One of those rather mundane yet necessary things you need for all data whether that's online or at your premises. This is even more critical if you have an online shop. Do you know if you can access your backups? Can you restore your site from those backups? Hopefully you’ve never had to test it, but do you know for sure?
Your website lives on a server, it's a group of files (including a database) and they live there in one place.
But what happens if something compromises your website? It could be a natural disaster, a fire, a break in or a server failure. If you need to get that site up and running again on another server, that depends on having a backup of the site!
Resorting to restoring from a backup would be the last resort, if you have people placing orders on an ecommerce site, those may be disrupted or lost if you return the site to an older version, even if that is just a few days old. You might want to download a backup to examine the files to check for anomalies, or you might be working on a new version of the website and need the backup to install at another location to work on without prying eyes.
Backups via the server versus backups via the website’s interface
WordPress has plugins that can automatically back the site up on the server which you can access and restore from the website’s interface. These are easy to install, set up and are usually quite user-friendly. You can grab a backup from last Tuesday (for example), and either download it or replace the current website with this one, but you only want to do that last part if you are absolutely sure, especially if it’s an online shop, as it could potentially really mess up your orders!
Accessing backups from the WordPress dashboard is fine, but what if your website goes down, you won’t be able to access those unless you can get on the server, possibly by SFTP or file access in Control Panel and download from here, this can be an awkward and time consuming approach and requires some technical knowledge. It always seems unlikely your site would go down - but it does happen, and no matter how insignificant your website seems any site can be a target for hackers.
Having the website backups accessible via the dashboard is very convenient and requires very little technical knowledge. However, there is a risk that if you can’t access the admin area of your website, you won’t be able to access the backups.
This might be due to the site being hacked or a DDoS attack. In which case you won't be able to download those backups from the website if the website is down, so you’d have to wipe the site, reinstall Wordpress and import from those backups. Sole destroyingly longwinded when you could restore from the server with just a couple of clicks.
Another disadvantage of backups running via a WordPress plugin is your website hosting may be limited in disc space, the average website can be 100s megabytes, sometimes several gigabytes in size, so imagine your plugin or module is saving each of these backups on your hosting, that’s a lot of space being taken up even if it’s limited to 30 backups (one per day). These can slow your website down if all these files are saved within the website’s directory. Plus the process of backing the site up this way can also slow the site down and that can cost you in Google listings as well as a potential enquiry while someone is on the site, they’ll go elsewhere if a page takes too long to download.
Having backups run via the server to an area outside of the website can be a much easier solution and doesn’t require access to the website, so these don’t slow the website down. You can usually download these as zipped files. With most control panels you can restore from backups too, choosing whether you want to restore just the database or the files, or both. You might want to restore only the files if you’ve run into issues running the latest update and need to roll it back, this won’t affect any data on the site including online orders for shops.
It is all very well having back ups, but can you restore from them? A few years ago, someone asked me if I could help with their website as it was down, they weren’t a client and I hate not being able to help, but there was nothing I could do, you simply couldn’t restore from his backups. Their unscrupulous website hosting provider has backups as a token option which really was just window dressing and didn’t actually work! So make sure you don’t have some sort of pretend backup facility on the site, that it does really work. The only way to do that is to test it, if you’re in the early stages of building a website, then you won’t have invested as much if it goes wrong, so test the backup then. Or if you can, build a test site and test the restore from the backup facility on the hosting platform then. That way you’ll know if it works and how to do it.
With our hosting, backups are run daily on the server and securely on cloud storage. All our hosting is GDPR compliant and based in the UK. We give our clients full access to the backend of their website as well as to the server if they request it with full technical guidance from us. We believe in empowering our customers in a transparent and approachable way!