Secure Your Site: A Comprehensive Guide to WordPress Backup and Restoration

Backing up and restoring a WordPress website is a critical task for website administrators, ensuring that website data is not lost due to unforeseen circumstances such as server crashes, hacking, or accidental deletions. This article will guide you through the processes involved in backing up and restoring your WordPress website, an overview of popular backup and restore plugins, help you to choose the appropriate backup and restore approach, and hopefully help you recover your site quickly and efficiently when needed.


Understanding the Importance of Regular Backups

Why Back Up?

  1. Security: Backups protect your website from data loss due to hacking or malware.
  2. Updates: Before updating WordPress, themes, or plugins, a backup ensures you can revert to the previous state if something goes wrong.
  3. Peace of Mind: Regular backups mean you’re prepared for any website issues.

What to Back Up in WordPress

A complete WordPress backup includes:

  1. Database: Contains posts, comments, and website settings.
  2. Files:
    • WordPress Core Installation
    • WordPress Plugins
    • WordPress Themes
    • Media Files (images, videos, etc.)
    • JavaScript and PHP scripts, and other code files
    • Additional Files and Directories on your website.

Backup Method Options

  1. Manual Backup
    • Use tools like phpMyAdmin for database backup.
    • Use FTP programs like FileZilla to download WordPress files.
  2. WordPress Backup Plugins
    • Plugins like UpdraftPlus, BackupBuddy, or Jetpack offer scheduled and automated backups.
  3. Web Host Backups
    • Some hosting providers offer regular, automated backups as part of their service.

Process Overview

Manual Backup

  • Backup
    • Database Backup via phpMyAdmin
      • Access phpMyAdmin from your hosting control panel.
      • Select your WordPress database and export it.
        • Files Backup via FTP
      • Connect to your server using an FTP client.
        • Download the entire WordPress directory.
  • Restore
    • Database Restore
      • Drop the existing database tables via phpMyAdmin.
        • Import the backup database file.
    • Files Restore
      • Use FTP to upload the WordPress files back to the server.

WordPress Backup Plugins

  • Backup
    • Choose your plugin
    • Install and activate the plugin.
    • Configure the settings, including backup frequency and storage options (Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.).
    • Run the backup and ensure it completes successfully.
  • Restore
    • Access the plugin from your WordPress dashboard.
    • Choose the desired backup and follow the prompts to restore.

Web Host Backups

  • Backup
    • Backup the entire server/virtual machine
  • Restore
    • Restore the entire server/virtual machine

Choosing a Backup Method

Comparing the three primary methods of backing up a WordPress website — Manual Backup, WordPress Backup Plugins, and Web Host Backups — involves looking at various factors such as ease of use, automation, reliability, and flexibility. Here’s a detailed comparison:

Manual Backup

  • Process:
    • Database: Use tools like phpMyAdmin to export the WordPress database.
    • Files: Use FTP programs like FileZilla to download WordPress files, including the wp-content folder, wp-config.php, etc.
  • Pros:
    • Full Control: You have complete control over what is backed up and when.
    • Cost-effective: Generally free, requiring only your time and effort.
    • Learning Experience: Good for understanding the structure and functioning of your WordPress site.
  • Cons:
    • Time-consuming: Requires manual effort each time you back up.
    • Risk of Human Error: More prone to mistakes, such as missing files or incomplete backups.
    • No Automation: Lacks the convenience of scheduled backups.

WordPress Backup Plugins

  • Examples: UpdraftPlus, BackupBuddy, Jetpack.
  • Process: Install and configure the plugin to schedule and automate backups. Most plugins allow backups of both files and databases.
  • Pros:
    • Automation: Set it and forget it; backups can be scheduled at regular intervals.
    • Ease of Use: User-friendly interfaces make it simple to manage backups and restorations.
    • Additional Features: Many plugins offer extra features like cloud storage integration, site migration tools, and incremental backups.
  • Cons:
    • Cost: While free versions are available, premium features require payment.
    • Plugin Dependency: Relies on the continued support and development of the plugin.
    • Potential for Conflicts: May conflict with other plugins or themes.

Web Host Backups

  • Process: Provided by the hosting service, often as an automated feature within the hosting control panel.
  • Pros:
    • Convenience: Backups are managed by the host, requiring little to no effort from the user.
    • Reliability: Hosting providers generally ensure regular and consistent backups.
    • Off-site Storage: Backups are stored on separate servers, which is good for disaster recovery.
  • Cons:
    • Limited Control: Less flexibility in terms of what is backed up and when.
    • Dependence on Host: You rely on your hosting provider’s backup policies and practices.
    • Cost: Often included in hosting plans, but sometimes at an additional cost.

Choosing a Backup Method Recap

  • Manual Backup is best for those who want full control and have the technical know-how, but it’s labor-intensive and risky for larger sites.
  • WordPress Backup Plugins offer a good balance of ease, automation, and additional features, suitable for most WordPress users.
  • Web Host Backups provide the most hassle-free experience, ideal for users who prefer a set-and-forget approach and trust their host’s reliability.

