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Website Backup – What, Why and How?

Have a website backup plan
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I’m going to get strait to the point here.  YOU NEED to back up your website.  I am stressing the “you” part and the “need” part.  It’s not optional and it should be done by you. Do not assume it will be done by your web designer and not definitely not your web host. (unless you are specifically paying them for website backup services)

What is a website backup?

A website backup is a copy of all code, database, content, images, email settings.  It includes everything needed to make your website function.  If something catastrophic happens – and it does – you want to have a recent website backup easily and readily accessible for you to restore from.

Note:  I say recent website backup.  An old copy of your site is better than nothing, but having a current website backup will make things SO much easier.

Think of all  the technology in your life.  Personal computers, work computers, mobile devices, mobile phones.  You backup your data on these devices regularly. (RIGHT!?). Your website is another set of data on a computer that needs to be backed up.

Why backup your website?

Most of my clients are small business owners. They wear many hats, and manage most parts of their business themselves. For many business owners, their website is their whole business, or a primary source to generate new customers, leads, sales.  Unbelievably, most new clients that come to me do not have any sort of website backup plan in place for their site.

Think about it, if your website is a primary source – the lively hood of your business, why would you not protect it?   If you do not backup your website and you lose it, you have to start over. Can your business afford the cost rebuilding your website and all the downtime while it is not functioning?

“Well, I don’t need to, my host takes care of backups for me.”

This comes back to my first sentence, stressing the YOU part.  When I ask someone if they have a backup and they say my host does this, know what I say?   HA! good luck with that.

Most likely a small business is using shared hosting services to host their website. Think about it. The big companies manage thousands of web servers, each hosting potentially thousands of websites on shared servers. What are the odds that they are proactively looking out for your best interests? Do you think they are  keeping a good and current backup for you that is easily accessible? They may say they do, but when it comes down to it, think again.

I had a new client recently that came to me with some website updates they needed help. This is what prompted me to write about being proactive and taking your own website backups.

I was hired to do some simple content related WordPress maintenance on a new website. I did the work, then a day or two later they asked for another change.  When I back, I saw a white screen when loading their website. I’ve seen this many times and know there is a fatal code error somewhere.

From what I could see in the error logs, it was a server related error, not code. By this, I mean the problem was not with the WordPress code, but something related to the computer that hosts their website.  I told them to send a ticket to their host.

My client followed up with me, including a screen grab of the chat conversation with front row support.  They said it was a problem with the theme and support made a code change to switch it.  They said the problem was fixed.  When I logged into the website to review again, I saw more server errors related to the version of PHP being run. I also saw that they existing WordPress website was gone. There was a very old and outdated version was there.

I asked the client if they had a website backup. They did not. I told them to contact their web host again and ask for a backup of the website to be restored. Incredulously, the host said they did not have one. I asked them if their web designer had provided them a backup of the website when the job was complete.  They had not. I told them to contact the web designer and request a copy. Unbelievably, the web designer would not provide a backup copy unless they paid him $350 for the website code.

I told them to follow up with their host again. (This is a huge web hosting company.) Right on the web hosting landing page they claim they make weekly offsite backups:

Web host backups

The host could not provide a backup, the website was lost.

Lesson learned – It’s your website, make sure YOU have a backup that you have access to. By this I mean a copy on your cloud service like Google Drive, Dropbox, or your local hard drive.  If this client would have had a backup, I could have had their website restored and running in less than an hour.

When would I need a website backup?

So many things can go wrong with a website. Here are a few examples of when someone has contacted me to fix their website problems. These websites needed to be rebuilt. If I would have had a backup, I could have had them back online in a half hour.

  • You/your web designer/someone accidentally deleted a file or folder.
  • The database gets corrupted.
  • You forgot to pay your web hosting bill and your hosting service was terminated.
  • Your web hosting company went bankrupt.
  • Your web designer is unethical, malicious, a jerk, and won’t give you your website code.
  • Your web designer’s contract said you only own the content, not the website code.
  • Your web hosting support modified your website code and now its broke. (Never let web hosting support touch, edit or modify your website code!)
  • Your web hosting company upgraded the server and now your website no longer works.

 

Create Website Backup Plan

You should implement a website backup plan to decide the following.

  1. How often you will make a backup.
  2. What will be included in the backup.
  3. How you will generate a backup.
  4. Where your backup be stored away from your host.
  5. How to restore your website in case of disaster.

The technology used to build your website will determine what you need to backup, and how you do it. The answer is not the same for every type of website.

 

I hope you understand now that a website is a piece of software/technology. It needs backed up and maintenance. Don’t wait until you are in “crisis mode”. Make a backup plan now, and implement it.  Contact me if you need help.

 


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