Website Backups 101: What They Are and Why You Need One

Picture this: Your eCommerce business is five years old. Sales are in six-figures for the third year in a row. Your dream is becoming a reality. 

But then, an employee comes to you: customers are saying that they see an “insecure” notice when they visit your site. They’re afraid to place orders. You rush to fix things as soon as possible, which requires contacting your web host over the phone and trying to untangle the mess. You need to revert back to a secure and functioning version of your website before your company’s reputation is damaged any further. Unfortunately, that’s going to take some time. 

This scenario is a real possibility. And in fact, it represents just one of several ways your website content could become inaccessible, costing you sales and revenue. A website backup plan is the best way to protect your content and your business. Even if you’re just getting started, you don’t want to lose the work you’ve already put into your site.

Why you might need a website backup

1. Your site gets hacked

Cybercriminals deploy automated bots and malware that can spend all day trying to find and break into vulnerable sites. They may want to collect personal information from your visitors, steal your business data, or even demand a ransom to release important files. Even if you don’t store important data on your site, hackers can still cause damage in a number of other ways.  

But, if your content and core website files are backed up off-site, you can restore them quickly, minimizing your revenue loss and service interruptions for your customers. 

2. Your site breaks after an update

Did you know that plugins and themes can conflict with one another and with WordPress core? After an update, an issue could occur that breaks part of your site or takes it down – and you might not be able to access the WordPress control panel to fix it.

With your website properly backed up, you can restore an earlier version with a single click and get back to business as usual. 

3. You accidentally delete critical files 

You might be working in the backend of your site and delete a critical file or mess up a PHP script. With a website backup, this problem can be fixed before most people even realize anything went wrong.

4. You try something new that breaks your site

This is a very common scenario. You may try out a new marketing idea that requires some changes to your site’s core design. You’re not sure if it will work, but the only way to find out is to test it.

With a site backup ready at the click of a button, you can run that test without worry or fear. If problems arise, you can simply restore the previous version and try again.

How your business loses without a website backup plan

If your site goes down for an extended period of time, you’ll lose in three primary ways, and all of them are costly. 

1. You could lose all your work

The longer you’ve had your website, the more time and money you’ve invested in it. You have content, graphics, plugins, preferred settings, customized code, themes, scripts, and marketing funnels that you don’t want to lose. 

2. You could lose money

If your website generates revenue, you’re losing money when it’s down. But the financial losses don’t end once your site has been restored. 

If your site is down long enough, customers will start to wonder whether it’s secure, or if you went out of business. If just one person decides to shop at a competitor while your site’s down and they enjoy their new experience, you’ve lost that customer’s lifetime revenue. For small businesses in particular, for whom each customer represents a significant portion of their revenue, this can be devastating.

Plus, while it’s down, your site cannot attract or engage new leads. If you run social media, search engine, print, television, or even billboard ads and they refer prospects to your website, you’ll miss out on leads and waste money you’ve invested in advertising.

3. You could lose time you’ll never get back

How long will it take to restore your site to full working order? Days? Weeks? All that time is utterly and completely wasted. You will never get it back.

If your website is restored immediately, you can continue running your business as usual. If not, every minute you spend trying to rebuild or restore your site is time not growing or maintaining your business. 

Traits of high-quality website backups

The best website backups protect your website by offering three primary characteristics:

  • They’re effortless – backups happen automatically so you never worry, and never waste any time on them.
  • They’re secure – backup files are stored off-site, on different servers, with redundancy, so you know they’ll always be safe.
  • They’re instant – you can demand backups at a moment’s notice and restoration happens instantly with the click of a button.

Local vs. Cloud backups

Local backups

A local website backup means that files are stored on servers at your physical location or on an external hard drive. Local backups are also normally off-site, as long as the same device storing the backup does not host your website. 

The biggest problem with any local backup solution is that it’s up to you to manage it. WordPress is a complex content management system, and you’ll need to make sure you have a backup of your entire site to avoid data loss. You will need to use FTP/SFTP clients or UNIX Shell skills to download, compress, and store database backups from your web hosting provider’s cPanel, as well as phpMyAdmin know-how to to edit your MySQL database to discover what’s wrong if your site goes down. It’s all about as complicated as it sounds.

You have to remember to back up your files frequently. If you’re just taking monthly backups – or even only back up your website once or twice per year – and your site goes down, you could lose huge amounts of work.

If backups and site files are stored in the same place, both can be hacked at the same time. This is exactly why backups stored by your host are not the most secure option. 

Finally, you do need technical knowledge to successfully restore backups.

Cloud backups

Cloud backups are much more secure than local ones. If your local files are compromised, cloud-based backups will still be there. 

The problem is, you still have to manage all the backups. That means remembering to take manual backups regularly. Do you want this task on your weekly to-do list? 

Cloud-based storage options like Google Drive and Dropbox aren’t really meant for this type of storage. You won’t be able to restore your site in minutes if you’re managing backups yourself.

Even if you do have a recently-created, full backup available, you’ll need to know what to do with these files to get your site working again. For most, this again involves contacting your host, time spent waiting for help, and lots of frustration.

Full vs. incremental backups

Full backups

A full backup means that your entire website is essentially saved as a single file every time you back it up. Thus, your complete data set is ready and available and you can control how often your site is backed up. 

The biggest problem with a full backup is that it uses a lot of storage space. Each backup file is large, and as your site grows, each backup requires more time to complete the process, so restoring it takes longer than necessary. 

Incremental backups

An incremental website backup only updates with any changes made since the last backup. So if you’ve only made one change to your website this week, only that single change will need to be saved. This takes far less time than a full backup and requires much less storage space. 

The best combination: Jetpack Backup

Jetpack Backup is an off-site automatic backup service that saves you storage space and protects your site from hackers. Your backups are safe on the same world-class infrastructure that houses millions of sites on WordPress.com. If, for some reason, your website files are compromised on your server, you can access and restore backups using Jetpack. And if you want to switch hosts, you can even restore to a completely different server.

Jetpack’s backups are incremental, so the process puts minimal strain on your server. Depending on your plan, you can choose between daily backups and real-time backups, where your site is backed up live, as you work on it. When you create a new page, it’s backed up as soon as you click the “Publish” button.

At a bare minimum, Jetpack’s backup plugin keeps 30 days of site backups available, so you have weeks to decide whether you want to revert to an old version of your site. For premium plans, the archive is unlimited! 

The best part about Jetpack Backup? Our one-click restore truly means that a downed site can be back up and running in minutes, not hours or days. And if you need help, our Happiness Engineers are standing by to get a backup of your site up and running as quickly as possible.

Backups are an affordable way to have peace of mind and know that you’ll avoid the staggering losses of time, money, and website content that impact your business with a site crash.

Get started with Jetpack Backup.

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