Blog backups: some more ideas

Newbie Blogger InitiativeRoger of Contains Moderate Peril posted some great tips for backing up your blog (and why you should do it even if you’re just starting) as part of this year’s Newbie Blogger Initiative. As someone who has gone through the pain of losing blog posts and websites, this is something that’s important to me. So I’d like to expand on some of the suggestions Roger posted.

Automate your backups

There’s nothing wrong with manually backing up your site from time to time. But if you have a memory like mine where it’s akin to a sieve, you’re likely going to forget to do it over long periods of time. And then if something happens to your site, you’re going to be kicking yourself for not making those backups. So if at all possible, find some way to automate the process so you’ll never have to worry about forgetting it. I’d suggest dailies if possible, otherwise at least once a week.

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For free online hosts (WordPress.com, Blogspot/Blogger)

Unfortunately, there is no way (that I know of) to automatically backup WordPress.com and Blogger blogs. Though the good news is that WordPress and Google likely have backups of their backups so if something happens to their servers, they should still be able to resurrect your blog. I would still recommend exporting your posts at an XML file like Roger suggested on a regular basis. Set up a reminder in your calendar if you have to. Here are some brief instructions on how to do just that.

WordPress.com

  1. Sign into your dashboard at http://wordpress.com/
  2. On your menu, go to Tools and then Export.
  3. Click on the Export option.
  4. Choose All content unless you’d like to do a partial backup.
  5. Click Download export file.

Blogspot/Blogger

  1. Sign in to blogger.com.
  2. Under “Settings,” click Other.
  3. Go to the “Blog Tools” section.
  4. Click Export Blog.
  5. Click Download blog.

One important thing to note is that these XML files only save text, so posts, comments, tags, and categories. Any media such as images and other uploads will have to be manually saved if you don’t have a copy of them already on your computer.

Roger had the fantastic idea of saving your posts as Word documents on your computer and then copying them to your editor. I’d like to take that suggestion one step further and recommend installing Google Drive or Dropbox on your computer and saving those documents to the folder those programs create on your computer. That way your posts are not only saved to your computer but also to the servers at Drive/Dropbox. This also makes it easier to edit in-progress posts on different computers/tablets/smartphones if you’re a person who writes on the go.

There’s also the option of downloading and using website copiers as explained by Lorelle on WordPress. I’d still say the XML export is more valuable since it makes it super simple to re-upload your posts but the more options, the better.

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For self-hosted WordPress

Having automatic backups for self-hosted WordPress blogs is quite easy, it’s mostly a matter of choosing from multiple plugins. WPBeginner posted a list of seven of the best backup plugins and listed their pros and cons, so that would be a good place to start. I’m a big fan of free/cheap options so I personally use BackWPup (which I always mentally read as “Back Up Pup”). You can use the free version of the plugin in conjunction with the 2GB of free space from Dropbox to quickly set up automatic backups. If you set BackWPup to email backups to a Gmail account as well (with its 15GB of space), you now have 2 sets of backups on completely different servers.

Setting up BackWPup

  1. Create a Dropbox account if you don’t already have one.
  2. Install the BackWPup Free plugin and activate it.
  3. On your left menu, go to BackWPup and then Add new job.
  4. On the General tab:
    1. Give the job a name like “Daily Backup”.
    2. Check the job tasks you want (more on that below).
    3. Check Backup to Dropbox under Job Destination (optional: Backup sent via email).
    4. Make sure the Log Files are being sent to a valid email address and check the Errors Only box.
  5. On the Schedule tab:
    1. Set Start job to with WordPress Cron.
    2. Using the basic scheduler, set the type to daily and the hour to when you’re likely to get the least traffic (probably in the middle of the night).
  6. Set the DB Backup/Files/XML export/Plugins/DB Check tabs to your desired settings (more on that below).
  7. On the To: Dropbox tab, click the Get Dropbox App auth code and follow the screens to add BackWPup as an app that can upload stuff to your Dropbox.
  8. Click the Save changes button.
  9. Go to the main Jobs page under the BackWPup menu and click Run now for the job to test it and make sure everything works.

And then you’re done! BackWPup will email you if it has any errors while doing a backup so you don’t have to check it every day to make sure it’s working. Now, it get into the details of what you should be backing up…

  • First and foremost, what you’re most concerned with is your posts, comments, tags, and categories. Depending on your technical skills, you can either do this by backing up the database (DB Backup tab) or through XML export. The database backup requires you to know how to handle MySQL databases and how to import them through your site’s control panel. If that last sentence sounds Greek to you, go with the XML export and make sure it’s backing up all content.
  • Next is your uploads/images and your themes. This is called the Files Backup in BackWPup. If you want this option, check the Backup themes and Backup Uploads boxes. If you already have these files saved somewhere on your computer or if you have limited space for your backup (2GB might seem like a lot but not when you have hundreds of large images or files), you can forgo backing these up daily. It’s still a good idea to save them somewhere though. It would also be a good idea to check the Include special files box since it will make restoring your blog much easier.
  • Lastly, there’s your plugins. There is an option to backup plugins under the Files Backup tab but since plugins are so easy to reinstall, it would likely just take up extra space on Dropbox. Instead I recommend just backing an Installed Plugins List so you’ll know which plugins you had before everything went kaboom.
  • BackWPup also have the ability to check database tables but honestly, I’ve never used it and I’m not entirely sure what it even does. So I wouldn’t worry about it.

One thing you may have noticed on the To: Dropbox tab is a place to set the number of backups you want to keep. So what’s a good number? Ideally the more the better but realistically, the default value of 15 is fine. That means it’ll keep a maximum of 15 days of the latest backups and will delete older ones when newer ones are added.

Backing up to Google Drive with UpdraftPlus

One of the downsides to BackWPup is that the free version does not allow you to backup to Google Drive, which gives you 15GB free as opposed to Dropbox’s 2GB. However, there is another free plugin called UpdraftPlus that does let you backup to Google Drive. I haven’t used it myself and configuring Google Drive for it seems a little complicated, but having 13 more GB of backup space is pretty nice, especially when you’ll backing up a lot of uploads.

If you want to be super prudent, you could use both BackWPup and UpdraftPlus to automate backups to Dropbox and Google Drive respectively, meaning that your posts and other content are safe short of the entire internet going up in flames.

This might seem like a lot to do but like Roger said, “it’s never too early to put in place sound working practices.” Finding a way to protect your posts now could save you a massive headache (and heartache) in the future. If any of this seems beyond you, don’t be afraid to ask questions in the comments. I’m always happy to help out bloggers new and old. And if you have more ideas for how to backup your blog, tell me in the comment too!

2 comments

  1. Ha! You are a mind-reader. Was thinking about exactly that today, and now you have saved me a lot of time searching for a good plug-in. Thank you VERY much!

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