Online Safety for Webmasters: How To Do Backups Properly

May 13, 2013

Running a website may be challenging, but it’s not that difficult of a task. It doesn’t take a lot of specialized skills or high-priced tools. Anyone with the dedication to teach themselves how to do it can do a great job. Yet the number of webmasters out there who neglect to back their sites up properly is astonishing. It may seem like a needless hassle to back up your site thoroughly, but you’ll be glad you did on that inevitable day when you need to revert to an old version. Here’s how to go about the backup process right.

First of all, you’re going to want to have some depth in your backup roster. This means saving more than one version of your site. When you need to look at (or re-upload) an older version of your site, you may need to see what it looked like several changes ago. This is why you should never discard backups until you absolutely must. It’s impossible to predict which version will be the one you need, so hang onto as many as possible.

You also want to have your backups in as many different locations as you can handle. You should have backups of your site on your computer, of course, but there are many other options to take advantage of. Burn backups to physical media (e.g. CDs or DVDs) on a regular basis. You should back up to online locations, too. Keeping older versions of your site on your server is a good idea, (if you have the room) but you should also look into getting independent backup storage with another company.

Your backups should have as much physical separation as possible, too. Once you burn those backups to disc, don’t shove the discs in a drawer right next to your computer! Take them as far away as you can, ideally onto a different piece of property. You should treat online backups similarly. If you follow the advice from the last paragraph, you’ll have backups on your hosting server and another, separate backup server. Make sure these two servers have a fair bit of geographic distance between them.

To elaborate a little bit on your server-side backup procedures, investigate what sort of backup options your hosting provider gives you. Your hosting company may be able to automatically back up your site, and this service may not even cost you any additional money. Don’t let your provider handle all of your backups, though. Keeping separate backups with separate companies is an excellent idea.

Finally, make sure you document your procedures properly. Label your backups (both physical media and electronic directories) clearly, so you know when each one was made. Robust backups can spread across thousands of files and folders; you want to be able to find a particular backup without searching for hours.

Backing up your website isn’t glamorous work, but it’s the responsible thing to do. It can save you a lot of time and trouble in a crisis, and turn a worst-case scenario into a minor setback. Follow the advice presented here and make a habit of backing up your site regularly and intelligently.