Backing up websites files is an important part of website maintenance. I know that many people have questions on how and when backups need to be done so this page will help explain things some. Please let me know if you have questions.
Once your website has been developed you’ll want to back-up the site files to ensure you have an original version copy. For CMS websites (WordPress / Joomla) you will also want to back up the database. Once you have these you can place them in a local folder for safe-keeping, upload them to storage location such as drop-box, or burn them to a CD/DVD.
It is always a good idea to back up the site files/database whenever significant changes have been made to your web pages. I would suggest keeping 3 backups (dating each by month/year) as additional protection; in this way if your files ever become compromised you can install the previous backup. Some hosting companies will restore a previous site/database version for you upon request, yet most will charge you for this. If you are using WordPress there are back-up utility plugins that will back-up the database for you (iThemes Security) is one of the better options in this regard.
It is important to stay current with the latest platform version since updates provide for improvements and security upgrades. For platform version updates you’ll want to back-up both the site files and database since the update will write to both of these. With plugin updates you’ll only need to back-up the database since the only site files affected are specific to that plugin. If the plugin fails you can deactivate it by changing the plugin file name or delete the plugin files/folder.
Note: Older themes/templates are more likely to have display issues (break) as a result of a platform update. If this happens then you can restore the previous version site files and database, which of course is why you back up both.
FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is a common way to transfer files to and from a hosting server. Most hosting companies also have a file transfer utility which is provided for in the hosting administration / utility area. There are a lot of FTP applications, and the two I typically use are FireFTP and FileZilla.
FireFTP: FireFTP is free plugin for the internet browser Mozilla Firefox. You can download/install it at: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-us/firefox/addon/fireftp/
Once the add-on is installed the link is available from the Firefox menu (upper right of browser screen).
As the screenshot illustrates you select “Create an account” in the upper-left of the main screen. You then enter an account name (which can be anything you choose), the host (which can be added as an IP Address (123.345.789.876), (www.yoursite.com), or (ftp.yoursite.com). You then add your login ID and your password and select “Ok”. And then select “Connect” (next to the account name, shown in the upper-left corner of the screen).
Note: Next to “Connect” is “Edit” ; this will show the Account Manager screen, for which the second tab option is “Connection”. In this area you will see:
- Connection type – most servers require “Passive Mode”
- Security – most will not require security, so select “none”
- IPv6 – select the (checkbox) for most newer servers
- Port – most servers require port “21” (should be set automatically)
FileZilla: FileZilla is popular “full-featured” FTP application (not a browser add-on) and like FireFTP it is free to use. You can download it at: https://filezilla-project.org/
For most users you will want to download the filezilla “client” (not “server”). As for its settings, it is similar to FireFTP, yet many people don’t find it quite as easy to use. If you have questions on its setup or use, it can be helpful to view the screenshots, and there is a documentation section with lots of information.
Note: Files are selected from one’s local computer by navigating to the folder/file as you would if you were browsing your computer’s “C” drive. There is your file “tree” on the left, and the file tree of the server shown on the right. One simply selects a file/s and transfers them over (which in essence is the same as copy/paste) and existing files of the same name are overwritten.
If you have cPanel (the hosting server administration area we provide) there is quicker way to do back-ups than FTP. To login to cPanel just add your domain followed by /cpanel ; ex: www.domainname.com/cpanel. The username/password are the same for cPanel as it is for FTP access.
Once you login select the “Backup Wizard” and then follow the prompts as shown following.
With this utility you can backup both the file and database. The four screenshots below illustrate the back-up process using this utility. You select “backup” (step 1), and then choose from the “Partial Backup” column at right (step 2). There are three backup options: Home Directory, MySQL Databases, and Email Forwards and Filters. For our needs we will select the home directory (which is your website files), and the MySQL database.
Note: You could choose “Full Backup” but as the notice indicates, this is intended for moving files between servers, not for restoring files.
The third screenshot illustrates what you’ll see when you click a database name. It open a window prompting you to save the file (which for most systems will be their downloads folder). Saving the site files (Home Directory) works pretty much the same way – as illustrated in the fourth screenshot (step 3).
Okay, so if you need to restore the home directory or the database, you would select “Restore” and then upload the zipped file previously download and/or the database file.