I don't think I could ever forget that day when I thought I was going to throw my computer out the window! Yes, just like in the movies, I let you imagine…

Well, I reassure you, that day, no equipment was mistreated, well maybe the mouse a bit… Just a bit…

So, I had just finished one of my first WordPress sites. I had spent hours and hours fine-tuning the smallest details down to the smallest alignments. The site was finally online and it was perfect!

How happy I am when it goes online, I browse through the different pages when I get back to the administration interface and what do I see that interferes with my perfect design? Big red notifications that warn about updates to be made.

Without thinking twice, in the excitement of the moment, I make them all without paying attention. I go back to my site when it suddenly disappears and a white screen appears and announces me:

“Sorry you don't have the authorization to access this page…”

Website crashed

Disaster! I think I really froze for a moment before panicking. I frantically clicked on the buttons to go back, but there was no turning back, the damage was done. Everything was lost and without saving, I just had to start again.

In this article, we will explain how to use the UpdraftPlus plugin so that you don't make the same mistake I did and always have a copy of your contents at hand.

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Why make a backup of your WordPress site?

Creating and animating a WordPress site takes time and effort, so don't risk losing all your work when there are solutions to protect you from it all.

Above all, don't wait for an error to happen before making a backup because the risks to your site are real and they won't wait.

The most important risks are:

  • Error of human manipulation, yes it happens to everyone;
  • Error updating a plugin, your theme or a version of WordPress;
  • Hacking, hackers and robots are not only aimed at big sites;
  • Failures on the side of your hosting provider.

If unfortunately you suffer a crash, your backup will be your best friend to act quickly and ensure the continuity of your site. Since in addition to having an inaccessible site, the loss of your data and those of your users can be catastrophic for your business, your image and engage your legal liability.

Now that you are an informed user, you know that you need to make a backup of your site but how can you do it? Don't worry, this article is here for that!

How to backup a WordPress site?

There are several solutions available to us to protect our work. Let's check them out together:

  1. Manually: That is to say by fetching the files of your site via FTP (or your cPanel) and export the database in phpMyadmin but this poses two constraints. Firstly, you must connect to it and perform this operation regularly so that the backup is up to date and secondly, if you are not an expert the risk of making a mistake is important. So this is not what I recommend!
  2. Automatically via a plugin: with the addition of a backup plugin to your WordPress site. This way, you can save time, enjoy the peace of mind and security of automated backups without having to have any particular technical knowledge.

We opt for simplicity, speed and we will introduce you to our favorite and most popular WordPress backup plugin… (drum roll)I named UpdraftPlus.

Remember, we already recommended it in this comparison of backup plugins for WordPress.

Why is it the most popular? That's what we're going to find out in this tutorial.

Today, we decided to show you how to set up the free version of this backup plugin and help you preserve your data.

UpdraftPlus: an efficient, easy and free backup plugin

Download page of UpdraftPlus plugin on WordPress directory

UpdraftPlus is THE reference plugin for backing up files from your WordPress site.

With more than 40 million downloads, 3 million active installations and an average rating of 4.8/5 for more than 3,500 reviews, UpdraftPlus is a proven plugin that is highly appreciated for its ease of use.

In concrete terms, it is a complete solution for backing up and restoring the files and database of your WordPress site.

Its big advantage: the plugin allows you to automate your backups and store them on remote spaces to preserve your data in case of failure of your host.

For the record, the backup plugin was created in 2010 but was quickly abandoned by its creator due to lack of time. It was taken over in 2011 by David Anderson and since then, the plugin has continued to improve and his team has grown.

Owners of other plugins such as WP-Optimize and Easy Updates Manager, there is a real team of about fifteen people behind UpdraftPlus, which can reassure on its update status and security.

With 3 million active installations, the plugin is now ranked in the top 20 most popular WordPress plugins!

Warning: the plugin only backs up YOUR content, i.e. your theme, your media and plugins (this is the content of the /wp-content/ folder on your server) and your database. It does not backup the core WordPress files. If you want to back up everything, you will need to get a paid add-on.

How to make the first backup of your WordPress site

Once UpdraftPlus is installed on your site, go to Settings > UpdraftPlus Backups.

You get on the settings page of the plugin:

UpdraftPlus settings page
Don't be afraid, the interface is a bit austere but I will guide you.

This one is composed of 5 tabs but only 2 are of interest to us for the moment:

  • Backup / Restore: to make a backup or restore, see the next scheduled backups and access the latest backups;
  • Settings: to set up backup operations, their contents and remote storage space.

