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Why Backups are Absolutely Critical for WordPress Security

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If you run a WordPress site, backups should be at the very top of your priority list when it comes to security and risk management.

I cannot stress enough how catastrophically damaging it can be to have your site hacked, corrupted, or taken offline for any period of time. Lack of backups turns what should be minor nuisances into potentially business-ending disasters.

As a long-time developer and WordPress expert, I‘ve seen firsthand the fallout when sites get hacked or admins make mistakes. I‘ve also experienced the total nightmare of hardware failures and hosting issues taking down client sites without warning.

Trust me, you do NOT want to be scrambling to reconstruct your site from scratch when you‘re losing thousands in revenue per day. That‘s an easily preventable worst-case scenario if you just take a little time to implement solid backups.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll explain why backups are non-negotiable for secure WordPress sites, the different backup options available, and the key features to look for when choosing a backup solution. My goal is to convince you to finally take action and protect your hard work.

Let’s start with why WordPress backups should be a top priority for your site’s security and business continuity…

Why Every WordPress Site Needs Backup Protection

You might think that being diligent with WordPress security makes backups less critical. Unfortunately, that is absolutely not the case.

Here are just some of the many threats and risks that can unexpectedly take down sites and destroy data:

Direct Attacks by Hackers

Hackers have an array of techniques to break into WordPress sites, even ones protected by security plugins:

  • Exploiting vulnerabilities – New plugin and WP core code bugs are constantly being discovered. Until they’re patched, that can be used to inject malware.

  • Brute force attacks – Bots can churn through endless admin username and password combinations. Weak passwords eventually lead to a breach.

  • Phishing and social engineering – Hackers coerce insiders into giving up critical credentials and access. Humans are the weakest link.

  • DDoS attacks – Floods of junk traffic can easily overwhelm shared hosting accounts and knock sites offline.

Once in, hackers may perform any number of damaging activities:

  • Steal and expose sensitive customer/business data
  • Encrypt files and hold them for ransom
  • Replace site content with their own malicious pages
  • Use your site resources to host illegal content or send spam
  • Deploy bots, keyloggers, and other malware to attack site visitors

Not fun! Your hosting provider may eventually block attacks and bots, but the damage will already be done.

Having recent backups on hand minimizes downtime and makes cleanup infinitely easier after hacks and malware infections.

Accidental Data Loss and Corruption

It‘s shockingly easy for administrators and site owners to accidentally:

  • Overwrite or delete important files and database content
  • Break site functionality with incorrectly configured plugins
  • Introduce PHP errors and WordPress incompatibilities
  • Mess up file and folder permissions during migrations

These “oopsies” happen more often than you’d think. I periodically have panic-stricken clients begging for help after botching their sites themselves.

Again, restoring pristine backups is by far the fastest way to undo this self-inflicted damage.

Web Server and Hosting Failures

As a WordPress site owner, you are ultimately at the mercy of your web host when it comes to reliability and uptime.

Even the most expensive and enterprise-grade hosting services suffer outages once in a while due to:

  • Hardware failures – e.g. dead hard drives, memory errors, fried motherboards

  • Network disruptions – fiber cuts, routing blackholes, DDoS attacks

  • Power – grids go down and backup generators eventually run out of fuel

  • Software bugs – web server, database, storage systems, etc can all crash

  • Natural disasters – floods, fires, extreme weather knock data centers offline

The larger and more reputable your hosting provider, the lower the risks. But problems are inevitable over time.

If your hosting provider does not have accessible backups of your site, then you face prolonged downtime. That‘s lost revenue and opportunity while you scramble to rebuild manually.

Having your own offsite backups enables you to potentially restore with a secondary provider much quicker.

