Picture the scene, you go to check something on your website, and horror of horrors it’s not there any more! A white screen displaying some cryptic error message is there is its place! Your site is not available. The question is what do you do now? The answer lies in having a good website disaster recovery plan. Often the issue is the web-hosting server. Your website is fine it’s just that the server can’t or won’t display it just now. A call to your website hosting company will usually solve this problem. However, in some cases, the server is fine and the problem is with your site. Then what? In these circumstances, it is likely that your site has been compromised or “Hacked”. The best way to minimise the risks of hacking is to keep your website up to date, Regular readers will know that I am a great fan of WordPress. It is a fantastic website development platform; in 2014 it was estimated that around 18% of all websites were based on WordPress (source: https://managewp.com/14-surprising-statistics-about-wordpress-usage). 2 years later this figure has risen to 26% (source: https://managewp.com/statistics-about-wordpress-usage) This phenomenal success also means that WordPress attracts the attention of the internet underworld who like to disrupt things! The best protection is to keep your WordPress files current with the updates that are released regularly (many newer sites can update automatically) Whilst you can do much to minimise the risks of hacking, (we have never had a hacking problem with any up to date site) but it would be unwise to assume your site is 100% safe. For this reason, we would always recommend a good disaster recovery plan for your website. In essence, this means taking and maintaining up to date backups of your site files and data, and maintaining copies of these backups remotely, at a different location from where your website is hosted. This way, even if the data centre hosting your site has a complete meltdown, you will have a simple route back to a working website.
So what do you need to back up? For a WordPress site (the platform on which we build our sites) the core system is common to every WordPress website. Because of this, a clean up to date copy is easily obtained from www.wordpress.org. With the WordPress core covered, the things you need to back up are:
- Your theme files – the bit that makes your site yours
- You images & media files
- The database – that contains all your site’s content
In reality the theme files rarely change and the media files are usually uploaded from your local computer so are easily recovered. Backing these up once per week, or once per month on a fairly static site should be ample. The key, especially on e-commerce sites is to make sure you have a recent backup of the database. This is where all day to day changes are stored, and in the case of e-commerce where all customer & order data is kept. We would therefore recommend backing the database up daily, or even more frequently on busy e-commerce sites.
Effective backup routines
Having covered what to back up and how often, the final consideration is how long to keep your back ups. Here the key is to remember that issues with websites are not always immediately obvious. It is possible that you discover an issue with the site that actually occurred a while ago. In these circumstances ensuring you have a back up old enough to predate the issue is key. Whilst there is no hard and fast rule, a sound regime would be to keep your backups for 1 month (4 weekly backups plus 30 daily backups). Storage is relatively cheap these days, and for most websites the free 2Gb on a Dropbox account will be ample,
Backups made simple
We build all our sites in WordPress, and one reason is because of the great add-ons that are available. One such addon is UpdraftPlus, a back up plugin that we use on every site that we manage. Whilst other WordPress backup tools are available, we have found UpdraftPlus to work well.
UpdraftPlus comes in 2 versions, Free & Pro.The free version will do everything you need to keep your site backed up, including the facility to automatically schedule backups, and send email reports when there are issues, the pro version has some neat additional features that make it well worth the modest price tag – you can find full details of Upraft here.
Peace of mind
Lets face it, a good website is now a critical business tool, so making sure you can get it back if disaster strikes is essential.
In our experience, ensuring you have a reliable back up means that whatever might happen, you can get your site back up and running quickly and with minimal data loss.