Time and time again, we’re told about how vital is to back up the data saved on our computers. With the potential of hardware failures and software vulnerabilities looming ominously in the background, the risk of permanently loosing those important files is enough for many of us to invest in external hard drives, off-site backups or cloud storage solutions.
At a time when our online presence plays such a huge role in our business, taking the same precautions with our website is just as essential, if not more so. After all, whilst we may have complete control over the computers and/or servers in our office or at home, hosting a website usually means putting complete faith in our web host to keep our files and data safe, secure, and accessible only to those we grant access to.
Having a full back-up of our websites offline or at a remote location can prove invaluable in the event that, for whatever reason, something goes awry with your web hosting company.
Not that this is the only reason backing up your site and data is essential.
Consider the following:
Whilst your hosting company will certainly do all they can to eliminate hacking attempts and other security threats at first sight, you only need look at the increasing number of news headlines about a number of servers being compromised and data being stolen to realise that even the most secure web server can sometimes fall victim to a seriously skilled and determined hacker.
Problems Caused by Software Updates
Users of platforms such as wordpress and their associated should be well familiar with updates and the release of new versions. Most of the time, these operate behind the scenes and do little more than enhance the security, performance, or functionality of your website.
Every now and again however, things do go wrong, and with so many third-party components built into your website, a problem with a single update could cause serious errors with your website.
Having a backup copy of the last-known working version of your website can help you get back to where you were before the rogue update occurred.
Viruses, Malware and Bugs
This is particularly important for those of you using shared hosting, where malware or viruses on another website using your server can creep its way into your site, though it’s just as likely that an undetected virus in a WordPress theme or a file from your hard drive can wreak havoc with your hosting. Again, having that back-up to hand will mean you can get things functioning correctly again should some malicious piece of software start causing problems.
We’ve all done it from time to time, accidentally hitting the wrong button or removing a file that’s critical to ensuring our website works correctly. Should this happen, it’s easy enough to reach for your backup, replace that file, and get things working again.
Moving to a New Hosting Company
Of course, there doesn’t necessarily have to be some major disaster for you to make use of a backup copy. If you’re fed up with your current hosting provider or have simply found a better detail elsewhere, you’ll find it easier to move your site across to your new host if you already have a version saved, rather than tackling the somewhat complicated process of website migration.
How to Create a Backup of Your Website
Fortunately, creating a backup isn’t all that difficult, and there a number of different approaches you can take.
Check if your hosting company offers automated backups
A number of web hosting providers include automated backups as part of their plans. With certain GoDaddy services it’s possible to retrieve old versions of your site and restore them on your server if your site isn’t working correctly. Whilst this is a free service, other web hosting companies such as iPage charge an additional charge for backups. Though you can save money by using one of the other methods listed here, it might be worth the investment for a set-it-and-forget it approach to backing up your site, saving you the time and hassle of creating one manually.
If you’re signed up to a hosting provider than supports cPanel look for the backup and restore feature. Though this isn’t automated, it is straight-forward to use, and simply involves downloading your website as a zip file to your hard drive. Should you need to make use of that backup, you can use the tool’s Restore feature to upload it again.
Use a Plugin
Running a WordPress website or one using another leading Content Management System? There’s a number of free, quality plugins available which allow you to create backups of your site. With some of the better plugins, you can even set these backups to automatically upload to a remote cloud storage solution such as DropBox or Microsoft OneDrive.
FTP clients provide a connection between your hosting server and your hard drive, and allow you to simply drag and drop files back and forth. Though possibly the most technical option for backing up your site, it is perhaps the one approach that is guaranteed to work if you can’t use a plugin or backup tools provided by your hosting company. Simply download a tool like FileZilla or CuteFTP, follow the FTP instructions from your control panel, and connect to your server.
From there, you can simply copy your site from your server to your computer, creating a backup version that can be used in case of emergency.
Top Tips for Backing Up Your Website
Schedule regular backups
If you don’t have access to automated backup tools, make a point to schedule regular backups on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis. Set a reminder on your calendar, smart device or computer, and be sure to follow through with making the backup.
Create multiple backups stored in different locations
Creating a backup copy of your website on your computer is certainly better than having no backup at all, but what if something happens to your hardware? Should the hard drive crash or -worse still- your device gets stolen, there goes your backup.
With that in mind, consider saving multiple versions, perhaps one backup stored on a secure external hard drive that is kept at a different location than your computer, and one in a secure cloud hosting solution.
Encrypt your backups for greater security
Especially important if your backup archive contains sensitive customer information, be sure to use password protection and other secure encryption tools on your website copies to keep them safe should they fall into the wrong hands.