Behind the scenes, WordPress uses a database to store all the information about your website. This includes everything from the posts you create to the comments users make on your website. It also stores the usernames and passwords of people who are registered on your website.
If you have an eCommerce website based on WordPress, the database will also store information about the different products and services that you sell.
The WordPress database also plays a role in the storage of any settings or configurations related to the website or installed plugins and themes.
This means that the database plays a crucial role in WordPress websites. In this tutorial, we will look at different WordPress plugins and tools that you can use to make sure your website’s database is safe, secured, and optimized.
Table of contents
- Why install WordPress database plugins
- Best WordPress database optimization plugins
- Best database backup plugins
- Best database migration plugins
- More database plugins
- Useful database tools
- Frequently Asked Questions
Why install WordPress database plugins
A WordPress site can work just fine without the help of any dedicated database plugins. Many people don’t install any database-related plugins on their websites, and it still works. So, why should you bother about installing any plugins or using any tools at all?
They can provide better website performance
As we mentioned earlier, WordPress uses its database to store all the content related to your website like posts you have created or comments that users have made. This also includes any post revisions, comments (including spam comments posted by bots or other malicious users), and trashed items, among many other things. The trashed items could be deleted posts, pages, or comments. Plugins that you install on your website also store their configuration options in the database, effectively making changes to the WordPress database. Since not all plugins do a proper cleanup upon uninstallation, you may end up with residual database entries.
Using database optimization plugins will help you clean up all this clutter so that your website can efficiently handle database queries, resulting in faster page load times and reduced server load.
A faster website that is running efficiently will also provide a better user experience for the visitors as they won’t have to wait a long time for the website to load. This can help you reduce your bounce rate and improve your chances of being ranked higher in search engine result pages.
An optimized database will consume fewer server resources and execute queries quickly, resulting in a faster website. This is a win-win for you because any improvement in your website’s speed will improve user experience and indicate to search engines that your website deserves a higher ranking.
They will keep your data safe
Keeping data safe is an important part of strong WordPress security. Whenever you are working with any kind of data, it is always a good idea to have a backup. Things can go wrong when you least expect it. Having a database backup plugin will ensure that all that data is not just in your website database but also stored somewhere else.
Consider a scenario where you or someone else managing your website somehow corrupted your website database. The fastest way to get your website up and running, in this case, would be restoring the database from a backup.
The same thing is true for any accidental deletion of data. Someone working on the backend might delete many of your posts or all user comments by executing a wrong MySQL query.
They will make migration easier
There are a variety of reasons why you might want to migrate your website data. For example, you could be changing your web host, or you could be cloning or duplicating your website for testing.
Some capable plugins can also help you merge or split content from two different databases if you are looking to combine the content of two websites into one.
In short, these plugins will make database management a hassle-free experience for you.
Best WordPress database optimization plugins
We have already discussed how a WordPress database can get filled with clutter over time. A WordPress database optimization plugin will get rid of this unnecessary data like spam comments and orphaned metadata from your website.
These plugins usually also perform some other tasks, such as optimization of database tables by repairing and optimizing their structure. They do this by reorganizing data and defragmenting indices.
They also clear any expired transients, which are just temporary data stored in the database for caching. These transients can accumulate over time, and cleaning them regularly will help save space and improve performance.
The first plugin that you should consider using is the WP-Optimize plugin. This plugin is an all-in-one solution for all your WordPress optimization needs. It can do a lot of things, such as optimize your database, compress website images, and cache your website.
This plugin promises to remove any unnecessary data that is filling up your database. This includes things like trashed comments, unapproved comments, or spam comments. It will also remove any expired transient options.
You can also defragment your tables with a single button click. This defragmentation will result in faster index scans and query performance.
WP-Optimize gives you fine control over how you carry optimizations. You will not only be able to specify which parts of the database are optimized but also the frequency at which these cleanups and optimizations happen. You can also configure it to keep data from a specified number of weeks from being deleted during optimization.
LiteSpeed Cache is probably the most feature-rich plugin if you are looking to optimize your website. It will integrate with your website better than any other optimization plugin and squeeze out every last bit of performance.
The plugin developers say that the general features of this plugin are available for everyone, irrespective of the hosting service backend. However, you can get a tight integration of the plugin with your website if your web host is using a LiteSpeed server.
Besides the usual caching and image optimization features, LiteSpeed Cache also offers several options to do a database cleanup and optimize your database.
