How I found out that backups are so important on a WordPress website

Imagine the scene….

I’d been designing websites for a couple of years and I was still learning my way in business and being with clients. 

I called myself a web designer and I was creating WordPress websites and I’d previously been creating Joomla websites.

I took the clients information, asked a couple of questions and created a website based on their logo. I cringe when I think of what my web design was back then. It was focussed on my client and not on their client. If my client said this is what they wanted I blindly created it. 

No, the customer is not always right.  

Back then I followed a lot of other web designers and we didn’t teach business owners how to maintain their own websites. I know I can hang my head in shame there. Unfortunately a lot of web designers still don’t teach their clients what to do with their WordPress website after it’s been delivered. 

This website was one I’d created and I was about to update it technically. Upgrade it to a new version of WordPress and upgrade the plugins too.  It was easy peasy. 

I’m happily updating the website and then it crashed.

I’m staring at a white screen. 

Where has the website gone? 

I can feel my heart pounding. I frantically refresh the browser. There has been a critical error on this website. 

I silently scream and swear. It may even have been out loud.

What do I do now? 

spiral staircase

I can’t, I just can’t go back to the client to say I’ve stuffed up their website. My business is over. I’ll never work again. I was doomed.

Can you tell I was spiralling? 

I go to my friendly search engine and start searching for white screen of death in WordPress websites and critical errors.

I was trying to remember every breathing technique I’d ever heard of and I still wasn’t feeling calm. 

I found a blog article with instructions. Great, what do I need to do?

I don’t remember how I solved it. I still remember the panic. I still remember the gut wrenching fear of failing. Failing my client, failing my business, failing my family and failing myself. 

Once I got the website up and running, and no, I never told the client what happened, I vowed I would NEVER, EVER, EVER let that happen again

How did others cope with this? 

Perform a backup before doing an update. I’d heard of backups of course but until then I thought I was invincible. I knew I didn’t know everything but somehow I was still invincible. 

It turned out I wasn’t. 

I set up a training website and I tested heaps of backup plugins. 

What did they backup? Where did the backup go? When I needed it, how did I perform a restore? Notice I didn’t say if I needed it,  I said when

When I found the backup plugin that I thought was gold (before you ask I no longer use that backup plugin), I placed that on all my new clients' websites. If a client came back to me I made sure to put a backup on their website too. 

You don’t know what you don’t know. 

Learn from my mistakes and please, pretty please, ensure that you have a backup plugin on your WordPress website. 

Here are some of the common objections to having a backup plugin that I hear:

  • My hosting already does backup. Great, still have another one. Why? You can never have too many backups. Some hosting companies will charge you to restore a website.Some hosting companies you can’t get hold of when you need to either.    
  • I paid gazillions for my website so I’m sure that my website has a backup plugin. Please check. If you’re not sure how, read this blog post about protecting your website with a plugin backup. I have come across so many expensive websites that do NOT have backups, anti virus, malware checks or anything like that. You paid for the design and that’s all you received. 
  • I would have no idea what to do. I understand that. Still check to see if you have a backup plugin or have a plugin audit and I can check that for you. When clients come to me with a serious issue on their website the FIRST thing I ask is do you have a backup. Sometimes it’s easier to copy the error logs and restore a website so it’s there for your customers.   

I know I’m repeating myself. Please, pretty please ensure that you have a backup plugin on your WordPress website. 

I don’t want you to go through the panic that I went through. 

Nowadays, do you know what happens if I do an update and something goes wrong? Yes, I still mentally swear, that bit hasn’t changed. No panic though. Why? If it's a serious issue I can restore from a website backup.

There’s a sense of relief and ease knowing that the website can be restored. 

TL;DR Check your WordPress website for a backup plugin and ensure that it’s performing regular backups. Before doing an update yourself, perform a backup.            

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