Backup Your WordPress Blog Before You Upgrade: A Lesson Learned

What Happened to My Blog?

This may be the most important post you’ll read in a while, so don’t go away.  You’ll learn what you need to know about upgrading and backing up your WordPress blog to avoid disaster.  I can help – I was there.

One fateful evening a little over a week ago, I finally felt it was safe to upgrade to WordPress 3.0.1.  I had been waiting for the first “fixes” after heeding the warnings that the first upgrade to a new number in the series usually has issues so I didn’t upgrade to 3.0.  I dutifully deactivated all my plugins, clicked on upgrade now and swiftly received the message that the upgrade was successful!   I shut down my computer for the night.  Next morning, I opened my blog and most of my home page was missing and I was unable to access my blog posts.

FYI, I believe in wearing both a belt and suspenders, so I back up my blog with Amazon S3, BackBuddy (the WordPress backup tool),and the plugins WordPress DataBase Backup and WordPress Online Automated Backup.  Should be an easy fix to get my site back up,  Right?  Not so fast.

I called HostGator first to see if they had a backup that would be easy to reinstall.  I was told that I was over the limit for data and that the last weekly backup only included the database.  That’s funny because HostGator’s home page advertises:  “UNLIMITED Disk Space ·   UNLIMITED Bandwidth.”  Then I was told the problem was that I needed to install the latest version of my WordPress Flexx theme. I bought it for $79 (but did not need to install it, it turns out).

In the meantime, I began a long series of emails with HostGator online support and, to their credit, they were very responsive and did their best to reinstall my blog after I emailed them all my backups.  In the end, I only lost my latest blog post, which I reprinted with a new opening.

I decided to ask HostGator online support their opinions on  the various backups I use.  I hope you find this helpful.

This is the response I received from Alexander at HostGator:

“I’ve reviewed the plugins listed and their various functionalities to see what they each accomplish.

Amazon S3/BackupBuddy – These are for complete backup of all of your WP data, including DB, and all files related to your blog; this is most useful if the entire site disappears/is erased somehow.

WordPress Database Backup – This takes a .sql backup of all core WP tables, and creates a .sql for re-importation; this is most useful if the DB crashes, and you can live without some of the data in extraneous tables, normally plugin related data.

WordPress Online Automated Backup – This takes a backup of all WP tables, including anything your plugins have made; this is useful if you require data that is outside of the core WP tables.

Of these three, they each have their uses.  Which is the most important?  It’s hard to say. Amazon S3/Backup Buddy is the most complete; however, site files are usually quite secure, we do run full raid 10 on all of our shared/reseller servers, which makes it unlikely that files will ever disappear unless they were deliberately erased.  WordPress Online Automated Backup is probably the better choice of the other two, as it lets you backup all tables in the DB, rather than just the core WP tables.”

Most of this I don’t understand but those of you who are more tech-savvy may benefit from his observations.  I will also say that one of the HostGator phone support technicians repeatedly told me, “We do not guarantee a full backup of your WordPress blog.”

So be forewarned.  Make sure you do regular backups, using the tools above or a dedicated external hard drive.

Lesson learned.

  3 comments for “Backup Your WordPress Blog Before You Upgrade: A Lesson Learned

  1. August 16, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    Well, folks, I spoke too soon. I just came back to my office and my blog is down again. It was working fine this morning. I am now on the phone with HostGator to see what’s wrong. I feel I’ve been down this road before. I’ll keep you posted.

  2. August 16, 2010 at 7:07 pm


    Sorry to hear about your trouble. I need to do more back ups myself.


  3. August 16, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    OK, my blog is back up. It didn’t take long for HostGator to discover the problems. First, some files were corrupted. Whether this happened during the upgrade to WP 3.0.1 I don’t know. Fixing that got most of my site back, except for my header and blog excerpts on my home page. The other culprit was my audioboo plugin, which enables podcasts. Once I deactivated that, I was back in business. BTW, if you haven’t already, you should consider joining LinkedIn’s Word Press group. I’ve found it invaluable. Several people chimed in with suggestions. And one of them is going to install my Flexx update for me, which will eliminate the possibility that there is a compatibility problem with the WP upgrade and my older Flexx theme (which is actually less than a year old). I’m providing so much detail because I hope this will be helpful to other bloggers who experience problems.

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