A Comprehensive Guide To Manual WordPress Backups With A Screen Reader

Keeping regular backups of any website is critically important, and WordPress backups are no different. In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to back up WordPress properly so that your content, files, and WordPress settings remain intact should you ever have to restore your website. This tutorial assumes that you are using a shared host, and that you do not have easy access to command line tools.

Why Are WordPress Backups So Important?

You’ve probably heard more than once in your life that backing up your hard drive is very important. Hard drive backups are important because if backups don’t exist, and something happens to your hard drive or the computer it runs in, all your documents, photos, music, books, and any other data you have stored is gone, with no easy way to get it back. Your hard drive doesn’t care how sensitive your data is, or how sentimental you are about those photos, or that music, or those books. If your hardware fails, or you get a virus, or even if you just accidentally delete something, there’s no easy way to get it back without a backup.

The same holds true for WordPress backups. Web servers are, (or in the case of virtual private ones, run on), computers, and the computers that store and allow other people to access your website are just as vulnerable to hardware and other failures as the computer sitting on your desk or packed in your bag.

WordPress backups are specifically important because it’s the first step recommended during the WordPress update process. WordPress backups are a fail-safe in case an update doesn’t install properly, or if you’ve edited your theme and mistyped something and broken your site. They’re also important when you’re switching hosts. In order to move your site, you need to have a copy of it before you shut down your old hosting account and move to the new one.

Help Keep This Series Free

$685 of $20,000 raised
Each post in this series takes a significant amount of time to research,
write, and edit. In order to make this effort sustainable, I would need to
charge a minimum of $100 U.S. per month in order to compensate for the time
it takes to write this material and the size of the screen reader users
market, which is around 5% of the total market of people with disabilities. This series benefits the whole WordPress community as we strive to create a
more open and more inclusive internet. The group of people who will benefit from this series the most are also the
least equipped to afford to pay a fee like this to access it. In the United
States, as of 2015, 58% of the blind
community is unemployed, and 29% live below the poverty line. Most of these people live
on a fixed income that is less than $1,000 per month.

Your sponsorship will ensure that everyone who uses screen readers
with WordPress get the same opportunity as those who do not use screen
readers: documentation they can freely use to learn WordPress, similar to
what exists in the WordPress Codex for mouse users.

This content has to stay free for screen reader users, and for everyone
else. There’s no flag you can set to detect if a site visitor is also a
screen reader user that can be used to then unlock content. And given the
horrible things being done with technology just in the last year alone,
being able to detect screen readers is technology that should never exist.

The amount of time It takes to maintain this is not something I can do for
free and so I’m asking, as an alternative to charging premium prices for
this documentation, for donations in order to keep this material free
to the WordPress community in general and people who use screen readers in
particular. Your financial assistance will ensure that each WordPress
administration screen is properly documented for people who use screen
readers, and that each post is updated when a change to WordPress requires
it. Every donation helps, and there are some sponsorship opportunities as
well.

In exchange for making this possible, the generosity of sponsors will be
acknowledged with the name, logo, and a link to their flagship product
several times in each post.

$
Personal Info

Donation Total: $5.00

WordPress backups happen in two stages

There are two stages to WordPress backups:

  • backing up the files
  • Backing up the database

The files

WordPress is built with PHP, JavaScript, CSS, and HTML code. This code lives in files, which then live in directories on your host’s server. Your plugins and themes are also PHP, JavaScript, CSS and HTML files, and they add to the files that already come with WordPress.

The database

The database is where WordPress stores all your settings and content. This includes the settings and options for your themes and plugins. It also stores the user accounts you use to log into and add content to your WordPress site.

If either the files or the database are left out of your backup, you don’t have a working version of WordPress, and will have to rebuild your site. Granted, replacing the files is easier than replacing the content and settings in the database, but you’ll still have to rebuild. For smaller sites, this can be accomplished relatively quickly. But for bigger sites, including sites that have a lot of content, this can become very painful very quickly. So it’s extremely important that you make sure both parts of your WordPress installation are backed up regularly.

Backing up the files

Although WordPress backups don’t have to be performed in any particular order, I usually start with backing up the files first. This is because it’s one of the easiest tasks, and, if there are a lot of files, (you’ve got a lot in your uploads directory, for instance), this part of the backup process can run in the background while you move on to the next step.

To back up your WordPress files, you’ll need an FTP client. Any accessible client will do the trick. I prefer WinSCP, but there are others, and you can use whichever one you prefer.

Configuring your FTP client

Once you have an FTP client installed, you’ll need to add a new entry so that you can access the files stored by your host. The specific information you’ll need will vary from host to host, so make sure you have this handy. However, the types of information you’ll need are the same across all setups. The pieces of information you need to have in order to connect to your host are:

  • Hostname: The address you’ll be connecting to.
  • Username: The name you’ll use to log in.
  • Password: The FTP password your host supplied you with, or that you set up yourself. This is not necessarily the same as your login credentials for your hosting account, although sometimes it will be. Consult your web host’s documentation for details.
  • Port number: Usually, this is port 21, which is the standard FTP port. Some web hosts on the smaller end do not provide secure FTP, and so this is the port you’ll likely use. If you’re connecting via secure FTP, you’ll most likely use port 22, although I have seen some hosting situations where a different port, (like 2222, for example), is used.
  • Protocol: Some clients, (like WinSCP), will ask you to choose a protocol during the account-adding process. You’ll need to check with your host to find out which protocols they support. If you can, choose either SFTP or SCP. FTP will do, but the two former protocols allow you to transfer data securely, while FTP does not.

Once I’m connected, which files do I need to back up?

You can always download a copy of WordPress’s core files directly from WordPress.org’s download page, and since this is the case, you don’t need to worry about making a copy of those files. You do, however, need to back up your wp-content directory, your wp-config.php file, and your .htaccess file.

wp-content

The wp-content directory is where all the content you’ve generated that isn’t stored in the database lives. This includes the themes and plugins you have installed, regardless of whether or not they are activated, and your media uploads. Depending on how much is in this directory, it can get quite large. It’s typically not themes and plugins that increase the size. What usually bulks up your wp-content directory is media, including audio, video, images, and any of the other file types WordPress supports.

wp-config.php

Your wp-config.php file contains your site-specific configuration. It tells WordPress everything it needs to know about your database, and contains any configuration customizations you’ve made. If you haven’t made any customizations, and you’d like to find out how far you can take wp-config.php, click here for a complete list of all the values you can edit. But before you make any changes, make sure you back this file up, because if you miss-type something, things will go wrong and you’ll either have to manually fix the errors, or revert back to your original version.

.htaccess

.htaccess, (pronounced “HT Access”), is a configuration file used by your host’s web server software. It is directory-specific, and it is used to alter configurations such as basic redirects, (such as redirecting requests for files that don’t exist to a “file not found” page), basic content password protection, and image or other media hotlinking prevention. The most common use of the .htaccess file in WordPress is to handle permalink settings. If your .htaccess file is lost or compromised, you can copy the basic .htaccess file for WordPress from the Codex. However, since this is a base copy, it will not take into account any customizations you’ve made, so you also need to ensure that you regularly back up any .htaccess files that are part of your WordPress installation. This can be done while you’re backing up your wp-content directory, via FTP/SFTP.

The Database

If you’re running your WordPress site on a shared host, creating a backup of your database can be a minefield when you’re also using a screen reader. This is because there are two types of intervening software you need to work with.

First, there’s your host’s control panel. Most hosts use cPanel, and while it’s not the most accessible experience, it’s useable, depending on the version. The version, however, can change between hosts, and there are at least five dozen of them. To add to the variation between versions, as far as I am aware, no one is working on the accessibility of cPanel, so the common apprehension experienced by every person with disabilities for whom accessibility is not optional upon hearing the word “update” is very real.

The second type of software that you have to interact with is one of two possible graphical user interfaces for managing your databases, cPanel’s built-in backup feature, or phpMyAdmin, a PHP script for interacting with MySQL databases. Like cPanel, there are multiple versions of phpMyAdmin, and the useability for screen readers varies between versions. As with cPanel, I am not aware of any accessibility work being done on phpMyAdmin.

First, I’ll cover cPanel’s built-in backup feature, specifically for cPanel version 56.0.38, although this is not the latest version. The latest version is 60, and so your milage may vary. and then, I’ll cover phpMyAdmin.

WordPress Backups With CPanel

CPanel provides a graphical user interface for managing just about every aspect of your hosting, including your databases. You can use it’s backup feature to create a downloadable copy of your WordPress database. You can also use it to generate a full backup of your entire site, but these backups are strictly for archival purposes. Relying on cPanel’s backup feature as part of your maintenance strategy is not recommended. It doesn’t provide any kind of scheduling, and you will need to create two partial backups, (one for your files and one for your database), in order to be able to restore from those backups should the need arrise. However, until you impliment a backup strategy, it’s better than not backing anything up at all.

To create a backup of your database, first log into cPanel. Next, look for “Backup Wizard” in the “files” section. You can do this by either arrowing through the page, or by using your screen reader’s find command. There are no headings on the page, so it’s arrow keys all the way down, coupled with heavy use of the find command. Once you’ve located “Backup Wizard”, press enter on that. On the next screen, you can navigate by headings. The only heading on the page is “Backup Wizard”, and you can skip past all the other links on the page by pressing “H”.

The next section on the page gives you a quick overview of the steps for creating a cPanel backup. It also lets you know what’s included in a full backup, delivered in a zip file for your convenience. Skim through this section, and press enter on the “backup” link. On the next screen, press “H” until you hear “Select partial backup”. Then, press enter on the “MySQL Databases” link. On the “MySQL Databases” screen, press “H” until you hear “Download a MySQL Database Backup”. Under this level-four heading, you’ll find a table that lists all of the databases that have been created, either by you or by install scripts. Find your WordPress database name, and press enter on that link. When you press enter on the linked database name, you’ll be presented with a standard file download prompt. Save the database file to your computer, but do not uncompress it. You’ll need to use the compressed copy if you ever need to restore the database.

If you’d like to avoid FTP or SFTp, or if for some reason you’re unable to log into your host using FTP, you can also use these steps to backup the files that make up your WordPress installation. Instead of choosing the database partial backup option, choose the files partial backup option, and continue as you would with the instructions for backing up your database. This feature creates a full backup of all your website files, not just the WordPress files. You don’t have the option of selecting the files that get backed up. Once again, this is better than no backup at all, but creating a full backup every time you create a backup isn’t necessarily the best long-term solution.

PHPMyAdmin

PhpMyAdmin is a free software tool written in PHP intended to handle the administration of MySQL and MariaDB databases on the web. As with cPanel, there are accessibility concerns, and the version of phpMyAdmin your host is running will impact how you interact with it. The version number is especially important if you’re a screen reader user. This is because, up until the 4.0 branch, phpMyAdmin wasn’t an accessible experience, but it was useable as long as you were willing to forego all the screen reader specific features like link lists, form fields lists, and headings lists, because all of them would actually decrease your productivity. It’s faster just to arrow through the screen. As of the 4.0 branch, the experience has gotten worse. I’ll be covering phpMyAdmin versions 3.8.5.1 and 4.7.5 in this tutorial. You can find the version your host is running by logging into phpMyAdmin, and using your screen reader’s find command to search for “Version information:”. Even though the 3.0 branch of phpMyAdmin is useable, you do not have the luxury of navigating by headings on most screens, and you do not have the luxury of a skiplink. There are a few dropdowns in the form of comboboxes, and some unlabeled form fields, but for the purposes of exporting your database as well as importing it should you need to restore from a backup, those dropdowns and form fields are not what you’ll be working with. You’ll be dealing with a couple of frames, lots of linked graphics, and you’ll need to pay careful attention to where you are within phpMyAdmin’s interface, since you won’t receive any feedback from your screen reader when you’ve activated a link unless you’ve specifically set it to automatically read the page content upon page load. So, with anger management powers activated, let’s get started.

To access phpMyAdmin, log into your host’s control panel, and navigate to the databases section. You can do this by either arrowing down the page, or using your screen reader’s find command to search for “DATABASES”. Directly below this text, you will find two links to phpMyAdmin. Press enter on one of them. phpMyAdmin will open a new browser window. If you attempt to force it to open in a new tab instead of a new window, you will be asked to log into it directly, so unless you have specific login credentials for that application, it’s best to just allow it to open in a new window. To ensure this happens, if you’re blocking popups in the browser, temporarily turn this off, and, once you’re done with phpMyAdmin, turn it back on again.

For phpMyAdmin 3.8.5.1, once you’re inside the phpMyAdmin interface, you’ll encounter two frames, neither of which have titles. The first frame contains navigation links specific to phpMyAdmin, as well as links for accessing your databases. The second frame is where all the operations happen.

In the first frame, find the link labeled with the name of your WordPress database. The list of database links will appear in an unordered list beneath the dropdown for selecting from recent database tables. Once you’ve found the link labeled with the name of your WordPress database, press enter on that.

Next, arrow down until you find a link labeled “export” in the second frame, and press enter on that. Once you’re on the next screen within the second frame, use your screen reader’s heading navigation keystroke to navigate to the heading labeled “Exporting tables from “db_name” database” where db_name will be replaced with the name of your WordPress database. On this screen, you can choose to perform a quick export, or a custom export. For the purposes of a full database backup, a quick export will be fine, and this is the default option.

After choosing the type of export you want to create, the next step is to choose the file format. PhpMyAdmin allows you to export all or part of a database in several formats, one of which, for some unexplained reason, is Microsoft Word 2000 (doc). The default is .sql, and i would recommend sticking with this unless you have a specific reason to change the format.

Once you choose the file format, press the “go” button. This is a true button, and will behave accordingly. When the “go” button is pressed, you’ll be presented with the standard “file download” dialog, and you can save the file to your PC.

Using phpMyAdmin 4.7.5, instead of content being separated into frames, you’ll find a series of lists on the page. Once you’ve launched the phpMyAdmin instance, navigate to the second list on the page, and find the link labeled with the name of your WordPress database. Once you’ve located the link, press enter. You’ll receive no feedback from your screen reader letting you know you’re on the next screen, so you’ll have to trust that you are. Next, either navigate to the fourth list on the page and then arrow down until you hear “Graphic Export¬†Export” and then press enter, or use your screen reader or browser’s find command to search for “export” on the page, and then press enter on the linked graphic. You’ll once again receive no audible feedback that you’ve navigated to the desired screen, but you most likely have. Once you’re on the “export” screen, use your screen reader’s heading command to navigate to the first heading on the page. It’s a heading at level two. Alternatively, you can navigate to the first radio button on the page, labeled “Quick – display only the minimal options” and ensure that this is checked. Below the set of radio buttons, you’ll find a heading at level three designating the “format” section. Choose your preferred format from the dropdown and then press the “go” button. As with phpMyAdmin 3.5.8.1, this is a true button, and will act accordingly. You’ll be presented with the standard file download dialog, and you can proceed as you normally would from here.

Performing a manual WordPress backup while using a screen reader wil initially be a huge headache. However, it’s a fundamental skill worth having. I’ll cover some partially and fully automated methods for creating wordPress backups in upcoming posts, but knowing how to perform a manual backup is crucial should any of the automated methods be unavailable or should problems arise while using them. The process of performing a manual backup is daunting at first, but like any other technical skill, it gets easier with time and practice. If you’re tempted to skip learning this skill in order to avoid the headache and frustration, don’t yield to that temptation. Backups are fundamental to any security strategy. The best security tactics in the world will not help you if you’re not performing regular backups. Don’t throw away the investment you’ve made in your website by neglecting them. Doing so will result in a lot more headaches and frustration down the line.

Help Keep This Series Free

$685 of $20,000 raised
Each post in this series takes a significant amount of time to research,
write, and edit. In order to make this effort sustainable, I would need to
charge a minimum of $100 U.S. per month in order to compensate for the time
it takes to write this material and the size of the screen reader users
market, which is around 5% of the total market of people with disabilities. This series benefits the whole WordPress community as we strive to create a
more open and more inclusive internet. The group of people who will benefit from this series the most are also the
least equipped to afford to pay a fee like this to access it. In the United
States, as of 2015, 58% of the blind
community is unemployed, and 29% live below the poverty line. Most of these people live
on a fixed income that is less than $1,000 per month.

Your sponsorship will ensure that everyone who uses screen readers
with WordPress get the same opportunity as those who do not use screen
readers: documentation they can freely use to learn WordPress, similar to
what exists in the WordPress Codex for mouse users.

This content has to stay free for screen reader users, and for everyone
else. There’s no flag you can set to detect if a site visitor is also a
screen reader user that can be used to then unlock content. And given the
horrible things being done with technology just in the last year alone,
being able to detect screen readers is technology that should never exist.

The amount of time It takes to maintain this is not something I can do for
free and so I’m asking, as an alternative to charging premium prices for
this documentation, for donations in order to keep this material free
to the WordPress community in general and people who use screen readers in
particular. Your financial assistance will ensure that each WordPress
administration screen is properly documented for people who use screen
readers, and that each post is updated when a change to WordPress requires
it. Every donation helps, and there are some sponsorship opportunities as
well.

In exchange for making this possible, the generosity of sponsors will be
acknowledged with the name, logo, and a link to their flagship product
several times in each post.

$
Personal Info

Donation Total: $5.00


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