So, here’s where you expected me to tell you that now it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work, right? WRONG! One of the first rules you need to teach yourself is to BACK UP YOUR SITE before working on it! I can’t stress enough how important this is. This is one step to administering your site that you should take very seriously and learn to practice each and every time to login to work on your site. It should be the first step you take before doing anything else. If I break my site (or yours if I’m working on yours) I’m the one that has to fix it. If you break it, I’m still the one who has to fix it — and that can be a costly venture.
NOTE: Because of all the changes in WordPress and compatibility issues with various older automatic and manual backup options, as of 2012 all my sites moved to a new automatic backup system. The information found here is no longer current. USE THIS TUTORIAL AT YOUR OWN RISK!
The Back Up Procedures
The first thing you should do before performing ANY work in the admin is to make a backup of your current site. For my clients who are going to be taking over your site content administration, I will not be backing up text content on a regular basis, so it’s important that you do because I won’t have the most current backup after the very first time you login and do anything. I do an automatic backups of the database on a regular basis but I do not backup the text content. Very few of my clients are responsible for their database backups but depending on how your site is set up and what level of access you have, you may or may not be responsible for the database backups. Database backups do not back up the text content which is why when you make new pages, posts or edit your text content I will not have made a current text content export.
A brief definition of “site content” or “text content” is that it’s the words you see on your site’s pages which have nothing to do with the design, basic functionality of the different features or the main database. What you write or edits is considered text or site content. Why don’t I take care of this? Because I would never be able to keep up with the varied times any given client adds text content to their site. My clients would have to contact me each and every time they wanted to work on their site to ask me to back up the text content and then wait for me to be able to do this. This simply just isn’t feasible. If you’re going to have a “do it yourself” web site you must at the very least be responsible for it’s text content.
Automatic Database Back Ups
I install a database backup plugin to every WordPress site I develop but this doesn’t mean that every web designer does. I’m sorry to say that unfortunately, not all designers take this very valuable step. It also means that if you have a backup plugin installed that is not the same one I use, these steps may be very different from yours so please do not try to follow these instructions if that’s the case. If you are responsible for the database backups the section below is important for you to review and follow.
Look on the left side of the admin navigation for the Tools section. If it’s not “open” so you can see the sub-menu, click the Tools link or hover it and you’ll see the down arrow. Click the arrow or the Tools link and locate the Backup link and click it. You will then see a page that has sections called Tables, Backup Options and Schedule Backup. If you’re one of my clients I’ve already set a scheduled database backup using my email address which means the backups will be sent to me. I save these to your file. Unless your web designer has instructed you to perform these backups, you should leave this as is.
Manual Database Back Ups
Even if automatic backups are set, when you’re going to perform work on your site I strongly suggestion that you do a manual backup before working. This is to ensure that someone has the most current version of your database.
In order to do a manual backup, go to the same Backup link under Tools given previously. Go to the Tables option and look for the section called “You May Choose to Include Any of the Following Tables” on the right side. Click the first checkbox, hold down your keyboard Shift key and check the bottom boxes which then will automatically select every box. Make sure every box is checked before proceeding.
Then on the left side of this same section you may choose to select either or both of these options. I never backup the spam (why would anyone want to keep spam?) but it’s a good idea to back up the page revisions in case you ever need to check something or restore a page. When you’re done setting your selections in the Tables section it should look like my sample below:
From there, look down below that top section to the next one which is; Backup Options. You should not use the Backup to Server option as that just saves the file to your FTP (not necessary to understand FTP) and if the server ever crashes you’ll lose your backups. You should use the Email Backup to *or* the Download to your computer option. The email option is self-explanatory. The Download to computer option allows you to make the backup and then it will give you a pop-up window so you can save the zip file where you want to save it. I have a folder on my computer for each client and their backups go in this folder. When you have this all set, click the Backup Now button at the bottom of this section. I’ve put a sample below for your reference.
You can then watch the backup progress in the progress bar that will show at the top of the page. The first time you do a backup, you may find it stalls. The initial backup has stalled for me on every web site I’ve developed that uses WordPress and I have to do what I call a “kick start.” I have no idea why, I can only assume it’s a glitch in WordPress or perhaps a server hiccup for sites built on WordPress.
The progress bar is blue and moves from left to right if your backup is working. If you don’t see this blue bar after 3-4 minutes then hold your keyboard Shift key down and click your browser’s Reload button. I know, I know – it says NOT to do this at the top of the page but for some reason this process kicks the backup into gear and it goes. If you have to do a kick-start, let it do the backup once after the kick start and then do a 2nd backup (double checking all your settings first) . This may seem a little redundant but it helps to ensure you have a good backup and you can’t be sure the first one was good because of the stall and kick start.
I was going to put the next backup step step on this page but its gotten pretty long so from here let’s learn how to export your site’s text content which is the second step in the backup process.