Using FileZilla to Back Up Your Site
FileZilla is an ftp client that supports secure file transfers, and, as such, it’s 1 of 2 clients that I recommend for working on a website. I strongly suggest that every website owner use a secure method of file transfer to connect to their website, as doing so ensures that communications between the local computer and the server are encrypted. If secure file transfer is not used, then FTP credentials are sent over the internet in plain text, which makes it easy for anyone wishing to do so to intercept them. In this article, I’ll show you how to use FileZilla to back up your website to your local computer. FileZilla has versions for Windows, Mac, and Linux, so I’m not going to go into detail on how to set it up on each operating system.
The first thing you’ll need to do is to get FileZilla. It can be obtained here . Click the download link, then save the file to a location where you can easily find it.
Next, install FileZilla. The installation, at least on Windows, is pretty straightforward and likely requires no explanation.
Once FileZilla is up and running, your next task is to tell it how to connect to your site. Generally, 3 fields are all that are required, e.g., hostname, username, and password.
The hostname is generally your domain name, brightstarsweb.com , for example. To specify that you wish to connect using secure FTP, you can put sftp:// in front of the hostname like this: sftp://brightstarsweb.com . If you don’t do that, FileZilla defaults to using simple FTP.
The username and password fields consist of the credentials you were given by your hosting provider.
The port field can be filled in with the desired port number. FileZilla’s defaults are port 21 for simple FTP and 22 for secure FTP, so entering the port number is optional if you host with Bright Stars Web Technologies, as the secure FTP port is 22. If you didn’t put sftp:// in front of the hostname, you can instruct FileZilla that you wish to connect via secure FTP by putting 22, or your host’s secure ftp port number, in the port field. In summary, if you want to connect using secure FTP, you’ll need to either specify sftp:// preceding your hostname, or your hosting provider’s secure FTP port number in the port field.
Additionally, you can specify port 21, & then specify a desired encryption method. In Filezilla, these are:
- Use Explicit FTP over TLS if available;
- Require explicit FTP over TLS;
- Require implicit FTP over TLS.
Once you’ve filled in the required information, press the ‘Quickconnect’ button. If you’ve entered the information correctly, you should now be connected to your server. If that didn’t happen, check for typos, or contact your host for the needed credentials.
You’ll notice that, in FileZilla’s default configuration, the files on your computer, or “local panel” is on the left side, while your website’s files, called the “remote panel”, is on the right.
At this point, you’ll likely wish to right-click the list of files in the local panel, select ‘Create directory and enter it’ from the popup menu that appears, and enter a name for the folder, such as your domain name plus the date, e.g., brighter-vision-9-5-2014. That way, you’ll have separate backups of your website. This can be valuable, because, for example, you might learn that your site was compromised in a later backup, but you might well be able to restore it from an earlier one. Obviously, you needn’t keep these forever, and you can feel free to delete them as your needs dictate. If you have more than 1 domain, you might want to back up the lot in 1 fell swoop. In that case, name it something like website-backup or public_html plus the date. Be warned, though–depending on how large your sites are, your computer could be occupied with that task for a very long while.
If you are backing up a compromised site, (and you should), remember to label the new folder with the word “hacked” or similar, so you don’t accidentally use that backup to restore the site.
At this juncture, all you need to do is highlight either your entire website directory, or the directory of the desired domain, in the remote panel, right-click it, and choose ‘Download’ from the options that appear. In the case of Bright Stars Web Technologies, your website directory is called public_html. Other hosts may use htdocs, www, or other folder names rather than public_html. Read your host’s FAQ or Knowledge Base, or simply contact them via email or phone, if that’s permitted.
This will undoubtedly take some time, unless your site is very small, so go get coffee or something stronger–you deserve it–congratulations!
Additionally, you may decide you wish to back up only user-generated content. You can do that simply by choosing the folders &/or files you wish to save.
One last thing you might wish to do is to click the ‘File’ option of the FileZilla menu bar, then choose ‘Copy current connection to site manager’. This will save your connection (the Quickconnect bar only holds 10 entries) and will also allow you to edit it, should that be required.
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