Imagine if Toy Story 2 was never made! Or rather, it was made but then accidentally deleted. That’s exactly what happened in the offices of Pixar.

Pixar use Linux machines to store all their data. On Linux computers there is a command called rm -rf * that will delete everything. This was accidentally ran on the servers. In front of their eyes they could see the movie disappearing. In a panic they decided to unplug all the servers. Once restored they discovered that most of the movie had been deleted. To put this into context that was equivalent to 20-30 people working for a solid year.

Luckily, or so they thought, they were running backups. Unfortunately, for the last month backups weren’t working. In mass panic, the technical director remembered she had a copy of the movie at home. Thankfully the day was saved by an offsite backup.

Why you need website backups

It doesn’t matter how much you protect yourself, mistakes and errors happen. You might need to recover your website for a number of reasons – some outside your control. Having regular backups can ease the process, reduce data loss and downtime.

Hardware failure

Computers don’t last forever. Parts will fail. For the most part these can be replaced with no loss of data but if it’s the hard drive or an electrical issue it can ruin the data on that server.

Website hackers

Websites are publicly accessible, it’s kind of the point of a website right? Well unfortunately this means it’s also open to hackers to attack your website. Hosting providers and web developers do their best to protect websites against these attacks but even giants such as Google and Facebook can’t stop some attacks.

Millions of websites online use open source software. It’s great because it adds dozens of complex features that would otherwise cost hundreds of hours to write from scratch. Unfortunately this does mean that if you don’t keep your website up-to-date you are open to hackers taking advantage.

Updates gone wrong

We use WordPress and Magento. Both are very mature platforms and like any piece of software receive regular updates. Unfortunately updates sometimes go wrong. For the most part the updates work fine. The issue comes when supporting a combination of plugins that add additional functionality. Sometimes third party plugins are poorly written and supported which causes issues working with other plugins and new software releases.

Human error

The people who build and maintain websites are only human. Many web agencies will have automated tests in place to stop broken code making it onto a live website. Even with these tests, occasionally something can slip through the net.

Backing up your website

No matter how much you try and protect yourself, mistakes happen. So when that does happen make sure you’re in the best position to quickly recover with minimal loss.

Most responsible website hosting companies will backup your website for you. It’s worth double checking how often and where they backup to. Many will simply create a copy of the website on the same server. This can be dangerous because you’re not protected against hardware failure.

So, ideally you want:

  • Regular backups of files and databases stored on a different server, preferably at a different data centre
  • Make sure you store multiple backup files, incase one fails or you need to go further back in time before a problem arose

At iWeb, we backup daily to an encrypted Amazon S3 bucket. We keep backups for seven days and then one a week for 90 days.

We recommend speaking to your hosting provider and web developers to ensure secure, off-site backups are being made.