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Testing Your Blog Backup

Posted By Darren Rowse 12th of February 2009 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

In this guest post, Neil Matthews of WPDude.com talks about the importance of testing your blog backups.

I want to pose you a question. Have you ever tested your blog backups?

We are constantly told to backup our computer systems in case of crash or corruption. Anyone who has lost a store of precious digital photos knows how important this process is.

Bloggers are well aware of the need to backup their content, but what use is a backup, if, when you need to recover it, you find that it is incomplete, corrupt or you don’t know how to restore it?. This post will hopefully encourage you to test your recovery process.

The rest of this post has a definite WordPress bias, but the underlying message can be used for all blogging platforms.

Why Test Your Backups?

You may feel that once you have setup a backup process for your blog you can sit back and enjoy a virtual safety net. If you have a good process in place why should you test it? The three reasons to test are validity, integrity and knowledge.

Validity – are you sure that all of your blog is backed up? You need to test that all of your data is being added to your archives. Blogs are not static, you may have added a plugin which creates new data, but is your archiving process configured to save this?

Integrity – are you sure that the archive file is not corrupt? It may be that in your hour of need, you cannot recover what has been backed up.

Knowledge – another reason to test your backup is to ensure you know how to perform a recovery. It is all well and good to have a plugin sending you a daily email with a database backup, but do you know how to untar the file and load this into MYSQL? Testing your backup will show you the gaps in your knowledge. This will give you the chance to gain the skills so you can recover from a blog failure.

What To Recover

Your must be able to recover two things to have a successful backup recovery test:

Your database contents; posts, comments, tags, catagories and misc. system settings. With WordPress this will be a MYSQL database. The second thing that will require recovery is your code base or the WordPress files you uploaded to your hosting platform. You may think that having a copy of your latest wordpress files held on your laptop are enough to recover your blog’s code base. Whilst this is a good starting point, you are ignoring the non-static area of the code base, the wp-content directory. This contains your plugins, themes and any media you upload to your blog such as images or video. Do you remember what plugins you installed or what changes you have made to your theme. You need to backup and, in turn, test the recovery of your code base.

When To Test Your Recovery Plan

As a rule of thumb, you should test your ability to recover before any major change to your blog, including:

  • Before WordPress updates
  • After you have developed some high quality content which is generating
  • traffic and will cause tears if lost
  • Importing or Migrating a large amount of data
  • Extending your blog with third party products such as forums
  • At least once a year if any of the above do not occur so you know your
  • backups are working correctly

How to Test Your Backups

There are two ways to test your backup, the easy but highly risky method, and the difficult but risk free method (who said blog maintenance wasn’t high tension stuff).

The easy but risky method – restore your backup over your existing blog, this is easy because no additional configuration is required and you backup should simply drop into your database/file system. This is highly risky of course due to the nature of the the process, you don’t know if you backup works, but how do you test it? If your backup does not work the restore will bring you perfectly running blog to it’s knees. Another classic chicken and egg scenario.

The difficult but risk free method – build a development blog on your existing hosting platform and restore into this . This will vary from hosting provider to hosting provider, and will require a certain amount of technical knowledge (which is beyond the scope of this post). You can create a new domain, a second installation of wordpress in another directory on your existing domain or even build a blog on your own PC with apache, MYSQL and PHP. It is difficult because it requires a certain level of technical expertise, but it is risk free to your current blog because you never touch it.

In Conclusion

Test your backups frequently so you know what shape your archives are in. As a parting note picture this scene. Your blog and possibly your income steam is down. The faster your recover the sooner you will be blogging and earning again, test your backups!

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. As someone who lost over a years work through having a corrupt set of backups I can highly recommend following Neil’s advice.

    After all what use is a backup if it isn’t fit for it’s intended purpose?

  2. Thanks for the article about backups. That’s a really important topic. Not even a RAID is 100% reliable. Imagine Darren losing his blog simply because he didn’t make any backups!

  3. I have to say that this is a great post! when I first launched my Frusketing Blog – I failed to back up my post and all the content I initially added to the site – some things happened and to make a long story short – I lost everything & had to start from scratch – folks, back up! back up! back up! – it should be the rule.

  4. Yes, I HAD to test it, because my tables were deleted due to an error of the hosting company.

    Fortunately, I had the WP-DBManager plugin installed, which stores the latest 5 backups on the server and automatically sends the latest back up each day by email. Thus I was able to recover my blog in no time!

