Is your website critical to your business? What would happen if your website went dark today? What would happen if it was down for a week?

For most of us, websites are our externally-facing “storefront” where people visit to check us out before doing business with us. Maybe they’re checking the hours you’re open, want your phone number, or even just see if you’re the type of business that can help them solve their problem.

When things go awry, then it’s an emergency situation.

I was speaking to a business owner last year, and she said that her e-commerce website had gotten hacked. Her web developer used offshore support, and it took them a week to get the website cleaned up and back online again. This cost her a week’s worth of sales, and who knows how much lost reputation.

I also wrote about a former client of ours, who we no longer supported, and their website had gotten hacked. I don’t know how long it was down, but even Google had a message to searchers “This website will harm your computer…”

I was talking to a friend of mine just the other day, and she’s been working with a client for several months on building a brand new website. They’ve put a lot of work into it, and it was getting close. Of all the crazy things, the hosting company’s building got hit by a tornado, and wiped everyone out. They lost thousands of websites, which were not able to be recovered. The web developer that they had hired, had never done a backup, so now they get to start over.


What’s Your Website Worth?

So if your website gets hacked, goes down, or disappears for whatever reason, how quickly can you get it back online again? Have you spoken to your web support company or web designer about their process for recovering your website?

What would the financial consequences of your website being down for an hour? A day? A week?

We’re often told to keep emergency supplies because of a possible earthquake (we live in California) or tornado or flood. It’s just hard to keep ourselves on top of that. Stuff expires, and it costs money to replace it.

But your website could be your reputation, your business, and your income.

How to Back Up a Website

Most of today’s websites are built on a content management system (CMS), which means that you edit the content live on the website, not in discreet html files (like the “olden” days of Dreamweaver and Adobe Contribute).

A CMS has a database and the system files, which both have to be backed up. The database will hold all the configuration and content information. The core files provide the functionality. Common CMS platforms include WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, DotNetNuke, and many, many others. If you back up the files, you still have a worthless website, because all the content and configuration information is missing without the database.

Over 25% of all websites worldwide have been built on self-hosted WordPress. This is a LOT of websites. The vast majority of them have never been backed up (we see it all the time!).

We do a lot of work with WordPress and DotNetNuke, and before we ever touch a website, we insist on a full backup. Why? Because if we touch something that pukes, we want to be able to get things back up in working condition quickly.

In order to back up a website built on a CMS, you have to:

  • Back up the database
  • Backup the system (core) files
  • Put them somewhere that you can get to easily and quickly – preferably someplace other than the web server
  • Have a reliable process to restore the database and files

Most hosting companies allow you to export the database in some way. If it’s WordPress, Drupal or Joomla, you should be able to go into phpMyAdmin (often a choice on the cPanel), and do an export. Some hosting companies actually allow you to do a database backup on demand (they may charge you a small fee).

Backing up the files is easy – just copy them to your computer with FTP.

Unfortunately, this is tedious, and it’s easy to say, “I’ll get to it later.”

Using a Backup Plug-In

A much easier way is to use a plug-in or add-on that does all this for you. For WordPress, we use iTheme’s Backup Buddy. It’s a plug-in you can install yourself, and it will back up both the database and all files quickly and efficiently. You can schedule automated backups to go on whatever schedule you want. We recommend:

  • Back up the database every night during off hours
  • Back up the entire site (database + files) every week on the weekend – this is your full backup

Backup Buddy allows you to save the files to an FTP site, Google Drive, Dropbox, or Amazon S3 (which is what we use) – or iThemes even gives you 1GB of Stash storage for a year too. Make sure you configure it so it keeps only a finite set of backups, say the last 5 or last 10 backups. Then it will start deleting the oldest one. Otherwise, you’ll fill up your storage pretty quickly.

Backup Buddy also has an easy migration tool so if the worst happens, and you have to move your website to another server (or you’re just changing hosting companies), it will automatically rebuild your database, and set up the files for you. Just a few clicks, and you’re back online again.

If you’re on a different platform, check to see if there are other similar plug-ins you can use. For DotNetNuke, we use Evotiva’s backup tool, and it has similar functionality. It can put your files onto Amazon S3 or wherever you want them so they’re not on the file server.

Has a backup ever saved your bacon? Or has there been a time you wished you had a backup and didn’t? Tell us in the comments below.