Back to Basics: Backup your WordPress

As a fairly new website ourselves, we know how important creating great content is. Gone are the days where every idea began as a scribble on paper, but in a world where everything is constructed directly onto a computer or other device, unfortunately technology can still let us down.

Of course, this is something we’ve all learnt the hard way. Whether it was a dissertation draft back in your university days, or a company presentation that you were finalising for the next day, we’ve all experienced that drop in your stomach when you lose a piece of work and realise that it was never backed up. The mistake that so many of us make is believing this won’t happen when we work directly on a website build, such as WordPress. After all, it’s the internet. Nothing gets completely lost on the internet, right?

Wrong. If you strip your WordPress website down to the basics, it’s really just a jumble of characters and files and hyper-sensitive codes that link it all together. Mess with one of those codes, and you could well lose everything.

Our job is to make sure that doesn’t happen – and if it does, to make sure all your content is backed up safely and securely so that in case of a disaster you can restore your site easily. Without further ado, here’s our guide to backing up your WordPress site.

Download a plugin

In the technology world, a plugin (rather confusingly) is not something you actually plug in. Rather, it is a backup system you can download onto your device which is large enough to store everything you create. Key examples include Dropbox and Backup Buddy, which both sit comfortably on your desktop and allow you to arrange all of your content into different folders and areas for your ease.

The great thing with these plugins is that setting up an automatic back up process is super easy, ensuring that even when you forget to back your work up manually, your device will do it all for you without any prompt. We suggest setting the automatic back up to update at least once a week; sending an email to your own email address with a link to the latest version of your work.

That is not to say that you shouldn’t do a manual back up regularly, especially when making significant changes to the layout or formatting of your WordPress site. You never know when something could go wrong that just deletes everything, so ensuring you have the more up-to-date version saved before making any big changes could save you a lot of time and effort in the long run.

The manual back up

Backing up your WordPress site manually is no mean feat, and we would recommend investing in the plugin before playing around with the manual back up feature – just in case.

That being said, it is perfectly possible to perform a manual back up directly in your WordPress site, by logging into your server and delving into the developer tools of the site.

Logging in can be done either through cPanel or an SFTP program. cPanel is all online, and can be accessed through your web host – once logged into your web host, navigate to the cPanel page and find your WordPress site folder in the file manager. Compress the WordPress folder into a small file (usually a zip file) and then download it for manual safe keeping.

Alternatively, you can use the SFTP program which requires downloading a file manager such as FileZilla. Once in your file manager, log in using your STFP details and download every item linked to your WordPress site. Pop it all in a zip folder for ease and save the file somewhere you can access easily anytime.

Backing up your work has never been easier – and it has also never been more necessary. Building a WordPress site takes time and your time is worth so much, that making life a little easier for yourself can only be a good thing. Now, go and back up your work immediately!

Theming your WordPress site

Choosing a WordPress theme is a big decision. Not only does it determine the colour scheme of your site, but it also impacts how user-friendly the site is both for yourself and for your website visitors. Your WordPress theme is essentially the template for your site with added bonus bits, including customised formats, fonts and backgrounds.

So how do you install a WordPress theme onto your website?

The easy route – from the inside

Using one of the built-in themes that WordPress advertises in its catalogue is by far the easiest way of installing a theme. Yes, your site may reflect the look of many others like it, but with quality content and some good marketing you should be able to stand out from the crowd without too many problems.

If you’re brand new to WordPress and don’t yet have any selected themes to choose from, starting from scratch is simple enough. Click on ‘Add New’ in the menu under ‘Appearance’ and spend some time scrolling through the many hundreds of options available in the online library. A top tip we recommend is spending some time looking at all of the pages of themes – people in a hurry will often make their selection from the first few pages alone, making these themes the most frequently used. Make your site different by avoiding these most popular designs and picking something lower on the list.

Once you’ve selected your theme, switch to live view and take some time to explore how your site looks with its new theme. Once you’re happy with your selection and have installed the theme, remember you can always return and change the settings as often as you like. And if you get bored with the theme you chose, the plethora of themes available will always be waiting in the menu.

Downloading an external theme

While WordPress offers a multitude of themes in its own database, the internet is full of creators who have designed and made up WordPress themes of their own – ready to sell to willing buyers. Of course, this involves installing the theme from an external location; a slightly more complicated but entirely doable process.

First you need to download the theme file and save it somewhere that’s easy to find. It’s likely this will come as part of a zipped file (one which has been reduced in size in order to make download easy), so in order to access the contents you then need to unzip the file.

Returning to the backend of your WordPress site, the next step is to open your themes menu and click on ‘Add New’. Alongside the available options in the WordPress library, you will see an option to upload a theme from your computer – click on this and then locate the file you just saved.

Once your chose theme has been installed, it works much the same as an internal theme in terms of editing the settings and formatting select areas. Our top tip here would be to make sure the theme you choose is compatible with the version of WordPress that you are working in. In a world where technology is constantly being updated and renewed, software updates are inevitable and regular, and you need to ensure you keep on top of them to keep your website looking its very best.