How to backup your self-hosted WordPress website the easy way

How to Backup WordPress with DropboxThis short guide will show you how to backup your self-hosted WordPress website using a plugin and a dropbox account.

Both are free and together offer the security of knowing your site is safely backed up.

Backing up is something we often forget to do until it’s too late. If you value the time you’ve put into setting up and publishing content, it’s most certainly worth 10 minutes to get your backups sorted out.

NOTE: If you have cPanel you can use this method, but it doesn’t allow for scheduling.

Let’s create peace of mind for you and your site now!

How to backup WordPress the easy way

1. Get a free dropbox account and make sure you’re signed in.

2. Install the WordPress Backup to Dropbox plugin.

Go to Plugins >> Add New and enter ‘WordPress Backup to Dropbox’ into the search field.

3. Authorize the plugin.

After activation the plugin will create a new menu item. Navigate to WPB2D >> Backup Settings.

You will see this dialogue:

WordPress backup to dropbox

Click the Authorize button and another browser window will open asking if you want to allow Dropbox to authorize the plugin.

WordPress backup to dropbox authorization

Click Allow and return to the previous window on your WP site.

Click the Continue button.

4. Configure the plugin to only backup necessary files.

You will see a list of settings:

WordPress Backup to Dropbox Settings

WordPress Backup to Dropbox Settings – Click to Enlarge

Under Settings, create a folder for your backups. Call it something that relates to your site, then choose a backup schedule.

Under Excluded Files and Directories click the “toggle all” link and then un-tick the wp-content folder.

The wp-content folder holds all your theme files, uploads and media.  Everything else can be easily replaced.

If you have installed other plugins that have created folders outside of the wp-content folder make sure they are un-ticked as well.

NOTE: If you have a caching plugin installed (for speed and website optimization) you do not need to backup the files it creates. They are just copies of your web pages in HTML form for fast loading times. For the plugin W3 Total Cache it will be the /w3tc folder, inside /wp-content. If you’re using WP Super Cache that will be the /cache folder inside /wp-content.

Excluded Files and Folders to Backup

You only really need the themes, plugins and uploads folders

NOTE: All things on the list that are ticked will be excluded from ther backup. Unticked sections will be included in the backup.

8. Click the Save Changes button.

9. Click on WPB2D >> Backup Log and click Start Backup to perform your first backup.

Make sure you leave that window open until it completes.

10. Login to your Dropbox account and download the folder you created for your backups.

It will be inside the folder wpb2d. Highlight the folder (wptribe in my case) and click the Download button.

Dropbox download folder

From now on the plugin will automatically backup on the schedule you chose.

Now doesn’t that feel better?

Any questions or issues with this process? Let us know in the comments. :-)

16 Responses to “How to backup your self-hosted WordPress website the easy way”

  1. Leigh Robshaw December 24, 2012 at 7:49 am #

    Brilliant, thanks for this. I already have dropbox so should be easy enough.

    • Michelle April 5, 2013 at 7:16 am #

      LOVE Dropbox – so glad to have found this!

      • Herrin Larkan April 5, 2013 at 7:44 pm #

        And I love that it creates a backup that is on the Dropbox cloud rather than only on a hard drive – which can be more dangerous sometimes. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Stacey Sheppard May 17, 2013 at 6:36 pm #

    This might be a silly question but does your computer need to be on for the backup to take place?

    • Herrin Larkan May 18, 2013 at 12:33 am #

      Once you’ve gone to Backup Log and triggered the backup you can navigate away and even turn your computer off and the rest is done for you.

      The server hosting your site and dropbox do the rest. Pretty cool hey?

      The same goes for the scheduled backups as well.

      Good question and thanks for helping me update this post! :-)

  3. Susan Marshall VA June 27, 2013 at 1:57 am #

    I see you mention excluding media files, but for huge sites it could be next to impossible to realistically restore all of the image files. And what about custom themes that you’ve paid hundreds of dollars for someone to create? I would love your thoughts on this. Thanks!

    • Herrin Larkan June 27, 2013 at 12:25 pm #

      It’s a bit confusing. You’re actually ticking the things you want to exclude from the backup.

      So the things on the list with no ticks will be backed up.

      You most definitely want to backup all your media files and themes.

      Thanks for commenting. I’ll update the article to emphasize that.

  4. Lisa B October 8, 2013 at 9:34 pm #

    Excuse my ignorance but I’m interested in whether this plugin backs up the content of the site – the text?

    • Herrin Larkan October 8, 2013 at 11:17 pm #

      All the text and content of your site is contained in the database backup which can be found at /wp-content/backups/ within the App folder of your main Dropbox folder.

      They will be named ‘[database name]-backup-core.sql’ and ‘[database name]-backup-plugins.sql’.

      These files also store the plugin and theme settings and can be used to restore your WordPress site should anything go wrong.

      You can find more information about how this plugin works here:

      • Lisa B October 9, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

        Ahh thank you. So there’s no other backups I need to do – this handles the lot? Sorry, but I’m conscious that I need to backup everything in case I muck up :)

        • Lisa B October 9, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

          I’ve just gone back through the instructions above and you tick the backups box so it doesn’t get backed-up. Why is that?

          • Herrin Larkan October 9, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

            It just saves space on your dropbox account to only backup the files that have to be replaced in the event of a restore. We’re excluding the files and folders that can be replaced easily.

            If you make your backup screen look like the one in the example you’ll be good to go.

          • Lisa B October 9, 2013 at 1:28 pm #

            Just replying to your response below – how is the content of your website able to be replaced easily? Sorry! Just not quite clear on that.

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