Full WordPress Backups: A Complete Guide for Website Owners

In life, we’re constantly reminded of the value of insurance — health insurance, car insurance, home insurance — but how often do we think about insurance for digital assets like websites? Not having insurance or a contingency plan is especially shocking when you consider that businesses, connections, and reputations depend so much on these online tools.

A mistaken line of code, a software glitch, or an unforeseen cyberattack can bring operations and sales to a standstill. 

But what if there were something even better than insurance? What if, instead of simply being compensated for the loss, you could actually repair the damage instantaneously? 

That’s the purpose that backups serve. And the right WordPress backup solution can restore your online presence in minutes, even saving ecommerce sales that occurred between the time you restore and the time that the backup was taken (e.g. in the case of a malware injection). 

Read on to learn about your digital safety net and how to find and implement the right solution for your site. 

The importance of WordPress backups

Every piece of content created, every update made, and every plugin installed on your WordPress site represents an investment — one of time, energy, and often money. Losing all of that in a blink of an eye is not only disruptive, but potentially catastrophic for a business, particularly for small to mid-sized companies. 

Backups serve as a fallback, providing the assurance that even in the face of the unforeseen, you can rebound quickly, minimize downtime, and continue to serve your audience without disruption. They’re not just about recovering data, but about preserving the heart of your digital business.

The different types of WordPress backups

As with all good things, backup services range in functionality, catering to diverse needs and resources. Some of the differences include the frequency of backups (daily, weekly, real-time, etc.) and where the files are stored. 

However, there are three major types of WordPress backups: full backups, incremental backups, and differential backups.

1. Full backups

Full backups are like they sound — they cover everything. All of your files, your settings, and your database are backed up entirely each time.

2. Incremental backups

Incremental backups, on the other hand, start with a full backup. But then, instead of creating a new, full backup every time, the tool saves just the files that are new or have changed since the last backup — whether that backup is full or incremental.

The advantage here is that these small files can be saved quickly, using minimal resources. This means that they won’t impact the performance and speed of your site in the same way that full backups can.

The disadvantage is that, to restore a complete backup, all the files must be merged to create a complete site. This can take a bit longer than with other backup types.

3. Differential backups

Differential backups strike a middle ground. Like incremental backups, they start with a full backup. But every time a new backup runs, it saves a file with all changes since the last full backup. So, backups taken after the initial full backup take very little space. However, as time goes by, each one increases in size. 

This takes less storage space, overall, than storing a full backup each time. The main advantage over incremental backups is that, when a restore is needed, it only has to merge two backups to create a complete “set.” This process is much quicker than what’s required with incremental backups. 

The disadvantage is that this strategy requires much more storage space than with incremental backups. 

A detailed overview of full backups

Full backups, as the name implies, are a complete backup of your entire WordPress site — every file, every folder, every line of data in your database. Nothing is left out. 

It’s like making a mirror image of your site at a particular point in time. This includes all of your site’s core files, plugins, themes, uploads, and your database, which houses your posts, pages, and users. 

Imagine having a complete clone of your website neatly packaged and ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice. That’s the peace of mind a full backup offers. However, as you may suspect, this thoroughness comes with a trade-off. Full backups can be resource-intensive, both in terms of storage space and server resources used while the backup runs.

But, with the right tools and practices, these challenges can be effectively managed, making full backups an attractive proposition for WordPress site owners.

Why most WordPress sites should use a combination of backups

Incremental backups allow site owners to use the least amount of storage space while also reducing the number of server resources used at any given time. This is great for storing snapshots of a site’s history over a long period of time. You can keep lots of copies without much storage space, so if you want to revert to a time months in the past or simply restore an older version to check something, you can. 

Differential backups can be used for a real-time backup strategy, so site owners can rest assured that every single action taken on the site is safe. Orders, comments, edits, post updates, and anything else you do between full backups will be saved if you need to restore the site. 

And full backups, of course, ensure you have a complete picture of your site, its database, and all files in a single place. Restoring a full backup can be quicker than with other methods and, without a full backup to start, incremental and differential backups simply aren’t possible. 

Top WordPress backup services like Jetpack VaultPress Backup employ each of these backup methods throughout your plan’s history. This allows for a fully secure site backup infrastructure that has all of your files in real time, but is quick to restore in an emergency.

How often should you back up your site?

To the extent that budget allows, you should back up your site every time a change is made or an update occurs. 

So if someone places an order on your site? Back it up. Publish a new blog post? Back it up. Get a new comment? Back it up. 

Real-time backups make this possible. While this term refers to the frequency of backups, it’s generally done through differential backups. 

But if you rarely make changes to your site or your budget is very strapped, you may need to settle for more periodic updates. In a sense, there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer to this question other than you should back up your site as often as realistically possible given your resources and the importance of your site as a business asset. 

Remember, the goal is not just to back up your files but to minimize potential data loss. If your last backup was a month ago, you stand to lose a month’s worth of data. And that can be a heavy blow for a business or blog.