Your choice will depend on your specific needs, technical skill level, and how much time or resources you’re willing to invest in backing up your WordPress site.

Backup Method Comparision Table

Here’s a table comparing the three methods of backing up a WordPress website:

Backup MethodManual BackupWordPress Backup PluginsWeb Host Backups
Process– Use phpMyAdmin for database backup.<br>- Use FTP programs like FileZilla for file backup.– Install and configure plugins like UpdraftPlus, BackupBuddy, Jetpack.<br>- Schedule and automate backups.– Automated backups managed by the hosting provider.
Pros– Full control over backups.<br>- Cost-effective.<br>- Good for understanding WordPress structure.– Automated and scheduled backups.<br>- User-friendly interfaces.<br>- Additional features (cloud storage, migration tools).– Convenient and requires little effort.<br>- Reliable, as managed by the host.<br>- Off-site storage for backups.
Cons– Time-consuming and requires manual effort.<br>- Prone to human error.<br>- No automation.– May incur costs for premium features.<br>- Dependency on plugin support.<br>- Potential conflicts with other plugins/themes.– Limited control over backup specifics.<br>- Dependence on host’s policies.<br>- Possible additional costs.
Best ForUsers who want full control and have the technical skills.Most WordPress users seeking balance between ease and functionality.Users preferring a hassle-free, set-and-forget approach.

This table provides a clear overview of each method, highlighting the key aspects to consider when deciding on the best backup strategy for your WordPress site.

Best Practices for WordPress Backups

  • Regular Backups: Schedule regular backups, especially before updates.
  • Off-site Backups: Store backups in an off-site location like cloud storage.
  • Testing Backups: Periodically test backups by doing a restore in a safe environment.
  • Security: Ensure your backup files are secure and encrypted if necessary.
  • Update Backup Strategy: As your website grows, update your backup methods accordingly.

Popular Backup and Restore Plugins

When it comes to backing up and restoring WordPress websites, there are several highly regarded plugins available, each offering a range of features to suit different needs. Some of these plugins are free, while others offer premium versions with additional capabilities. Here’s a list of some of the best and most popular WordPress backup and restore plugins, including free options:


  • Popularity: One of the most popular WordPress backup plugins with over 2 million active installations.
  • Features: Offers automated backups, easy restoration, and supports multiple cloud storage options like Dropbox, Google Drive, and Amazon S3.
  • Pricing: Free version available; premium version offers additional features like site cloning and migration, multisite support, and more frequent backup options.

Jetpack Backups (Previously VaultPress)

  • Popularity: Developed by Automattic, the company behind
  • Features: Real-time backups, easy restoration, site migration, and security scanning.
  • Pricing: No free version; part of Jetpack’s paid plans.


  • Popularity: A widely-used premium backup plugin.
  • Features: Complete backup of WordPress installation, scheduled backups, store backups off-site, and ability to restore and migrate sites.
  • Pricing: No free version; pricing starts for a single site license.


  • Popularity: Known for its reliable and efficient backup and restore capabilities.
  • Features: Incremental backups, real-time backups for WooCommerce sites, easy site restoration, and staging.
  • Pricing: No free version; offers a trial period.


  • Popularity: A strong option with a good mix of features.
  • Features: Schedule automatic backups, store backups on various services like Dropbox and Amazon S3, and backup entire installation including /wp-content/.
  • Pricing: Free version available; the Pro version offers additional features like encrypted backups and priority support.


  • Popularity: Known for its ability to easily migrate WordPress sites.
  • Features: Backup WordPress files and database, migrate or clone WordPress sites, and create manual backups.
  • Pricing: Free version available; Pro version includes scheduled backups, cloud storage options, and email notifications.

All-in-One WP Migration

  • Popularity: Popular for its simplicity in migrating sites.
  • Features: Export and import WordPress sites, including database, media files, plugins, and themes.
  • Pricing: Free version available; extensions for additional functionality are paid.

WP Time Capsule

  • Popularity: Ideal for incremental backups.
  • Features: Real-time incremental backups, easy staging and restoration, and minimal server load.
  • Pricing: No free version; offers a trial period.

Choosing the Right Plugin

  • Your Needs: Consider whether you need a simple backup solution or more advanced features like staging and real-time backups.
  • Budget: Determine if a free plugin meets your needs or if a paid version is worth the investment for additional features.
  • Ease of Use: Look for a plugin with an intuitive interface and good customer support.

Remember, while many of these plugins offer comprehensive features, it’s important to regularly test your backup and restore process to ensure your website can be quickly recovered in case of an emergency.

