Ecommerce Website Backup Strategy
If you are like nearly every other small business owner, you are hosting your website on a shared or dedicated server which is managed by your web hosting company.
Your website is most likely up 99.9% of the time, and you don’t have too many conversations with your hosting support team. That is, if your site is online and operating as it should. Where you start spending a lot of time writing emails and making phone calls is when your web site goes down due to a server outage, hardware failure, data center contingency, or myriad of other reasons.
When this type of event happens, you should already have a very well defined backup strategy to restore any lost or unrecoverable business assets. That means your; customers, orders, products, images and nearly every other bit of information housed within your website.
It’s much better to be overly cautious and have the ability to restore your assets than be overly naïve and lose every hard earned customer you’ve acquired over the years.
There are many intricacies to a backup strategy. Listed below are the broad strokes-feel free to dig in deeper where needed to get the vital information you need to make your own backup strategy.
Open up a dialog with your server administrator, hosting provider, or software development firm to learn how your current backup schema is configured. Press them to answer your questions in a way that you can understand. This will help to pinpoint areas of concern and ultimately lead to their resolution.
Where to Start
Understand what type of information should be backed up.
First, define what should be backed up – make sure that all your data is being backed up; specifically all of your files, databases, and email settings.
In many cases hosting companies tout their backup services, but you are responsible for configuring and/or maintaining them. A few applications even have their own backup systems built in. However, these backup systems may not capture all of your data. It is best practice to have a separate backup process capturing all data throughout your hosting account.
For more advanced restorations, there are other items you should be backing up such as; server log files, DNS records, and OS configurations.
Basic backup list:
- Files; media (images, videos, PDF’s, etc..), programming code (PHP, HTML, etc…)
- Email settings (mail boxes (username/password), aliases, forwards, quotas, routing, SPF records, etc…)
Learn how your current backup process works
Understand the process for how you data is being backed up, what is included, what is not included, where are they stored, how much space is utilized, how far back your backups go, and how you can access them.
Ask your webhost the following questions to understand how your data is being backed up:
1 - Do I have backups?
Refer to the list you made in step one to ensure your data is being backed up.
If it turns out that your data isn’t being backed up, open a dialog with your host or server admin to start backing up your data immediately. It is usually a pretty straight forward process, and once configured, doesn’t require a lot of maintenance. The benefits far out weigh the negatives.
2 - Where are my backups stored ?
On site, off site, or both-and on what machine. This is an important element that will help to determine risk factor in specific types of failures. For example, if your data is backed up on the same server, and your server’s hard drive controller shorts out destroying your active data and backed up data, you are in a bad position.
Your data should be backed up on a separate server, preferably outside of your local network; in the case of intrusion, hardware failure, fire etc…Ideally, store your backups in a separate data center in a different city or state. That way, should you datacenter experience a fire, flood, power outage, or go out of business, you have all your site data in a separate location.
3 - How far back is my data available?
Maybe your backup only goes back 1 day, or 1 week. Sometimes it takes some time to discover you lost data, and if you only have a daily backup, you can’t restore a file that was lost last week.
4 - How do I access my backed up data?
Ask what format are they in, get access to where they are stored, and figure out if you need special applications to work with them.
It depends on how your backup process is configured. Some systems require programs to extract data, and sometimes you can only extract the entire backup. Get access to the files so you can figure out how to work with them.
Have the backup strategy developed before an incident happens! It will only take you a few minutes to email or call your hosting provider and follow up on these areas. These few minutes could save you countless hours, or days of time in the event of a catastrophic event!