The Importance Of Offsite Backups

I’m pretty active in the hosting community, and one of the things I see way too often is people losing all of their data due to some sort of issue at their web host. The first reaction they (and sympathizers) have is to lash out at the host for whatever the issue was that caused the data loss. In many cases the host is in fact at fault of shoddy practices themselves, however the ultimate responsibility of maintaining data integrity lies with you, the owner of that data. In fact, most hosting provider specifically state in their Terms Of Service that any backups that they make are for their use only, and you should not depend on them for restoration purposes.

Can you really argue that the data was irreplaceable, and yet you made no effort to back it up to a safe place yourself? Sometimes things go horribly wrong. You owe it to yourself to be prepared.

Over the recent years, storage prices have dropped so fast that 1TB of data costs less than 100GB of data did a few years ago. With the advent of “cloud” storage, there are so many more options for data storage. The combination of these things make it very cheap and easy to backup even large amounts of data to multiple places. While we backup our customer data both locally and remotely, this is again for our own restoration purposes. When there is a problem, the hope is that we have a relatively recent, good data backup to restore any data from. In most cases this holds true, but even the best backup strategy can fail from time to time.

So what can you do to make sure that your data is safe? There are several options. The easiest method is to start by keeping backups on your local computer/drive. This at least gives you a remote backup to your live data. However this is probably the worst method, since your desktop/laptop computer is the most likely to have problems that would lead to data loss (a failed hard drive, dead computer, disaster of some sort, etc). That said, it’s only your backup data that would be lost, and once you fix your computer issues, you just download another copy of the data. You are only “unprotected” during this downtime.

The best method is having multiple copies of your data, in multiple locations. There are a lot of ways to accomplish this. Using the last example, you could take this a step further by simply copying that data again to another remote location. There is a fantastic app for this called CrashPlan. CrashPlan can take your data from one computer, and back it up to another completely for free. This is a great option if you don’t want to pay for external backups. Just have a friend or family member at a remote location install the app, they give you a key, and you can securely store a copy of your data on their computer. It can also backup to the cloud if you pay for a subscription, and the prices are very reasonable.

There are also numerous online backup storage options at varying prices and complexity. If you use cPanel (as we do at serve-you.net), it has built-in backup capabilities. While backing up locally to the server gives you a quick restore point, leaving the backups there only is a recipe for disaster. These backups are stored within your account, so if there’s ever a problem where you lose data for whatever reason, you are almost sure to lose these backups as well. What is nice about this utility though, is that it allows for remote backups via FTP or SCP. This gives you a lot of options for keeping a copy remotely, since these are widely used protocols. If you don’t have a lot of data, you could get a hosting account somewhere else, and just use it for backups (note that this is against the terms for some providers, so make sure it’s okay before you do it). The better option would be to signup for a remote backup service. We used BQ Backup for years, and they were a relatively cheap and stable platform for offsite backups.

As you can see, there are a ton of options available to you, at any budget. If your data is important to you, there’s really no excuse not to keep backups! If you need some advise or assistance setting up your backup plan, feel free to open a ticket, and we’ll be happy to help you out.

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