run your website, from the root folder to “wp-includes” to the “wp-admin” folder. Most users wouldn’t normally make any changes to these files or folders as they’re static across all WordPress sites. Also, should a problem ever occur with the core it’s quick and easy to grab fresh and updated versions from the main WordPress site. However, if a user is nervous about ensuring their core is safe, they can backup it up by logging into their server via an FTP program such as FileZilla and create a download of the WordPress directory.

The “WP-Content” Folder

This is where WordPress stores some pretty important stuff: images, themes, plugins and everything else that is wholly unique to a site. If you ever change the theme for your site or add multiple plugins at any one time, you should absolutely do a comprehensive backup of the “wp-content/uploads” folder immediately, because if this data gets corrupted or lost you won’t be able to recreate it easily and will have to start from scratch. Any automated backup plugin will grab and copy this data on a regular basis: just make sure that, once it’s enabled, it pulls in for backup everything that’s important to your site, especially any files that you uploaded using a plugin, as these are sometimes excluded from regular backups unless you specify the action.

Configuration Files

There are two important parts within the configuration files: the “wp-config.php” file and the “.htaccess” file. These contain settings that are incredibly important to making your site function properly. If you lose them it’s not the end of the world (they can be recreated), but it will take time. To backup configuration files, again rely on a convenient plugin like those previously mentioned. To backup manually, utilize an FTP client to access your server and download these files on your computer’s desktop and, if you really want to be proactive, onto an external memory device.

Your WordPress Database

WordPress maintains a MySQL database for storing all your posts, pages, users, comments etc. As such, this part of your site is the one most frequently updated and, therefore, should be the one you back up most frequently. If you make daily changes to your pages, update weekly; if you make changes less than daily, once a month should suffice. BackupBuddy can be accessed via your admin area, and there you can view all your schedules for backup once you’ve launched the program and navigated through the setup process. Then, you’ll be able to do two types of back ups: one for the database only and one that will do a complete backup of your entire site.

Again, backing up your site on a regular basis is the best insurance policy for staying safe and secure. And with the automated plugins available at your fingertips, there’s no reason while every WordPress user should ignore this vitally important part of site administration.

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