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How To Back Up Your Website (And Why You Should)

WRITTEN BY
Jao Gavino
UPDATED
February 26, 2024

 

Backing up your website is a no-brainer. Regardless if you own a small personal blog that you update once every six months or run a business website with an inventory of products, regular backups are essential.

 

One question that’s often less asked is how often you should back your website up. A large part of this depends on the type of website you run and your risk appetite. For example, not having backups for a small business website is much riskier compared to a personal blog.

 

However, even if your site is relatively small and doesn’t deal with sensitive data, such as credit card numbers, there are still reasons why backups are important—especially if you’ve spent years building up traffic and rankings on Google.

 

 

What are Website Backups?

 

Before we get ahead of ourselves, some basic explanations may be in order. A website backup, much like a regular backup of a file, is a copy of your website’s data; in essence, it is a direct copy of the website itself at a specific time.

 

It’s essential to keep backups of your site because they allow you to restore it after an unexpected problem, such as accidental deletion or data corruption.

 

Another vital factor in backups is to ensure that it’s complete. That means including all necessary elements like;

 

  • Database
  • Themes
  • Plug-ins
  • Uploads (content, images, videos, etc.)

 

 

Why Backing Up Your Website is Necessary

 

Having anything bad happen to your website can be devastating without backups. You’ll lose out on potential customers and businesses, and you may need to spend a long time recouping those losses and rebuilding everything from scratch. The best way to protect yourself from these scenarios is by backing up your site regularly, be it a small WordPress blog or a sizable online forum.

 

Backups are crucial for protecting against the most common causes of website downtime, such as human error, viruses, crashes, and data corruption. For example, if you accidentally delete an important file, having a backup means that you can recover the file quickly.

 

Similarly, if your site gets infected with malware or files get corrupted, you can just use a backup to restore your website to a functional capacity. However, one caveat is that you must restore from a backup created before the infection occurs.

 

keep cloud backups for resiliency

Cloud backups allow for unparalleled resiliency.

 

Things can also happen through no fault of your own. Good examples of this include natural disasters that can affect the data center hosting your website. In cases like this, you can simply replicate your website once services are back.

 

 

How Do Website Backup Services Work?

 

Backing up an entire website’s worth of files, plug-ins, videos, and images can be challenging. Things can turn out poorly if you forget even a single file. It can mean the difference between your website functioning nominally and a crash when trying to reload the site.

 

As such, website backup services exist to ensure that the process of backing up your website remains as easy and pain-free as possible. Two options exist for how and when you backup your site data, as follows:

 

  • A manual backup involves making a copy of your website’s data (or reaching out to your backup service to make a copy of your site) whenever you feel it is needed.
  • On the other hand, an automatic backup is about as hands-free of an approach as possible: You set up a schedule for backing up your site data (hourly, daily, weekly, etc.), and the website backup service handles everything for you.

 

In addition, there are three main options for what you back up:

 

  • A full backup involves copying your site’s files to your backup. This process makes an exact copy of everything your website contains, with the obvious downside being that copying the data of an entire site takes a long time and a lot of space.
  • An incremental backup is a smarter backup version and only copies the files with changes since the last backup. For example, if you only changed one document since your last backup, an incremental backup will only copy that one file.
  • Similar to an incremental backup, a differential backup only copies the files that have changed since the previous backup.

 

backup types comparison cheat sheet

This handy cheat sheet shows the differences between these three backup types.
(Credit: TechTarget)

 

 

The Advantages of Automatic Backups

 

Human memory is notoriously fallible at best and untrustworthy at worst; remembering to back up your website daily (or even hourly) can be a monumental task, especially if you have other responsibilities to keep in mind.

 

Automatic backups are the best option to ensure that you have an up-to-date copy of your website. They’re easy to set up and restore, even for beginners.

 

Most good web hosts will offer automated backups, but how often these backups take place (or if at all) usually depends on your subscription plan: Some may provide backups with daily, weekly, or custom cycles.

 

Here are some web hosts that offer automated backups:

 

  • Hostinger: $2.99/mo (no daily backups on some plans)
  • DreamHost: $2.95/mo (DreamPress offers on-demand backups)
  • Bluehost: $2.95/mo (Plus plan offers daily backups)

 

If none of these options tickle your fancy or you need more information, check out our reviews on 2023’s best web hosting services.

 

 

Creating Manual Backups Using cPanel

 

As one of the most popular control panels for web hosts and developers, cPanel is near-ubiquitous for website managers. One of cPanel’s features allows you to back up your site. To do an automatic full account backup, perform the following steps:

 

manual backups using cpanel

(Credit: Hostinger)

 

First, log in to cPanel, head to the “Files” tab, and then click on “Backup.”

 

Under “Full Backup,” click “Download a Full Account Backup.” Then, when selecting a storage destination for your backup, pick “Home Directory” and select a notification setting (this will notify you via email when your backup is complete).

 

generate backup on cpanel

 

Finally, click on “Generate Backup”, and the backup will start automatically.

 

backups available for downloads cpanel

 

Click “Go Back” and check every few minutes. Eventually, links under “Backups Available for Download” will appear, and you can choose whichever backup you want to restore.

 

 

How Often Should You Back Up Your Website?

 

When it comes to how often you should back up your website, the answer lies entirely with you.

 

Consider how often your site changes:

 

  • New posts (a new blog).
  • Revisions to existing content (deleting an embarrassing post from a day ago).
  • Comments or reviews from customers or random visitors.

 

These all constitute changes to your website, regardless of how minute they may seem. Daily (or even hourly) backups are ideal if your site gets a lot of traffic.

 

If your income depends on your site’s daily visitors and their interactions or purchases, backing up your website’s data as often as possible is an excellent move.

 

On the other hand, if you update your site every other week or so and don’t see a lot of traffic, weekly backups are sufficient. Alternatively, monthly backups will be more than enough if your site is more of a hobby or passion project that you jump into every other month.

 

In addition, one other thing to consider about how often your website is backed up is the cost: Plans that allow you to back up your site as often as you want usually come with a higher price tag.

 

 

Backups Help Ensure Your Website Remains Safe

 

The question of website backups shouldn’t be about whether it’s necessary. Instead, the right question is how often you must create a backup.

 

Backing up your site (especially if your income depends on it) is incredibly important to protect it from potential hackers or even human error. With the tips listed above, making a manual backup (or setting up an automated system) for your site should be easier than ever.