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Why site owners need to download backups of their websites.

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I find that an overwhelming percentage of business owners have no viable backups of their websites. They spend thousands of dollars and countless hours of effort yet their site could disappear at any moment.

Let’s look at a typical scenario. Someone has a brick and mortar store and they commission a website. A website developer comes in and creates a beautiful site. The owner spends a lot of time and money getting the site the way they want it. The developer tweaks the site with extensions, custom CSS and other techniques to achieve the desired look, feel and functionality.  Customers are placing orders (Using databases on the site).  All is well…. except that most sites I come across are NOT being backed up regularly.

Most business owners never consider the need to backup or wrongly assume that the developer is taking care of backups.

Update December 2019 – This post was originally written when we were using the Joomla platform. However, the concepts apply to any web design platform including WordPress.

I had a new client that had a Joomla site developed by someone else. The site had a slew of major problems including contact forms that simply didn’t work. The site was hosted on a hosting platform chosen by the previous designers. One of the first things I install on a site is Akeeba Backup or Akeeba Backup Pro. As I was fixing the problems, I was making backups of the site. About 3 weeks in, the site’s front and back ends disappeared as well as the hosting control panel. The client called and emailed the hosting company repeatedly for a week and received absolutely no response.  We finally decided that they had been abducted by aliens.

I had not only run regular Akeeba Backups as I was working with the site, but I also DOWNLOADED the backups to my local drive.  Since we had absolutely NO access to the hosting, the downloaded backups became critical. The client secured new hosting and I was able to restore the site and all of the data. (Client accounts, subscriptions etc).   Within 24 hours, his site was up and running again. Finally about 10 days after that, the original AWOL hosting company called and said “By the way, we had a problem and were working on fixing it/ It’s all fixed now.”  That was almost 3 weeks after the site went down.

A few simple rules for site owners:

  • Insist that regular backups are a part of your website maintenance. If you have constantly changing data such as user accounts or eCommerce, then the backups need to be more frequent.
  • Insist that YOU have a copy of the website in a format that allows you to restore it to ANY hosting platform.  Akeeba provides this type of backup but you need to download it. There are other backup extensions that perform a similar function.
  • If possible, have the designer do a test restore of a backup file to ensure that you have all the pieces necessary to re-create the site.
Some web designers and hosts will tell you that the backups are handled by the hosting company. That is a completely unsatisfactory ‘solution’.
  • Hosting companies generally only hold 7 days of backups. If you had a situation such as corruption because of hacking, then you will probably need to restore a much older backup, one that was taken before the hacking occurred.
  • Hosting companies can and will disappear from time to time. Any hosting company backups are useless if you can’t contact the company
  • I have found hosting company restores to be less than reliable. In many cases, the restored sites need a lot of work fixing things such as folder permissions, database connections and other issues. Also, hosting company restores can wipe out new emails on your server depending on how you  are configured.

UPDATE – Jan 2018 – If you are using blogger, you should be  creating and downloading periodic copies of your blogger site.  Choose SETTINGS, OTHER and then click the BACK UP CONTENT button


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