The Nuclear Option: Setting Up WordPress Backups with Dropbox and UpdraftPlus

Batman and Robin running from a nuclear explosion

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It’s pretty hard to break a WordPress site.

But just in case, one of the first things you should do with a new WordPress site is configure backups. If you tinker with something and break it, or your site gets hacked, you’ll be very happy you spent the time to do it.

Many hosts configure some kind of backups by default, but just in case, I’ll show you how to configure them yourself. Once set up, you’ll be able to totally delete your WordPress site and put it back without breaking a sweat.

How to backup

If you’re using a decent shared host, you probably already have backups available to you. But what if your host goes rogue, or you forget to pay your bill and everything goes *poof*?

For this reason, we’re going to implement a plugin-based solution and have it save off-site somewhere like Dropbox.

Step 1: Install UpdraftPlus

The plugin we’re going to use is called UpdraftPlus. It’ll let us get basic backups set up and doesn’t cost a dime. Like any other plugin, navigate to Plugins → Add New. Search for “UpdraftPlus”, install it, and activate it. Come back when you’re done.

Step 2: Schedule Backups

Next go to Settings → UpdraftPlus Backups, and then Settings again.In the two dropdowns at the top, change “Manual” to “Daily”. Leave the 2’s. This is going to back up your files and your database every night. It’ll keep the two newest copies and delete older ones.

Depending on how often you update your website, you might change this to “Weekly”. If you rarely update your website, you might even consider doing fortnightly or monthly. But daily is a good start for people blogging frequently or if you’re an e-commerce business that could have someone place an order at any minute. In fact, if that’s you, you should probably have something more robust set up in general. Talk to a professional.

Step 3: Configure Remote Storage

For this course, we’re going to configure your backups to save to Dropbox, but you’re welcome to use any of the other services if you already have accounts with them. Still on the “Settings” screen, click on “Dropbox”. Then scroll to the bottom and hit “Save Changes”.

You should get a new popup asking you to configure Dropbox. Click on the link, and not the cancel button.

If you don’t have a Dropbox account, you’ll need to create one. It’s basically an internet-based “My Documents”, so you can access it from anywhere with an internet connection. This happens to be an ideal place to store things like backups. You’ll click “Allow” and then “Complete Setup”.

Step 4: Make a Backup

When you get redirected back to your site, you should arrive at the “Current Status” page. You might even already see a backup in progress! If not, go ahead and click “Backup Now” and you should see a backup begin.

Once it’s finished, go to “Existing Backups”. Now you should see the option to download your backups and a big, fat “Restore” button.

That’s your WordPress “undo” button. If anything ever goes wrong, click it to get things back to the way they were.

In Case of Emergency

You’re now prepared for just about everything. Even if everything goes horribly wrong and you have to delete your entire site, you should be able to put things back in place. Just follow steps 1-3 again, and then go to those “Existing Backups” and click “Rescan remote location”. That should bring up the backup you had previously and allow you to click “Restore”, putting everything back the way it was. That’s peace of mind.

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