The Importance Of Backups

By this time in our computing history I am assuming you have learned the importance of backups via having some loss of digital data. Be it you lost a thumb drive in a parking lot somewhere or maybe an old cell phone that you have in a drawer, hoping that one day you’ll be able to get the pictures from it. Unfortunately digital data is not like bell bottoms. It is not coming back. For this reason you need to take steps in preparedness for the ultimate in destruction of the internet and keep your own, local backup. When I say local backup I don’t just mean on your desktop or laptop, I mean a thumb drive or two.

Let’s talk about the daily life of working with websites. Most times you will go into the dashboard of you CMS to do your editing and never see your files. You login to your CMS dashboard and start hammering away. Uploading and importing, posting and linking. Then you logout and carry on with your non-virtual life. Adding posts, pictures and pages to your WordPress, Joomla! or Drupal site is now easier than ever which is a good thing for productivity on the web; however this keeps you a bit separated from your files and database, where you actual information in stored. You may be able to find a plugin to keep track of backups for you and some hosting providers may offer backup services with your hosting plan.

But that in no way means you are in the clear.

All too often users assume that their developer or their hosting provider will keep a running backup of their site and this is just not true. Web developers (unless they specify) should be assumed to create or complete updates for you and that is all. Unless you have a conversation with your developer about backups don’t assume that they are taking care of it. The same goes for hosting providers. Most providers I have worked with are pretty specific when they say “Hosting”, they allow the world to view your website information but do not take on the responsibility of regular backups, tracking when you update your site or even what is in your site. Is short, don’t your hosting provider give you a lesson on the importance of backups after it’s too late!

To be truly prepared you need to keep the local backup that I keep hinting around about. There are tons of places online and more locally to you to get 2 thumb drives that you only use for your website information. I have even seen USB thumb drives on sale for just a few dollars at my local super market. Get two USB drives and keep a running backup on both. Add important pictures and information on the thumb drives and update them regularly.

How Regularly?

How often you update your site should determine how often you back up. If you have a small business type website, where information is infrequently updated then you can keep copies of your site as you receive them from your web developer. Users who add blog posts and frequently update information should take a backup when a loss of information would be devastating. Thus the importance of backups! In lay mans terms if you feel that you would be upset that your website got deleted or compromised you need to take a backup. This may mean that you want to login via FTP and to phpMyAdmin daily to retrieve a solid local backup.

How can I do that easily?

If you use an apple computer you can schedule the Automator to login to your accounts and take a backup. Automator basically lets you record the steps you take to login to FTP and phpMyAdmin and take your backups then Automator allows you to play those steps back at the times you specify. If you are going to use the Automator method you can schedule it to run at say, 2AM, when you will be sleeping, and have your backup waiting for you in the morning.

Here is an example of taking a full backup of a database driven website. In the example I use WordPress but the same technique can be applied for Joomla!, Drupal or any other website with or without a database.

Why Two Thumb Drives?

Because inevitably you are going to loose one or one will contain corrupt information. A great practice is to have one close to your computer for daily/weekly backups and one that you keep for monthly backups. Using this method you will only (potentially) loose one month of information in your website. Keep a calendar or set it as an alert of some kind to remind you to back up your website. Don’t wait to backup every 6 months if you are updating you site frequently. There will come a day when the internet will fail you. Keep your backups close at hand!

Bullets To Backing Up:

• Get your files and database manually via FTP and phpMyAdmin. Don’t rely on plugins or modules.
• Keep a copy of your files (.php, .html, .js etc) and database (.sql) file on 2 (Two) different thumb or USB drives.
• Be sure that you have the correct set of files and corresponding database. One is no good without the other.
• Store your USB drives separately. Keep one by your computer and another somewhere else, like in your car.
• Check your backups. Upload them to a test server to be sure that they will work in case you need them.
• Do NOT store backups that you rely on on your hosting account. They may get hacked or deleted should disaster strike.

Now You Know The Importance Of Backups

So there you have it, the most effective way to backup your WordPress, Drupal, Joonla or any other database driven website. Bookmark this page as a reminder of the importance of backups of your website.