Thank you for asking. My name is Jim Walker. I’ve been managing website hosting and security for thousands of our businesses here at TVC.Net since 1997.
Some years back, I launched our HackRepair.com service, a reactive website security service for WordPress. I quickly found that nearly all of our new customers either did not have a web designer to help with ongoing security and maintenance or simply never considered the ongoing security requirements of WordPress. So HackGuard.com, our proactive security service, was born.
Through our HackGuard.com service, I learned some truths about hosting companies and their backup systems, especially in how “free” backups are limited at most well-known hosting companies.
I would even go as far as to say that only a small percentage of the websites I’ve worked on over the past decade have had reliable backup options. Unfortunately, a great many well-known web hosting companies do not actually backup their clients’ accounts, despite claiming that “backups are included” in their hosting plans.
[ Key Takeaways
As a professional website manager, I share my experience and advice on website backups. I explain that many web hosting companies claim to offer “free” backups but in reality, they often limit the number of files that can be backed up. This leads clients to falsely believe that their accounts are being backed up. I argue that having a reliable backup strategy is important for reducing damage done by hackers, avoiding human error, keeping a business running in case of a disaster, and saving time and money. I recommend using two backup solutions, one saving daily, weekly, and monthly backups offsite and one yearly backup saved either offsite or on the client’s personal computer. I suggest using UpdraftPlus and WP Time Capsule as backup plugins, and using either Amazon S3 or Google Drive for cloud backups. ]
Do hosting companies limit free backups?
The truth is that many web hosts deactivate backups once the number of files within a hosting account exceeds a certain limit, known as “inodes.” Once this limit is reached, backups are stopped.Many web hosts attempt to avoid this ethical issue by offering paid backup options, which they promote in the client’s hosting control panel. However, since most clients rarely log in to their control panel, they may not realize that backups have been suspended due to exceeding the host’s inode limit. As a result, many businesses falsely believe that their accounts are being backed up, when in reality, they are often not regularly backed up at all.
Why is having a reliable backup strategy important?
If you are not yet convinced of the importance of backups, here are five reasons why you should regularly back up your website:
- Reduce the Damage Done by Hackers: Cyberattacks are becoming more common every day. If your website gets hacked and you don’t have a backup, you’re starting from scratch. But, with a recent backup, you can quickly restore your website and minimize the damage from the attack.
- Server Failure, No More: Servers can fail for various reasons, but with regular backups, your website data is protected and can be restored quickly if anything goes wrong.
- Avoid Human Error: Even the best website administrators can make mistakes. Accidentally deleting important files or data can be a disaster, but with a backup, you can easily restore your website to its previous state.
- Keep Your Business Running: In case of any disaster, a recent backup can ensure that your business operations keep running. You can quickly restore your website and minimize the impact on your customers.
- Save Time and Money: Starting a website from scratch takes time and money. Regular backups can save you both by allowing you to restore your website quickly.
The importance of backups and HackGuard.com service is highlighted by the absence of reliable backup systems at several web hosting services, prompting the creation of a comprehensive solution like HackGuard. Many clients whose websites had been hacked were not only missing a functional backup system but also lacked expertise in maintaining WordPress websites. As a result, developing a dependable service that includes website maintenance, backup systems, and security measures was an obvious choice.
When I started my HackGuard.com service, I tried a variety of backup options. Of the dozens of WordPress plugins tried over the course of a few years, I found only two met my service requirements, UpdraftPlus and WP Time Capsule. At the time, my service requirements included displaying minimal self-advertising and promotion, providing responsive customer service, supporting a variety of cloud backup options, and providing a high level of reliability.
Having managed websites for over twenty-five years, I can say without a doubt that the biggest lesson I’ve learned in my time managing websites is a simple one: backup redundancy and security go hand in hand.
It’s for this reason that I believe every website should have at least two backup solutions in place: one system saving daily, weekly, and monthly backups offsite, and at least one yearly backup saved either offsite or on the client’s personal computer.
I could get into discussing the pros and cons of my most used backup plugins, but the details are beside the point. You can learn more about the pros and cons of each with a quick Google search. In short, it doesn’t matter which backup system you have in place. Having multiple backup systems regularly backing your website up to an offsite “cloud” backup service is key #1.
Of the cloud services I’ve tried for website backups over the years, both Amazon S3 and Google Drive have been very reliable. The biggest downside of Amazon S3 is cost. Once backups on Amazon S3 reach a terabyte, service fees may begin to exceed $100 a month, especially if you are doing frequent recovery of files. Alternate lower-cost cloud service options, like Wasabi, are available as well, which according to their website, is 80% less costly than AWS. As of this writing, I haven’t tested Wasabi enough to give a review on their service.
Now, having covered the importance of backups, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how backups may affect the performance of your website. On an overloaded or poorly tuned web server, backups may impact how a website loads during the moving of data from the web server to the cloud service. On the other hand, having maintained the backups of hundreds of websites on dozens of different web hosting companies’ servers over the past several years, I’ve found that the more experienced web hosts with well-tuned web servers have zero issues with clients running multiple backup systems simultaneously.
Will backups slow down my website?
Sadly, many well-known hosting companies throttle their shared servers by severely limiting CPU cycles, number of processes allowed, and/or, memory. If you’ve worked on a website and seen a 503 error page appear, then you’ve likely experienced this first hand (picture below).
This may have the undesirable effect of backups taking exceedingly longer to complete, which may then perceptively slow web page loading, as well as increase the likelihood of backup failure.
This often-reported backup plugin “problem” is nearly always related to how well a given hosting service has tuned its web servers. I know I’m repeating myself here, but I would like to reiterate once again that an overly restrictive hosting service may limit the ability of your backups to fully complete in a timely manner, resulting in backups failing unexpectedly. If a hosting company recommends against using backup plugins like UpdraftPlus, there is a high likelihood that you are using one of “those” overly restrictive hosting companies. Is this a red flag when choosing a quality hosting service company for your business? I think so.
Why is backup recovery testing important?
Which leads me to a discussion on the next uber-important aspect of backup management: backup recovery. Once you’ve established a working offsite backup systems, repeatedly and periodically testing the recovery process is key #2.
With UpdraftPlus, a files-based backup solution, recovery is as simple as deciding what you wish to recover—be it a plugin, theme, or the entire account—and then clicking the “Next” button a few times until the process is completed. With WP Time Capsule, an incremental backup solution, you have the benefit of choosing restore points, and within those restore points, the specific files or database dates to restore. Irrespective of how the backup plugins work, periodically testing and becoming comfortable with the recovery process is as important a step as establishing the backup options for your website in the first place.
Should I back my website up to a cloud service?
That said, website hosting or backup failures are inevitable. That’s why it’s imperative to have multiple backup options saving off-server. The cost to archive your website to a cloud service is minuscule compared to the physical and emotional cost of having to rebuild a website from an Internet archive or multi-year-old backup. Been there, done that, and it’s no fun at all!
In the worst case, when the web host’s server literally crashes and the data is lost, your cloud backup service decision may spell the difference between the same day recovery of your website’s files and database and a total and irretrievable loss of your content. Backing up your website to an off-server cloud service is just smart business.
And while most of this discussion has been about the value of establishing an offsite backup system, you may ask, “What about my web host’s backups?” Great question, and not meaning to be flippant here, but as that guy in that movie, Donnie Brasco, said, “Forget about it.” Sure, your hosting company may offer backups as part of their service, though I would argue that for the fifteen or so minutes it takes to set up a backup system for your website to “the cloud,” why take the chance? Whether your web host has a backup available when you really need it is also beside the point. Take control of your destiny. Just make a backup.
This post was written by Jim Walker for informational purposes only, was not solicited, nor paid for respectively.