One Little Plugin That Can Save the Day

It’s the kind of thing no one wants to hear: “something is wrong with your website”.

It seems like it almost always happens in the middle of a launch or a plan to push more traffic to the site or right after you updated something and now everything is weird. Something has gone wrong, you don’t know what, and you don’t know how to fix it. Now sometimes you’ll be able to sort it out. But worst-case scenario, everything is gone, inaccessible, or garbled, and you are going to be glad you have a working copy of your website.

You might be thinking “I don’t need to back up my site. It’s fine.” Well, you should backup your site for the same reason you buy insurance, in case. I have had a site back up save the day in several instances and so has every other developer or tech VA I’ve talked to. Ask anyone who deals with websites on a regular basis and they will all tell you the same thing. Having a backup copy of your site can be a lifesaver. It’s not only catastrophic events that make a site back up come in handy. Something small will go awry and in the absence of being able to find the cause, a developer will need to restore the site to a point before the break. This not only solves the issue but can help pinpoint what the issue was in the first place allowing you to take steps to keep it from happening again.

There are a lot of different options when it comes to backing up your site. But since this is my website I’m going to tell you about my personal favorite. 🙂 It is a plugin called UpdraftPlus. It is a free plugin with premium options like migration support and multi-site backups if that’s something you need. To install UpdraftPlus you can either download the plugin here or go to the plugin store on your site and search for UpdraftPlus. Once the plugin is installed you will want to activate it. Then, go to “settings” in your Dashboard menu and click on “UpdraftPlus Backups”.

This will open the settings and you can get started. The first tab you will see will show you recent backups (you won’t have any yet). Before you can back up your site you’ll want to tell the plugin where to send the backup.

If you click on the “settings” tab the first thing you will see is a place to schedule your backups. We’ll come back to that in a minute. Below that you will see a list of options for where to send your backup files. Your mission is to choose one of those locations. You can choose more than one with a paid add on, but I’ve never had the need for it. My website backs up to Google Drive because that is my personal preference. I have some clients who prefer Dropbox which is also a great option.

Wherever you choose to house your files make sure it is somewhere away from your site and somewhere you can access easily. Once you have made a decision. Click on your choice and the plugin will walk you through the rest. You will need to give the plugin permission to access your files and to place files there. Once you’ve done this your plugin is ready to store your files.

Now you can go back to the “backup/restore” tab on the plugin. Here you will see a big blue button that says “Backup Now”. Take a deep breath and click. The plugin will start to back up your site. You will see a popup notification that looks like this.

Since this is the first time you are backing up your site you want to backup EVERYTHING. Make sure the top three options are checked. You can leave the bottom one unchecked as this will allow the plugin to clear out old backups (more about that in a minute). Then click “backup now.” Once you have clicked that you will see it creating your back up. 

Depending on how big your site is this may take a long time or a few minutes. You’ll want to leave this tab open and active (if you are using something like OneTab or The Great Suspender you’ll want to exempt this tab). You can open another tab and continue working while it runs. Check back every once in a while and make sure there aren’t any notifications that need to be dealt with. 

Once UpDraft Plus has backed up your site. You’ll see the most recent backup lower on the page. Besides that, there will be some buttons: “restore” “upload” and “delete.” That last one is pretty self-explanatory. The upload button is used if you want to manually upload your backup files onto your computer or external storage of some kind. 

The restore button is your key to peace of mind. This is how you revert your site to an earlier point. That means any changes made after the date of that back up will be undone if you click “restore”. With a current backup, you can have peace of mind that your site is safe. You can even play around on your site and take some chances secure in the knowledge that you have a working copy of your site stored safe and sound.

So how often should you be running backups of your site? And do you really need to go through all that EVERY TIME to keep your site backed up? Well, no. Here is where we go back to the “settings tab.” At the top, you’ll see two dropdown menus. One is for your files: this includes your theme and plugin files. The other is for your database, which is the backbone of your website. You can leave it on the preset times if you want or you can change how often it backs up. 

So how do you decide? I recommend doing a full backup at least every month, so neither of the options should be set to more than that. If you are not making a lot of changes to your site you could set the files to fortnightly (every two weeks) and the database to monthly. If you are adding blog posts, sending a lot of traffic to your site, or making changes (like to opt-ins or whatever) you are going to want to update at least as often as you are making changes. Setting the files to update weekly and the database fortnightly should cover most cases. 

Next to those options, you will see “and retain this many scheduled backups” I recommend keeping at least 2 backups. This gives you a few options if you need to restore your site but won’t overload your backup folder on whatever program you are using to store them. (You would be surprised how big backup files can get.) This means that the plugin will automatically remove the older backups and replace them with newer ones. This helps to ensure your backups are current. 

Now that you have this setup you can pop in once a month during your monthly maintenance and check when the latest backup was. Also, if you ever need to make a big change on your site or feel the need for a more recent backup you can go back and click that big blue “backup now” button to manually back up your site.

Okay, you have your website updated now you’ll want to keep things running with monthly updates and maintenance. I invite you to download my free monthly maintenance checklist. Keep it around to give you a reminder of the things you should check each month to make sure your website is working for you and your audience. 

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