If your server crashed today, could you restore your site from a backup? If you needed to provide a backup to a developer to help with troubleshooting, could you?

We recommend regular backups to all of our Give users. Aside from being a WordPress best practice, a functional backup of your site can mean the difference between a 10-minute fix and a 2-day headache over a difficult-to-replicate issue.

In this article, we’ll walk you through why you need backups, what precisely you need to back up, and a quick tutorial on creating a backup using a free plugin from the official WordPress plugin repository.

Why You Need Backups

Often, while supporting our products, we’ll discover an issue on a customer’s site that is unique to their website. When our support technicians attempt to replicate the behavior on a separate WordPress install, they either can’t replicate it at all or not in the same way as the customer’s live site.

When faced with an issue that we can’t reproduce, by far the fastest way to resolve the customer’s problem is to replicate their site locally (on the support technician’s computer).

Our support technicians are all experts in this process (cloning and duplicating a site locally), but unfortunately, we often find that some Give users do not have backups of their website at all.

The lack of backups is indicative of a more significant problem, and this article seeks to address that.

Offsite backups are very important for support and troubleshooting

Here’s some tough love… If you don’t have a site backup that is

  • stored remotely from your web host’s server
  • in a format from which you can restore the site in the event of data loss or corruption
  • recent enough to avoid losing any data that is critical

Then learning how to back up and restore your site just became the most urgent item on your to-do list.

The benefit of WordPress is that you own your data. With Give, you also retain all of your donor data.

Having ownership of your data comes with the responsibility of maintaining it.

If your website breaks, and your data becomes corrupted, it’s your responsibility to restore that information. That’s why if you accept donations and store donor information on your site, we highly recommend that you take backups seriously.

What You Need to Include in a Backup

Two things must be backed up.

The Files

The files, meaning everything in the root of your website’s public folder. Specifically, the wp-content folder needs to be backed up. These are PHP, JavaScript, images, media, and other types of files. WordPress core files (things in wp-includes, and wp-admin, etc) are not critical in a backup, since those files should not be modified.

The Database

Your WordPress site is made up of files, and these files pull from a database which tells WordPress what to display on your site. This is typically a MySQL database, though some other types of databases are compatible with WordPress.

Whatever process for creating a backup you choose, it should include both the database (often in a single SQL file) and all of the website files (often, in a large ZIP file).

Perhaps the only thing worse than not having a backup of your site is having one that you can’t adequately use to restore your website.

Most backup solutions provide instructions on restoring from a backup, and you can test it out on a backup site or a subdomain (dev.example.com)

How to Back Up your Site with Duplicator

Here’s a video walkthrough of one solution for backups that we recommend, using the free Duplicator plugin from the WordPress repo.

This video highlights how to get a backup of just the portions of the site needed for tech support troubleshooting, where we are not as concerned with things like images and other media.

The backup solution that you choose for general data protection will need to get everything from your server, but tech-support backups need everything with the exception of the wp-upload directory, to save on size.

We are happy to answer any questions, in the comments below!

Ben Meredith

Ben Meredith is our Senior Support Technician at Give. He's also the founder of The WP Steward and the author of the popular Better Click To Tweet Plugin.

2 responses to “How to Back Up Your Site for Faster Troubleshooting

  1. Do you have a suggestion as to where to store a back up if we are not sending it to tech support but simply creating a back up for “just in case” scenarios

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