September 15, 2008

Backing up a DNN Site

DotNetNuke site administrators often are tasked with maintaining their sites as well as ensuring that a proper backup/recovery plan is in place.  An important part of this is to have a proper site backup, therefore I am re-visiting my two previous versions of backup guides in this updated article.  I will walk though the items needed for backup, and considerations when creating the backup, specifically if you are looking to migrate a site to a different server.  I will then discuss the process to create a backup in both SQL Server 2000 and SQL Server 2005, and lastly I will quickly touch on the third party options available for performing site backups. 

What to Backup?

Simply put, it is a best practice to backup your ENTIRE DotNetNuke directory on the web server as well as a full backup of the database. Some people will say that you can get by with only backing up the "portals" folder, this is NOT correct! To successfully restore a DotNetNuke installation you must ensure that you have all module .dll and other code files you also must have the same validation and decryption keys within the web.config.  I have found that the only real method to keep your data safe is to create a backup with all files.  Given the limited file size of the core DNN installation I have not found this to be a hinderance, especially since the additional files that exist in my website are all related to the content available within and is something I must have a backup of anyway.

Backup Considerations

Before we proceeed with the backup it is important to note how/why you are creating the backup. If you are looking to create a backup for disaster recovery purposes alone you can continue on to the next steps, however if you are creating a backup file in an attempt to restore the DotNetNuke site to a local server, or another address you will want to perform one additional step. This is to add the "PortalAlias" for the destination URL BEFORE you take the backup. This will ensure that when restoring your site that you have the proper alias configured.

To add a new portal alias you must be logged in as the host user account. You may then select "Site Settings" from the "Admin" menu, if you scroll to the bottom of the page that appears you will be able to click on an "Add HTTP Alias" link to add your new site alias. This is where you will put the alias to the new location. By adding this to your site before the backup you will ensure that you do NOT have to modify the DotNetNuke database manually when you go to restore the system.

Performing the Backup

Performing a backup of DotNetNuke is a fairly easy two step process. First I will discuss backing up the DNN installation directory, then I will discuss options available for backing up the database.

Backing up the DotNetNuke Directory

You have two options when backing up the DotNetNuke directory. If you have direct access to the server, you can simply right click on the DotNetNuke directory and select "Send To:" -> "Compressed (Zipped) Folder". This applies for most versions of the windows operating system. You will then have a file named where dnn was your directory name. This zip file will contain all needed backup files, you will want to store this in a safe location.

If you do not have direct access to the server and can only access it via FTP you will have an additional step to obtain a zip file for your site. You will want to connect to your FTP site and COPY all files to a temporary location on your local computer. Once all files have been copied you will want to create a zip file including ALL files and folders that were just downloaded. 

NOTE: Depending on your hosting provider to save yourself time, some will automatically zip your website up for you so you have only 1 file to download!

NOTE: if using a program such as WinZip for zipping, ensure that the "Use Folder Names" option is enabled so that the folder structure is preserved within your zip archive.

Backing up the DotNetNuke Database

To backup the database you must have access to the database server and the file system of the database server. If you are in a hosted environment you will need to rely on your hosting provider to obtain a backup, or you will need to look into a potential third party solution to backup the database from within DotNetNuke. If you have full access to the server please use one of the below sets of instructions to backup your database..

Backing up a Database with SQL Server 2000 and Enterprise Manager

Follow the below steps if you wish to create a databse backup file from Enterprise Manager for SQL Server 2000 using Enterprise Manager.

  • Navigate to your specific database in Enterprise Manager
  • Right click on the database and select "All Tasks" -> "Backup Database.."
  • Ensure that "Complete" is selected for the backup type
  • Click the "Add" button in the "Destination" section
  • In this section provide a full file path to the desired backup file, typically named DATABASENAME.bak where DATABASENAME is your database name
  • Click "Ok" to generate your backup, you will receive a success notice upon completion

You will now have a full backup file containing all tables and data for your database.

This process is very similar with SQL Server 2005.

Backing up a Database with T-SQL Commands (2000 and 2005)

The fastest method to backup your database is to use T-SQL commands.  You simply need to create a backup device which specifies where your backup file should go, then you simply perform a 'BACKUP DATABASE' call to perform the database backup.  The following scripts show you how to create a backup file called MyBackup.bak in your C drive which will contain the entire dnn441 database.  You will need to adapt this script to fit your configuration.

--Create Device!
EXEC sp_addumpdevice 'disk''MyBackupDevice''C:\MyBackup.bak'

--Now backup the db
TO MyBackupDevice

Regardless if you used one of my methods above or had your hosting provider create a backup for you once you have obtained .bak file you have everything you should need to restore your site to its current state. How often you perform this type of backup really depends on the amount of activity, the frequency of actual changes, and the amount of loss you are willing to accept. A full backup plan is something that needs to be considered on an individual implementation basis and includes many factors.

Third Party Options

Some third party backup modules exist on the market that will allow users to generate SQL Server backups without direct access to the database server. Below are a few links to these utilities. I have NOT used any of these utilities and do not recommend ANY of them, I am simply providing these links as a starting point for your research into a solution.

It is important to know when looking at third party solutions that you are introducing an additional dependency into the situation and that it can cause you more troubles in the long run if something were to fail. Additionally as mentioned previously native backups are more sound items to rely upon.


I hope this tutorial/post has provided you the needed information to prepare a successful DotNetNuke backup. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments!

tags: DNN, Tutorials, DNN Administration
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