Good reasons not to rely (completely) on backup from (even really great) hosting plans

backup photo

Photo by tacker

So another participant in a private Facebook group for WordPress users echoed something I’d said about the importance of making your own backups.

Similar to David Innes I use [a commercial backup plugin] for Scheduled backups ([cloud-based storage firm] is my choice, but there are many others)…
And a lot of people when backups have been discussed say “why should I do my own backups when my hosting company does it for me?” – my answer is trust no-one! Make sure you have reliable backups that you have 100% access to in the case of an emergency situation!

Member of a private Facebook group for WordPress users

It was a great point and here’s how I followed up

Yes! Trust no one is awesome advice when it comes to backups! 😂

(Somewhat) more seriously, virtually all hosting companies do daily backups, and all the halfway decent ones store the daily backups for 30 days. That’s a welcome change.

Less welcome is that they tend to be restore-only backups, meaning you can’t download and archive them. (This makes sense because to save space and processor resources they tend to be incremental rather than complete.)

The downside of that is that after 30 days the backups evaporate. To be fair, if something goes sour pretty much anybody is going to notice within 30 days. But!

  1. Ransomware often takes that into account and can hold off announcing for 3 or more months!
  2. With modern caching (CDNS, host-based, etc.) a site’s back end can be totally snarled for weeks or (for one prospect who contacted me) months while still “working” just great on the public side.
  3. Oh, finally, since I do a lot of emergency-repair work (I really enjoy helping people get back online) I’ve had quite a few clients who don’t notice their hosting account has expired till it’s gone, and I’ve had two clients whose whole hosting provider has shut down and never restarted! In all those cases, server-side, and server-stored backups disappear too.

Anyway, just can’t overstate how important it is to have your own complete, restorable archives in one or more safe places (not just on the server.) Or how important it is to keep copies for at least a year, just in case.

Here’s when RealBasics makes and downloads a backup for our clients

  • Manual backup before we start working on their site for the first time (stored for at least three years)
  • Manual backup before we start working on their site the next time (stored for at least three years.)
  • Automated daily for maintenance clients (stored offsite for about 2 weeks)
  • Automated weekly for maintenance clients (stored 156 weeks, a.k.a. three years.)

Bottom line: hosting-plan backups are great. Good hosting companies do the right thing and keep 30 days of daily backups. Restoring from a server backup is almost always dead easy. And…

You still can’t ever have enough good backups!

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David Innes, RealBasics.com

I've been building and maintaining websites since 1997 and building and supporting similar hypertext-driven software since 1987. I've done maintenance, support, and maintenance for physical and digital systems since 1981. And no, I still haven't seen it all but by now I usually know where to look. More about David Innes...