August 27, 2020

How to backup a WordPress website before an update

Best PracticesWordPress Tutorials

the website architect

By

new wordpress update notification

WordPress doesn’t release updates often, but when they do, the updates are either minor security patches or feature updates. Because your entire website is built on WordPress it only makes sense that you should always do a backup before the WordPress updates to ensure your site will be lost by an unexpected error.

The best way to backup a WordPress website before an update is by using hosting to make a backup manually. If this isn’t an option, you can install a WordPress backup plugin like All In One WP Migration to make the backup inside WordPress. After installing the plugin, in the left side menu go to All In One WP Migration > Backups and make a backup.

How to backup before a WordPress update

To backup your WordPress before an update you either can:

  • Backup the website using your hosting
  • Backup your website with a WordPress plugin

Backing up through a WordPress plugin is recommended to do for non-technical users that are at least comfortable navigating the back-end of WordPress.

Backing up with your hosting account is recommended if the option is available to you in your hosting package and platform.

Backing up with hosting VS a WordPress plugin

When you get an error or your website breaks due to a WordPress update, your website can either just break in the frontend or your website can completely break, taking the WordPress backend with it. If an error does cause your backend to be inaccessible, restoring a backup from a WordPress plugin wouldn’t be possible. It would mean you would have to manually find your backup file, delete your entire website, install a new WordPress installation, and then restore from the plugin again.

It’s for those reasons I suggest backing up through your hosting because when something goes wrong you can much easily restore your website through the hosting instead of having to use WordPress.

It may not be feasible to back up through your hosting because depending on what host you’re with and the pricing package you have, it may not be an option to do in the first place. If this is the case, then using a plugin would be the next best option. If you do want to consider upgrading your hosting package or platform, I have an article comparing the pricing for each hosting platform and the data surprised even myself.

How to backup with hosting

SiteGround backup

To make a website backup with SiteGround start by logging into your SiteGroud account and clicking on the websites tab found in the top menu.

From the websites page, find the website you want to backup. In my case, its thewebsitearchitect.com. Next, Click SITE TOOLS on the website you want to backup.

siteground dashboard

The left side menu is your site tools for that particular website. In the menu find the Security tab and then click the Backups sub-page under it.

siteground creating backup

From this page, you can then create manual backups. SiteGround allows for 5 manual backups at a time, but note that SiteGround also backs up your website every day to ensure its safety. It conveniently also backups your emails and database seperately.

Other hosting platforms backup

With most hosting platforms it should be fairly simple to find where to backup your website, if you need some assistance here are tutorials for some of the most common platforms:

How to backup with GoDaddy

How to backup with BlueHost

How to backup with iPage

How to backup with Hostgator

How to backup with WP Engine

How to backup with a WordPress plugin

There are many backup plugins out there, paid and free. My personal favourite one is All In One WP Migration. This plugin is meant for migrating websites from one domain to another, but its backup secondary feature is simple and it works. It doesn’t spend all day trying to push premium to you with all these random features, it just works.

To make a backup with All In One WP Migration, search and install it onto your WordPress website using the plugin store.

backup with all in one wp migration

After installing the plugin to your site you will find the All In One WP Migration option in the left WordPress menu. Click on that, and then into Backups to get to the backup landing page.

When you create a new backup it will give you the option to download it if you want. You can do so, but if you don’t want the backup file the file is still saved directly in the All In One WP Migration plugin in your WordPress files.

As I mentioned, I use this plugin myself as you can see in the screenshot. Its reliable, and simple. It has limitations on the free version to IMPORT your website, but no limitations on backups.

Why should you backup your website before an update?

From experience when it comes to WordPress updates the more complex your website is, the more chances of an update breaking your site.

When it comes to WordPress and errors; when it rains it pours. WordPress is built on PHP which so when your website gets even the smallest error, it has a snowball effect that can result in your website going from fully functioning to completely down.

What makes matters worse is when you have a heavy theme combined with a lot of plugins it becomes very likely that something will go wrong not only with WordPress updates but even with some plugin updates as well.

wordpress update dashboard

I’m not proud to say, but I have personally crashed over 10 client websites just by updating WordPress and plugins myself. Thank god I made backups!

Because of this, it is very important you do a site-wide backup before you update WordPress or any major plugins. I also recommend making a backup when you are about to update over 6 plugins.

How frequent are WordPress updates?

WordPress pushes out updates around once to 3 times per month. Sometimes they may skip a month to have the upcoming update more feature-packed and stable for next release.

You can stay up to date on all WordPress versions with their WordPress version directory.

Should you enable automatic updates?

Did you even know this was an option? WordPress sometimes puts a notification on the dashboard asking you if you want to turn on auto-updates for WordPress.

But should you turn on auto-update?

Hell no. I just spent over an hour on this article telling you why that’s a bad idea and a big no-no.

If you are interested in turning it on, you have to add some PHP to your wp-config.php WordPress core file to turn on auto WordPress core updates:

define( 'WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE', true );

Or to turn off auto-updates:

define( 'AUTOMATIC_UPDATER_DISABLED', true );

You can actually get pretty fancy with it by allowing specific plugins to be auto-updated if you want. You can find out more about configuring automatic background updates.

Should you update right as an update comes out?

I would also like to promote a hell no to this one as well, you should wait a week or two.

This allows time for the uncautious people to do the testing for you to see if there are major compatibility errors or big errors that people are experiencing after updating. After a week or so after the update, you can do a quick Google search for any issues people may be having and if they apply to you or not. If not then backup, and update!

When it comes to plugins you should be okay to update right away, as long as its not a large plugin like WooCommerce or BuddyPress.

Should you backup before plugin updates too?

If its 1-3 small plugins, I wouldn’t sweat it that much. But if you’re doing a batch update of 4 or more I would make one just in case. I would especially do this for major/large plugins like WooCommerce, BuddyPress or any plugin that add extra functionality to WooCommerce.

Conclusion

When it comes to WordPress, updates should scare you. I once didn’t care about making backups before I updated the WordPress core and its plugins, and because of this, I’ve tanked many websites over the years.

Taking that extra 5 minutes to make a backup is well worth the time and frustration you will have to deal with if something goes wrong. Be smart, backup your site.

By

the website architect profile picture

I'm The Website Architect, just another web developer in Toronto, Canada. I'm passionate about Web Design, WordPress, and anything to do with websites. My goal is to make the Internet a more beautiful and usable place, one design choice and website at a time.