The Importance of Backing up Your Website
Posted in Business on Apr 24, 2015
Not all web hosting companies have the same policies on backing up their client’s websites. Some, if you read all the small print, will put the responsibility directly on the customer. Backing up is something that is vitally important, and the process should be reviewed before committing to any service provider.
Case in Point:
Recently, I was talking to a person who mentioned that her site was hacked earlier that month. Like a lot of people, she did not visit her own website every day, so it was a few weeks before she noticed anything was wrong. The hackers had gone in and deleted most of her website files and text.Knowing that her host company provided a backup service, she called them up to restore her website from their archives. Unfortunately, they only kept nightly backups, but they were able to retrieve a backup that was a week old. The problem was, however, that the hack attack was a couple of weeks old at that time, and the only backups they had were of the hacked site.
Her website and all the text that she had written for it was gone. But, I was able to save the text for her by trying these two simple tricks. I was able to retrieve the text, but, unfortunately, the images were no longer available.
To retrieve a lost file on the web, first, try Googling your website. In the search results, you should see the page titles in blue, followed by the URL for the web page in green. To the right of the URL, there is a small green triangle. If you click that, there is a menu that pops up that should say “Cached” and possibly “Similar”. Choose “Cached”. This will load a cached copy of your website that was there the last time Google crawled your site. The date of this last crawl will depend on how popular your website is, and how often new content is regularly added to it. However, if you are lucky, then it will be before anything bad happened. Google will show the date in a grey box at the top of the page.
If that does not work, there is always the Internet Archive. Go to The Way Back Machine, and enter your website address and click “Take me back”. If your website is in the archive, you will be brought to a page that has a timeline of years across the top and a calendar below that. Click on any of the dates circled in blue on that page, and it will take you to a snapshot they made during that day. The Way Back Machine stores over 400 billion web pages, and depending on how your site was set up at the time, all of your images might not be linked up correctly. But, again, if you are lucky, you will have a few different snapshots of your website available.
Hopefully, you never find yourself in this situation. Ask your hosting company about their backup policies. Keep in mind that nightly backups sound good, but only if you catch a mistake by the very next day.
Just like files on our home or office computers, important files should have a 3-2-1-Backup strategy. This is:
- 3 Copies of anything that you care about
- 2 Different formats (Don’t store everything on the same type of storage device)
- 1 offsite backup (If something happens like fire, flood, earthquake or theft, everything should never be in the same place)
At Integral Creative, I have backups running on my servers nightly, weekly and monthly. Then once a month I download the entire set of these backups (in case something ever happened to the data center, where my servers are located. If you already have an existing website using a content management system, and are with a server that does not make multiple backups, then there are plugins that will run regular backups. They can also email a copy of the database to you, or copy all of your files to your Dropbox account.
There are additional plugins out there that will back-up your files for you. But here are a few that I am familiar with:For Wordpress there are:
For ExpressionEngine there are:
Just remember, it is much cheaper to reload a website from a backup, than it is to rebuild it.