How To Enable Server Backups in WHM/cPanel

Posted on by Alison Gray
Reading Time: 7 minutes

The most important thing you can do to protect your server against data loss is to take regular backups. Properly configured backups are a critical aspect of the maintenance of any website and can mean the difference between a quick recovery and rebuilding a site from scratch. If a critical file were to be deleted accidentally, a database became irreparably corrupted, or your site was infected with malware, would you be able to restore your data and get your site back up within a few minutes? 

If you can’t answer “yes” to these questions, then it’s time to review your backup strategy.

Liquid Web customers have access to a variety of backup methods including Guardian and Manage backups, but this article focuses exclusively on cPanel backups. Because Liquid Web does not manage cPanel backups, you will want to ensure that you have both backups enabled.  You will also want to ensure that you have formulated an appropriate backup retention policy. 

check available disk space









You must not attempt to store so many backups that your server runs out of disk space. Ideally, you will want to reserve at least 10 percent to 20 percent of your total disk space for backups. cPanel will need to (temporarily) use this disk space to create backups and update itself and other software packages. Your operating system and database both rely on having disk space available to perform these core functions. Luckily, there are threshold options that you can enable to avoid running out of disk space due to backups. Additionally, there are server health options available to help prevent long-running processes.


Preflight Check

  • This article covers backup configuration in WebHost Manager using cPanel’s “new” backup system. Legacy backups still are supported in cPanel for backward compatibility, but the current system is preferred as it is designed to be more efficient and reliable.
  • These instructions specifically apply to WHM version v80.0.23; the same steps should apply to any other cPanel versions. Again, legacy backups still are supported in cPanel for backward compatibility, but the current system is preferred as it is designed to be more efficient and reliable.

Step #1: Configure Global Settings

Log in to WHM using your server’s root credentials, and select Backup Configuration under the Backup section in WHM’s main menu. You can begin typing “backup” into the search menu to narrow the list of menu options.

backup config










In the Global Settings section, select the radio button next to Enable to turn on the backup system.

Note: The Enable button only turns on the backup system; you still need to instruct cPanel to back up accounts, and which accounts to back up, which we cover later in this article.

Now choose the type of backups you want cPanel to create:

  • Compressed: Compressed backups use the least amount of disk space, potentially giving you more restore points than could get with the other methods. Compressed backups take longer to complete, and the process of restoring an individual file requires the extra step of first extracting the file. In many cases, this type of backup represents the ideal option. As a side note, the size of a compressed cPanel backup will range from about 25% to 75% of the actual account size. This can also depend on several factors, such as the types of files owned by the account. Until the backups have completed, and you can see the actual size of each archive, it’s generally safe to estimate that a compressed backup will take up about half the space of the account itself. Once the backups have run, you can use the actual values to determine how many compressed backups to retain.
  • Uncompressed: Uncompressed backups complete faster, and the restore process is quicker because these backups do not need to be extracted from the archive. However, they take up the same amount of space as the account itself and as such, allow for fewer restore points. If you choose to use uncompressed backups, you must ensure that your retention policy does not allow you to run out of disk space.
  • Incremental: Incremental backups allow you to retain only one daily, one weekly, and one monthly backup. This provides fewer restore points than either of the other options. Because the backups are uncompressed, each will take up the same amount of disk space as the full account itself. This being said, individual files can be restored quickly but, changes to your data are synced each time backups run. This means that a corrupted, compromised, or modified file you want to restore could have been synced to your backup if the change was not noticed immediately.

Step #2: Choosing the Scheduling and Retention Options

The Scheduling and Retention section allows you to enable or disable daily, weekly, and monthly backups, and specify the number of each type of backup you wish to store. For daily and weekly backups, you can select the days of the week on which backups will be taken. For monthly backups, you can choose whether you want them to be taken at the beginning, the middle of the month, or both.

scheduling and retention














If you select both the first of the month and the 15th of the month for monthly backups to run, each will count as one monthly backup. When choosing both backup date options, you will need to retain two monthly backups for each month you wish to retain.

Step #3: Select Account Backup Options

The Files section allows you to select which accounts to back up and choose more detailed options for each:










  • We enabled the backup system itself in Global Settings above, and next, we’ll instruct cPanel to back up user accounts by checking the box next to Backup Accounts.
  • Click the Select Users to open a new browser window (or tab, depending on your browser settings) where you can select the specific cPanel accounts to back up. Next, click the ON button in the Backups column for each domain you want to back up, and ensure that the buttons in the Legacy are turned off (if you’re not using the legacy backup system). Note that you can access this page directly at any time by clicking Backup User Selection in WHM’s main menu.

backup user selection









  • Now we choose whether you want to back up accounts that are suspended, as well as access logs and bandwidth data for the accounts. Also, you can select whether you wish to back up system files and/or the individual accounts (which is necessary only for server restoration. The individual account can be restored regardless of your choice here).

Step #4: Select Database Backup Options

In the Databases section, select whether you want to back up databases per account, the entire MySQL directory, or both.







In most cases, you’ll want to choose Per Account and Entire MySQL Directory.








Step #5: Select Backup Location

The Configure Backup Directory section allows you to choose whether you want to back up locally or externally.

configure backup directory












  • The Default Backup Directory is pre-configured, and in most cases should not be changed.
  • If you elect to “Retain backups in the default backup directory“, local backups will be retained even if you configure the server to transfer them to an external destination automatically. 
  • The “Mount Backup Drive as Needed” option should, in most cases, remain disabled, as an external drive set up by Liquid Web will be configured to mount at boot.

Step #6: Select Remote Transport Options

The “Additional Destinations” section allows you to set up a method for transferring your backups offsite via SFTP or other means. To do so, select a Destination Type, click the Create new destination button and provide the requested credentials in the form.

additional destinations





Step #7: Review and Save Backup Settings

Once you’re satisfied with your backup configuration, click the Save Configuration button to apply your settings.

How can we help?

Our Support Teams are standing by with knowledgeable admins who have intimate knowledge of these and other web hosting technologies, especially those discussed in this article. If you are uncomfortable walking through the steps outlined above, give us a call at 800.580.4985, or open a chat or ticket with us. If you’re running on one of our Fully managed servers, we will be happy to assist, directly implementing the changes in this article that you require.

Contact Us:
Toll-Free 1.800.580.4985
International 517.322.0434

Avatar for Alison Gray

About the Author: Alison Gray

Alison Gray is currently an IT Project Manager at Liquid Web and has been with Liquid Web for nearly 10 years. In 2015, She earned her Bachelor's Degree in Media and Information from Michigan State University. In her free time, she loves spending time with her girlfriend and 3 kids. You can usually find her at a basketball court or some sort of sporting event. If the weather's right, she loves being outside in the yard finding some sort of yard work to do.

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