You can get rid of a specific type of content, such as spam comments, trashed posts, trashed comments, post revisions, trackbacks, or expired transients with simple button clicks. You can also clean everything at once if you like.
The plugin offers you settings to clear post revisions based on their age or number. For example, you can specify how many revisions it should keep or what is the maximum age of a revision after which it should be discarded.
Advanced Database Cleaner
The first two plugins in our list are all-in-one solutions for improving website performance through caching, image compression, etc. However, the Advanced Database Cleaner focuses exclusively on cleaning up your database.
This plugin promises to do a good job of cleaning and optimizing a WordPress database. It also gives you more control over the items that you want to clear out of your database compared to other plugins.
Like other plugins, you can use Advanced Database Cleaner to get rid of old post revisions, trash posts, spam comments, trash comments, and pingbacks. However, it also allows you to delete orphaned metadata related to posts, comments, and users.
It also shows you all the information that it will remove from the database before it deletes anything. This makes sure that you don’t delete anything useful by mistake.
Scheduled cleanups can help you remove all the clutter automatically. You can create as many scheduled cleanup tasks as you like to get rid of some specific items at fixed intervals of time.
The good news is that this plugin also offers multisite support. This means that you will be able to clean up the database clutter from all your installations through the main site.
The WP Sweep plugin is also a good plugin for cleaning your database. It helps you get rid of revisions, auto drafts, deleted, and unapproved comments. You can also use the plugin to remove any orphaned or duplicated items such as the post metadata, comment metadata, user metadata, etc.
The plugin claims to use delete functions that WordPress provides instead of directly running MySQL queries whenever possible. For example, it will use the built-in function wp_delete_post_revision() to delete all post revisions instead of executing a MySQL query to delete them.
WP Sweep also shows you details about the items that it will remove. Initially, it shows you the count of items that it will remove, like 200 post revisions and so on. After that, you can get more details about the items to be deleted.
It is important to make sure that you have a backup of your database before you do any sweeps. This is because the sweeps are irreversible, and the data you delete will be lost forever.
Bonus tip: Install an anti-spam plugin
While database optimization plugins can help you remove spam comments from your database, it would be even better if you could protect your WordPress website from being spammed in the first place.
CAPTCHA 4WP can help you fight spam with ease. You can use the plugin to add CAPTCHA to any form on your website, including the comment or login forms. With multiple CAPTCHA service providers to choose from and compatibility with plugins such as WooCommerce, Contact Form 7, and many others, CAPTCHA 4WP is a truly versatile plugin that is also easy to use.
Best database backup plugins
There is a saying that you should hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Having backups of your database is like preparing for the worst-case scenario.
You know that all your WordPress website data is stored in a database. If the database gets corrupt and becomes unusable for some reason, your website will become unusable, too.
All your blog posts are in the WordPress database. If something happens to your database, your years of effort will be gone. It is the same with the user comments or any forums that you have created using WordPress. All the community content is gone.
Therefore, you must have a backup of your website.
A corrupted database might not necessarily be your fault. It can also happen due to the carelessness of others. In any case, a backup will help you minimize any damage and be up and running in no time.
UpdraftPlus is one of the top-rated plugins for creating backups. You can use it to create backups for your WordPress files as well as your database.
The file and database backups are independent. This means that you can independently specify the interval after which the backups are taken and how many backups are retained for both files and the database.
The plugin gives you the option to store your backups on a variety of services, such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon S3, UpdraftValut, Rackspace Cloud, FTP, and DreamObjects. The premium version opens up Microsoft OneDrive, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Storage as backup options.
UpdraftPlus works across a vast range of WordPress deployments. The backup process is very simple, and you control which files make it to the backup. UpdraftPlus allows you to specify if you only want to backup the plugins folder, themes folder, or uploads folder. You can also include other directories from the wp-content folder in this backup if you like.
WP Database Backup
The WP Database Backup plugin is another good option for anyone who is looking to back up their WordPress database. You can use the plugin’s one-click feature to back up your website database with a single button click.
According to plugin developers, it includes the option to automatically back up based on a schedule preset by you. You can also download the backup file directly from your WordPress dashboard. The plugin is easy to install and simple to configure. You will be ready to create your backups within minutes.
You can provide multiple storage destinations for the backups. This also includes services like Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon S3, and more. You can also request that the backup reports be sent to specific email addresses. You can also sort and search through the backups based on their recency and size.
One interesting feature of the plugin is that you can exclude specific tables from being backed up if you like. You can also enable auto-backups before every plugin, theme, or WordPress code upgrade.
