WordPress Plugins for Writers: Part 4 – Site Maintenance
Like anything else technological, a website needs to be maintained and backed up. There is a lot that can go wrong with your website — hackers could get in and mess with your files, your web host could experience a hardware failure and not have sufficient backups to restore from, you could accidentally delete a crucial file on your server, or WordPress could have a bug that corrupts your data. Fortunately, there are two WordPress plugins that make updating and backing up your site easy — almost automatic.
WordPress regularly releases new versions to fix bugs and close security holes, so it’s important to keep up-to-date.WordPress Automatic Upgrade makes upgrading from one version of WordPress to another a snap. When a new version of WordPress is released, you’ll see a notice on your WordPress dashboard when you log in. When you see this, go to the “manage” tab, and then the “Automatic Upgrade” tab. From there, just follow the directions. WPAU will take the site off-line, deactivate your plugins, backup your database and files, download the new version fromWordpress.org, install it, update the database, reactivate your plugins, and bring everything back online. You can choose a fully automated upgrade, but I prefer to walk through step-by-step, because that allows me to download the backups as they’re created rather than at the end of the process (in case something goes wrong in the upgrade process — which has never happened to me, but just in case…).
You don’t want to only backup your database when there’s an update, though. While most of the files that make up your website won’t change except during upgrades, your database changes every time there’s a new post or comment. Ideally, you want to backup at least once a week, maybe more if your site gets a lot of traffic. The WordPress Database Backup plugin will allow you to create and download backups on-demand, but what’s better, it will do automated backups and email the file to you, on whatever schedule you choose. Once it’s installed, you tell it which database tables to backup — the default WordPress tables are selected by default, but lots of plugins add their own tables; I suggest selecting them all — and when to do it. From then on, every week (or whatever interval you’ve chosen) you’ll get an email with the most recent backup attached. Just keep these — I have a folder in my email program for each website I run, and the backups just go straight into their respective folder. If anything ever goes wrong with your site and you need to restore the database, you can easily upload and import the most recent database backup.
Between these two plugins, just about all the most tedious work of keeping your website up and running are taken care of for you. I’ve used both on several sites and through several upgrade/backup cycles, and both work fantastically.