    It also let’s you optimize your database automatically, so you never have much overhead in your tables.

    Wholeheartedly recommended!

  5. I would really _not_ recommend to “test” your backup by installing it on top of your existing blog.

    This is not “easy but risky” but it will most probably kill your blog!

    I’ve hardly seen any backup, which worked the first time when someone tried to restore it. And you’ll never be sure whether you really caught all necessary files as the original ones are still in place.

    Only by restoring your backup into an empty directory and database you can be sure that it works.

  6. I would avoid the “easy but risky” method at all costs – if you’re concerned enough about your blog to go through the hassle of backing it up then you should certainly not risk losing your blog if your restore didn’t work.

    Best case: the restore works and your blog continues to run. How are you going to know the restore worked? Maybe it failed early on and you’re still seeing the original blog. Maybe the backups are failing but you now think they still work.

    Worst case: the restore fails and now you’ve lost your blog content.

    My vote is to do it properly or not at all.

    Are there any hosts out there that specifically allow you to test your backups?


  7. I just started a wordpress blog on my site, but I hadn’t even considered backing anything up until now. How exactly do you back up a wordpress blog? This might be a good future post for all of us newbies. I guess I need to check the help.

    – Dave

  8. It’s always a good idea to check that you know how to do the recovery too.

    As when my blog’s db failed I had all these back-ups and no idea how to get the content back into the database.

    There’s nothing like being prepared…

  9. Thanks for the advices. Backup early and backup often!

    FYI: the official wordpress backup guide:

  10. Great advice an interesting topic to talk about and a very in depth article.

    I had a major issue a couple of weeks back when my host cut me off suddenly this made me realise that backups are ESSENTIAL!

  11. I found this article a few months ago, which describes in detail how to install WordPress locally on Windows. Its great for backing up. Its also great for making changes to your theme and then uploading it to your site.


  12. Over the past two months there have been two major site collapses that could have been prevented with an effective backup strategy. (See: http://thewellrunsite.com/2009/01/31/whats-your-disaster-recovery-strategy/)
    Testing your backups is something not often done, but when you need to use your backups you’ll see the wisdom of having done it. Magnolia and Journalspace both learned this lesson the hard way.

  13. Darren,

    One of the best and most effective ways I have found to test a WordPress back up is by loading the whole shooting match into a Linux VMWare session. That is the site code, database, and all. I then can test completely offline even while flying at 35000 feet if I want. I alter my host file on my native Windows system to temporarily redirect all my traffic for the FQDN to my VMWare session so I get an exact duplication of how all the URLS will respond when I put my changes on the Internet.

    This practice helps keep me educated on how all the pieces and parts work together and proves that the back up is valid and usable.

  14. Backup is your most important lifeline.

    I created a geek-free guide to help people setup a local test server on their PC. It is downloadable at..


  15. I think there should be a working preview of the backed up and restored data, on a simulated site or url by the blog service provider itself. This will ensure to take the appropriate step before any major changes.

  16. I am pretty new to blogging but I quickly found out how important it is to backup everything. A bout a week ago I was adding a domain and I totally lost my original blog, thankfully I was able to recover it (about 6 stressful hours later) So now I backup everything every week, as well as my hard drive. If you care about your blog at all you better back it up.

  17. In fact I test my daily back ups and very strict in this regard. I have told to all my employees to take the back up of their data in the provided flash drive. This is under their routine and they did it while they are leaving for their home.

    After that I give a sample test by checking any flash drive.

  18. Good point.

    I know I have not checked if the back-ups have backed up properly and then when I have needed them they have been corrupted or damaged and I have had to start from scratch.

  19. This post really help me to know futher on having back up for our blog.

    As few person above have stated, I have also experienced 2 events that relate to the importance of back up and need of knowing whether the back up file is working or not.

    I have lost my whole blogging data in my first few months of blogging coz i did not think that back up carries a lot of weight on blogging. Now, I guest im totally wrong.

    The second event, I have problem with my server but I still have my back up file. Unfortunately, the back up file did not work as I was expected. As result, I lost my blogging data again…..

    Fortunately, all those events have teach me a really good lesson in my early stage in blogging world and that have change the way I am blogging and my blog itself, today.

  20. Something I do during every step of the development process with clients, you want to keep them happy :)
    I especially love the back up plugin, life is easy!
    I personally like having the development blog as a backup just in case – good post!

