Creating Backups of Your Site
Before making any changes to your site, you need to ensure that all of your data is backed up securely. Backing up data is often overlooked but nonetheless a necessary precaution to avoid common misfortunes. Think of this as a safety net to protect all of the hard work and money you invested in your site. Whilst it may seem burdensome at the time, you will thank yourself later for having taken the time to do it properly.
There are a number of ways in which you can securely back up your data. One of the easiest ways is to use one of the many quality backup plugins (free and paid) available in the WordPress Plugin Directory. BackWPup and VaultPress are both popular and reliable plugins, but our preference goes to BackupBuddy from our friends over at iThemes.
The best way to ensure that your data is safely stored is to have automated (scheduled) backups in place. You can automate backups with any of the aforementioned plugins. Yet even with automated backups, you should perform regular testing to ensure that your data is actually being backed up properly.
In addition to multiple backups, keep your backup files in different places. There are a range of offsite storage destinations that you can use for free, for example Google Drive, or you can use your own VPS or private server for storage.
Always remember that a full backup is what actually matters. So what constitutes a full backup?
(1) Your MySQL database (blog posts, pages, comments and your admin preferences)
(2) Your files (themes, plugins, media, scripts and anything else that adds functionality and structure to your site). That means that in the event you lose your site – knock on wood – you can restore the full backup and you’ll be good to go.
Backing up data is an essential step in the entire maintenance process, so do make sure that you take it seriously.
Enabling Maintenance Mode
We strongly advise you to take your website offline during maintenance. Taking it offline will prevent poor user experience (which is vital to SEO, among other factors).
WP maintenance mode is a straightforward, free plugin that notifies site visitors when your site is temporarily offline due to maintenance. There are a variety of other plugins that may give you more flexibility in terms of customization. Simply type in “Coming Soon” or “Maintenance Mode” in the search box of the plugin directory and you will see a range of other options that allow you to customize the look of your site in offline mode.
You could also clone your site to create a test site or local site, allowing you to test updates and changes while your live site is still accessible to users & customers.