The short version of the answer to this question is YES!  But there is a lot of variation to questions such as who should do it, how often, and where should I keep it.

Why should I backup my website?

Let’s start with the why.  A back-up is a recovery tool.  Just like it’s a good idea to keep a regularly updated backup of your work computers and any servers, it’s just as good an idea to keep a back-up of a public facing asset like your website.  If something happens to your website or your hosting environment, a backup will drastically reduce the time it would take to get you back up in front of your customers.

Without a backup, you only really have one option to get your website live and engaging potential and current clients; rebuild it from scratch.  This is both a longer and more expensive process than recovering a website from a backup.

Who is responsible for performing the backup?

Many businesses just assume their host is performing backups.  But this isn’t always the case.  In managed hosting environments like Wix, Weebly, Squarespace and some managed WordPress hosts, the host is performing some level of back-up.  However, in many discount hosting environments, backups simply aren’t performed and it is the responsibility of the owner of the site to perform their own back-ups.

How do I perform a backup?

I hate to answer this way, but… that depends.  It depends primarily on a combination of hosting environment and the CMS you are using.  With the self-service content management systems like Wix, Weebly, Squarespace or Shopify, most likely, you can’t perform a back-up.  At most you can perform a data export.  The kicker is, these website are built on a platform that you can’t simply pick up and install somewhere else.  Unlike an open-source CMS like WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal.  So your options for disaster recovery are limited to what they have available to you and your options for migration away from your host are even more limited.

In a hosting environment where you have a CMS like WordPress installed, you have more options.  There are plugins that can be installed to perform the backup from the administration area of your site.  You can also make backups from hosting control panel.  Most hosting environments will have an interface like C-Panel or Plesk which will have a built-in backup and restore function.  From here you can produce a backup file or upload a previously saved backup.  But the process will be dictated by the hosting environment.  Consult your hosts support materials for details.

How often should I perform a backup?

This answer is really dictated by the activity on your website.  If you frequently make updates to content or if customers and clients are frequently leaving comments, reviews or submitting photos, then you probably want to perform a backup nightly.  Find the period of lowest activity on your site and if you can schedule a backup have it done then.  If it can only be done manually have someone perform it then or look for a solutions that will allow you to schedule your backup. This way you only risk losing up to a day’s worth of content.

Sites that are more static and updated less frequently can probably get by with a weekly or even monthly backup.  If your content management system performs automatic system updates routinely, you should schedule your updates around that cycle as well.  It’s important to have a recent backup prior to performing updates, automatic or manual, as this is a time when most problems are likely to occur.

At the very least, with a static website that never updates, you should perform a backup as soon as it goes live.

Where should I keep the backup files?

While the on-site backups that some hosts perform are great, I typically recommend some sort of third party storage or off-site storage of your backup.  Look at it this way.  If you continuously have problems with a host and their entire hosting environment goes offline, you won’t have access to their backup.  In a real emergency where you were needing to switch hosts to bring yourself back up online, on-site backups won’t do you any good.  So either store your backups locally on a computer (that you are hopefully backing up somewhere) or in a cloud-storage like Dropbox, Google Drive, or any number of other sites.

Is performing a backup difficult?

The answer to this really depends on the environment you are in.  By default most environments have a manual backup capacity.  Finding it probably means going into an area of your hosting environemnt where you may not go as frequently.  What is usually difficult is working the process in to your regular routines.  There are plugins and third party tools that can be used to automate some of this.  These come with a wide range requirements for technical ability and knowledge of your site.  So, my advice is consult with a website professional and learn your options  You should be able to find somebody that can either point you in the right direction or is willing to help manage these process for you.

MS Digital Solutions has an optional support and maintenance package that is available to our customers for any website we have built.  We can also support and maintain any website built on WordPress.  These packages all include a regular backup.  For more information on how these services can help you, contact us today.

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