  21. This is scary! I have a new blog, only 29 posts. Is it ridiculous to just save my posts on my portable hard drive? I use the free wordpress version, so I think I could just design it again pretty easily. I’ll appreciate any answers.

  22. Really solid advice. In my years of developing websites, I’ve surely had my share of terrible experiences – losing data.

    What I’ve learned, from the pain and misery of trying to get back information, is take the time to backup! You’ll surely be thankful in the end. :-)

  23. Backups…something that WAY to many bloggers overlook. Things happen and data can be lost. It’s really important to keep backups as often as possible.

    Another important thing is to keep a backup of your theme files. I can’t count how many times I have edited a theme file only to break something and have to fix it. It can burn up a lot of time if you don’t save a copy on your desktop or server. Ugh it makes me mad thinking about it….

    Great post!

  24. This was a great reality check. I’ve only begun my blog a couple of weeks ago. I am on the WordPress hosted blog without an independent domain name. I only have about 7 posts so far but will want to start the backup process soon.

    Please forgive my ignorance, but have you any pointers or posts addressing the how-to-backup-your-blog questions? I plan to research this issue soon and I may even post about about it. If so, I will be sure to link back to this post about testing the backup once you have established it. I would appreciate any input you can provide. Thanks!

  25. Hi there,

    I understand that back up of one’s blog is important. But do you really feel that every blogger will need to do this regularly with hosting service porviders providing excellent services of downtime and protection of data? I’ve started a new blog on blogger.com and enjoying writing there. What do you think would be the best back up options for bloggers using blogger.com blogs?

    Eddie Gear

  26. I wanted to upgrade my wordpress 2.7 to 2.7.1 yesterday. I did backup before upgrading. But thing didn’t turn out as expected. I had then many problem with my files. I restore from my back up and everything is back to normal. :P

  27. People always talk about backing up, but they never talk about testing it before you really do it. Definitely one for the bookmarks.

  28. I’ve done a few backups and restores of WordPress and Drupal to a local server. Making sure you’ve got ALL your uploaded files AS WELL as the database makes a massive difference. It’s surprisingly easy to do a test restore, and give an enormous amount of peace of mind to have done this all BEFORE you have a disaster!

  29. I still have not backed up my blog, and it’s getting fairly large in content. I know I need to get on this…maybe this post will motivate me to do it tonight.

  30. Timely post. I actually had to restore from a backup the other day. I hadn’t really tested the backup before but was very happy when it worked smoothly without any hassle.

    I was trying to upgrade from WP2.5 to WP2.7, using the WPAU plugin. The plugin prompts you to take backups of your filesystem and your database and gives you links to download them.

    The upgrade failed on the DB-update step at the end, and my whole blog, including the admin area, was completely offline and lost (blank page).

    I tried to debug it for a while (I work in IT) but got too deep in WP core code so I gave up and restored the backup. Luckily it went smoothly and everything was back up and running without any hassle.

    So the lessons are:
    1. Take a backup!
    2. Test your backup.

    Thanks for the post.

  31. After just losing 5 days of data, I couldn’t agree more! You gotta test your backups to make sure it’s working properly and I suggest having a secondary backup.

  32. I’m gonna have to get my butt in gear and do this, I’m a bit lackidaisical when it comes to this.

  33. I never had any problem with back up, I think if you take blogging seriously you need to host it in a reliable hosting.
    my hosting give the option to back up all my files in an easy way. not only but the have their own back up updated every 10 days so i don’t need to worry about it

  34. Just a reply to a couple of comments

    @Eddie Gear – blogger is slightly differnt it is hosted and they will secure your data, but what if you make a mistake and delete some posts, they will assume this is okay, I found a nice article on backing up blogger


    @Angela Mills – You may only have 29 posts but these are a considerable investment in time look into backing up your posts.

    Thanks for the positive comments on the post Neil – WP Dude

  35. I have started taking this serious from that day when my back up corrupted or not properlly copied.

    I just check the size of original files and my back up. I do not use any zip format.

  36. I’ve been getting my backups for my wordpress blog emailed to me on a weekly basis, and always saw the backups, bit never really gave it much thought. After 1 upgrade to a new version of WordPress, I noticed that My backups were the same backups for almost a month. I unfortunately lost a months worth of posts. :(

    So testing and checking backups are realy important. :)

  37. lol dont remind me, what will go wrong will go wrong. i had a site disappear off of the face of the earth and lo and behold no backup.