Botched Platform Migrations and Updates

WordPress experts know that migrating to new domains, hosts, servers, PHP versions, etc comes with plenty of potential pitfalls:

  • Incompatible plugins and themes lead to fatal crashes
  • Custom PHP code stops functioning properly
  • Subtle configuration differences break things
  • File permission errors prevent operation
  • Database errors arise during migration

Similarly, WordPress and plugin updates can unexpectedly break functionality due to:

  • Known compatibility issues with your current configuration
  • New bugs introduced into core or plugin code
  • Accidental data loss or corruption during complex updates

During migrations and updates, having recent backups enables you to:

  1. Quickly rollback to a last known good state if issues arise
  2. Take ample time to fix the underlying problem
  3. Avoid losing functionality or data
  4. Prevent downtime from stretching on for days

So in summary – your fully secured and "unhackable" WordPress site can still suffer catastrophic failure. Backups serve as the last line of protection against headaches ranging from honest mistakes to outright disasters.

Let‘s now dig into the different ways WordPress sites can be backed up…

Backup Options for WordPress Sites

If you want comprehensive protection for your WordPress site, there are 3 main options to consider:

1. Default Shared Host Backups

Most shared hosting providers perform basic daily or weekly backups of their servers which includes your WordPress site files and database.

This backup is done automatically in the background and requires no work on your part. If the server suffers an outage or data loss, the host should be able to restore your site from their backup archives.

The main downside is lack of control – you rely 100% on your hosting provider’s backup schedule and procedures. The cost and effort required to obtain backups or perform restores is also out of your hands.

So while basic shared host backups provide a baseline level of protection, critical business sites require a more robust solution.

2. Manual Do-It-Yourself Backups

Those comfortable using command line tools and editing MySQL database dumps can manually backup WordPress sites. This typically involves:

  • Using SFTP/FTP programs to download all files to a local machine
  • Utilizing mysqldump on the command line or phpMyAdmin to export the database
  • Storing backups locally or on a storage service like Dropbox

The main advantages of manual backups are being in full control and avoiding any storage costs.

However, there are also huge downsides:

  • The backup process must be manually triggered and managed every time. Forgetting or neglecting to perform backups can lead to gaps.

  • Downloading the entire site via FTP/SFTP for every backup is inefficient and resource intensive.

  • Requires moderate technical skill – database dumps, SFTP usage, archive management, etc.

  • No remote storage means backups could be lost if local devices also fail.

  • No built-in scheduling, notifications, validation, or automation.

For those reasons, do-it-yourself manual backups are hard to maintain and prone to gaps over time. They only make sense for small personal WordPress sites with minimal content changes.

3. Automated WordPress Backup Services/Tools

Purpose-built WordPress backup solutions provide the best of both worlds – maximum protection with minimal management.

Options include:

  • Premium plugins – Extensions like BackUpWordPress, UpdraftPlus, and BackupBuddy add powerful backup features to your WordPress site.

  • Specialized services – Companies like BlogVault, CodeGuard, and BlogBack provide fully managed WordPress backup.

  • Web host backups – Some managed WP hosts like Kinsta include robust backup tools.

These purpose-built backup systems reliably automate the entire process on whatever schedule you define. You no longer need to manually remember and trigger backups.

Key advantages include:

  • Automated backups to cloud storage on your chosen schedule

  • No need to manually create database dumps or remember SFTP details

  • Remote storage keeps backups accessible even if site is down

  • Tools for restoring, migrating, and staging sites from backups

  • Encryption, reporting, notifications if any backup ever fails

  • Support for large, busy sites with frequent backups

  • Affordable pricing compared to the value of uptime and security

In summary, automated solutions take the effort out of backing up WordPress sites while still giving control over configuration. Let‘s explore must-have features to look for…

Key Backup Features for WordPress Sites

While core backup capabilities matter, you also need to evaluate WordPress backup tools and services based on their specific features and implementation.

Here are some must-haves I always look for:

Simple Scheduling with Frequency Flexibility

The system should allow scheduled daily, weekly, or monthly automated backups. Preferably with choices for backup times and days of the week.

On-demand manual backups should also be possible for one-off cases.

Incremental Backups

Incremental backups only capture new/changed files and database rows since the prior backup. This makes frequent backups much faster and storage-efficient compared to full backups each time.

