How to Manually Backup a WordPress Site

Welcome to the third part in my How to Clone a WordPress Blog series. Having created our Database backup in How to Create a WordPress Database Backup, we now move on to the files which make up the website. As with creating our Database backup, there are several options available to you.

Backup a WordPress Site with FTP or SFTP

The most common method of copying files from one computer to another over the internet is FTP & its close relative SFTP. FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. This is a standard which has been in use for many years, allowing computers running on different Operating Systems to request files from each other. SFTP, or Secure File Transfer Protocol, builds on the FTP standard by adding a layer of security and encryption while the files are transferred. With normal FTP, you transfer files in the clear,so anyone could intercept the files and read them. SFTP requires a security certificate and encrypts the files as they are being transferred, preventing easy interception of the data. Finally there is FTP-S which is similar to SFTP except it uses an alternative security standard.

If in doubt, if SFTP or FTP-S is available to use, it is a Good Thing™ to make use of it even if your files are not sensitive.

FTP Clients

There are many FTP clients available, some of the popular ones are:

  1. FileZilla (Windows, MacOS, Linux)
  2. FlashFXP (Windows)
  3. SmartFTP (Windows)

There are many others, but FileZilla holds the top spot for being a very full-featured FTP client. It is also capable of running on most Operating Systems. For the purposes of this series, I will be using FileZilla.

Preparing to Copy Files

Main FileZilla interface

Main FileZilla interface

If you do not have a FTP client installed, download FileZilla from the above link. When you first start FileZilla, you are presented with this screen. If you have not used FTP software before, it can get a bit overwhelming, but it is relatively easy when you get used to it. Across the top you have where you can enter your FTP details if you do not want to save them. You should have the login details available in your web-hosting control panel; for cPanel go to Files, FTP Accounts. You will have a list of FTP accounts available. Click on the Configure FTP Client link for the account you want to use. The FTP login details for that account will appear. Enter the information into the relevant boxes in FileZilla and click Quickconnect.

You will then be presented with a list of files on the remote computer on the right hand side.

FileZilla Server Manager

FileZilla Server Manager

If you use the same FTP server more than a couple of times, it is worth saving the login details so you can recall them with a couple of clicks. To save the server details:

  1. Click on Site Manager which is the first icon under the title bar
  2. Click the New Site button and enter a memorable name
  3. Enter the Host and Port details you retrieved above
  4. Choose Logon Type: Normal
  5. Enter your Username and Password
  6. Finally, click Connect
FileZilla Logged In to Website

FileZilla Logged In to Website

Now you will end up with two lists of files, one on the left and one on the right. The files and directories (directories is the old name for folders) on the left are your local files, the files on the hard drive in your computer. On the right, you have the files on the remote computer. If your host is using WHM and cPanel, you will see something like this. All of the files which make up a WordPress website are stored in the public_html directory or www directory. There is a special link between the two directories so that what happens in one happens in the other.

First, set the left side of FileZilla to a directory you want to hold the backup of your website. Then select all the files in the public_html directory on the right side by clicking on the first in the list, scroll down and shift+left click on the bottom one. You can also click on any file or directory in public_html and press Ctrl+A which is a short-cut for “Select All”. Finally, drag the files and directories from the right to the left and release. This will then start to download all the files from the remote server onto your hard drive.

Congratulations! Once this is completed, you have made a duplicate copy of your website onto your hard drive. Please be aware that on a large website this can take a long time to complete. In the next post we will look at the options available to you for creating a working clone of your WordPress website. Then we can start experimenting with new plugins, themes, etc, without worrying about the live site.

This is the third in a series about How to Clone a WordPress Blog.

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