How much do you stand to lose if your site goes down and you’re left without a backup? Even if you only have a smaller personal site, losing months or even years worth of work will hurt.
If your site is vital to your business it can get you in the pocketbook, too. You’ll not only have to worry about lost content, but links that now return 404 errors, any customizations you did to your theme and plugins, lost comments and all of the other tweaks and modifications you’ve made to your site.
You can rebuild but why go through all of that hassle when it can be avoided by having a good backup strategy.
A good backup strategy requires a balance between being as up to date as possible with the effort you can reasonably put into it with the resources at your disposal. Remember, you can’t rely on your web host to do it for you. Even if they offer the service, if you are locked out of your hosting account their backup will do you no good. Ask yourself these questions before formulating your backup plan:
How often do I really need to make a backup?
This will vary based on how often content is updated and how often changes are made to the structure of the site itself. A busy site that’s updated several times a day and receives a substantial number of comments might be backed up hourly while other sites can get away with just once a week.
For most sites a daily backup of the database is sufficient; an hourly backup could potentially strain the server, particularly at busy times of the day.
The WordPress files such as content, themes and plugins will also need to be backed up on a regular basis. If you rarely make changes to your theme or plugins and don’t upload amount of media, this can be done less often, perhaps once a week or even less often if you aren’t making changes and uploading images or other media.
No matter how often you choose to backup your database and files, you’ll want to be sure to do a backup right before making any changes to your site as insurance in case something goes wrong and once again after all changes have been made.
Where will I store my backup?
The simplest solution is to store your backup to your local machine, though this isn’t without its own set of problems. If you’re away from your computer and your site goes down, how will you get it back up and running without access to the backup?
Although it doesn’t seem likely that something will happen to your computer at the same time your site goes down, it is possible.
You can also store backups on your server. However, if you can’t access your sever, you’re still screwed. I’ve heard of more than one person who had their site shut down by their web host and were then unable to get the files and databases needed to migrate to another site.
It’s always best to store copies of your backups in more than one location, for example your personal computer and an online storage service such as dropbox. You can also look into paying a service to make and store backups for you as an added convenience and for peace of mind.
So I have these backups, now what?
Having backups scheduled every ten minutes won’t do you any good if you’ve no idea what to do with them in the event that your site goes POOF!
If you don’t have a plan in place to restore your site, you can lose hours and even days trying to figure out how to get your site back up and running. For most people, this will be stress they don’t need and time they can’t afford to spend. Take the time now to prepare for the worst case scenario.
If you have the time and inclination, teach yourself how to restore your site from the backups. There is a bit of technical know-how needed, but it’s something most people can be taught to do. Since restoring your site isn’t something you’ll do on a regular basis, make sure to write down step-by-step instructions and keep them and all relevant log ins and passwords in a safe place that will be easy for you to access if you need to fix your site yourself.
You don’t want to waste time having to Google and remembering FTP details while under pressure.
Another possibility is to develop a relationship with somebody who is experienced with WordPress and can fix your site more efficiently than you could. Again, it’s best to contract with this person in advance and find out how much the service will cost and what information they’ll need from you to do it. You don’t want to find out at the last minute that you can’t afford to have somebody fix your site.
Some freelancers will allow you to pay a retainer to have their services for a fixed amount of time per month or year. Even if you never need their services, think of it as insurance!
Finally, you can contract with a service that will make and store backups for you and will restore your site should the need ever arise. These services vary in price depending on size of the site and the services offered but can be very affordable, especially if you have a number of sites that need to be maintained.
If you schedule backup with a professional service, be sure to ask them how often backups are made, where the backups will be stored and if you’ll get a copy and how long will you have to wait to get somebody to restore your site if needed.
As the saying goes, stuff does happen. But even though we can’t always control hardware failure or malicious attacks, we can be proactive and make a plan to ensure that even in the worst case scenario we have a backup of our sites and can get them up and running again in the least amount of time possible.
Keeping your online assets safe with a regularly scheduled backup routine, is the best insurance a site owner can have.
Sean Platt is a content marketing specialist who offers regularly scheduled WordPress backups at TheWPMechanic.Com. Follow him on Twitter.