What would your website be worth without its data? Nothing.
That is why backing up your websites is such an essential part of working online. Data can be lost for a number of reasons including malicious attacks, hacking, hosting problems and human error. Do not think that it cannot happen to you. Some of the largest and most respected hosting companies online have experienced outages and lost important data.
You should never consider backing up as something that is optional: You have to back up. It is as simple as that.
So how do you back up? Well, most hosting companies offer automatic back ups and will restore your website from a backup if your website goes down. Sometimes backups cost an additional fee, sometimes they are included in the hosting plan; it just depends how the hosting company has priced their services.
The backups that hosting companies provide are the easiest to restore. You simply email your hosting company and ask them to restore the backup and “Hey Presto!” – Your website is back online. In the majority of situations, the on-site backups that hosting companies offer is sufficient. There is, of course, one major downside to relying on the backups that hosting companies provide.
Hosting companies store backups in the same servers as their customer's hosting accounts. Therefore, if a hosting company has a major outage in their data centre, there is a high possibility that your backup files have been compromised too. The worst case scenario is that you lose your live website and your backup files. It is a scary thought. With one strike, you could lose years of hard work and see your business value drop from thousands or millions of dollars…to zero!
Even the most expensive hosting companies cannot give a 100% guarantee that your files can be restored in the “unlikely” event of outage. That is why you always need to have an external backup solution in addition to the backups that hosting companies provide in-house.
Managing Your Own Backups
I personally keep a backup of all important website files on Dropbox. This includes all HTML, CSS and PHP files as well as images, zip files and anything else I need including documentation. The great thing about this setup is that it allows me to sync website files across all of my computers. It also lets me access important files and notes on mobile devices such as phones and tablets.
If your website data is stored in a database (most websites do), you also need to backup your database regularly. Small databases that are not updated regularly can be backed up manually whenever you make a change. To do this, all you have to do is login to your database management area (e.g. phpMyAdmin) and export the database to your computer (I export directly to my Dropbox folder).
It is clear that a different solution is necessary if your website database is updated frequently. If I only backed up this blog every few weeks, I would lose weeks worth of posts if my data was lost. Unfortunately, it is just not practical to backup a database manually every day. That is why most website owners automate their website backups.
There are a range of backup services available to you. Many were created specifically for certain web hosting control panels. cPanelSiteBackup, for example, can perform automated backups up to 5GB of total data for $4.80.per month. Backups are performed daily and there is no restriction to the number of websites that are backed up. The service only works for cPanel powered hosting plans.
For WordPress websites, I recommend VaultPress or CodeGuard. VaultPress is the service I currently use to back up all of my WordPress websites. Their basic plan costs $15 per month and backs up your website every hour. Backups are kept indefinitely. This means that you can go back to any backup from years ago and download or restore a backup of your website at the click of a button.
A lite plan is available for only $5 per month. The sam functionality is offered, however backups are only made once per day and are only kept for 30 days. This should be sufficient for most website owners.
They have a fair pricing policy of $5 per website up to 5GB storage. Savings can be made if you backup multiple websites with CodeGuard. I highly recommend checking them out.
For more information about backing up your website, please refer to the Website Backup Tools & Services resource page.