Everything You Need to Know About Backing Up Your Blog

Everything You Need to Know About Backing Up Your Blog

A few years ago, I paid a designer a lot of money to build a fancy custom design on my Wordpress website. Unaware that I was not to tamper with any plugins or settings, I performed a routine update of my plugins, even the ones that I wasn't familiar with. All of a sudden, my site went from a thing of beauty to something resembling a broken 80's video game. I tried to fix the glitches, but it only made things worse.

I had nothing backed up and no way to fix the mess. The only thing left to do was wait until my designer responded to my desperate pleas for help. 72 stressful hours and many more dollars later, I was up and running again.

If you have a blog, you must protect your data.

This is a post about the less sexy side of blogging, but one that could not be more important: backups.

hard_drive

Image: Karen via Flickr

We pour our hearts and souls into our blogs. We agonize over words, sentences, images, navigation and all of the little things that make our blogs unique. And yet we often overlook (or put off) attending to this very crucial task of diligently backing up our data and saving it in a secure place. Usually it's because:

  • You think it’s unlikely to happen to you. Sure, it makes sense for the big bloggers to protect themselves, but why would anyone want to hack your little site?
  • You export your files on a regular basis
  • You already have a backup plugin installed, but haven't checked on it in years
  • Your assume your web host backs up your data for you
  • You just haven't gotten around to it

The reality is that any site is at risk. Websites get hacked all the time, even the little ones. Servers crash. Databases get corrupted. Hardware fails. Files are tinkered with and something goes horribly wrong. These things happen all the time, and it could happen to you.

Which is why you must be proactive about putting proper backups in place, so that if and when disaster does strike, you can recover quickly and easily with all of your data in tact.

And you can do it all in 30 minutes.

The 4 Things Every Website Backup Should Have

Let’s start with a quick assessment of whether or not you have the right tools and processes in place. Ask yourself if your current system meets the following criteria:

  1. Are both the blog database and the site itself backed up? There are two main components to your blog - the database files, which include your posts, pages and comments, and your site files which include your themes, plugins and other custom design elements. Most plugins and export features only download the database which means that only part of your site is being backed up.
  2. Do you have automatic scheduling enabled? A good backup should be scheduled to run automatically and on a regular basis. While you can never back up your site too much, a daily database export and a full site backup each week is a good starting point, so that every post, comment and design tweak stays in tact.
  3. Where are the files stored and how secure is it? Files can be stored on your server, desktop, external hard drive or on the cloud. Storing files on your server can be risky because 1) if the server goes down, your backup goes with it, and 2) your web host might not allow backups to be stored on their server. If you are, you may be in violation of their Terms of Service. I thus recommend selecting a cloud storage provider (i.e. Dropbox, Google Drive or Amazon S3) and, for an additional layer of security, storing a copy on your desktop or external hard drive (this can also be automated). Do keep in mind that these files are large, so you will need adequate storage wherever you choose to save your files.
  4. If you do lose your data, how quickly and easily can you restore your site? It’s one thing to have your files backed up, but it all comes down to your ability to access and restore them as quickly and easily as possible. Some tools require multiple steps, calls to customer service and technical know how. Others require just one click.

Backup Options and Recommendations

There are a number of options to work with, and it's generally a matter of your resources, technical abilities, and preferences. Note: The majority of plugins and tools I refer to are built for Wordpress, since it is the most popular blogging platforms, but most of these options are also applicable to Tumblr and Blogger.

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