How to Properly Backup Your Website via FTP

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How to Properly Backup Your Website via FTP

There are lots of ways to backup your website. From using a third-party tool like Backup Bot to manually via FTP. While tools like Backup Bot allow you to set automated backups on certain periods according to the specified times, FTP is a great option if you want to backup your website manually.

FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is a network protocol designed specifically for transferring files between client and server on a computer network. FTP is a great option to backup your website as it has a faster transfer rate compared to HTTP. In order to be able to use FTP protocol, you need both FTP server and FTP client installed on your server and client respectively. Unless you use VPS, FTP server has been installed on the vast majority of web hosting providers. Look for the FTP menu on the control panel of your web hosting to find your FTP access.

You will need the IP address, FTP username (FTP login), and password to connect to the FTP server using FTP client. To learn more, you can find out what an FTP server is.

There are several free FTP clients you can use to connect to FTP server. In this post, we will use WinSCP, a free FTP client for Windows. If you use Mac or Linux, FileZilla is a recommended option.

How to properly backup your website via FTP

  • Step 1: Create a ZIP file of the root directory of your website.

This is the most crucial thing we want to convey. Before downloading the files of your website, you need to create the archive (ZIP) of the root directory of your website. Root directory is the top directory of your website where all of the files associated with your website stored in. If you have a website on a single web hosting account, your root directory is public_html or httpdocs in most cases. You can actually just copy all files under the root directory of your website without creating a ZIP file, but it will affect the transfer speed rate. The gap is far enough. You will have approximately above 1MB/s transfer rate when downloading a single ZIP file, compared to below 100KB/s if you are downloading multiple files with the same FTP client and network.

Creating a ZIP file of the root directory of your website is extremely easy since nearly all web hosting control panels already have a menu to do so. If you have terminal access, you can also create a ZIP file of your website root directory using zip command.

  • Step 2: Download the ZIP file with an FTP client.

Once the ZIP file of the root directory of your website is created, you can start to download it with an FTP client of your choice. As mentioned, we will use WinSCP in this example.

Assuming you have installed WinSCP on your computer, launch the app and enter the IP address of your FTP server, FTP username as well as the password. Make sure to set the protocol according to the protocol on your server. If your server uses FTP (not SFTP), you have to use FTP as well. Click the Login button. You can also save the current session if you want. By saving a session, you don’t need to re-enter the IP address and username if you want to connect to the same FTP server in the next days.

If this is the first you use WinSCP, you will have two panels on the WinSCP window. The left panel for local files and the right panel for remote files (files on the server). Select a local folder (on the left panel) where you want to save the ZIP file of your website you have just created in step 1 above and drag the ZIP file (from the right panel) to it.

Notice the transfer rate. If everything goes well, you should see the transfer rate above 1MB/s approximately.

Don’t forget to download the database of your website as well (if any). If you want to specifically backup a WordPress site, you can visit this post to learn more.

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