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How to Maintenance Your WordPress Database

WordPress Database Management Tips

Many website owners who use WordPress like it because it lets them realize their website goals. With that, many don’t think about how WordPress is database-driven. Hence, they never think about the additional security and resource concerns you see me mention on a pretty regular basis.

To put it simply, your database is the beating heart of your WordPress website. So, we want to ensure we keep your database humming along and error-free. This helps with site performance and SEO as well.

For non-techies, the thought of doing anything with a database can be pretty scary, right? So, with that in mind, I’ll make it super easy for you to get a process in place without having to be fearful.

Today, we’ll cover the very basics you need to do. And I’ll expose you to some options for your consideration. Most, once set up, are on auto-pilot. The rest are a few simple tasks that you can do regularly to avoid any headaches.

Why Maintenance Your Database?

Regular maintenance of your WordPress database is essential for optimal performance, security, data integrity, and compliance with regulations, ultimately contributing to a positive user experience and the success of your website.

The tables in your WordPress MySQL database will, over time, become sluggish as data is added, removed, and moved around. Regularly optimizing the database tables will help keep your site running as efficiently as possible. The thing is, this won’t happen by itself.

Did you know that WordPress creates a revision of a post or page every time you save a new post or modify your pages? So, subsequently, if you edit a post five times, you might have four copies of that post as revisions.

Your comments table might also contain tons of spam and unapproved comments. This quickly adds lots of rarely-used data to your database tables, making them unnecessarily bloated and slower to access.

Over time this dings your site’s performance because the database has to work harder to manage all that data. Being Google stated that websites should load in 2 seconds — every little bit helps.

Maintaining your WordPress database regularly is crucial for several reasons:

  • Optimal Performance: Regular maintenance helps keep your database running smoothly, ensuring fast website loading times. Over time, databases can become bloated with unnecessary data such as post revisions, spam comments, and expired transients. Cleaning up these items can significantly improve performance.
  • Security: Outdated plugins, themes, and WordPress core files can pose security risks. Regularly updating these components helps patch vulnerabilities and protect your website from potential security breaches. Additionally, cleaning up unused or outdated plugins and themes reduces your site’s attack surface.
  • Preventing Data Loss: Regular backups (off-server, too) are essential to safeguard your website data. In case of unexpected events such as server crashes, hacking attempts, or user errors, having recent backups ensures that you can restore your website to a functional state without losing valuable data.
  • Database Optimization: Optimizing your database tables can improve efficiency and reduce server load. Techniques such as repairing and optimizing tables help to reclaim unused space and improve database performance.
  • SEO and User Experience: A well-maintained website is more likely to rank higher in search engine results and provide a better user experience. Fast loading times, secure browsing, and fresh content positively contribute to SEO and user engagement.
  • Compliance: Depending on the nature of your website, you may be subject to various compliance requirements such as GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) or HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). Regular maintenance ensures that your website complies with relevant data protection and privacy regulations.

Backing Up Your Database — Including Off-line

Did you know that in 2024, approximately 30,000 sites were hacked daily? Daily. The benefit of having a database maintenance system in place is that maintenance includes additional backups.

Backups that will come in handy if you do get hacked. We’re talking backups above and beyond the backups provided by your web host.

If you follow my articles, you know I’m big on security, and if you are a smartie, you most likely have already hardened your website. This includes archiving backups you can rely on if something goes haywire.

PRO TIP: Google also urges website operators to sign up for its security notifications in the Google console. Doing so allows you to get notified if anything happens that you may not be aware of.

Your webhost should offer daily and on-demand backups. Some believe that is sufficient. Not so — we also want to download backups off the server regularly.

Think about it… That backup file won’t do you any good if the server your website, and therefore your backup copy is also on, gets compromised or crashes. You’ll have no files to restore your website.

Before you perform any database maintenance, you’ll want to create a backup, just in case. I use WPMU, and I can log in to my control panel and create a backup with one click.

Your Mileage May Vary Depending on Hosting

You may need to export your MySQL database and website files via the file manager on some hosts. As with anything, some hosts make specific processes easier than others.

Every Friday, I log into my hosting accounts and download copies of the most recent backup (or files). That way, I have a copy on my side that has everything added or modified for that week.

