Site Backup – A Crucial Step In Building Your Site
|May 13, 2011||Posted by Louise under How To Build A Website|
Imagine, starting your day and finding your site crashed, all your content gone. What do you do? Well if you backed-up your site’s database and files, then you could re-install them and set-up shop where you left off before the unfortunate mishap. But if you didn’t backup…well, I shudder just thinking about it. For new businesses trying to get going online, losing a site or its content could be the final straw to becoming a statistic.
As a beginner, you may not be aware of the risks you face by not backing-up all the hard work and money you poured into your site or blog. I don’t recall any training programs I ever followed mentioning the need to back-up my website, never mind how to do it. They just jumped into the fun stuff – how to make money. But in fact backing up, tedious as it may be, is a crucial step to building and maintaining your site as well as your business. Don’t wait like so many till it’s too late. Start your site backup routine today.
Why You Need To Backup
Truth is that months or years of setting-up your site can all be wiped away without warning. Your host’s server is susceptible to virus, hacker, spyware and malware attacks, which can crash your database. With the snap of a finger or should I say, click of a mouse, you could lose your entire website.
Server problems are not your only worries. Sites and blogs like WordPress (open source web software), allow you to add extra functionality and design features from outside sources, which is great because with the variety in choices, you can customize your site to suit your needs. But on the downside, you could add a plugin with a cool feature that unknowingly clashes with your design or add incompatible or faulty code to tweak your site’s theme and like some naughty gremlin, it messes-up your design completely, leaving you with a dysfunctional site, some stressful hours of troubleshooting ahead, and some unplanned downtime for your business.
Additional reasons to backup and protect your site include your hard drive failing, natural disasters, virus attacks, hacker attacks, and let’s not forget, simple human error.
Resources for NON-Wordpress Sites
For the purpose of this article, I’m going to focus on backing- up WordPress because most beginners use it (and in my opinion should). But if you have a regular non-blogging platform website, please visit Dave Wilkinson’s blog where he clearly explains how to back-up files from your regular site for free.
If you are using a database driven website, then I suggest you visit myRepono, an automated website solution that may require a little technical savvy. Chances are if you are running your own site, you’ll either have enough know-how to use my Repono or a webmaster to handle those details for you.
Finally, if you are using blogger, visit this handy post by Eli Rose.
WordPress Back Up
Now for self-hosted WordPress sites, you have to backup both your site’s files as well as the database, often referred to as MySQL database tables. The files contain the data you need to connect to your database, login details, and other goodies like themes, plugins, and media uploads. In the database, you’ll find all of the content you’ve created.
Backup SQL Database and Files in One Step Automatically
There are many free WordPress plugins that backup SQL database or files, but very few that do both. So to make life simpler, you’ll want a plugin or solution that backs-up both your WordPress site’s database and files in one step and that can be set-up to do so automatically.
Site Restoration as an Included Feature
You will also want to be able to restore your files and database easily, without fussing with folders, directories and what-have-you. Ideally, the plugin or solution will do the restore for you. One or two clicks and you’ve restored your site. The crisis is over and everything’s back to normal.
WordPress Online Backup Services That Make The Cut
I haven’t found too many free or low-cost solutions that will automatically back-up and restore your whole WordPress site with a few simple clicks of the mouse. But here are a few that almost make the cut:
EZPZ One Click Backup (EZPZ OCB) is a free WordPress plugin. It runs on Linux servers and on PHP5 or higher. (If you don’t know what those are, ask your hosting provider on which operating system and PHP level they run). Once installed and activated, an EZPZ OCB menu appears on the left side of your dashboard. It backs-up both the database and files, backups both automatically and on demand, and it has a fairly simple 2 step restore process. The latest backup is stored on your server, which is not always a good idea (I discuss why in “Where to store?” further down). But you do have other options. If your site backup is small enough, you can download it directly to your computer; otherwise transfer it there via an FTP following the instructions indicated on EZPZ’s Download Now page. From there you can transfer it to an online storage service like Dropbox, which is free.
I use this plugin on each of my sites. So far, I like it. It’s quick and once installed, it’s almost hands-free. Luckily, I have not had to restore my site. But if I do, the process found on the EZPZ OCB page (from the EZPZ menu) seems simple enough. There’s also a support forum and email if you run into problems, but being that this option is free, response times could be slow.
Automatic WordPress Backup (AWB) Plugin is an almost-free option. Just like EZPZ, it requires Linux and PHP5 to run and can backup automatically or on-demand. With this plugin, the site backup is stored on Amazon S3 (http://aws.amazon.com/s3/) – an online web storage service. This part does cost some money, but it’s chump change, maybe a few dollars per month depending on the size and frequency of your backups. First, you have to sign-up with Amazon S3 and create an account and your payments will be made to them, not to AWB. After signing-up, Amazon S3 then gives you key numbers you need to input in your AWB plugin set-up on your WordPress dashboard.
