If you’re a ManageWP user then you probably know all about our scheduled backups feature. If you’re anything like me then you’ll be a little bit in love with it — I thought you couldn’t buy peace of mind but it turns out that I was wrong. There are few things more reassuring than those little green icons that inform me of successful backups:
However, occasionally we can be presented with the dreaded red icon that signifies a failed backup. If you don’t use ManageWP’s backup functionality then your equivalent to the red icon, whatever it may be, is probably just as frustrating and scary. The reality that our precious site data isn’t being backed up is one we’d all rather avoid.
In my experience one of the most common causes of failed backups is simply the sheer size of your website. If you take a few minutes to convert that lumbering beast of a site into a more lithe version of itself, you may find that backups are no longer an issue. And even if you are not having backup issues, I would recommend that you read the following and put my advice into practice so that you don’t run into problems in the future.
Step 1: Take a Manual Backup
You should never do anything to your site without first taking a backup. If this rule is not already firmly drilled into your head, make sure that it is before you proceed.
With the above said, I strongly recommend that you take a manual backup of any files that you will be editing or removing during this process. You may not know what those files are yet so this step is something to bear in mind throughout the process rather than put into action right now. Just remember: for each of the following steps make sure that you take a backup before making any changes.
You will need FTP access to take backups and carry out some of the following steps. If you’re not set up with an FTP client yet I recommend FileZilla (for both PC and Mac). You can get the FTP login details from your hosting provider.
Step 2: Remove Redundant Themes and Plugins
Let’s start with the basics. There are two things that you should know about deactivated themes and plugins on your WordPress dashboard:
- They take up unnecessary space
- They represent a security risk (your site can still be breached via deactivated themes and plugins)
That’s two good reasons to get rid of deactivated themes and plugins. I would also recommend that you take a close look at your activated plugins and ask yourself whether you really need all of them. It could well be that the functionality present in two plugins is actually covered by one (for instance, WordPress SEO by Yoast includes XML sitemap functionality, therefore negating the need for a separate XML sitemap plugin), or that you have a bloated plugin whose resource intensiveness is not worth the added functionality. Use the Plugin Performance Profiler Plugin to single out the main offenders.
Beyond mitigating the two issues above, removing plugins should also result in an increase in site speed, which is never a bad thing.
Step 3: Change Your Media Settings
The media files on your server probably account for the majority of your website’s bulk. This is to be expected, but WordPress is particularly notorious for creating various duplicates of the same file and making your media folder two or three times larger than it needs to be.
It comes down to image sizes, which you can define on your WordPress dashboard by navigating to Settings > Media:
With these three image sizes defined, WordPress creates three separate image files in addition to the version you upload. That’s four images for each file you upload of which you may only use one.
You probably don’t need more than one size of a particular image, and if you do, you’d probably be better off uploading them in their respective sizes (so that you have control over cropping etc). And that is precisely my recommendation — start uploading images in the correct size and dimensions so that you do not need to do any fiddling on the WordPress side.
But what about those pesky image files that WordPress creates? Simple — just change the Max Width and Max Height fields to zero in the Settings > Media screen and WordPress will no longer create them. This may have adverse effects depending on how your theme is set up so I would advise that you take a backup and experiment before committing.
A final tip is to use a lossless optimization plugin like WP Smush.it to reduce the size of your image files when they are uploaded. It’ll only take a minute to install and activate the plugin and from then on it in it will do its job without you having to lift a finger.
Unless you have major size issues I wouldn’t worry about deleting the old image files that you don’t use. There is no foolproof automated way of doing it and it is probably more trouble than it is worth.
Step 4: Remove Old Backups
Many WordPress sites become huge and bloated due to the fact that full backups are stored on the server. Putting the size issue aside for a moment, this is not a particularly effective way of backing up your data as if the server upon which your website resides is corrupted you may well lose both your site and the backup. That is why we recommend scheduled remote backups to cloud services like Dropbox and Google Drive.
Going back to the size issue, you should get rid of the backups on the server and ensure that whatever process that is causing backups to be stored locally is stopped (of course, you should set up a remote backup before taking this step). The key is to look out for suspicious folders (e.g. ones labelled “Backups”) and particularly large files — for the most part, there are few instances where you will be storing files in excess of more than 10mb on your site (videos and audio being two potential exceptions).
