You don’t absolutely have to make your own backups, but it’s an awfully good idea.
Maintaining your own backups gives you an added level of safety, control, and comfort.
But even if you don’t make your own backups, the following four protections are in place.
Automatic backups for system disasters
Most web hosts maintain daily backups of your site and will restore them in case of a system disaster. System disasters are things like a hacker destroying your site, or the web host’s computers crashing and needing to be replaced.
But… a system disaster doesn’t include a well-meaning volunteer messing up your site.
Automatic backups restored upon request
Many web hosts will, upon request, restore a backup for you, even if it wasn’t a system disaster. Sometimes this is free, and sometimes there’s a cost.
But… not every host offers this, and even those that do might only have last night’s backup available, which doesn’t help if your site got messed up two weeks ago.
WordPress revision tracking
WordPress has a built-in revision tracking feature that keeps a history of changes to your content. This lets you view earlier versions of a given page and, if necessary, restore them right from the editor page. This might not be enabled for every content type, but usually it’s available.
You can find the revision tracking panel right below the editor box. It looks like this:
If you don’t see this box, it might just be hidden. Click the Screen Options button at the top right of the editor page:
Then look for a checkbox that says Revisions:
But… not every theme and content type supports this, and even those that do have a limit to the number of revisions they remember. So if someone makes and publishes a bunch of small edits, the earlier version you want to see might no longer be available.
WordPress maintains a trash bin for deleted content. You can see this at the top of the list of pages, posts, and other content types:
You can visit the Trash listing and recover your deleted content.
But… usually when we want to recover something, it’s because it was edited in some way, not deleted. And if the trash has been emptied—which can happen either manually or automatically (after 30 days by default)—you’re out of luck.
Making backups: overview
Any WordPress site has two components:
- The WordPress database. This includes things like the text of your pages and posts, your list of users, your menu definitions, and your general website settings.
- The files stored on your web server. This includes things like the documents and images you’ve uploaded, your WordPress theme, and any plugins you’ve installed.
Your WordPress database (which is mainly text-based information) is usually much, much smaller than the files on your web server. A typical backup approach includes frequent backups of the WordPress database, and less frequent backups of the files.
WordPress provides no built-in tool to back up your entire site.
Fortunately, there are many good third-party tools to help with this. Some of these are free, but the most comprehensive options are generally paid/premium tools, such as: