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Backups - Shared Hosting

To make a backup of your website on shared hosting, you will need to back up the files and the database. You will need a file transfer client running on your computer to backup the files, and you will need access to your host's control panel software to backup your database. Shared hosting services have different control panel interfaces. Many of them use a tool called cPanel, but no matter what interface is used, the steps to make a backup are essentially the same.

Backing up website files

To back up your website files you will need a hostname to connect to (often this is your domain name), your username, and your password.

You will also need a file transfer client. FileZilla is an open source file transfer client that works on all major operating systems. If you are using Windows or Mac OS X you can download the latest version of FileZilla from their client download page. If you are using GNU/Linux you can install it from your operating system's package manager.

To back up your website, launch FileZilla and the open the Site Manager (the very first icon in the bar at the top).

  • Click New Site and give it a name. Enter the hostname of your server in the Host field (this is often your website's domain name, without the "http://" part). You can leave the Port field blank.
  • Click on the Protocol drop-down menu and choose SFTP. If you cannot connect to your host using SFTP, choose FTP. Data transferred using SFTP is encrypted and secure, but data transferred using FTP is not. Transferring your backup data over FTP is potentially dangerous and may lead to your site getting hacked.
  • Click on the Logon Type drop-down menu and choose "Normal" if you want FileZilla to remember your password; choose "Ask for password" if you want to type in your password each time you connect.

  • When you are ready to try connecting, click Connect.

NOTE: If you are using SFTP, you may get an "Unknown host key" message the first time.

You can check "Always trust this host, add this key to the cache" and click OK. From now on it shouldn't pop up this dialog. Chances are the first time you connect to this SFTP server you're not being targeted by a Man in the Middle Attack, so trust the host key the first time. If you ever are under attack while you're connecting to this host, you will see a new warning dialog telling you that the key you're connecting to is different from the one you have saved. This is called Trust On First Use (TOFU).

Now you should be connected to to the remote server. If you are having trouble connecting, open the Site Manager again and check your settings.

  • Once you are connected, you'll see a split view in FileZilla. The left half shows your local computer and the right half shows the remote server. You can navigate on your local side to the folder you want to store your backup.
  • Next, on the remote server, find your website's document root folder. This might be called "htdocs", "docs", "public_html", or possibly your hostname. Right-click on it and click Download.

A copy of all of the files on your website will be downloaded to your local computer.

Backing up MySQL database

Below are instructions for making MySQL database backups using Dreamhost and Bluehost. If you do not use either of those shared hosting providers, you should still be able to figure out how to make MySQL backups using these instructions as a guide. Most shared web hosts have software installed call phpMyAdmin that allows you to manage databases. As long as you can get to phpMyAdmin with your web host, you can follow these instructions.

You will need to know your MySQL username and password to backup your website. If you are using Wordpress, you can find this in your wp-config.php file. If you are using Drupal, you can find this in your sites/default/settings.php file. If you're using another content management system, you should be able to find your MySQL username and password in your config file.

Backing up Dreamhost databases

Start by logging into your Dreamhost account. Once you have logged in, expand the Goodies menu and click MySQL Databases.

You will be a list of MySQL hostnames you set up when you were setting up your websites. Click the phpMyAdmin link next to the hostname that you want to backup.

phpMyAdmin will open in a new tab and you will need to login using your MySQL username and password. If you're backing up multiple sites in Dreamhost you'll have to repeat this step for each site you're backing up.

Click the name of your database in the left frame. Then click the Export tab at the top.

You can safely leave all of the default settings. Before you click Go at the bottom, select the "zipped" radio button and make sure "Save as file" is checked. When you click Go, phpMyAdmin will let you download a zipped backup of your database.

Once your backup is saved you can rename the file to include the date on which you took this backup.

Backing up BlueHost databases

Login to your BlueHost account at https://my.bluehost.com/cgi/account/cpanel. Click the cPanel tab in the top left of the screen. cPanel is a popular open source shared hosting control panel software. Many different web hosts use this exact same software, so these instructions should work for them as well.

Scroll down until you get to the Databases section. Click phpMyAdmin.

Login using your MySQL username and password.

Click on the name of your database in the left frame. Then click the Export tab at the top of the screen.

You can safely leave Export Method set to "Quick" and Format set to SQL. Click Go to download your database backup.

Once your backup is saved you can rename the file to include the date on which you took this backup.

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