Are you using WordPress to power your church, ministry, or nonprofit website?
Chances are, that’s exactly what you are using.
There are many great reasons to use WordPress. It’s easy to use, has a great learning curve, and is relatively inexpensive to maintain. However, this abundance of usage and ease of operation makes it easy for us to get in over our heads pretty fast.
One minute you’re feeling great because you changed a font size, the next minute you’re breaking out in a cold sweat because you just lost 8-hours of work on the landing page.
It’s What We Do
Time and time again I am in contact with organizations who run into these problems. Let’s be honest, I’ve worked for enough nonprofits to know what happens: You have to pull-off top grade projects on a shoestring budget.
So that means you have to either:
A) Learn how to do it yourself.
B) Hire someone within your budget.
Too many times these options end in disaster.
This is why it’s important to understand the fundamentals of your WordPress website. Having even the most basic knowledge and understanding of how your website works, will not only help you work on your website, but also help you ask the right kind of questions when hiring someone else to do the work.
Why Else You Need to Know This
Did you backup your website? This is, after all, the only way to undo any mistakes that are made. When you are using command/control z all the time, it’s easy to forget that there is still some computing that has no undo.
Your WordPress website is one of those things that does not benefit from undo.
So back to my question, did you backup your website? Did you backup, all of it?
3 Places Your WordPress Changes Are Saved
There are three fundamental places that any and all WordPress data and changes are made:
1. The Server Files
Any and all of your files are stored on the web servers file system. This is where all your WordPress files reside and are updated, as well as your theme, plugins, and uploaded images/media. If you’re “editing your CSS files,” this is being done to your CSS file on your server. Updating or adding a new plugin? This is changing the files on your server, where your website is running. Uploading new pictures to the about page? Those images are being uploaded to the server. Downloading all of these files as a backup or using a backup service for these files is great, but this isn’t the only place changes are done.
2. The Server Database (SQL)
Technically, this is still the server. However, this is a completely different area. In the simplest of terms, the server database stores giant spreadsheets of all your data. Every blog post, page, user, setting, option, and selection made on your WordPress website is stored here. If this goes away, your website is empty. If you had to choose what you lost due to a technical meltdown, it would be anything besides your database. This is one of the most important elements of a WordPress website, and one of the most overlooked. In fact, easy to use themes and plugins that give the user the ability to change page layouts, colors, etc., store all of this data in the database. Also, keep in mind that when you’re restoring previous versions of your database, more than likely you are restoring ALL OF IT — so anything that occurred since that previous database version will be lost.
3. 3rd Party Services
Even those who have lots of experience with WordPress may have just had an “ah-ha!” moment. There are some plugins that are actually SASS apps, accessing data from another server altogether. OptinMonster, CoSchedule, and Hubspot, just to name a few, are some plugins that store some data in your server database, but also store options and information on their own server. I’ve seen organizations make a URL change, do a search and replace throughout all their server files and database, only to find that there were still a few things not working properly. Why? Because they were running a few plugins that stored data elsewhere. Jumping into the WordPress Admin or logging into their account made a quick fix, but understanding this from the beginning would have saved a lot of headaches. Thankfully, this isn’t a practice that is used very often.
Understanding the different places your WordPress data is stored will empower you to make better choices and avoid costly mistakes. The next time you’re working on your WordPress site, ask yourself:
- Where is this data being stored?
- Is it being backed up?
- How would I revert these changes — and should I?
- What effects would it have on the rest of the website?
These are also good questions you can ask someone who is working on your website as well — making sure they not only know what they are doing, but ensure they aren’t putting your data at risk.
Do you have any questions about your WordPress data storage?
Let me know down in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.