About 10 years ago, I learned a very difficult lesson. I had spent about two years building a successful IT blog. One day, the ISP that was hosting my site had a massive crash. To make a long story short, the ISP had backed up my source code,

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but had not backed up the corresponding database. The database contained all of the site's content, membership data, etc. Every bit of it was gone and there was no getting it back. I had mistakenly assumed that the ISP was responsible for backing up my data. I was wrong.

A couple of months ago, I decided to create a couple of non-IT related blogs (www.HowiCruise.com and www.poker-run-boats.com). Rather than manually coding the sites as I had done so long ago, I built the sites on WordPress. Needless to say, I didn't want to lose all of my blog's contents if the Web host had a crash, so I set out to find a way to back up my WordPress site. What I discovered is that there are actually a number of different options for backing up WordPress, but your options are limited by whether or not you are hosting the WordPress site yourself.

For self-hosted WordPress sites

It is far easier to protect your WordPress site if you host it yourself than if the site is being hosted by a commercial hosting provider. The reason for this is that if you are hosting your own WordPress site, then you presumably have direct access to the server, which allows you to make use of a commercial backup application.

WordPress is an open-source application that can run on Windows or on Linux. Regardless of the platform that is being used, WordPress is designed to use a MySQL database. Therefore, the key to backing up your WordPress site is to find a backup application for either Linux or Windows servers (whichever you are using) that also supports MySQL backups.

The good news is that there are a number of different backup products that can be used. For example, Dell Quest NetVault Backup supports Windows and Linux servers and has support for MySQL. Similarly, CommVault offers an iDataAgent for MySQL databases.

For WordPress sites that are commercially hosted

If your WordPress site is hosted commercially (as mine are), you are going to have to be a bit more creative. Most hosting providers will not allow you to install a backup agent on their servers, so you are going to have to come up with a different way to back up WordPress.

There are a number of different plug-ins that can be used to facilitate a WordPress backup. The good news is that many of these plug-ins are free. The bad news is that none of them are as full-featured as a commercial backup application.

You can search for a backup plug-in by going to your site's WordPress dashboard and then clicking on Plugins. From there, you can click Add New. When you do, you will be taken to a search screen. Enter the term Backup into the search box.

The search will generally reveal a large number of backup plugins. So how do you choose? There are a few different things to be on the lookout for.

First, check to see which versions of WordPress each plugin supports. Some plug-ins simply will not work with the current version of WordPress.

Next, check out the user ratings. Some plug-ins have very misleading descriptions that might sound promising, but are in fact inaccurate. You can save yourself a lot of time by seeing what those who have already used the plug-in have to say.

Finally, check to see how the data is actually backed up. Some plug-ins work by creating a backup and then e-mailing you the backup file. Obviously, this isn't a good option if you have a large WordPress site. Other plug-ins store the backup file locally on the Web server and require you to download the file using an FTP client. In any case, it is important to know how to access your backup.

Conclusion

As you can see, WordPress backup plugins differ considerably in their capabilities. You may actually have to try several different plug-ins before you find one that you like. When you do finally settle on a plug-in, it is extremely important to document the plug-in name and its version. Otherwise, if you ever have to do a restoration, you may not be able to figure out which plug-in is required.

About the author:
Brien M. Posey, MCSE, has received Microsoft's MVP award for Exchange Server, Windows Server and Internet Information Server. Brien has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and has been responsible for the department of information management at Fort Knox. You can visit Brien's personal website at www.brienposey.com.

This was first published in September 2013

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