Limitations of traditional backup methods

Let’s pause for a moment and consider the conventional ways of backing up WordPress sites. While they’ve served us well over the years, they have their limitations.

1. Host backups 

Many hosting providers offer backup services, often included in their plans. This might seem convenient and economical, but it’s not without drawbacks. 

For one, host backups often lack the flexibility and control that a dedicated backup solution offers. You’re at the mercy of your host’s backup schedule and retention policy. 

What’s more, if your host encounters issues, both your site and its backups could be at risk. For example, if a hacker gains access to your server, they could inject malware in your backup files as well as your live website. That would mean that you couldn’t safely restore a previous version of your site.

2. Manual backups 

For those who prefer a “do-it-yourself” approach, backing up your WordPress site manually through cPanel or an FTP client is a big temptation. 

But while this provides full control over backups, it comes with a steep learning curve and a substantial time commitment. Backing up a site manually can be a complex process, one that includes the risk of human error. Miss a file or a database table, and your backup is incomplete. 

Moreover, manual backups are a chore to automate and scale. As your site grows, so does the time and effort required to back it up manually.

If you miss even a single day’s backups, for a decently-active site, you could suffer significant loss should disaster strike. 

3. Third-party backup services 

Third-party backup services offer more control and flexibility than host backups and are easier to manage than manual backups. However, not all backup services are created equal. Some lack real-time backup capabilities, saving your site only once a day, or worse, once a week.

Others don’t offer easy-to-use restoration features, making the recovery process a nightmare. 

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The Jetpack VaultPress Backup advantage

Jetpack VaultPress Backup, a feature-rich WordPress backup solution, addresses the shortcomings of traditional backup methods while offering a host of other benefits. 

VaultPress Backup is more than just a backup tool; it’s a comprehensive backup and security solution for your WordPress site. It offers automatic, real-time backups that are securely stored separately from your server, along with easy-to-use restoration features, all in an intuitive, user-friendly interface. 

How Jetpack VaultPress Backup works

VaultPress Backup stands out in its approach, offering several features that make it a compelling choice for WordPress site owners, including:

1. Real-time backups

VaultPress Backup doesn’t make you wait for a scheduled backup to protect your latest updates. Its real-time backup feature automatically saves your site each time you make a change. Publish a new post, update a page, or earn a sale, and it’s backed up instantly. This reduces the risk of data loss to practically zero.

2. One-click restores

With VaultPress Backup, restoring your site is as easy as clicking a button. Whether you’re restoring your entire site or just a specific file or database table, VaultPress Backup guides you through the process in a few simple steps. No complex instructions, no technical jargon — just straightforward, simple steps.

3. Off-site storage

VaultPress Backup stores your backups off site, in separate infrastructure from your website. This means that your backups are safe even if your website or hosting provider encounters issues. 

4. Ultra-secure storage infrastructure

Your backups are not just offsite, but stored in a secure, reliable, and high-performance storage infrastructure. VaultPress Backup employs state-of-the-art security measures to protect your backups from unauthorized access and threats. 

In fact, it’s the same infrastructure serving WordPress VIP clients, used by the world’s top organizations and run by elite WordPress experts. 

The many advantages of VaultPress Backup

VaultPress Backup offers benefits not just for businesses and site owners, but also for WordPress site builders and agencies, as well as WooCommerce stores.

1. Benefits for businesses and site owners

As a business owner, VaultPress Backup gives you peace of mind that your site’s data is safe and always accessible. Its real-time backup feature ensures you never lose a single update, while its easy-to-use restoration feature minimizes downtime during a site recovery.

Plus, with VaultPress Backup, you’re not just getting a backup solution, but a dedicated support team ready to assist you 24/7.

2. Benefits for WordPress site builders and agencies

If you’re a WordPress site builder or run an agency, VaultPress Backup can be a game-changer for you. It’s an easy sell to your clients, offering comprehensive, real-time backups, one-click restores, and a secure off-site storage. Plus, it can save you countless hours in site management, with automatic backups and easy-to-use features.

Learn more about Jetpack’s partner program for agencies and pros: https://jetpack.com/agencies-pros/

3. Benefits for WooCommerce stores

Running a WooCommerce store? VaultPress Backup is the perfect tool for you. It backs up not just your posts and pages, but your entire WooCommerce store — products, orders, customer information, and more. And with its real-time backup feature, every transaction is backed up instantly, ensuring you never lose a sale.

Perhaps the coolest part? If you need to restore to a previous date, orders that occurred since that date will still be saved — even as the rest of your site reverts to a past version. 

Setting up VaultPress Backup 

Getting started with VaultPress Backup couldn’t be easier. To begin, go to Plugins → Add New in your WordPress dashboard. There, search for “VaultPress Backup.”

Getting started with VaultPress Backup couldn't be easier from the WordPress Plugin Repository.

Click on Install Now, then Activate. Then, click the Set up Jetpack button that appears.

