“If my website host offers backups, why do I need a separate backup plugin?” This is a question I’m asked frequently.
I would always recommend setting up a separate backup plugin that regularly, and automatically, backs up your WordPress site to an off-server location.
I’ve talked about the importance of backups before but let’s have a quick look at some of the reasons you shouldn’t rely on your host’s backups.
One backup is better than no backup
This goes without saying, but there’s no sensible reason to depend upon a sole backup. This is true of all websites, but particularly so if your site is mission-critical. As a general rule, the more backups you have, the better position you are in should the worst happen. This is true of both the frequency and location of the backups.
Ensuring your backup is stored off-site
Good hosts will send their client backups off-site, but not all hosts do this. I frequently see hosts storing the backups on the same server as the website which means the backups are vulnerable if the website/server is compromised.
If the host does this on a shared server, the backups may be vulnerable if any other site on the server is exploited. If this happens, your site’s backup may be compromised, inaccessible or rendered unusable.
Accidents can happen
It’s certainly a rare occurrence, but it has been known for hosts to accidentally wipe servers containing client websites and/or backups. A secondary off-site backup would prevent your site from being majorly affected by this sort of human error.
One of the main issues with relying on a host’s backup solution, especially for WordPress sites, is the lack of flexibility on offer. Relying on a host’s backup usually means you have no control over how frequently the site backs up and whether or not the database is synchronised to backup at the same time.
This is fine if you’re happy with a weekly or daily backup, but what if you need something more frequent and the host doesn’t offer it? How about if you want to quickly backup your site before running a big upgrade?
Control over restorations
Similarly, decent WordPress backup plugins will offer you granular control over what to restore. This means being able to quickly restore specific areas of your site, i.e. the plugin directory or the site’s database. This can prove to be extremely useful in the day-to-day running of a site, particularly if you need to quickly rollback a broken update in one area of the site that’s rendered the entire site inaccessible.
By comparison, a host’s backup is typically an all-or-nothing affair. This can result in losing a significant amount of data (sales, customers, content, etc) depending on when the last backup was taken. Not ideal.
Finally, some hosts will make you wait for a restoration to take place and won’t give an indication of when this will happen. In one case, I saw a site take 36+ hours and three support tickets in order to restore it. Not exactly the quick and easy backup solution the host was advertising…
Can you afford to rely on your host’s backup?
Whether you decide to rely on your host’s backup offering will depend on the amount of risk you’re willing to accept. If your site is low-traffic, not business-critical, easy to rebuild and your host offers hourly off-site backups, you might consider relying on their solution.
Ultimately, you’re trying to reduce the possibility of your site losing data or, in the very worst scenario, needing to be completely rebuilt from scratch. Creating two-or-more separate backup systems is one of the best ways to protect your site from being seriously affected by a hack or server issue.
The time to set up and test a secondary backup system is minimal. Hopefully, you’ll never need to call on it, but you’ll certainly sleep better knowing it’s there.