The Importance of Backing up Your Website
Posted in Business on May 24, 2019
Not all web hosting companies have the same policies regarding 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 a necessary process, and 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 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 back-up service, she called them up to restore her website from their archives. Unfortunately, they only kept nightly back-ups, but they were able to retrieve a back-up that was a week old. The problem was, the hack occurred a few weeks prior, and the only back-ups available 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 some of her website by trying these two simple tricks. I retrieved all of 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 copy of your website that was there the last time Google crawled your site. The date of this previous 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 terrible happened. Google will show the date in a grey box at the top of the page.
If that does not work, there is the Internet Archive. Go to The Way Back Machine, and enter your website address and click “Take me back.” If your site is archived there, you will see a timeline and a calendar page. 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 back-up policies. Keep in mind that nightly back-ups sound good, but only if you catch a mistake shortly after.
Just like files on our home or office computers, essential data should have a 3-2-1-Backup strategy. This is:
I have back-ups running on my servers nightly, weekly and monthly. Once a month I download the entire set of these back-ups (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 back-ups, then some plugins will run regular back-ups. Some data can be emailed or stored in an online service like Dropbox or Amazon S3.
- 3 Copies of anything that you care about
- 2 Different formats (Don’t store everything on the same type of storage device)
- One offsite back-up (If something happens like fire, flood, earthquake or theft, not everything should be in the same place)
There are additional plugins out there that will back-up your files for you. 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 back-up than it is to rebuild it.