WordPress Website Backups - Information for Dentists and Physicians

Published:  May 20, 2012

WordPress is one of the most popular platforms available for building an easy-to-update and scalable website for your medical or dental practice.  In fact, most of the new websites that I build today are WordPress-based.

Website Backups

Backing up your website is critical whether you have a WordPress website or a non-Wordpress website. In both cases you have your website files stored on the Internet with a web host and you need to have copies of these files in case of a problem.

Many people often say, "But my web host says that they provide nightly backups".  This statement is true -- but with a caveat.  When a web hosting provider says that they provide a nightly backup, they usually mean that they backup their entire system in one big chunk.  What this means practically is that if a web host's server were to fail, they could restore things back to the way they were before.  But what this means for you -- the individual customer -- is that the you cannot use this backup to recover a file you accidentally changed or deleted.  So if you are working on your website and you delete something by mistake, your web host is not going to be able to find that single file for you - and that's why you need to keep your own copies.  So if their server breaks the web host can restore things back the way they were, but if you make a mistake, the web host is not going to be able to get you the old copy of your file back.

Static (Non-WordPress) Websites vs. WordPress Websites

I spend a good chunk of time discussing Static vs. WordPress websites in The Web Design Workbook for Dentists but the key concept here from the perspective of backups, is how these two types of websites are updated.  Static websites are usually updated on a desktop or laptop computer and then the changes are uploaded to the web host on the Internet.  Because static websites are therefore updated offline, making a backup of these files is as easy as making a backup copy of your Word or Excel documents -- you simply make a copy.
WordPress websites, however, are updated via a web browser and changes to WordPress websites are therefore made instantly.  This ease of updating is one of the features that makes WordPress such a fantastic option for professionals to use to build their websites.  But this flexibility comes with an important consideration in the backup front.  Because WordPress websites are edited directly online, there is no "offline" copy to use in case of a problem.   And to make matters more complicated, WordPress websites contain not only files (as do static websites), but WordPress websites also use a database to help run the site.  The take-home here is that with a static website you often need only to backup individual files which are very easy to copy; but with WordPress websites you need to backup individual files, as well as the WordPress database.

How are WordPress Websites Backed Up?

The technical aspect of backing up a WordPress website is beyond the scope of this article, but it's a very easy thing to do -- much easier than you'd expect.  It's a quick and straightforward process that requires little or no computer knowledge.  Note, however, that restoring a WordPress backup is not a straightforward process and you will need some level of technical expertise to restore a WordPress website from a backup. You can either backup your WordPress website yourself, or have someone do it for you.  If you are going to backup your WordPress website yourself (or have someone in your office make the backups),  then be sure you set a schedule (see below) and you stick to it.   When I provide web hosting for my clients, I include a nightly backup (one where you can restore individual files) included in the fee -- but naturally the fee is higher because the backup service is included.

How Often Should I Backup?

Your backup schedule should be set by the frequency with which you update your website - WordPress or not.   If you make a change to your website once per month, then backing up once per month may be adequate.  But if you make changes to your website 2-3 times per week, a monthly backup won't cut it because in the event of a problem you could lose up to a month of data.   One of the best ways to manage your backups is to simply put a backup system in place that will automatically backup your website every night or every week (every week is adequate for many practices).

Backup Now, Restore Later

Most website backups are never used -- and that's a good thing!  But in the event that you do have a problem with your website you MUST have a backup system in place.  WordPress websites -- by their nature -- are more complicated to backup than non-WordPress websites, but in either case you MUST have a discussion with your web developer about how frequently your website will be backed up, and where the backups will be stored  Ultimately it's your website and ti's your responsibility to make sure you have a current backup in case it's needed.

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