This is something to look out for if you have been using a free third party backup plugin or service — you may find that the developers have little regard for how much space they take up on your server. If on the other hand you are using a more professional service such as ManageWP’s scheduled backups feature, you may find that a copy of the backup is stored locally as well as remotely:
However, in this case you should make sure that only one backup is being kept and that duplicates aren’t piling up over time. The tool should be excluding that backup folder from being included in the regular backups (as ManageWP does), which negates the size issue.
Step 5: Remove Random Files
There are plenty of things that may appear on your site’s servers that simply don’t belong there. One personal example I have is “core” files (e.g. a file labelled “core.129483”) — an issue that can arise occasionally. These files (which are actually core dumps) can be upwards of 100mb each and appear in droves, yet they shouldn’t be there at all. You can safely delete them and should also inform your hosting provider of the issue so that they can resolve it.
As a rule of thumb, any file that is particularly large should be viewed with suspicion. As I said previously, there are few times when a website will utilize a large file. I am not however suggesting that you should start deleting large files willy nilly — it pays to be sure that what you are deleting isn’t conducive to the running of your website, even if you do have a backup ready should something awry happen. If you do find something suspicious then turn to Google or the WordPress support forums for help.
What Tips Do You Have?
There’s five tips which are likely to result in you having a far smaller site than you did before without it making any difference to the user experience. Your backups should be error free and also run more quickly and take up less space — a nice trifecta of wins.
I would be curious to know if you have any alternative suggestions for reducing the size of your WordPress website. If you do please share them with us in the comments section!
Photo Credit: arimoore
I was finding a solution to turn down my site load speed from 14.4 sec, nothing helped other then the methods given here. Thank You
I know this post is old, but it popped up on a search and I thought I’d see if you might still answer.
When you change the media files defaults, I suspect that will only affect image sizes moving forward, right? Do you know of any easy way to delete the unused sizes?
This explains why when I share content to LinkedIn on many sites there are 3 identical images. I’ve been pondering how having more than one image per post would affect how huge my database already is.
Successful mom blogs who get about one-third of their traffic from Pinterest create a separate, custom image for each post. The SocialWarfare plugin I’m running (inexpensive annual premium, but worth it) allows us to upload 3 separate images for each post.
I used to like that they used the regular featured image for Twitter, an optional second image for Facebook and LinkedIn, and an optional image that can be optimized for Pinterest. Unfortunately for me, I noticed it didn’t send my regular featured image to Twitter so I’m not sure if I can get it to use that anymore or not.
Ideally, we would create a Pinterest image for each post. But they are larger and cannot be compressed as small, so I’m not sure that is a good idea. I may just create them for some content so I’m not increasing my database size so much.
I saw a tool to do a content audit with the thought of deleting some content because my blog is 8 years old. But other SEOs advise against deleting it. I haven’t made up my mind yet. Do you have an opinion on deleting less important content to reduce the size of your WordPress database?
An alternative solution to fix images to the new size setting could be a plugin called “Regenerate Thumbnails”. This will resize your images automatically if you just remove the old unwanted ones you can keep your SEO work in tack with the preexisting images and just adjust the sizing.
Hope this helps!
I tend to add feature image in each post. Is there a way we can tell wordpress to deliver feature image in a very compressed way ?
awesome, this helped. I had too many large photos on my site (I’m a photographer). Now my site is a lot snappier!
Hi Moritz, long shot seeing as this was 2 years ago, but I am in the same profession and upload rather large images to my blog. How did you manage to resize your images without having to re-upload smaller versions of them?
Thanks a lot
Could you please tell me how to locate and recognize the kind of core files you say we need to remove? I’d like to see if I have any.
I have some files with the word core in them such as /wp-admin/network/update-core.php
but I’m thinking they may be normal files. I’d like to be able to distinguish the difference.
Could you please tell me how to locate and recognize the kind of core files you said we need to remove? I’d like to see if I have any.
I have quite a few files with the word core in them such as /wp-admin/network/update-core.php
but I’m thinking that’s a normal file. I’d like to be able to distinguish the difference.
Nice article! It would be nice of course to find a plugin that can address at least 5 common plugins instead installing each one separately. Too bad WordPress is still very much reliant on plugin to make it function powerfully. 😉
Thanks, Tom – simple and helpful, exactly the kind of quick reference I was looking for.