I picked EZPZ over AWB because I prefer EZPZ’s easy restore feature. I haven’t found any information on an AWB restore feature. It appears that backed-up files and databases have to be manually installed on the server, which I prefer not to deal with.
myRepono WordPress Backup Plugin is another almost-free option that backs-up your entire site. This is a great option whether you use a Linux server or not as it’s compatible with most hosts. MyRepono installs onto your WP dashboard and you can set it to backup automatically or on demand. Just like AWB, your site back-up is stored on a different server. The bonus is with myRepono, you won’t have to set-up an additional account or input key numbers. The plugin does it all for you. You do however have to pay a tiny fee for storage and transfers, but it’s negligible. For instance, backing-up my 204 MB site costs me under $0.30 USD per week and under $1.50 per month! Another bonus is that myRepono starts you off with a $5.00 credit when you sign-up. So, you should be able to backup for several months without paying. The plugin also features a restore button next to the specific backup that takes you to the myRepono system where you select the items you want to restore. These are then restored to the website server you choose. And for those with multiple sites, the myRepono plugin will let you manage them all from one dashboard.
I also use this plugin for each of my sites in addition to the EZPZ plugin. Sounds paranoid, I know. But keep reading and I’ll explain why in the ‘where to store your back-ups’ section. I chose this plugin because of its offsite storing of backups, the easy restore process, and the online support. I emailed support prior to installing the myRepono plugin and received a response twenty minutes later. For me, those three benefits – low cost, ease of use, and great support – all made it a great choice.
Pricier Backup Tools
Of course if you are willing to pay extra dollars, you will get full service backup and restore.
BackupBuddy will backup your files and database to almost anywhere you want. Remember, if you backup to a service like Amazon S3, it will cost you a couple peanuts more. This plugin will also restore your backups directly to your server or migrate it to a new server with a different domain and database. The cost ranges between $45 – $150 per year, depending on the number of sites that require backing-up.
Vault Press by Automatic, the makers of WordPress, is obviously tailored to WordPress sites, promising more features and better usability, which for many makes it worth the extra expense. It has a monthly fee per site and extra features like easy restores, disaster recovery, and real-time backups, all available from your WordPress dashboard. For an extra cost, this plugin will also scan your site, themes and plugins for security risks. Currently, the beta-testing prices start at $15 per month per personal blog. Take special note, this is a beta-testing price, meaning you get the discounted rate for giving Vaultpress a test run, giving them a chance to iron-out the kinks. But first you have to apply. If you are chosen, you keep that discounted rate forever. If you apply for Vaultpress, make sure to use an alternate backup solution till your application is approved.
When Should You Backup?
Once you have chosen one or two backup systems, you need to back-up at the right times to get the maximum benefits and fully protect your site. How much and when you backup depends on your site activity and on a few other external factors.
First of all, how often do you change your site or blog? Do you add content only once a week or every day? If it’s every day or even 3 times per week, you may want to backup daily. With most of these plugins, you can back up several times per day if necessary. Alternately, if you only add content once a week, then backing-up once weekly would be sufficient. Whatever timing you choose, select a backup system that can be set automatically, such as the ones recommended above. Just set the frequency and time, and forget about it.
In addition, you should backup when WordPress updates, that is before clicking that update button on your dashboard. It’s also a wise to backup before you add a new plugin or theme feature, anything that could interfere with the site’s design. This way, if anything doesn’t jive, simply restore your site to its previous state and hold off on the update or the new feature until you find a way to make everything compatible.
Where to store your back-ups?
I mentioned earlier that I use both EZPZ OCB and the myRepono plugin to backup each of my sites. One main reason is I want to store my site’s data in different locations. The EZPZ OCB stores the latest backup on my server. I can download it at any time to my hard drive. But, if anything should happen to my host’s server, I won’t have access to my EZPZ backup. Plus if I was too lazy or busy to download any backups to my computer, then I won’t have anything to restore.
To guarantee I always have access to my backups, I spread my backups around. I download my EZPZ OCB backup daily to my hard drive, where I keep the 5 most current ones and delete the oldest. I also run myRepono backups, which are stored on their server, where I keep a week’s worth of backups. So at the end of the day, I have my site’s backups on my host’s server, my hard drive, and on the myRepono server. I’m pretty sure I’m covered!
Hopefully I’ve convinced you of the importance of backing-up your site. Take a look at the backup tools recommended above and start your backup routine today! Feel free to leave any comments on your experiences with the backup services mentioned above or any other ones you may have tried.
Want to know how to install these backup plugins? Read my post How To Install a WordPress Plugin.