Backing up your website regularly is an important protective measure. While it might seem like an unlikely scenario, there are many things that can go wrong on your web server to result in the total loss of your site’s data. From malware to hard disk failures to simple mistakes in server maintenance, your business website is too important to leave up to chance.
Fortunately, keeping regular backups of your website means that in the event of a catastrophic failure, you can almost always recover your website in short order. With an appropriate backup procedure in place, restoring your website can be a quick and easy process.
Whenever possible, you should run daily backups of all your website files and databases. At the very least, weekly or even monthly backups can save you from the nightmare of a total loss scenario.
A full backup includes all of the files and database records associated with your website. Website files include all of the scripts, text, graphics, video and other resources stored on disk from your website’s “home” folder. In addition, there are often files stored outside of your standard “home” folder such as email accounts, traffic logs and user account details. These are saved a little differently depending on your Web host, but usually they are all accessible as standard files from your top-level account folder.
Databases usually need to be “dumped to disk”. In other words, database information is not stored in the same place as your website files, and varies a little bit depending on your Web host. Usually there are tools provided by your host to store and recover your databases. If they aren’t immediately apparent, get in touch with your Web host to determine the appropriate way to back this information up.
Backups can be stored in many places – on your own computer, to a CD, to a backup disk, or a remote server. Select the best option for your needs – typically a remote backup server is the most efficient and safest place to backup this information, as long as they use appropriate encryption and security measure. Saving to a backup drive or your own computer is fine too, but make sure that any sensitive information is encrypted and that physical access to the backups is limited.
The most basic backup method is to transfer all of your website files via FTP to a separate location. This can be time-consuming and often requires manual intervention. There are also software programs available to automate the process of FTP backups, and to perform incremental backups, which only transfer files that have been changed. This can result in much faster backups and smaller transfer sizes.
Using a remote storage method (saving to the “cloud”) can be a more efficient and easier way to perform backups. There are myriad backup services out there, and depending on the size of your backups and the sensitivity of your information, this can be a cost-effective and very secure choice. If you have a huge amount of data on your server, you might opt to backup only critical files to the cloud on a regular basis, and keep some of the much larger files stored to a backup drive.
Most good Web hosting companies offer backup services. A great hosting company will already perform regular backups of all their accounts, but usually these are limited to monthly or weekly backups, and recovery often means restoring every single file. Often, hosting companies will offer more advanced, regular and incremental backups as an optional service.
Whatever you choose – make sure you have a backup policy and procedure in place if you care about your website.