What does backing up my website mean?
Your website is a combination of many files and possibly one or more databases. Backing up is the process of saving a copy of these files and databases so that you can restore them again if something goes wrong with your website. Ideally, your website backup strategy would ensure that your backups are held in a different location than your website, as if your server breaks you’re likely to lose your backup too.
We originally published this article back in 2015. Whilst the reasons for having a website backup strategy are as strong as ever, technology moves on and so it’s worth a bit of a refresh.
In addition, a recent fire at the OVH data centre in Strasbourg, France demonstrates a real-world# reason for backing up your website – to an external storage area.
Fire causes lost websites – what happened at OVH?
OVH are one of the largest cloud server providers in the world, operating 15 data centres in Europe, and hosting many, many thousands of websites, including some major businesses. A fire broke out on Wednesday 10th March 2021, totally destroying one of the four data centres based in Strasbourg, and partially damaging another. Some of the more critical services were still unavailable many days later. Less critical services would take much longer to restore.
But… some data will not be recoverable by OVH – ever!
Problems like this happen. Not often, but they do happen.
For many business owners hosting a website on a server in this data centre, the disruption caused by the service being unavailable would be bad enough. It might take some time, maybe a week or more, but the service will eventually be restored. They might have a website backup (or backups), but what if these backups were stored on the same server as their website? What do you think the outcome for those businesses might be?
It’s likely they would need to build again… from scratch. If it were your website, what would be the implication in terms of rebuilding cost? What would be the impact of your website being unavailable whilst it was being rebuilt?
This will undoubtedly be the case for a lot of OVH customers. For those, a backup strategy would probably have saved them!
Would you believe it?
Up to 40% of SMEs don’t back up their data.
If your site is one of those, could you cope with the cost of rebuilding and the lack of web presence whilst the site is being rebuilt?
Is website backup necessary – doesn’t my web host do this?
Unless they have specifically told you otherwise, your web host is under no obligation to back up your site for you. Generally speaking, the cheaper your hosting, the less likely it is that your hosts are backing your site up, but even expensive hosting doesn’t guarantee regular backups of your site.
If you lose your website and do not have a backup, you may well need to build it again from scratch. How much time and money is that going to take? Even the simplest of websites can cost more than £1000 to rebuild, and you’ll likely be without a web presence for at least 3-4 weeks (don’t expect your web developer to be immediately available).
If you don’t know if your web hosts are backing up your website…
ask them now!
Here are a few reasons why you might need to restore your site from a backup copy...
- Your server crashes – this will be out of your control, and whilst your hosts may well be able to recover the situation and get your site up and running again, this won’t happen quickly if the disk has been physically damaged (or destroyed)
- You make a big update to your site and need to put things back as they were before your update
- Your website gets hacked – we’re seeing an increase in the number of websites that get hacked. Whilst there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of hacking on your website, if your site does get hacked then a backup may be your only method of ensuring you get a clean version of your site up and running again
- You may fall out with your web host and decide to move your site elsewhere. If you don’t have any external backups and don’t have access to your website control panel, you might have trouble getting hold of a copy of your website to install on your new hosting server
What’s a good website backup strategy?
To some extent, the frequency of your backups is determined by risk and your website update rate. If you have a fairly static website that changes every month or so, then weekly (or even monthly) backups might be a good solution. However, if you have a transactional site (e.g. eCommerce) you might need to backup every hour, or possibly even consider some sort of incremental backup solution, to make sure that you don’t lose any transaction history when restoring.
Your database may well change more frequently than your website files (assuming you use a content management platform such as WordPress). So, you might want to consider backing up your database more frequently than your files. This should speed up the backup process, as your database will often be much smaller than your file structure.
This is the backup strategy for our own website…
Server backups are taken nightly by our hosting company. 6 backups are stored at any one time, and so on the 7th day, the first backup file is deleted. This means that we can easily recover your website from any point during the past week. The backups are stored within the same data centre, but on a different server.
In addition, we take daily cloud-based backups [in an EU-compliant location], keeping 90 copies. The cloud is a good place to store things like backups, as the cost is generally very low (or free) and files are easily accessible to you. As ours is a WordPress site we use a backup plugin to automatically schedule these backups.
Whatever type of website you have, make sure you back it up regularly and reliably. You can initiate backups manually, for example by going to your control panel or using FTP (as long as you don’t have a database), or you could use a script to do it automatically (you might need to ask your web host to help). If you use a common CMS framework such as WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla you could use one of the many plugins and extensions that will do the backup job automatically for you – many of these are free.
Don’t assume your backups are good ones. Sometimes backups fail, or the website owner fails to include ALL of the files in the backup process, so try to restore your backup to a clean hosting space from time to time just to make sure that it works.
Why not let us review your website backup strategy and recommend solutions for you? For a free assessment and a quote for providing a comprehensive backup solution, please get in touch…