Understanding WordPress Backup and Disaster Recovery – Part 1: WordPress and Website Basics

WordPress Backup and RecoveryWebsites have come a long way in the past couple of years, never mind the last decade.

They’re no longer flat HTML files with some CSS and images thrown in.

Websites are a lot more complex and WordPress is a prime example of that.

Understanding how they are put together will help you ensure you have a fully-working, and fully recoverable WordPress backup.

So how is WordPress put together, and what do you need to know about backing up your WordPress websites?

How website loading and content display actually works

Let’s start with the absolute basics and move our way up.

When you, as a visitor, browse any website, the page that you load is basically as a collection of HTML – basically text that says:

  • put this text content here and make it look like so.
  • place this image here, with this size, and with this style.
  • load this Javascript now, then load this next one, and so on.
  • etc. etc.

Your web browser receives the HTML page, reads it all and shows you the page according to how it interprets the HTML directions.

Since each web browser interpret HTML directions in their own manner, it explains why pages look slightly different from one browser to the next.

So far so simple.

Whenever an HTML page says “Load this image from this location: ‘http://abc'” your browser will fetch that image and display what it finds.

This is the same for Javascript, CSS, images, audio, other HTML pages… basically everything.

All this HTML, CSS, Javascript information is stored within files on your web hosting server.

Quite a few years ago it was typical to have all these arranged into folders on your hosting. To backup your website all you needed to do was download and store a copy of all these files.

How WordPress loading and content display actually works

With WordPress, principally it’s no different to that described already.

The main difference, however, is that the HTML content that is pushed to your web browser is not stored within discreet files stored on your web hosting disk.

Instead, when WordPress loads a page and passes HTML content to your browser, it pulls in this information from 4 main sources:

  • The WordPress code itself.
  • The active WordPress theme for that site.
  • The active WordPress plugins on that site.
  • The content in the database that corresponds to this particular page.

The WordPress code, theme and plugins are all coded in PHP and this directs what HTML is passed to your visitor’s browser.

So to backup a WordPress site you need to understand that your site is composed of all these component.

You cannot restore a WordPress site without all of them present and correct.

How to backup and restore a WordPress site

Fundamentally, backing up a WordPress site is easy to do, but it helps to know just a little bit more about what you’re working with.

What causes most issues is restoring the site, and the management of the backups themselves.

The next part in this series of understanding WordPress backup and disaster recovery will go into detail about how WordPress is put together – its filing system, what files go where, and what they’re used for.

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