Website backups

Anyone who has worked for any period using IT should know the importance of

  1. multiple forms (media), multiple locations and multiple versions(aged) of backup
  2. knowing and testing the restore process.


For the websites that I develop there are the following levels of backup:

  • When I develop the site, I keep a copy of the style, and any special functionality, as well as any initial content.  When I release it to a client, I generally send them a zip file for their backup safety, and as another location backup
  • The host I use does regular backups (File and database), which we have tested.  They  restored promptly with no problem.
  • I use one of the many backup plugins to run an automated extract of the database.  For small sites, this can be emailed weekly (to get it away from the hosting location).  For larger sites, the web owner or administrator has to arrange to ftp the backup to a secure location.
  • The emailed or downloaded backup then gets backed up again by my local backup software, which is of course done in several different ways!

The Website owner or administrator’s responsibilities

Treat the backups with the same care and respect that you would treat the legal deeds to your property, or your will.  That is if you are serious about your website. You may not know or be able to read the backup files sent to you.  The wordpress backups often use a free archive (zip) format called  Gzip, for which there are free “extractors”  (eg 7-Zip).

A technical administrator should be able to recreate the contents from the backup files.

  • Keep several versions of the backups, not just the latest.  There may have been a corruption of your website while does not get noticed for a while and you may wish to return to an earlier version.
  • Note the size of the backups – if it suddenly changes in size, and you have not made changes yourself, then it may have been hacked.  Tell your technical web site administrator asap – this may be affecting your appearance to the world and your search engine ranking.
  • Keep copies of any uploaded files that are not stored in the database.  If you are uploading these files yourself, then your web designer will not have a copy of these, unless you have an arrangement with them to backup your whole site in addition to the hosts backup.


A backup is only as good as the ability to get the website backup and running correctly!   A website is composed of many components and each of these need to be able to be recreated.

  • the cms software – if free open source this cna be re-acquired, although reconfiguring could take a while
  • the templates and style – backups required when major changes are made
  • the database content (configuration options and visible content)
  • any separate files such as images, mp3’s etc

Note that restoring may take quite a while depending on what has happened and in what state the backups are.  For critical websites that need to be “up” constantly, one could consider a mirror site with hot backup. This is not easy  or cheap to do however.