Plugins Compared

Here’s a table that compares the capabilities of various WordPress backup and restore plugins:

Plugin NameAutomated BackupsCloud Storage OptionsSite MigrationIncremental BackupsReal-time BackupsFree Version AvailableAdditional Features
UpdraftPlusYesYes (e.g., Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon S3)YesYesNoYesPremium: Site cloning, multisite support
Jetpack BackupsYesYes (in-house storage)YesNoYesNoSecurity scanning
BackupBuddyYesYes (e.g., Dropbox, Amazon S3)YesNoNoNo
BlogVaultYesYes (in-house storage)YesYesYesNoStaging
BackWPupYesYes (e.g., Dropbox, Amazon S3)NoNoNoYesPro: Encrypted backups, priority support
DuplicatorNo (manual backups)NoYesNoNoYesPro: Scheduled backups, cloud storage
All-in-One WP MigrationNo (manual backups)Extension requiredYesNoNoYes
WP Time CapsuleYesYes (e.g., Google Drive, Dropbox)NoYesYesNoTrial period available

This table highlights the key capabilities of each plugin. Some plugins focus on comprehensive backup solutions with cloud storage options and real-time backups, while others specialize in site migration or incremental backups. The availability of a free version also varies, with some plugins offering basic features for free and more advanced options in their premium versions. Always choose a plugin based on your specific needs and the level of complexity your website requires.

Recommended Plugins by Function/Capability

Choosing the right backup and restore plugin for your self-hosted WordPress instance depends on several factors, including your specific needs, technical expertise, and the scale of your website. Here are some recommendations based on different scenarios:

For Basic Needs and Ease of Use

  • UpdraftPlus (Free Version): If you’re looking for a straightforward, user-friendly option with essential backup and restore capabilities, UpdraftPlus is a great choice. Its free version covers automated backups, supports various cloud storage options, and allows easy restoration. This makes it ideal for small to medium-sized websites.

For Websites with Regular Content Updates or eCommerce

  • BlogVault or WP Time Capsule: If your site is frequently updated, especially with an eCommerce component like WooCommerce, consider BlogVault or WP Time Capsule. These offer real-time incremental backups, ensuring that every change is captured without overloading your server. While they don’t have free versions, their advanced features are beneficial for dynamic websites.

For Sites Needing Robust Security Features

  • Jetpack Backups: If security is a major concern, Jetpack Backups offers real-time backups along with security scanning. This is particularly useful for websites that handle sensitive data or are at higher risk of security threats.

For Developers and Advanced Users

  • Duplicator (Pro Version): If you’re comfortable with manual backups and often need to migrate sites, Duplicator Pro is an excellent choice. It’s particularly useful for developers who manage multiple WordPress sites.

For Budget-Conscious Users

  • BackWPup (Free Version): If you’re on a budget but still want a reliable backup solution, BackWPup’s free version is a good option. It covers essential backup features and supports various cloud storage services.

Plugin General Tips Recap

  • Regular Testing: Whichever plugin you choose, regularly test your backups to ensure they work as expected.
  • Off-site Backups: Opt for a solution that allows off-site backups (like cloud storage) for added security.
  • Incremental Backups: If your website is large or updated frequently, choose a plugin that offers incremental backups to reduce server load.
  • Support and Documentation: Consider the level of support and documentation available, especially if you’re not very technical.

Remember, the best choice will depend on your specific requirements and the complexity of your WordPress site. If you have a small blog with minimal updates, your needs will be different from a large eCommerce site with frequent transactions and updates.


Backing up and restoring your WordPress website is a straightforward but crucial task. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can ensure that your website is protected against data loss and can be quickly restored in case of an emergency. Regularly updating and testing your backup procedures will provide peace of mind and safeguard your online presence.


Appendix A – Glossary of Technical Terms

Here’s a short glossary of terms, just incase.

  1. WordPress:
    • A popular content management system (CMS) used to create and manage websites.
  2. Backup:
    • The process of copying and archiving website data so it can be restored in case of data loss.
  3. Restore:
    • The process of using backed-up data to return a WordPress site to a previous state.
  4. Server:
    • A computer system that provides data and services to other computers over a network.
  5. Hacking:
    • Unauthorized intrusion into a computer or network, often for malicious purposes.
  6. phpMyAdmin:
    • A free software tool written in PHP, intended to handle the administration of MySQL over the Web.
  7. Database:
    • A structured set of data held in a computer, especially one that is accessible in various ways.
  8. FTP (File Transfer Protocol):
    • A standard network protocol used for the transfer of computer files between a client and server on a computer network.
  9. FileZilla:
    • A free software, cross-platform FTP application.
  10. Plugin:
    • A software add-on that is installed on a program, enhancing its capabilities.
  11. UpdraftPlus, BackupBuddy, Jetpack:
    • Examples of WordPress backup plugins.
  12. Cloud Storage:
    • A model of computer data storage in which the digital data is stored in logical pools, said to be on “the cloud”.
  13. Site Migration:
    • The process of moving a website from one domain or hosting environment to another.
  14. Incremental Backups:
    • Backups that only save the changes made since the last backup.
  15. Real-Time Backups:
    • Continuous backups that occur in real-time as data is changed or updated.
  16. Web Host:
    • A service provider that offers the technologies and services needed for the website or webpage to be viewed on the Internet.
  17. Virtual Machine:
    • A software computer that, like a physical computer, runs an operating system and applications.