Creating a website is a huge undertaking, at best time-consuming, and at worst costly. Once you have your site up and running, it’s crucial to protect your investment by ensuring you are backing up your data and storing it safely.

What are site backups?

A website backup is a copy of your entire site, stored in a secure location. 

Why do I need to make backups?

In the event of something catastrophic happening to your website, (a virus, a loss of data, or even an update gone horribly wrong), you could find your entire business wiped off the internet for an undetermined period while you rebuild from scratch. Having your site backed up allows you to react quickly if something goes wrong, and get back online with minimal downtime.There is also the possibility of deleting your entire website by mistake aside, the benefits of having a clean copy of your data available far outweigh the hassles. The first time you accidentally overwrite a file, you’ll be patting yourself on the back for having a backup copy ready to restore.

How often should I backup?

The frequency with which you should back up your site depends on how often you’re updating your content. You should always have a current, fresh copy of your website data available, which may mean weekly or even daily backups. It’s important that before any major changes are made to your site (updates, plugins etc.); you make a full backup of your data in case anything goes wrong.

Files – Your website is made up of different file types, the major ones being:

  • Images: Self-explanatory. This file hold the images and graphics on your website
  • Scripts: JavaScript code is stored in this folder.
  • Styles: The details of the overall image of your site. Fonts, page colours etc.

Databases – If you’re using a Content Management System (CMS) such as Drupal or WordPress, you’ll need to take a backup of the database. This contains all your website data (blog posts, links etc.) and backing this up means you won’t lose all your content.

SSL Certificates – A Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is effectively an online ID card that confirms the identity of your website and protects your online transactions with your customers by creating an encrypted connection between host and web browser. Taking a backup of this certificate means you can re-import your certificate if your site is corrupted, saving valuable time in getting your business back online.

Backup Solutions – Let’s look at some of the options available for backing up your site effectively.

FTP – File Transfer Protocol, or FTP as it’s known, involves manually saving your files to your computer. There are a few pitfalls in this method:

  • It’s time consuming. If your site is fairly comprehensive it can take a while to download the data, and eat into your bandwidth
  • You need to set reminders for yourself to download regularly or risk forgetting to backup
  • You have to create a filing structure to manage and store your backup files

CMS Plugins – Depending on your content management system (CMS), you can purchase compatible backup plugins as an add-on either to your website that will allow you to schedule backups and store your data locally or in cloud storage.

Hosting Tools – Depending on the hosting platform you’re using, you may have access to a backup solution, however not all hosts offer this. Log into your control panel to check what backup tools your host provides.

cPanel – If you are using a host with cPanel installed, backing up your site is straightforward. Log onto the cPanel control panel, click on “Backup” and select “Download a full backup”. Just remember to save your downloaded backup onto your local computer, and not your server.

JetBackup – A cPanel backup software provider, JetBackup supports multiple remote back up destinations like remote FTP, Amazon S3 and Dropbox. Once you’ve done your first full backup, Jetbackup recognises which files have been changed and makes backups of this data, saving time and file space.

R1Soft – Having been recently purchased by Idera, this third party software has officially undergone a name change to Idera CDP, however is still commonly known as R1Soft. It is an add on feature of many hosting systems, allowing users to backup their data at set intervals, and determine how long they want to retain the data for.

Backup Storage – Now you’ve backed up your website data, the next step is to determine where you should store it.

Onsite – As indicated by the name, onsite backup systems are external drives stored at your business premises. The benefit of this type of storage is that your data is on hand whenever you need it, and you don’t need an internet connection to access it.

Offsite – This method of data storage is becoming more common thanks to cloud technology. Data is stored remotely on a server, across multiple remote locations if required, and can be accessed anywhere via the internet. The benefit of this storage method is that your data is safe and accessible if your onsite storage is lost or damaged.

Archive – Also called full backup, this is a long-term method of data retention where a complete copy of the data is taken, rather than only files that have been modified.

Once you’ve chosen a solution that works for you, make sure you check your backups regularly to ensure there’s no file corruption, and everything is captured. If your site goes down for whatever reason, you want your backup to have everything you need to get back online as soon as you can.