Backing Up Your Website – The Why, the When, and the How

by in Web Development

Backup your WebsiteI wanted to switch gears away from SEO a bit and talk about backups. We all know that backups are critical. But, how often are you backing up your files? Nothing is worse at the office or home then working on a project and realizing that all of your files and data have been lost!

Lost data could be due to a crashed hard drive, malware attack, or just user error. You definitely want an external drive connected to your computer with incremental backups. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

Well, the same holds true for websites. Even the most reliable web hosting service can suffer a catastrophe. Servers crash, updates go wrong, and hackers are always trying to get in. Too often business owners make the mistake of assuming that because they are using a web hosting service their website’s data is totally safe and secure.

In my experience, most web hosting providers do not backup your website. So, what can you do to avoid data loss and make sure you have a backup?

Common Causes of Data Loss

There are many reasons why websites crash, or suffer irretrievable data loss. Some of these causes are out of your control, and it is always best to have a contingency plan in place so you can recover quickly if a website is compromised or important data is lost. The following are some of the most common causes of data loss to which even the most well protected websites are vulnerable:

  • Crashed Servers – Like any piece of computer hardware, servers can crash and files and data can become corrupted. Whether it’s a mechanical issue or human error a crashed server means your website is offline until you can upload your data and files to a new server. If you haven’t backed up your website’s data, you may be offline for good. This is not so typical in a web hosting provider and applies more to your own server.
  • Malware – Every website is vulnerable to viruses and trojan horses. Malware can worm its way into your site without you ever knowing. Backing up your files will keep you prepared for any malware attack, and will allow you to restore your site to peak performance. This can happen with a poorly coded website through such things as SQL injection.
  • User Error – Mistakes happen, and whether it is an employee or a contractor user error can result in the loss of important files or data, typically through shared FTP access. Preparing backup files for your website will allow you to recover from most human errors.
  • Bad Updates – Regular updates keep websites secure and running smoothly. However, updates can go wrong, and when they don’t go as planned it is important to have a backup file so you can restore your website quickly. This is especially true for WordPress plugins.
  • Hackers – If you are running a small website, you may think that it is too insignificant to capture the attention of a hacker. But hackers don’t just go after the big fish. They go anywhere personal information may be stored. If your site gets hacked, you will need your backup files to get your website up and running again. I’ve seen this over and over again when a site is hosted on a “cheap” hosting provider or with simple FTP passwords.

How To Backup Your Website’s Files

Backing up your website isn’t difficult, and there are a number of different ways to go about it. Which one works best for you will really depend mostly on the level of maintenance and a little on budget. Here are a few typical solutions to backing up your website:

  • Your Web Hosting Service – Quite often, web hosting providers will offer backup services as an additional option. This keeps everything in house, and if you are happy with your web host may be the most sensible option.
  • Your Web Developer – If you hired an independent contractor to design and develop your website, have them prepare a complete backup file for you. They are already familiar with the parameters of your site, and should be able to prepare a backup quickly and inexpensively. At Zadro Web, we backup every website, including the database…always.
  • Use the Cloud – You can install a plugin on your site that uses a cloud based service, like Dropbox, to store important backup files. This will keep your backup files current and up to date on a daily or weekly rotation. A great WordPress plugin is BackWPup and offers many cloud solutions, with Dropbox being one of them. Amazon AWS is also a great solution.
  • Save Your Files to Your Computer – You should always have a copy of your website files. Ask you web developer to provide you a ZIP file of your site. Best case scenario is that you would do this even if you are exploring another option for backing up your website. Having two sets of backup files is never a bad thing.

Backing up your website should be standard practice and each option above has a different cost. Sometimes we just forget or don’t find time. Catastrophes do happen and if you don’t have backup protocols in place your site can be offline indefinitely. So plan ahead, speak with your web hosting service and web design company about backup procedures, and make sure your website is prepared for any contingency. If you’re not confident in your web hosting provider, send us an email to discuss some managed options.

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