Where’s your data?

When a WordPress website is created, some parts if it are stored as files on your server. For example, any images you upload are stored as files, as are plugins and themes. If you were to log in to your server, you would see these files in a folder.

However, there are many parts of your website that you won’t see in any files on your server. Instead, they are stored in a database on the server.

Here are some of the things that are stored as data in the database:

  • The text of all your posts and pages, including all revisions and edits you’ve made to them. Even posts and pages you’ve deleted are stored in the database.
  • Every comment you’ve received on your website, including spam comments and comments you’ve deleted.
  • Data that is collected from users through plugins and forms on your website, such as membership information, email addresses, and possibly credit card information. This data may still exist even after you delete the plugin that collected the information.
  • Your username and password, as well as the usernames and passwords of all other users on your website.

For the most part, WordPress manages its database seamlessly and you don’t have to think about it. You just type in your content, click Publish, and your data is stored in the database and displayed on your website as if by magic.

Of course, sometimes things may not go so smoothly:

  • If you see the message Error establishing a database connection when trying to view your website, it’s because your website has lost its connection to its database and can’t display any information. Usually this is caused by something happening temporarily on the server and it resolves itself. If the error persists, professional assistance is needed.
  • After several years of maintaining a website, your database may become bloated, because it contains all data ever entered on the site — including all previous revisions, deleted pages, and other information no longer in use. This may slow down your website, in which case your database could use a clean-up.
  • When malicious hackers attack a website, they are usually targeting the database. They are either looking to steal data from — or add their own data to — the database. Fortunately, WordPress is constantly being updated for security, which is why regular software updates are important. There are also free security plugins that can help protect the database from unwanted intrusions.

The best precautions for protecting your data are:

  • Having a trustworthy web-hosting service
  • Keeping plugins and software updated
  • Maintaining regular backups of your database and website files
  • Using strong passwords
  • Installing a security plugin to monitor your website.

As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions or need any help.