How to Backup a WordPress Website

For many site owners, your WordPress website represents either a source of income, a key marketing element, or (at the least) sentiment for your chosen subject. Regardless of your reasoning, keeping a backup of your WordPress website is a sound idea. While you may not use the backup much, it’s a solid-gold insurance policy against malicious intent, hacks, and more. Also, you can implement a backup strategy in a number of ways. This means you have flexibility too. For this post, we’re going to look at three different ways to backup a WordPress website.

We’ll go from the toughest to the easiest method – a manual backup is the first technique.

1. Carry Out a Manual Backup

Spoiler alert: We don’t recommend carrying out a manual backup in most cases. However, it’s a good supplementary way to keep your site’s files safe. Speaking of which, there are two elements to a manual (or any) backup: your files, and your database.

Manual Backup

As such, you need to retain both parts in order to complete a full backup. There are some prerequisites to consider before you do this:

  • You’ll want to have a way to access the files on your server. This could be through your hosting control panel (such as Plesk, cPanel, or others), or through Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP).
  • If you choose the latter route (again, we recommend it), you’ll want to have the knowledge to use SFTP and a suitable SFTP client such as Cyberduck, Transmit, or FileZilla.
  • Because you need to backup your database, you’ll also need to access this. Most hosts will let you do this through Adminer or phpMyAdmin. You can even use a tool such as TablePlus or Sequel Ace to log into the database from your computer.

Once you have these elements in place, you can begin. The first step is to copy over your site’s files, and while the WordPress support pages offer a solution, we can sum up the process:

  • Log into your site through SFTP.
  • Locate your site’s wp-content folder.
  • Copy the contents to your local computer.

You won’t need to copy all of the core files, because a fresh install can add these to your server. What’s more, your wp-content folder contains all of your theme, plugin, and media information. This is almost all of your full site, and will be what you need to restore your site.

As for your database, the exact method to export this depends on what you use to connect to it. Most will use phpMyAdmin, and again, WordPress’ support pages run through the process:

  • Log into your database through phpMyAdmin.
  • Locate your site’s database tables.
  • Head to the Export tab and choose the Quick method, along with the SQL format.

Between this and your site’s wp-content folder, you’ll have a full site backup – although there are better ways to proceed, as we’ll discuss next.

2. Use Your Host’s Functionality

We don’t have the exact numbers on this, but we’d bet that lots of you will gravitate to your host’s backup options. This is a fantastic option, and can straddle a line between automating the process and setting up a strategy for your needs. For example, top-tier WordPress host Kinsta offers a robust backup service for free:

Backup a WordPress Website

Backup a WordPress Website

You also have the option for increasing the backup frequency, such as four times a day, or hourly. Kinsta will also generate backups on a ‘per-action’ basis.  This means you’ll have a current backup ready to go if you use your staging environment, and some other triggers.

If your host doesn’t include the level of backup functionality you’d like, WP Tech Support provides backups on your behalf every day on Standard and Pro plans. For higher-tiered users, this frequency increases. What’s more, we store backups offsite, so they’re protected yet ready for you to use.

In fact, there’s lots more a WordPress maintenance service can do for you. It could be that a combined service and backup strategy, performed by experts, is the perfect way to keep your site in excellent condition. For example, you can leverage a strong Web Application Firewall (WAF), daily malware scans, regular updates, and more without lifting a finger. 

3. Install and Activate a Dedicated Plugin

WordPress wouldn’t be the platform it is without its plugin ecosystem. As such, there are a myriad of ways to backup a WordPress website using a dedicated plugin.

We don’t recommend you choose any plugin that offers backup functionality though. You’ll want to make your choice with thought, as a poorly-coded plugin could make things worse. However, we already talk about our favorite plugin for the task elsewhere on the WP Tech Support blog – UpdraftPlus.


This plugin is popular, well-maintained, and completely free to use. Also, it’s a breeze to set into motion. We cover everything you need to know about this plugin in another article, although it’s intuitive and straightforward to use.

In Summary

Most advice on running a WordPress website will tell you to have a full backup of your site and database on hand in case the worst happens. The good news is that WordPress offers flexible options to do so, and none require any more technical knowledge than you likely already have, or could learn.

For example, you can carry out a full backup without your host’s support or a plugin. However, this requires SFTP knowledge, and you’ll need to poke around your server for your core files. Instead, you’ll have a better experience using whatever backup functionality your host provides, as this will be baked into your dashboard. However, the classic approach with WordPress is to use a plugin; this is going to be the simple option that offers as much power as you need.

Do you have a different technique to backup a WordPress website? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!

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