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How to Back up Your WordPress Website Before Migrating

Last Updated on May 17th, 2023

Few things will make a bigger difference in the success of your coming migration than learning how to back up your WordPress website and utilize your backups in case of emergencies.

After all, with a number of common WordPress migration problems threatening to thwart your progress at every turn, it’s always a good idea to have a spare copy of your files and databases in case something unexpectedly goes wrong.

Below, we’ll talk you through the simple step-by-step process of backing up your WordPress website and outline the best tools for the job.

Why You Should Back Up Your Site Before Migrating

Migrating a website means moving it from its current home to a new home.

Just like when we move home from one house to another, things can sometimes get lost, damaged, or broken along the way. However, instead of the broken vases and missing cutlery, it’s corrupt databases and vanishing page files that you may encounter during your WordPress migration.

The good news is that unlike when we physically move home, when we move our website’s home, we can make a backup copy of everything we need to take with us; in this case, that’s things like:

  • Blog posts and landing pages
  • Images and media resources
  • Databases
  • Custom coding
  • Plugins

As you may recall, if you read our guide to preparing for a website migration, making this backup copy before beginning the data transfer means you’re well-equipped to replace any essential WordPress elements that didn’t quite make it intact.

How to Back Up Your WordPress Website

1. Install a WordPress Backup Plugin

The quickest and most effective way to create a website backup in WordPress is to use a plugin.

There are scores of top options to choose from, and we’ve listed some of our favorites in our round-up of the eight best WordPress backup tools.
However, for this tutorial, we’ll be using our preferred backup plugin, UpDraftPlus.

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install a wordpress backup plugin

We like this one because it’s not only easy to use but makes it easy to back up your site to a third-party cloud platform like Dropbox and restore your site again from the same location.

The plugin is available in free and premium versions, with the premium plan better for larger sites with bigger tables and higher file quantities.

Your first task then is to download UpDraftPlus and choose either the free or premium plan.

Alternatively, you can install it from within WordPress by navigating to Plugins – Add New.

Install and activate the plugin as you would any other, and let’s get the backup process underway.

2. Configure Your Schedule and Storage Options

One of the small but wonderful things that make UpDraftPlus one of the best WordPress plugins to help with your site migration is that you don’t have to go searching through your dashboard menu to find its settings and functions.

configure your schedule and storage options wordpress backup

The moment it’s activated, the settings tab is immediately highlighted for you, and all you have to do is click press here to start.

Doing so will take you to the main UpDraftPlus Backup/Restore dashboard.

backup and restore wordpress backup plugin

From here, you could hit the Backup Now button and get the whole process underway immediately, but first, we recommend you check out the various settings and options.

A. File and Database Backup Scheduling

First, you can manually backup your files which is a good option if your migration is happening imminently.

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wordpress backup scheduling plugin

Alternatively, if you’re not due to transfer your site right away and more changes are likely to be made to it before you do, you can use the scheduling options.

This will allow you to set an automated backup process at regularly set intervals ranging from every few hours to every day, week, or month.

UpDraftPlus Premium users can also choose the precise time when the backup should occur, something you’ll no doubt appreciate if you prefer to run your WordPress maintenance tasks overnight when there’s less drain on your servers.

B. Remote Storage Options

UpDraftPlus has its own premium remote storage option called UpDraftPlus, which starts at $70 per year.

remote storage options wordpress backup plugin

That said, you’re under no obligation to use it as the plugin integrates effortlessly with a wealth of other storage platforms so you can export your backed-up files and databases for safekeeping.

Options include: 

  • Amazon S3
  • Backblaze
  • Google Cloud
  • Google Drive
  • Microsoft OneDrive
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Rackspace
  • WebDAV
  • And more

You can also export your backups to your email account or a third-party server via FTP.

For our backup, we’re going to save everything to a Google Drive account.

remote storage options wordpress backup on google drive

To do that, simply name the folder where you want the backup to be saved and sign in with your Google account.

remote storage options wordpress backup on google drive step 2

With that done, click Complete Setup, and you’ll be ready to go.

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4. Backup Your Files

Clicking Complete Setup will take you back to the main UpDraftPlus dashboard, where you can finally click the big, blue ‘Backup Now’ button we showed you earlier.

wordpress backup your files

This triggers a pop-up, where you should ensure that both database and file backup options are selected, then click Backup Now.

wordpress backup your files step 2

You can watch everything being backed up in real time, and when it’s done, you’ll be able to download, delete, or restore your backups from within UpDraftPlus while a copy of your backup will also be saved in your chosen remote storage option.

wordpress backup your files step 3

How to Backup Your WordPress Site Before Migration: Recap and Next Steps

As you’ve learned by now, backing up your WordPress website prior to migrating it is a simple, 4-step process:

1. Install a backup plugin like UpDraftPlus

2. Choose between manual or automatically scheduled backups 

3. Choose a remote storage option to export your backed-up files and databases to

4. Run the backup

So what exactly do you do with your WordPress backups now that you have them?

Simply keep hold of them in case something goes wrong during your migration process, and you need to replace missing or damaged assets.

how to backup your wordpress site before migration

If such an emergency does occur, you can hit the restore button in the UpDraftPlus plugin, choose which components you need to restore, and hit ‘Next’ to get the ball rolling.

To help you proceed with the rest of your website transfer, see our top tips for a seamless WordPress migration.

A team of WordPress experts that love to test out new WordPress related software, WordPress plugins and WordPress themes.