Backing up your site on your own is extremely important, even if your hosting provider says that they back it up on a regular basis. You will need to back up your files, and you will need to back up the database. These are two separate things.

Using a Plugin to back up your site

You could use a plugin to backup your website. There are freebies on, but I recommend using a more reliable plugin like BackupBuddy – WP backup, restore, migration plugin. With this plugin, you can backup to your server, Amazon S3, Rackspace Cloud, FTP, or e-mail. You can use the backup to both restore your site and to migrate over to a new hosting provider.
Backup WordPress Easily

Backing up your site by hand

Backing up WordPress isn’t difficult at all, really. Once you’ve done it a few times, you’ll be an old pro. You’ll need an FTP (file transfer protocol) program that you will install your personal computer in order to download the folders and files off of your hosting account.

There’s no need to pay for an FTP program. There are freebies out there, and I recommend FileZilla. You can get both a Windows and a Mac version. Just visit FileZilla and download the version that you need. The site also has instructions for installing and setting it up so that you can connect to your hosting provider (see the image below for connection settings). You will need your ftp username and password that your hosting provider gave you when you signed up for your hosting account. You’ll find this information in their Welcome email. 

Here’s a screen shot of how to set up your connection using Filezilla:

FileZilla Settings

FileZilla Settings


Now create a folder on your home computer called Backups. In that folder, create two more folders, one called Database and another one called Files. Within the Files folder, create yet another folder and name it today’s date. With the Database folder, create a folder and name it today’s date.


Create Backup Folders

Backup Your Files

Now let’s download your folders and files using FileZilla. Open up FileZilla. You’ll notice that the middle of the screen is split into two columns. The left hand side is referred to the Local Site and the right hand side is referred to as the Remote Site. The Local Site is your personal computer. The Remote Site is your hosting provider.

Go to the Local Site side and browse to the folder that you just created under Backups > Files > Today’s Date.

connect to hosting providerNow connect to your hosting provider using the connection that you just set up. You do this by clicking on the down arrow of the server icon and choosing the account name that you entered when setting up the connection. You’ll see the connection progress happen right before your eyes, in the box above the Local Site and Remote Site columns.

Once you have connected successfully, you’ll select all of your WordPress folders and files. If you only have one domain name hosted on your hosting account, the folders and files that you need to backup will be right there in the right hand column (Remote Site). If, however, you are hosting more than one domain on your hosting account (referred to as an Addon Domain), make sure that you’re looking at the files for the domain you wish to backup. Addon Domains will have their own folder with the files located in that folder. Locate the correct folders and files for backups.

WordPress BackupsOnce you have located them, select all of them at once. To do this, click on the first folder, scroll down to the last file and hold down the shift key and click on that last file. All of the rows should turn color (blue). Now download everything by placing your mouse over those selected rows, right click, and click on Download. You should now see all of those files being downloaded into the left hand column (Local Site – aka, your computer). You can watch the progress in the box below the Local Site and Remote Site columns.

Each time you backup your files like this, put them in a new folder, naming the folder with the date so that you can keep track. You should keep not only 1 backup, but instead, keep the the most recent 3 backups. Just to be safe.

When you are finished using FileZilla disconnect from your hosting account. You do this by clicking on the little icon with a red X. You will find X this in the bar of icons across the top of the FileZilla screen. Why disconnect? Staying connected is a security risk.

Backup Your Database

This tutorial covers backing up using phpMyAdmin, found in cPanel. If your hosts uses something else, ask them how to access and backup your database.

Once all of the folders and files have been downloaded, you’re ready to backup your database. To do this, you need to sign into your control panel for your hosting account. If you’ve forgotten how to do this, look at your welcome email that your hosting provider sent you.

php adminOnce you’ve signed into your hosting account, look for the php admin. If your host uses cPanel as the control panel, it should be called phpMyAdmin.  Once you’re in the php admin, the left hand column will list all the databases that you have on your hosting account. Choose the database you wish to backup. This database was created when you installed WordPress, and you should have written down the name of it.

Once you’ve selected the database, look to the right and across the top you will see tabs. Choose the Export tab.

export database tab

Export Database Tab

Follow the settings below (click on the picture to make it large enough for you to read). Once you have your settings, click on the Go button in the bottom right hand column. If your site is large, you can choose to compress the output. This will download your database to your computer. Download it into the folder that you created:

Backups > Database > Today’s Date

backup WordPress Database

Backup WordPress Database