The BackWPUp plugin also comes with plenty of features to address all your backup needs. It provides a single-click solution for backing up your entire database.
The plugin claims to support WordPress XML export, which means that you will be able to import your files into a blog with a regular WordPress importer. You can also schedule your backup job to automate the whole process.
The plugin allows you to just save all your attachments, core files, plugins, and themes in a single file. You can also set up a job so that the plugin updates a backup copy of your file only when the files are changed.
When backing up the site’s database, you can tell the plugin to only back up specific tables. You can also use the plugin to set up scheduled backups and automate the whole process.
Security is a priority for BackWPUp, so it encrypts everything from connections to local files and directory access. The pro version of the plugin also supports differential backup of files. You can check the pricing on the plugin’s official website.
Bonus tip: Monitor file changes
We just mentioned that BackWPUp can update a backup copy when files on your WordPress installation change. Sometimes, these changes might be due to a malicious user getting access to your account and adding malicious code.
You can protect yourself in such scenarios by using Website File Changes Monitor. This plugin keeps an eye on any changes to the files in your WordPress installation. You will get alerts whenever files are added, modified, or deleted from your website.
Best database migration plugins
A database migration plugin will help you quickly transfer your WordPress website database from one hosting environment to another. The primary reason for using a database migration plugin is that it will automate and simplify the transfer process, leaving fewer chances of error compared to a manual transfer.
Database migration plugins are handy for anyone who wants to switch their web host. They are also helpful if you are working on a staging and development environment for your website and want to push your changes to the live version of the website. You can also use these plugins to clone or duplicate your website.
All-in-One WP Migration
The All-in-One WP Migration plugin is a popular and trusted solution for anyone who wants to migrate their website.
The migration process consists of three simple steps. First, you install the plugin. Second, you click the Export button to bundle your whole website into a single package. This package will contain the website database, media files, plugins, and themes. Third, unpack the bundled file at your new location by simply dragging and dropping the bundled package into the WordPress dashboard screen of the plugin.
The plugin developers point out that it supports all kinds of environments. It works equally well for old and new versions of WordPress and PHP. According to its developers, it also supports all versions of MySQL and MariaDB.
Some highlights of the plugin include its ability to auto-replace your website URL during import. The plugin also keeps accessibility in mind and is WCAG 2.1 AA level compliant for people with disabilities.
The Duplicator plugin is also a great option if you want to migrate or clone your website. The plugin allows you to move, migrate, or clone your website with zero downtime.
You can use the plugin to either duplicate your live website to a staging environment or move your website from the staging environment to a live one. You can also bundle up your entire website in a single package to make it available for reuse and easy distribution.
The good thing about using a plugin like this is that you don’t have to deal with any SQL scripts to do any imports or exports. The plugin takes care of everything for you.
Are there some plugins that you install on all the WordPress websites that you create? Usually, you begin by installing WordPress. After that, you install and configure the same initial set of plugins. This process takes up a good amount of time.
You can give your productivity a boost if you regularly set up your own or your client’s WordPress websites like this from scratch. All you have to do is create one template website that has all of your favorite plugins, themes, and configuration options. Use the Duplicator plugin to bundle it all in a single package.
After that, you can just unpack and install this single package wherever you want to install your new website. This new website will already have all your plugins and configuration options set up.
More database plugins
Optimization, backup, and migration are three common tasks for which you will be using WordPress database plugins. However, there are many other useful plugins for working with a database in WordPress that you might need to use from time to time.
The Participants Database plugin is helpful for people who have to maintain a database of people or other entities. All you have to do is create a form that asks for all the information you want to store in your database.
According to the plugin developers, you have full control of the database, which allows you to determine exactly which fields are stored for each record. The database can be populated in three different ways. You can do it manually from the admin dashboard. You can also import multiple records at once using a CSV file or let people fill out the forms on your website to create new entries into the database.
It has support for shortcodes that you can place on any WordPress pages or posts to display your forms. You can also set up the plugin in a way that users either get a thank you message or some reward after completing the signup.
There will be times when you would want to only reset part of your website instead of starting from scratch. The WP Reset plugin can help you in such situations.
The free version of the plugin allows you to do a site reset that will either delete, reset, or modify the comments, media, widgets, transients, posts, pages, and data in default WordPress tables. It is a good idea to take a backup of your website before you make any changes because they can’t be undone.
