Backup Basics for a Joomla! Web Site

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Always keep a recent backup of your site. There is more to backup than accidents. Accidents do happen, but there are many other reasons it helps to have your backup files handy before the need arises. The causes of data loss are many. Joomla sites can be compromised by malicious attackers if the site administrator has not paid attention to security, or in rare cases when hackers bypass the best security. Joomla is designed for teamwork, and even good editors can make an error to harm the site. There are many reasons website administrators need to revert the site back to a previous working state.

Practice both backup and restore. Nobody should wait for an emergency to test their skills and tools for dealing with an emergency. Very often people create a backup of something that is empty or corrupted, and discover that none of their critical data was really backed up in the first place. Nobody likes a ship that sinks with empty lifeboats, and it's also wise to practice getting people out of the lifeboats and into a new working system. Having a backup is not just about accidents, because a person well versed in backup can help with safe development of new features. Backup and restore help web managers create a staging website where new changes can be practiced without risking the production website. The clone can be created on a local machine acting as a test server, or any other folder or web hosting account supporting the SQL and PHP versions used by the site you've backed up. It's easy for anyone to mix up their live site and staging site, so change the color of your staging site template to remind developers that the staging site is not live to the public.

If you use 2 factor authentication then currently (written Aug 2014) if you are locked out of your site you can rename the folder plugins/twofactorauth to twofactorauth.BAK and log in to your site's back-end. Then disable all plugins under the "twofactorauth" group. Finally, rename the plugins/twofactorauth.BAK folder of your site back to twofactorauth.



There are two parts to a complete back up of your Joomla site

a) The database information, most often found in your mysql database

b) The files and folders on your website, as hosted on most static html websites

Database Backup Part 1 of 2

One of the first steps to backup your Joomla site is to close the site to the public, backup the files, and then re-open the site. The steps from omit this much needed operation. Go to the backend of your Joomla control panel, under global configuration, under the site tab, set "site offline" = yes. This will then change the look of your configuration.php file in the root of your Joomla website. An administrator will need to use your hosting control panel to view that file or use FTP to download and view the file. Inside configuration.php you can find the name of your database that will need backing up. Look for the line with code resembling "var $db = 'x1234';" or "public $db = 'x1234';" Where x1234 is the name of your database.

Using the logon information for your server or hosting company open the PhpMyAdmin tool. Open the database and look for the table named "users" and then click the icon to "view" the data in that table. You should see the names of staff who have accounts on your Joomla site. This view provides you the confidence that you are about to backup the correct database. Click the export tab, then go. Your browser will download your database into an SQL file. Find where you browser put that file, then move the file to a much more secure drive or location.

Server SQL databases can be backed up without PhpMyAdmin and instead using the SQL command line. If you know how to do that, you're most likely not in need of this documentation.

It is recommended to back up the database at least twice per week or even everyday (and more) if you have an active site.

File System Backup Part 2 of 2

Continue with your site offline, see above. Your joomla folder and files can be backed up by downloading them with an FTP utility or using the file manager of your webhosting company. Both of these file options work, neither is better.

FTP tools move thousands of Joomla files and use more time. The FTP process can be slow and interrupted. Many Joomla sites are hosted by providers like godaddy or hostgator who provide a control panel for taking thousands of files in one folder and then creating a zip file very quickly. This means your site is offline for a shorter amount of time, and you have only one zip file. Go to your hosting control panel and look for their file manager icon.

If you use your hosting file manager, practice using that interface to select your server folder and creating a zip file. Download the zip file locally and then expand it locally to to see what files are inside that zip file. This option also let's you expand the same zip file for restoration to a staging site.

Backing up the Joomla files with FTP is no different than backing up a static HTML website. Download all the files and folders that exist in the main Joomla directory. The downloaded locaiton is a folder on your local computer. Be sure that the file and directory structure remains the same as it is in the live site. When you restore the files, you will use the FTP utility to upload the files to a new server.

As soon as you've downloaded your files via zip or FTP, change your site to be online.

More Backup Documentation

Most administrators of a Joomla website have access to their MySQL data using the GUI interface called PhpMyAdmin, see How can I backup my database or table? for more information.

There are several automated backup extensions for Joomla! located in the Joomla! Extensions Directory. Here is a link for Joomla! Backup Extensions.

When servers are hosted in the same building as the staff, the web administrators should make extra care to store the backup copies of the database/files in a different building. Fire, theft, water or other damage often wipes out the live website AND backups. On a regular basis the web administrators should burn both the database and files to CD or save to an external hard drive off site.

Special Notes

Automated Backup Tools


  • Akeeba Backup produces a .jpa file that you should download to a safe location that's not on your webhost or webserver.
  • The .jpa file contains all the folders/files and database files.
  • The .jpa file also contains an installer

These paragraphs are about backup, but it's worth a quick note that the Akeeba restore process is a fast guided process similar to a setup wizard. Place 2 files on a new webhost. a) your JPA file and b) Kickstart.php (from Akeeba) You then use a browser to launch the restore process and unpack the .jpa file. Please read the Akeeba restore documentation.

Akeeba and other backup extensions can be download from [1]