What would you do if you lost everything? That's the question the people behind World Backup Day want you to ask yourself on 31st March. A quick look at the stats featured on the website offers a stark reminder of how important it is to get a backup system in place for all your important data. It might not be the most fascinating topic and it's certainly easy to keep this sort of thing at the bottom of your to-do list but it's an increasingly important task to check off.
What is a backup?
At the most basic level a backup is simply a copy of data, however, good backup practice requires a little more thought than this. As a starting point, it's worth considering some simple backup principles and you can start by asking yourself the following questions:
- What am I backing up? This is an important factor as though a laptop and website both require backing up, they might require different services and backup schedules.
- How often is my data being backed up? This will depend on the type of data being duplicated and how often it is updated.
- How will my data be backed up? A plugin/script on your website? Software on your computer? Whatever it is, make sure it's automatic - manually backing up all your files is a hassle.
- Where will the backup be stored? On-site, off-site, in the cloud?
- How many copies are there? Where possible, set up multiple backups in different locations.
- Have I tested the backup? Perhaps the most crucial step - you have to make sure the backups work!
Use the cloud
Whether you're looking to backup your phone, computer or website, it's highly recommended to use a secure cloud storage provider. One of the main strengths of cloud storage is that it's extremely reliable. Cloud storage providers often create multiple copies of the files and use redundant drives - both of these factors significantly reduce the risk of losing data due to a hardware failure of some sort.
Another benefit is that the data is accessible anywhere, so you can restore your files wherever you have an internet connection. This also means that the backups can be synced up easily, often continuously.
One of the main reasons users avoid cloud storage as a backup location is security: the accessibility of the data is a double-edged sword as hackers can target the services. However, most reputable providers encrypt the data they store and brute-force password guessing can be mitigated by using a strong password and enabling two-factor authentication where possible.
Backing up desktops and laptops
There are lots of options to backup your computer. The most basic option both in terms of price and ease of setup is to hook up an external hard drive and create a duplicate copy of your files. Variations of this include using a NAS to create your own cloud server and programs such as Apple's Time Machine make it easy to setup automatic backups. It's worth noting that despite being the easiest backup options to setup, they are also the least reliable. Not only can hard drives fail but they're also vulnerable to any local situations that might simultaneously render your original hard drive useless, such as a fire.
A better option is to use a cloud storage service as above. Dropbox is an extremely popular initial option as you can copy all of your vital files into a folder and keep them synced up easily. If you would like something more comprehensive, a service such as CrashPlan will quietly backup your entire hard drive to the cloud and keep everything absolutely in sync. CrashPlan also stores various versions of files which is a useful added benefit should you accidentally overwrite a file.
What about my website?
Previous blog posts have discussed how and why websites get hacked as well as steps you can take to stop your website from being an easy target. Unfortunately, no degree of security can make your website completely bulletproof, so one of the key components of a decent security setup is having a plan in place for if/when the worst happens.
Again, there are lots of free and premium options available. Many reputable website hosts offer automated backup services by default, however, it's best not to solely rely on these as there is often little control over what is backed up or how often this takes place. There is also the possibility that your provider may accidentally delete everything.
If your website runs on Wordpress or another CMS, plugins such as UpdraftPlus offer an easy method of scheduling backups and hooking them up to cloud storage. It's also possible to have backups emailed to you if you have enough space. Plugins such as these commonly offer the possibility of storing the backups locally, i.e. on the same server as the rest of your website files. This is to be avoided wherever possible as these files become vulnerable and can be exploited if a website is hacked, so make sure those backups get sent off-site!
These basic principles should be enough to get started, but if you have any questions or would like help setting up backups on your website please get in touch.