PRO TIP: Don’t want to worry about off-site backups? Check out my White Glove Support, where I’ll take care of that for you — and more.

You can also FTP into the server and download the latest backup file to your computer on some hosting accounts. The next step is to put a copy of that download on a flash drive or file storage service (such as DropBox) just in case your computer crashes.

  • Server crashes => You have a copy on your hard drive.
  • Hard drive crashes => You have a copy on your flash drive.
  • Your site gets hacked => You have a clean copy available to restore.

Redundancy is a good thing.

Don’t know how to FTP?

FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. FTP software is used for logging directly into your web hosting server. I use File Zilla — which is free.

FTP is a direct way to access your website’s files without having to go through your cPanel or web hosting dashboard, which may be confusing or limiting. Check your web hosting provider for your specific “FTP” settings.

If you don’t want to deal with FTP, check out UpdraftPlus. Updraft allows you to schedule backups and how many to keep on hand, and you can download and restore with just a click.

As we’ve discussed before, plugins use resources, too. Therefore, it is recommended that you accomplish some tasks without relying on an additional plugin. So, if you already have a ton of plugins, learn how to use FTP.

UpdraftPlus dashboard to download and restore backups

Using UpdraftPlus, you don’t have to log in to your hosting account or use FTP to download your backups. Instead, you can download the files you want (and even restore backups) from within your WordPress dashboard.

PRO TIP: On an aside, understanding how to use FTP is a handy little added skill to have if you need it. In particular, if you have to troubleshoot your WordPress website because it is not working correctly.

Okay, we now have our database backed up and have a copy off-server and offline. Next, we want to clean things up a bit by repairing and optimizing.

Optimizing and Repairing Your Database

I recently discovered an excellent plugin called Advanced Database Cleaner Pro. If you are familiar with database structure, tables, and settings, this plugin made a significant difference on my site, and here’s why.

My site was optimized but had a decade-old database. That means it likely has many orphaned tables from plugins and themes I used and subsequently deleted over the years. Most folks don’t know that residual database tables are left behind when you uninstall and delete plugins and themes.

Advanced Database Cleaner Pro

Many years ago, my site was producing 520 Server errors; I contacted my host to bring it to their attention. That server-side error indicates “your server returned an empty, unknown, or unexpected response.” At that time, my host pointed out:

The current autoloaded data on your site is 2,807,154 bytes. This is ~2,007,154 bytes larger than 800k. We want that total to be under 800k or so for good performance.

Wow! Knowing how databases hold onto data over time, I knew I would eventually address this. However, now was the time to eliminate this as a performance issue. I had tried the free plugins in the WordPress repository, and they could only do so much.

Advanced Database Cleaner Pro was the solution I needed to complete the job. It was easy to use and allowed me to minimize my database’s autoloaded data to 172843.

Since then, I’ve pruned other tables that were not autoloaded but were there for plugins and themes no longer installed on my website. I wish I had ADCP sooner!

For those less experienced…

WP-Optimize Plugin

WP-Optimize will:

  • Remove all unnecessary data (e.g., trashed/unapproved/spam comments, stale data) plus pingbacks, trackbacks, and expired transient options.
  • Compact/de-fragment MySQL tables.
  • You’ll have control of which optimizations you want to apply.
  • Schedule automatic weekly clean-ups.
  • Retain a set number of weeks of data during clean-ups.
  • Show database statistics and potential savings.

WP-Optimize clears out most unnecessary data, cleans up your database tables, and even recovers space lost to data fragmentation. This plugin also offers caching, compression, and minification features to help improve your site’s performance even further.

But… Just be sure you don’t already have plugins (or your hosting) doing these additional tasks (caching, compression, and minification) before using them. Having multiple caching plugins or tools does not mean more caching — it could cause conflicts.

Backup, Repair, Optimize.

Backing up, repairing, and optimizing are now on autopilot. That’s sweet! But keep in mind that a more detailed manual approach may be needed to be thorough.

Start by getting a copy of that database off the server for safekeeping. Then, do what I do and add a note to your calendar to remind you to download the latest backup every Friday.

Now you have the basics to keep your database running smoothly and backed up. Get the above in place and take the time to embrace FTP.

You don’t want to think back and wish you did because of a crash or compromise. Don’t be that guy (or gal).

At your service,
WordPress Consultant Judith

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