  38. I take regualar backups but never tested any! Thanks for reminder!

  39. I couldn’t agree more with your entry under “Why test your back up – knowledge” and “How to test your back-up”. I personally use a stand alone Apache, MySql, PHP set up on my windows computer.

    Before upgrading to wordpress 2.7.1 on my live blog, I made a back up of my existing blog and upgraded that on my test set up, then I tried out the new version of wordpress from the safety of my computer.

    It helps to see if there are any small details that might change, before implementing the update on your live blog.

    Anywhere from themes breaking seams to plug ins misbehaving.

    I think every blogger should have a test set up on their PC for update purposes.

  40. I’ve never tested any backups, although I’ve had some hiccups in the past when upgrading some of my other WordPress blogs.

    If you take your blog seriously, then it is almost a must to have it backed up…

    Thanks for the info…

  41. This post couldn’t come at a better time for me. I’ve recently converted/transferred my business website to a WordPress platform. Backup and restore is high on my list of things I need to make sure I know how to do and that all is working as expected.


  42. Thanks, but I’ll play it risky. I don’t feel like playing around with all that stuff now (just because I’m not tech-savvy or whatever it’s called) and I’ll just stress it once the damage takes place… which is hopefully never.

  43. I’m glad this post about back-ups is featuring on such a prominent site.

    I consult across a number of industries, primarily in IT/ICT-related disciplines. Too often I hear that back-ups are being performed on nightly basis and the onsite staff go into great detail about what’s included and how the backups are run. This is for systems on server-farms with several thousands or millions of customer records.

    They never like the next question/answer round which usually goes like this:

    My question: When was the backup procedure last tested?
    Their answer: Never (or maybe when it was first installed on a test system.)

    My response: Ok, then you don’t have any backups. Nor do you have a back-up procedure.

    I don’t even consult in backup processes so I’m not looking for any extra work. In fact it gets in the way of me doing my own job. However it’s important enough that my clients understand the thin ice they’re skating on before they rely on the assumptions once too often.

    The other great point you’ve alluded to is that software and routine don’t constitute a back-up process. It also requires technical knowledge and more importantly, business knowledge. For a small blog, it shouldn’t really matter if the blog platform is down for a day or two, you could write on paper or in a word processor and then transfer later. But for a multi-blogging platform, it’s essential that everyone knows their role and how they’ll be working when the platform is down. This moves more into the realm of business continuity, but the two are heavily inter-related.

  44. This was a much needed post, but I do not see many benefits for bloggers who are not currently using WordPress platforms or related plugins. I use blogger and would like to back up my blog but have no idea how to do so or what methods to use that will make sure all of those posts, comments, uploaded host content, etc. can be recovered if necessary.

    The only way that I have tried backing up the posts is basically by saving them to external drives or to CDR discs. Another way was by publishing the same content on another blog to be used as a backup blog, but these may not be worthwhile backup methods.

    Can someone give me a few suggestions on how to backup a blog that is not hosted by WordPress (such as Blogger) ?

  45. I was thinking about how back up is done since quite a few days. Fantastic post there by Neil. He knows his stuff.

  46. My advice is to have a local version of your site – with the web server, database server on your system. Every time you create a backup, sync the online version of the site with the local version. Now visiting the local version will show you how reliable your backup is.

    You can use the Remote Database Backup and the associated automating script to do this easily.

  47. I have regular backups, twice a week, but I had never thought of actuallly testing them! And now that you’ve mentioned it, I have no idea of how to upload the backup file.

    While I have all my posts in Word format, I wouldn’t want to have to re-post them and lose my comments as well.

    Testing is now on next week’s to-do list, thanks for pointing out this gap in my systems!

  48. A while back I worked for a company that hired a guy to handle a few of their blogs. He unfortunately did not maintain any kind of backup system and when the unfortunate server malfunction happened, years of blogging went down the drain! We were able to restore most of the blog through the cache that Google had, but that still isn’t what I would call an acceptable backup plan.

    That experience taught me a valuable lesson and I always make consistent backups of the blogs I now operate.

  49. If you’re on WordPress, an easy way to backup is using “manage > export”. However this is restricted to posts, pages, images and comments only which in most cases is good enough. The drawback is – this have to be done manually.

    If you’re looking for an automated plus scheduled database backup, go here:


    It’s PHP scripts and free and Installs on your server.

  50. i’ve just started reading problogger and had no idea about blog back-ups. thanks so much this article and the link to the article about blogger. phew!

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