The 3 other tabs will not be useful for you since they concern the paid version of the plugin:

  • Migrate / Clone: to create a temporary copy of your site or to migrate it (to another host for example) only available in premium version;
  • Advanced tools: presentation of paid features and technical information on your site, they are useful if you need support;
  • Premium / Extensions: presentation of all the paid features of the plugin and incentive to subscribe to it.

In short, let's not waste time and let's go to the setup.

How to set up UpdraftPlus

Now that everything is in place, all you have to do is set up your backups; and you'll see it's super easy!

To do this, click on the “Settings” tab and let yourself be guided.

Scheduling backups

To begin with, you will be able to decide whether or not to automate backups of your files (which is highly recommended). Here you have the choice between Manual or Periodicity for automatic backups.

Backup schedule settings of UpdraftPlus

In Manual, you decide when you make your backups, it is very useful before a big update or an important intervention but it has the disadvantage of forcing you to repeat the operation regularly.

So you must not forget to implement automation.

To do this, define the backup periodicity for:

  • Site files (i.e. themes, plugins, media etc.);
  • The databases (where your contents, settings and user accounts are stored).

Either you decide to perform these backups at the same time or you program them independently.

If you write a lot of articles on your blog, it may be useful to back up the database on a daily basis while a weekly backup will be sufficient for the other files. This is decided according to your habits of adding content to your site.

In any case with automation, you don't have to think about backup operations anymore since the plugin takes care of everything.

Note: Don't forget to save the settings before setting up your remote storage space. Otherwise you will have to start again.

Choose your remote storage

Here you will find another advantage of UpdraftPlus: the plugin allows you to connect to different storage spaces in order to automatically send a copy of your backups there.

The remote storage spaces offered by UpdraftPlus

If you do not select any remote storage, the backup will be stored only on your server. And if your server gets hacked, the hacker will have access to the backup and will be able to delete it at will. In this case, your backup is useless…

The plugin leaves a choice for this storage, between Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure, OpenStack, Rackspace Cloud, DreamObjects, Blackblaze… you should be able to find what you want.

There is also the possibility to have a copy sent to you by email, but I don't recommend it since the weight of the backup is often way too heavy, and therefore the message will be refused by your inbox.

To validate the choice of remote storage, select it. Then it will be necessary to authenticate to the service and authorize UpdraftPlus to come and drop the files (Dropbox in my case).

Dropbox connection to UpdraftPlus
Click on the link to connect your Dropbox account

Once authenticated, save the settings again so that UpdraftPlus takes into account the configured remote storage space.

Include in the backup

The next step is to define the components that will be copied to the backup.

Files included and excluded from the backup

Here, it is best to leave all the boxes checked by default.

As mentioned above, UpdraftPlus only backs up what is specific to your site, database, media, plugins and themes. It does not back up files from your WordPress installation.

If your site has a problem with this, restoring your own content will not help, you will need to do a full reinstall first.

Here you can see that will be included in the backup:

  • Plugins
  • Themes
  • Uploads: Downloaded media
  • And any other directory specific to your site in the /wp-content/folder

Then, the plugin will exclude some unnecessary components such as its previous backups or the cache. Here you can also add exclusions according to the plugins you use on your site.

Advanced settings for UpdraftPlus plugin

Database encryption

It is an option available in the paid version of the plugin that allows you to encrypt your database backups to make them more secure.

Email

You can receive a report of each backup by email by checking this box. This action allows you to know when backups are made and to monitor in case of problems.

To avoid cluttering your inbox unnecessarily, leave the box unchecked.

Advanced settings

Finally, there is an area dedicated to advanced settings including the size for splitting archives, deleting local backups and the name of the backup directory.

The default configuration here is sufficient and we won't go into detail about these advanced settings in this tutorial. However, if you want to know more, you can check out the whole plugin documentation.

Finally, don't forget to save your settings.

Congratulations, you have finished setting up UpdraftPlus!

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Start the first backup

To finally get down to business and make the first backup, we leave the “Settings” tab and return to the plugin's home page, i.e. to the first “Backup/Restore” tab.

Backup Now button for an immediate backup
One more click, and your next backup will be ready.

Automatic backup

If you have chosen automated backups, the first box displays the date and time of the next backup of the files and the database.

You can do nothing more and let the plugin do the backup automatically at the indicated date and time. You don't need to stay on the plugin page or reopen it for the backup to take place, UpdraftPlus takes care of it in the background.

