Why Backups?

Backup your data!” everyone preaches.  Creating a backup strategy can be time consuming and expensive, especially if you have a lot of data to backup.  You’ve gotten along just fine without one for this long, so maybe backups can wait, right?

What Could Go Wrong Without Backups?

Everyone talks about the need for backups, but that need can feel very abstract up until the day that something bad happens, and you feel that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you know that you have a long road ahead of you to fixing your problem.

  • Web Development Mishaps: Have you ever accidentally deleted an important file on your computer?  Maybe you got lucky and found it later in the Recycle Bin, but FTP Clients and SSH sessions don’t usually have this luxury.  If you or your web developer accidentally delete a file, are you prepared to restore it without rewriting it from scratch? The ability to revert files to previous states can have other advantages as well, for example, if you update your website code or install plugins or updates on a web application and then find that it has caused problems, having a reliable backup solution in place can enable you to roll back these changes and save yourself a lot of pain and hassle.
  • Server Problems: Like any computer, servers are not infallible.  If your server experiences a catastrophic failure, such as the failure of a hard drive, are you prepared to address this situation, or would this be the end of your website forever? The risks can be somewhat mitigated here by using redundancy in your setup, such as a mirrored RAID array, a failure can still occur even if it is less likely.
  • Hacking/Malware: If your website ever becomes compromised, this may be another time that you will be quite glad to have backups available.A common attack vector of website hackers is uploading scripts containing malicious code to carry out their malicious deeds.  While hackers have access to your website through their injected code, they will commonly edit existing files and add easy back doors for themselves to get back in to your website later if you find and delete their added files.  The attackers could be more malicious, or even just make a mistake themselves, and cause files on your website to be deleted. After a successful malware attack against your website, restoring the entire website from a backup if possible is a quick and effective way to make sure that any added code no longer exists.  This does not solve the original security problem that allowed the attack to occur, but it definitely gets you back to a better place where you can more confidently look at patching your website and move forward, knowing that anything that was modified during the attack has been rolled back, not having to wonder if all of your patching efforts may be undermined by a back door added in during the compromise.
  • Natural Disaster: There is always the worst case scenario, if you are in a traditional hosting environment, your server is sitting in a datacenter somewhere.  That datacenter could suffer problems from a natural disaster like a tornado, hurricane, or earthquake. In the, admittedly unlikely, event that your hosting facility is destroyed, it is ideal to have an off-site backup so that you can get your website back online.

What Is The Value Of Your Data?

Thinking of all the ways that you could possibly lose data, it’s helpful to assess the value of that data, both in planning your backup scope and frequency.
Your website didn’t happen overnight, you put time or money, or both, into it.  A lot of investment has likely gone into every aspect of your website, from the underlying code, to the graphics, to the written content itself.
Websites that feature more interactivity, such as forums and eCommerce websites, have some other considerations to factor into their backup strategy.  If you have a large delay between your backups, what could be the value of the data that could be lost during that time?
Consider how you would feel if a large eCommerce retailer lost 12 hours worth of their order history, and your open order with them disappeared.  In addition to possibly losing the order, that seller may also lose your trust and future business. Would you want to put your business in this situation?
When considering the importance of your backups, it is helpful to also consider the hypothetical situation of having to redo everything from scratch.  If that eventuality were to happen and you had to rebuild your website from the ground up tomorrow, what would be the result? Would it be the end of your website or business?

It’s Time For Peace of Mind

Ultimately, having a tested and reliable backup strategy in place provides you with peace of mind, some assurance of business continuity in the event of a disaster, and the confidence that your website can continue to operate smoothly for years to come with the ability to overcome such situations.
The time to implement a backup strategy is now, before a disaster strikes.  If you need any advice on getting started, GigeNET’s experts are available to help go through the backup options that we can provide!

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