Click on Install Now, then Activate. Then, click the Set up Jetpack button that appears.

Here, click Approve to connect your site to WordPress.com. There, you can create a new account or log into an existing one.

You’ll now see a table with several options for plans. Choose the one that best fits your needs and finish the checkout process.

Choose the option that best fits your needs and finish the checkout process.

And you’re done! Your first backup will start immediately; no need to do anything else!

Understanding the VaultPress Backup dashboard and settings

The VaultPress Backup dashboard is your command center, giving you access to your backups, restoration features, settings, and more. It’s designed with simplicity in mind, making it easy for even non-technical users to manage their backups. 

On your WordPress site, go to Jetpack → VaultPress Backup. This is where you’ll find your backup information and settings.

First, you’ll see information about your latest backup, including the time it took place, and what was backed up. In this section, you can also:

  1. Click the See backups in the cloud button. This will take you to the Jetpack Cloud, where you can view all of your available backups, edit settings, and more.
  2. Click View your latest restore point. This will take you to your most recent backup in the Activity Log, with the ability to restore immediately.
Click the See backups in the cloud button - you can view all of your available backups, edit settings, and more.

In the next section, you’ll see a link to the Activity Log. This will allow you to see all the events that took place on your site, along with information about when they occurred and who was responsible. You can also restore backups based on each action.

The Activity Log will allow you to see all the events that took place on your site, along with information about when they occurred and who was responsible.

How to restore a backup created with VaultPress Backup

Restoring a backup with VaultPress Backup is just as simple. In the VaultPress Backup dashboard, click See backups in the cloud. You can then choose which backup you want to restore, whether that’s the latest version, one from a previous time/date, or one based on an action taken on your site.

Restoring a backup with VaultPress Backup is just as simple from the VaultPress Backup dashboard.

Now, click Actions → Restore to this point.

VaultPress Backup then guides you through the restoration process, letting you choose what to restore (entire site, files only, or database only) and how to restore (restore to the current site or download a ZIP file of the backup).

VaultPress Backup then guides you through the restoration process, letting you choose what to restore and how to restore.

Once you’ve made your selections, click on the Confirm restore button, and VaultPress Backup will begin restoring your site. That’s all there is to it.

Frequently asked questions about full WordPress backups

How frequently should I back up my WordPress website?

Real-time backups are best for most WordPress sites. However, if your site is rarely updated, you could consider daily updates instead. 

Does VaultPress Backup back up WordPress in real-time?

VaultPress Backup offers real-time backups, using differential backups to automatically save your site each time you make a change. You can restore your website at any time with just a few clicks.

See a full list of what is and is not included in the backups from VaultPress Backup.

Why does VaultPress Backup store backups off-site? What are the benefits?

Storing backups off-site, in a separate infrastructure from your website, offers several benefits. It protects your backups from issues affecting your website or hosting provider, reduces the load on your server, and provides additional security for your backups.

What kind of support does VaultPress Backup offer?

VaultPress Backup offers best-in-class support through email and live chat. They have a dedicated support team that’s ready to assist you with any issues or queries you may have.

How do I get started with VaultPress Backup?

Getting started with VaultPress Backup is easy. All you need is a WordPress.com account, a plan that includes VaultPress Backup, and a few minutes to set it up. Refer to our ‘Setting Up VaultPress Backup’ section earlier in this article for a detailed guide.

VaultPress Backup: The gold standard in WordPress backups

When it comes to WordPress backups, having a full backup available is important. This saves everything on your site, giving you the confidence that you can recover your site in its entirety, exactly as it was. 

However, you don’t need to save an entire copy of your site each time to have a full copy available when you need to restore. Instead, consider a solution that’s nimble enough to save your site in-real time, so you never lose a thing, while also using minimal resources and preserving your site performance. 

You also need to consider how backups are performed. Manual backups and backups from your hosting provider both have their shortcomings that can leave you in the lurch when you need them the most. They can be unreliable, cumbersome, expensive, or lack important features.

That’s where VaultPress Backup shines. It’s a comprehensive, reliable, and easy-to-use backup solution that’s tailor-made for WordPress. It offers real-time backups with one-click restores, off-site storage, ultra-secure storage infrastructure, and more. It brings the many benefits of WordPress backups within reach of businesses, site owners, site builders, agencies, and WooCommerce stores.

Getting started with VaultPress Backup is straightforward. The setup is simple, the dashboard and settings are easy to navigate, and creating and restoring backups is a walk in the park. With 24/7 support, VaultPress Backup is an excellent choice for all of your WordPress backup needs.So go ahead, give VaultPress Backup a try. It might just be the best investment you’ll ever make for your WordPress site.

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Jen Swisher profile

Jen Swisher

Jen is a Happiness Engineer for Jetpack. She has been working with WordPress and Jetpack for over a decade. Prior to starting at Automattic, Jen has helped small businesses, local non-profits, and Fortune 50 companies create engaging web experiences for their customers. She is passionate about teaching others how to create on the web without fear.

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