Manual backup

However, at any time, you can decide to make a backup (manual backup) yourself by clicking on the big blue “Backup” button. This action can be very useful before making a big update or an important modification on your site.

A popup appears to validate your settings on the files to include and the remote storage space chosen (these are the same settings you made previously in the “Settings” tab) so you don't have to do anything more here.

Last check before launching the backup

If everything is OK, just click on the “Backup Now” button at the bottom of this window and let's go!

A progress bar appears to detail the status of the backup. Just wait until it is complete.

Backup progress bar

Be careful, for large sites, if the backup process takes too long, it may be blocked by the server (timeout). It may be necessary to ask your hosting provider to increase the processing time in order to successfully complete this operation.

Note: if you chose Bluehost, you will not have this problem. 😉

However, this is still quite rare because UpdraftPlus independently backs up each component of your site.

Backup succeeded and complete

Once the backup is complete, the last log message is displayed in a new box in the middle of the page to indicate either a successful backup or an error message if there was a problem.

The last backup is displayed at the bottom of this screen in the ” Existing Backups ” section and indicates where the backup is located, in my case on Dropbox.

Checking the backup

Once the backup has been successfully completed, you can verify that the backup is present on your remote storage space.

If like me you use Dropbox, go to Applications > UpdraftPlus.com.

The latter does not consist of a single .zip file but of 5 files, which correspond to the:

  • Themes;
  • Plugins ;
  • Uploads ;
  • Database ;
  • Others (files of /wp-content/).

Congratulations! You have successfully completed your first backup as well as the automation of the next ones!

Disaster happened, site quickly restored with UpdraftPlus

A wrong operation, an update error… your theme is all broken or your contents have disappeared? Don't panic, you can restore your site in a few clicks with the plugin.

Restore last backup

To quickly recover your data, go back to the UpdraftPlus settings and stay on the first ” Backup/Restore ” tab. At the bottom of the page, you will find your last backup, click on the blue “Restore” button.

The plugin will import the data where it is stored, in my case, it will look for it on DropBox.

List of the UpdraftPlus backups

Then, choose the components to restore according to your needs:

  • If your entire site is corrupted, restore everything;
  • If, on the contrary, since the last backup you have created new content and the bug appeared following a plugin update for example, restore only these and do not touch the rest.
Backup restoration displaying the list of files to restore
Selection of components to restore

Then wait for the restoration files to be prepared. It may take a few minutes depending on their number and size.

Download of restore files in progress

As with backup, if you have a large site with a lot of data, the recovery time may be blocked by the server (timeout). In this case, you will have to ask your hosting provider to increase the processing time.

Time to restore the files

To continue, click ” Restore ” and wait for the operation timeout.

Restore is done and successful

That's it, your restoration is complete! Don't forget to delete the old directories by clicking on the button present in the notification back in the administration.

Do you need the paid version?

The free version of UpdraftPlus includes everything you need to make automatic backups of your files and database. But you should know that there is also a paid version.

It is possible to purchase additional plugins (add-ons) to have access to other functionalities according to your needs:

  • Encryption of your sensitive data for more security;
  • Backups of all files including the core of WordPress and files outside WordPress;
  • Incremental backups that allow you to back up only files that have changed since the last backup, not all;
  • Access to UpdraftVault to store your backup: this is a remote storage space belonging to UpdraftPlus;
  • Multi-site network backups;
  • Cloning and migration of your site (if new hosting, new domain…);
  • Access to more advanced reports.

The price to access these premium features starts at $70 per year for two sites (you can also purchase add-ons individually)

So, what about UpdraftPlus?

You will have understood it: making backups of your website is very important!

On the web, all sites are at risk, regardless of their popularity and content. A bad manipulation, a hack, an update that fails… and in a split second your site can disappear.

UpdraftPlus has become one of the most popular plugins in WordPress, not only because of its usefulness as a backup, but also because it is so easy to use.

With this plugin you don't need any special technical knowledge to set up your backups.

After making the few settings, the plugin takes care of the rest. Your backups will be scheduled automatically and you won't have to think about it anymore.

Whatever the size of your site, UpdraftPlus can backup (and restore) it without any problem.

The free version is more than enough if you are just starting out. Its interface could use a refresh, but come on, it's great the way it is!

And if you have a more advanced profile, the features of the premium version are there when you need them.

Do you use UpdraftPlus on your sites? Did this article convince you? Tell us all about it.