The importance of backing up!

by Martin Reed on 10 March 2007 in Snippets

My apologies for the lack of posts on Thursday and Friday – I had the power to my home cut off completely the whole time. It meant I could not work, could not watch TV, could not enjoy the luxury of hot water and heating, and could not even go online!

This did give me time for reflection though – what if the power went out at your web host? Do they have backup power generators? Site mirroring? When the power comes back on, will your host be able to restore your site from a backup? How old will the backup be?

These are questions which everyone running a website should immediately know the answer to. Even if your host does offer backups you should always keep a personal backup – in particular any databases or scripting you are using.

Static web pages and many images can be recovered from sites such as the WayBackMachine – simply enter your website’s URL and you should be able to recover much of the source code and images. It would be foolish however to rely on this as updates are not always regular and not all images are stored. It’s far easier and safer to ensure you keep copies of all your files yourself.

Backing up your site is relatively simple – especially if your host provides a control panel such as cPanel; then it really is just a case of clicking a link and letting the download begin. If not, you can download copies of your site files and scripts via FTP on a regular basis (I would recommend backup periods of no longer than a week) and copies of your databases through phpMyAdmin for example.

Backups may be something not on your list of priorities – but if the unforeseen does happen, make sure you are well prepared to act. The alternative is the loss of all your hard work.

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Tom March 13, 2007 at 8:28 am

Definitely good advice here. As the weeks, months, and years roll by, it can be all too easy to be lured into a false sense of security. Time passes by without incident; and the need for timely backups becomes apparently less urgent. Daily backups become weekly backups, which over time become monthly backups, and so on. Though you should be making backups more frequently as your community grows, that’s not always how it happens in reality. Eventually you may even stop making them entirely. All is well and nothing ever goes wrong anyways, right?

This blog entry hits close to home for me. Power outages and server crashes are not the only cases where a recent backup can be a lifesaver. Sometimes complete and utter negligence on the part of your hosting provider gives need for that backup you made last night… You did make a backup last night, right?

This is what happened to one of my partner’s websites when the host had decided to migrate over to a brand spanking new server… Without making a backup of all of the websites they host. Oh, sure, they had a backup of my partner’s website. That backup was over 6 months old.

The real loss was not the flatfiles or scripts, which we both had offline backups of ourselves. The real tragedy here was the loss of the database. 6 months of forum posts and member registrations. Our own backup was a few months old itself. It was a harsh lesson to be learned. And the lesson? Always make frequent backups of your databases yourself; never rely on your webhost to do it for you!

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