3 reasons why website backups are important, but not usually considered:
1. “Oh, shit,” moments.
Let’s face it, shit happens. Mercury goes Retrograde and your entire site glitches, website platforms make political decisions you disagree with and you want to (and can) leave, your host is really cheap and you got flooded with malware, or you did something drastic and fucked up the entire thing on your own, or are terrified that any of the above will happen and you want to be prepared.
2. Changes in design and other reversible decisions
This is one a lot of people don’t consider, but sometimes you make a drastic change to the visual aesthetic of your website and realize, in the end, that you hate everything you just did and would rather not now have to go through and undo everything. A complete backup that restores to a previous version would be a headache reducer.
3. Backing up your website helps build routine & habits
When you get into the habit of backing up your website, you often find yourself getting into other content security habits automatically. Such as backing up your social media content, your mailing list, your own computer, and local content storage devices, and convincing friends and family and strangers on the internet that backups are the best thing since sliced bread or discovering horoscopes for your rising sign.
Backup systems rely heavily on routines and once you have a routine in place, they can become a stress-less, highly automated system that frees up physical and emotional bandwidth.
- No more worrying if you’re going to break something; if you do, restore the backup.
- No more worrying that the change you made was bad for business; restore to the previous version that worked.
Let’s look at how to back up your website based on the type of website you have:
How to back up your WordPress.com website
If you have the free, or no plug-in uploads allowed plan(s):
If you do not have a plan that allows for plugins, you can export most of your content.
Exporting will export all of your posts, pages, comments, categories, and tags into an XML file. It will not export your images. Your images will be a hyperlink to their original location, so if you are exporting to take your content with you you will not have the image files themselves.
Exporting will not export your website theme, plugins, or any customization you have done to the design of the site itself.
If you have a paid WordPress.com account
If you do have a plan with plugin access, you can use the Jetpack backup feature or install your own backup plugin so you can get a single file with your entire website all packaged up.
Personally, I would stick with Jetpack because it was created by Automattic and is fairly seamless to use on WordPress.com.
If you really like to have control over your backups, I recommend Updraft Plus. Even the free version is fantastic! And they walk you through a complete backup process.
How to back up your WordPress.org site (aka “self-hosted”)
With a self-hosted installation of WordPress (aka WordPress.org), you can utilize any backup plugin that your host doesn’t object to (check their support pages for any “non-acceptable plugins”)
In addition, you can and I highly recommend that you also utilize your hosting’s backup system, either found through your Account or cPanel, depending on your host.
I use Flywheel (a subsidiary of WPEngine) to host all of my and my client’s websites because they offer, among many other things, backups every 24 hours that you can download and store in your own backup storage system. (I have an external drive I use, in addition to Google Drive)
On top of that, I like to use UpdraftPlus as a secondary backup system because they give you a lot of control over what gets backed up and when. Even the free version of the plugin is fantastic! And they walk you through how to do a complete backup: https://updraftplus.com/how-to-backup-a-wordpress-site-step-by-step-guide/
How to back up your Squarespace website
In short: you can’t.
Squarespace doesn’t let you actually back up your website in a way that allows you to take the entirety of your website with you in one single neat package. However, you can export some of your content into an XML file so you at least have something of your website stored away from Squarespace.
If you have Squarespace 7.1 and a smaller website (under 100 pages) you can now duplicate your website, but you don’t walk away with any kind of file you can save that contains your website. It merely duplicates it to a trial website on your Squarespace account. This, in my opinion, only duplicates the problem.
My recommendations then, are to consistently export your content and take screenshots of every page of your website each time you update them so that you at least have a visual record of the changes you’ve made. There’s a very handy browser extension called GoFullPage (available for Chrome and Microsoft Edge) that screen captures the full length of your pages, so you don’t have to stitch anything together in Photoshop.
A note about Squarespace and WordPress.com’s Backup Systems
I reached out to Squarespace support to inquire what their backup system was since we can’t back up our own Squarespace sites. The conversation went as follows:
Me: “Does Squarespace have a backup system in place? I know I can’t back up my own website, but do you have a backup system in case something happens?”
Squarespace: “I see you’re wondering if Squarespace a backup system in place. We do! All Squarespace sites are hosted across our private cloud with full redundancy, and we store site data in multiple Tier III data centers across the United States. If a primary service fails, we can switch to a backup service. Our Operations team monitors Squarespace sites 24×7 and is ready to respond to incidents within minutes of detecting an anomaly.”
Me: What is the rate of backups? Hourly? Daily?
Squarespace: That’s a great question! Our support wouldn’t have that information, given that this falls under our Operations team’s scope, but I’m happy to escalate this question for further insight if you’d like. If you do, what would be the best email address for them to reach you?
Narrator voice: they did get back to me and directed me only to their Security page which doesn’t answer the question and they never responded to any further inquiry
Me: Thank you! I’d also love to know if I could have a site restored from a specific backup if ever needed?
Squarespace: You’re welcome! As for that question, I can confirm that there aren’t necessarily save states that can be retrieved from specific points in time, so it wouldn’t be possible to request that. However, in the unlikely event of content loss, we still recommend reaching out to us, as content can be restored in certain cases. We also note situations and tips for preventing content loss, here: https://support.squarespace.com/hc/en-us/articles/206543417-Troubleshooting-lost-content
In contrast, WordPress.com backs things up every 24 hours and allows you to restore a backup from any point in your Activity Log on a paid account
WordPress.com’s support documents leave a lot to be desired and aren’t easy to search, but they are upfront about their backups: “If your site is hosted here at WordPress.com, we handle all necessary backups. If a very large meteor were to hit all the WordPress.com servers and destroy them beyond repair, all of your data would still be safe and we could have your site online within three days (after the meteor situation died down, of course).”
How often should you back up your website?
The more often you create new pages or posts on your website, the more often you will need to create backups.
It comes down to how much content are you okay with losing, in the event something happens.
- Blog weekly? Back up weekly.
- Blog daily? Back up daily.
- Blog monthly? Buck up monthly.
- Don’t update content often? Backup monthly or quarterly.
Where to Store the Backups (Zip or XML files)
I like to store my backups in duplicate: a copy on an external hard drive (I love LaCie) and a copy on my Google Workspace Drive. If you have Dropbox, place it there.
I recommend a dedicated folder on your computer, an external drive, and/or a Cloud storage space, such as Google Workspace Drive or Dropbox. Add your backup files, whatever they may be, to this file regularly, based on a routine that works best for you and your content creation cycle.
Don’t try to over-organize this and create “the ultimate system” right out of the gate. To get started, just drop the files into the single folder and see what develops over time.
What is less perfect now has room to be perfect later.
Start small, but start now.
Back up your website. And then write down & keep a log of when you did this bit of site maintenance last.