The plugin also has a bunch of tools to help you avoid a complete database reset and only reset certain aspects of the website. For instance, you can just reset the theme options, just delete plugins, just delete themes, or just delete transients.
You can also use the plugin to either delete or empty custom tables in your WordPress database. Keep in mind that this feature only affects tables that have the same prefix as the one you defined in the wp-config.php file.
Some things like the site title, site address, site language, and the current user will be restored.
Better Search Replace
When you move your WordPress site to a new domain, it is essential to do a search and replace operation to update all the internal links and references to the old domain in your WordPress database. Better Search Replace is an excellent plugin if you want to do this.
The plugin claims to have many useful features, such as support for serialization of all tables, the ability to select specific tables, and the option to do a dry run of your search and replace operations to see exactly what it affects.
As usual, make sure that you have a backup of your database before you proceed with any replacements.
Useful database tools
While working on WordPress databases, one typically encounters several limitations and challenges. For example, large WordPress database backups cannot be restored through web-based solutions such as phpMyAdmin (the most common available database administration tool hosting providers use), and one cannot simply use normal search and replace queries to replace data in the WordPress database.
BigDump: Staggered MySQL Dump Importer
Typically, one can only import and restore a WordPress database backup or MySQL database dump of up to 32MB through phpMyAdmin. Unfortunately, some hosting providers implement even lower limits, such as 8MB.
To be able to restore large WordPress databases using phpMyAdmin, use BigDump. BigDump is a simple script that executes only a small part of the huge MySQL database dump and then restarts itself. The next session of the script starts where the last session was stopped. Therefore, with BigDump, you can still import large WordPress database backups without being limited by hard memory limits or server runtime limits.
To restore a large WordPress database dump, download the BigDump script from the official BigDump website.
Search Replace DB Database Tool
When you migrate a WordPress blog or website, or when a WordPress database is infected with malware, you need to find and replace several database entries. In such cases, one cannot simply modify the database manually because WordPress uses serialized PHP strings in the database, and therefore, the integrity of the MySQL database will be broken if changes are done manually.
For example, if a malicious user changes several legitimate links in the content of your WordPress website, e.g., from https://www.melapress.com to http://www.maliciouswebsite.com, you need to search for such entries in the WordPress database and replace them. Such a process cannot be done manually because the length of the string https://www.melapress.com is not the same as the length of the string http://www.maliciouswebsite.com. Therefore, upon changing them, the indexes for the serialized strings do not match, and the database integrity is broken.
To safely search and replace strings in a WordPress database, use this Search Replace DB tool.
FlySpeed SQL Query
Not everyone feels comfortable when it comes to writing SQL queries to manipulate the tables in a database. The syntax can be a bit tricky for beginners, and there is also the risk of executing a poorly written query that results in corrupted or deleted data.
If you have trouble writing your SQL queries in plain text, you should consider using the FlySpeed SQL Query tool. It offers a visual query builder with a drag-and-drop interface.
You can use FlySpeed to browse and edit your database records in grid form. It is also possible to use the tool in read-only mode if you don’t want to make any changes to the data.
MySQL Workbench is a great database management utility tool that you can use for free. It provides a visual interface for users to design, model, generate, and manage databases. You can also use it to create, execute, and optimize your SQL queries.
Some of its features are based on improving the performance of different SQL queries by constantly monitoring them, enabling you to operate your website smoothly by optimizing slow SQL queries.
Frequently Asked Questions
WordPress uses MySQL or its sister database MariaDB. MariaDB is a fork of MySQL, which the creator did after MySQL was acquired by Sun Microsystems (and later Oracle). Interestingly, Maria and My are real-life sisters; both the daughters of Monty – the creator of both MySQL and MariaDB.
There are numerous database plugins that can help you manage the WordPress database. Make sure you check out our article for an extensive list of the best WordPress database plugins.
By default, the WordPress database prefix is ‘wp_’. However, this is often changed for security reasons, so it can vary from one setup to the next.
My is the name of the daughter of the guy who created MySQL. SQL stands for Structured Query Language.
WordPress database security and proper administration are critical to the overall health of your website. In this article, we learned that WordPress uses a database to store all your website content. The health of your database can determine the performance of your website. Therefore, you should optimize your database using an optimization plugin.
You should also seriously consider having a backup of your database in case something goes wrong and corrupts your database. The plugins we mentioned can help you create backups with a single click.
Finally, you will occasionally need to migrate your website content, and the WordPress migration plugins listed in this post will make the whole process a lot easier.