Any plugins and themes you are not using should also be deleted. They take up space and computing resources because when WP runs, it scans them too.
Great tips here Tom. Will definitely try this and will post result. Currently my page size is 2.1mb. Thanks!
Thanks Nic! Glad it helped!
Interesting tips. My site has like 2.2mb size and I was complaining about the page size to my host.
After doing some manual minification, managed to push it down 1.7m. Looking for more ways to hit 1 mb only @_@
Thanks for sharing these tips 😀
Thanks man… I was trying all the things in the world to improve my WP website performance… I got all the answers here…. Really appreciate it….
Web Design Nottingham
ANother idea, similar to those mentioned in the post is to clear up spam comments if there are no ‘anti spam’ features installed on your site. Many times ive logged into a clients WP site and found 1000’s of spam comments that need to be cleaned. Remember all unused data in the database is using resource and impacting on performance, no matter how small.
I’ve invariably install smush.it plugin on any wp website i have access to 🙂 https://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-smushit/
Many people are reporting WP Smush.it as borken in WP 3.5 though
On 5 WP sites i manage, running 3.5.1, shush.it works as expected, with no problems except when yahoo.com service is down
One more tip – remove old core files.
Since 3.5 upgrade I have also been able to filter the Media Library for unattached images. This has generally generally got rid of a few.
I do wish it would go one step further and filter any images out that are not being displayed on the site. For example all the extra resizes Tom eluded to and images that have been removed from posts but remain stashed away…
Checkout Imsanity, it’ll search for large images to chop down and limit the max size, not just the “large” size. Glad to help!
Nice plugin, just gained 30% size back on a client’s site.
Great article, Tom. I can’t backup two of my clients’ sites because of massive storage required by image files.
Would you be kind enough to write an article about storing image files on Amazon S3 with tools such as WP2Cloud and “Amazon S3 for WordPress with CloudFront”?
My questions would be
* How do I get these started and operating when sites already have massive image files served on the WordPress sites’ servers?
* What do I need to add to my hosting providers’ servers? What if the host won’t let me add that stuff?
* Will ManageWP backup the site without having to backup all the stuff that’s on S3?
* We’d want to backup the sites before implementing the above. But we can’t back up the sites. Any suggestions?
I would happily write a post about that if I knew how to do it 😉 I’m afraid it’s not something I am remotely familiar with.
Got it. I might have to explore it because of necessity.
I’m somewhat of an expert with WP backup, what tools are you currently using? What’s the size, I have a few 2GB sized sites successfully backing up to S3 with some script help and BackupBuddy, ManageWP etc.
After a pro-bono client uploaded 1.5GB of high-res images into a pro-bono non-profit site I built, I found the Imsanity plugin which resolved the problem. You set max settings, and then any future uploads automatically get resized to web-friendly dimensions. There is also a batch option which finds and resizes all the existing images. I now install it on all sites that I know will be image heavy.
Hi Robert. Nice Plugin recommendation!
I will use it on a few of the biggies or as Tom says “red icon”s. I hope the developers stay up to speed with updates.
Thank you, Robert. Do you know if there is an option to exclude specific files from resizing? I want to resize everything except the header.
I would add review your image sizes.
One of the rookie mistakes I see people making is uploading their huge digital cam pics to their blog and then they wonder why it takes so long to load.
Do yourself a favor and get a copy of photoshop and optimize your pics for the web.
I actually recommended in the post that you upload images in their respective sizes 😉
Hey Tom, I’ve recently been reading about gzip compression. Sounds like its main purpose is to lower bandwidth use, but maybe it’d also help reduce the size of a website?
Anyway, thanks for the tips! Now that I’m actually building up some content on my blog, I need to start taking #1 seriously.
Not sure to be honest! No problem 🙂
If you are finding lots of .core files then you really need to get someone experienced to look at your server.
A core dump file is only produced by default when some program on your server dies a horrible death because something is wrong.
More than a few core files is a good indication that there is either something wrong with your server configuration or an intermittent fault with your hardware.
In general, you don’t get core files when your server is set up correctly and there are no issues causing server processes to crash.
Thanks for the tips Sarah — really useful to know 🙂