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The unsexy reality of website backups
What would you do if your website disappeared or ran into issues and stopped working? There are two common answers to this question:
- I would ask my developer to fix the issues and restore the website.
- My website hosting company does backups, I’ll ask them to restore the site.
Unfortunately it’s not always as straightforward as that, and the unsexy reality is that unless you have a specific backup plan in place, the above two options won’t work.
Why you need website backups?
Ensuring you have full website backups is critical - and here’s why...
1. The development website isn’t always in-sync with the live version.
Your website developers are unlikely to have an exact copy of your live website 100% of the time - especially if you’ve ever asked for something to “be fixed/changed very quickly”. At koolth we hardly ever make changes to a live website without first making changes to the development site. But things happen, and even we’ve been guilty of making minor changes to a live website (usually remotely and outside work hours*).
In addition, if your website is undergoing changes, the development website may actually be ahead of the live site in term of features. If something goes wrong with the live site, the development site may not be in a finished state to go live!
2. The developers are unlikely to have all your latest content.
If you have a Content Management System (CMS) website, where you log into the website and add content yourself, there is little chance that your latest changes have been saved outside of the website itself.
Most people totally underestimate how much time and money it would take to re-enter all their content back into their website. Does that content even exist anywhere? We always recommend that all website content is written and updated in a word document so you automatically have a copy (handy for spell checking too). Experience tells us, that very few businesses do this, and most content is added directly into the website!
3. The website hosting company is not required to make backups available.
Here’s a typical extract from a web hosting terms of service:
Although Company performs daily backups of critical data, Company is not responsible for Customer or Customer's Users' data, files, or directories residing on Company's equipment.
Most reputable web hosting companies will try and help you recover a lost website from their backups, but they are not usually obliged to and they will normally charge for the service. In addition, the backup maybe a few weeks old and/or unrecoverable.
4. An insurance policy against hackers, malware and viruses.
Backups allow you to go back in time and undo nasty changes if your website is compromised in some way. This isn’t a protection against attacks (better to be proactive by keeping everything up-to-date), but it does give you an insurance policy.
5. To get your site up and running again as quickly as possible.
For most businesses the impact of having a non-functioning website is devastating. This is especially true if you are running an online store that drives your only form of revenue. A recent and complete backup of the entire website can have you up and running again in a matter of minutes rather than days or even weeks.
Why would my website fail or disappear?
Your website is stored on a server, and a server is just a computer. As such, it’s prone to failures such as disk crashes and file corruptions. Human error also plays a part. Files are easily overwritten or deleted. We’ve heard of instances where complete websites have been accidently deleted because the wrong directory was selected.
Websites are public facing and open to attack. There are hundreds of thousands (possibly millions) of website breaches per year and the numbers are on the increase. Last year a single flaw in a Wordpress plugin caused an estimated 100,000 websites to be comprised.
Although most web hosting companies store their computers in secure buildings, they are still open to fire/flood/other natural disaster, and some less secure buildings are even open to theft. Finally, what happens if you fall out with your web hosting company or they go out of business? If you don’t have a backup of your website you may be left to re-develop your complete website from scratch!
What should I do?
Talk to us about our website support plans or if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.
* We always make sure any “live” changes are mirrored in the development site as quickly as possible. This may not be the case for other developers!
koolth are specialists in all things web and we are passionate about what we do. We empower our clients with next generation online tools and love working closely with our clients to achieve their digital dreams!
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Emma & John from koolth have shared my journey and vision. They have been so enthusiastic, genuine and honest through the development process.