Validation Checks

Backups should be automatically tested to catch any errors and confirm integrity before restoration. This avoids surprises if the archives get corrupted or damaged.

Remote Storage with Redundancy

Backups should transfer to and store on remote cloud servers and storage operated by the service. This keeps data safe if the source site fails.

Ideally, the service also allows users to download backup archives to local machines for additional redundancy.

Instant One-Click Restore

Simplify disaster recovery by letting users restore full sites or individual files/database tables directly from within WordPress. No manual work required.

Notifications and Monitoring

If any scheduled backup operation fails, users should receive email alerts immediately. Monitoring helps catch issues promptly.

Backup Archive Management

To conserve cloud storage resources, older backups should automatically be archived and deleted after a reasonable retention period set by the user.

Database + Files

The system must back up WordPress files AND the MySQL database, not just one or the other. This ensures you capture all content, configuration, users, etc.

Application-Aware Logic

Features tailored for WordPress enable complete backups capturing plugins, themes, configuration files, etc. Generic data backups often miss important stuff.

Affordability

Avoid solutions with excessive fees for features and resources. Look for fair pricing from reputable providers.

Reliability & Security

The backup provider should follow industry best practices around encryption, redundancy, failover, security layers, etc. Don‘t risk your backups with new or unproven services.

Migration Utilities

Look for tools that help you migrate or duplicate the site to staging environments or new hosts/servers directly from the latest backup.

Now let’s overview some of the top purpose-built backup options available based on my experience and customer feedback:

BlogVault Backup

BlogVault is one of the most popular automated WordPress backup services. It‘s easy to set up one-click daily or weekly backups directly from your WP dashboard.

Features I like include:

  • Simple one-click restores – no manual work required
  • Incremental backups minimize size and resource usage
  • Backups tested and encrypted for integrity
  • 24/7 backup monitoring and reminders
  • Ability to create staging sites from backups
  • Downloadable backup archives for redundancy

BlogVault pricing starts at $39 per site per year which seems very reasonable. They also have enterprise plans and white label options.

UpdraftPlus Backup Plugin

UpdraftPlus is a free open source WordPress plugin for managing backups and restoration. It has over a million active installs.

The free version covers backups to local storage. Paid versions add incremental backups, integrity checks, encryption, multiple remote destinations like Google Drive and S3, cloning sites for staging, and many other features.

I‘d recommend UpdraftPlus Premium which starts around $57 per year. The developer also offers fully managed backups as a service.

Kinsta Built-In Backups

If your WordPress site is hosted with Kinsta, they include an automated backup system with all their plans.

The Kinsta backup tool performs incremental backups every 60 minutes with 30-day retention. You can restore entire sites or individual files from within the dashboard.

Of course this requires using Kinsta for hosting, which starts at $30/month. But the ease of built-in automated backups is a nice bonus.

BackupBuddy Plugin

BackupBuddy is a very popular plugin by iThemes that automates WordPress backups to local, cloud, FTP, or email storage.

Top features include scheduled backup jobs, database + file archiving with compression/encryption, backup integrity checks, and one-click site restoration.

Pricing starts at $80 per year which seems a little higher than competitors. But BackupBuddy is very full-featured and used by many agencies to manage client site backups.

Don‘t Gamble With Your Hard Work – Implement Backups Today!

As you can see, it’s now cheaper and easier than ever to get automated WordPress site backups configured. There are plenty of capable plugins and backup services to fit any budget and site size.

Just remember that no amount of security protections can shield you from mishaps, disasters, and human errors down the road. Don‘t wait for that sobering moment when your site is suddenly offline with no recovery options.

Go ahead and lock down reliable daily or weekly automated backups for your WordPress site ASAP. You‘ll breathe easier knowing your hard work is protected.

Have you used any of the backup options mentioned here? I‘d love to hear about your experiences or answer any other questions you have around securing your WordPress site and its sensitive data.

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