In an age of hackers, bad plugin updates, and accidental content overwriting, backing up your WordPress site on a regular basis is critical.
But the question is, how often and what type of backups should you run? An effective backup strategy is highly dependent on the type of site you’re operating and how often the files and data change within the site.
What follows are recommendations on backup frequency with a description of backup types. We refer to the backup plugin Duplicator Pro in the examples but the tactics apply no matter what your backup solution is.
Before we get into the recommended backups for each site type, let’s discuss the two major types of backup.
The data-only backup backs up the database and doesn’t include any files within the backup package. This type of backup is useful for sites that have data changing often with a much lower file change frequency.
On WordPress, all posts, pages, plugin and main theme data are contained within the database. What’s not contained in the database are the files from WordPress core, plugins and themes.
To achieve a database-only backup in Duplicator Pro one needs to create a database-only template. To create a database-only template add a ‘root’ filter to the template. A root filter prevents all site files from being included so only the database portion of the backup is included in the backup package.
The graphic below illustrates how to configure a database-only template:
The full backup is useful when you want to back up not only the database but the entire file system as well. Files need to be included in the backup when you’ve recently installed WordPress plugins or themes, or have made changes to theme files such as functions.php.
To achieve a full file capture with your backup in Duplicator Pro, you need to either create a new template and simply save it or use the “Default” template with your schedule (assuming you haven’t previously added filters to it).
Duplicator Pro always backs up the database so you don’t need to do anything special to have it included as well.
The graphic below shows a template capable of capturing the entire file system:
Backup Recommendations for Different Types of Sites
Data-Only Backup: three to four times a day
Full Backup: Once a week
Sites that sell products and services typically store a lot of data that is fluctuating constantly. Because of this you’re going to want to backup your data frequently, typically more than once a day.
Files typically don’t change on these sites nearly as often so running a full backup once a week should be adequate.
[TODO: Graphic showing backup schedules]
Data-Only Backup: 1 x post frequency
Full Backup: Once a week
Your strategy for backing up a blog is highly dependent on how often you post. If you post twice a week then set a data backup to occur twice a week.
As in the case of the eCommerce site, it’s a good idea to perform a full backup every week or so to ensure you are capturing any file changes that have occurred.
Note: The only caveat to the data frequency recommendation is if you have things other than blog posts affecting data on your site. An example of this would be article comments. If people post comments to your blog every day but you only post a new article once a week, you may want to run a data backup more frequently than once a week, otherwise you would risk losing a lot of comments.
Data-Only Backup: Unnecessary
Full Backup: Once a month
If you have a site that is static or nearly static, neither frequent nor data-only backups are necessary. You shouldn’t need to back up more than once every 2 weeks unless you regularly add plugins or tweak posts.
Whenever you do make a change to your site, consider running an “unscheduled backup” as described below.
Making an Unscheduled Backup
In the event that you just performed a big site update and don’t want to risk waiting for the next scheduled backup to hit you can easily perform an on demand backup by going to the schedules screen, highlighting the schedule you’d like to run then clicking “Run now”.
Restoring a Backup
In the event you need to restore your backup at some point doing so requires care and careful consideration. Please see How to Replace a Live WordPress Site for a description of how to do this.