Recently several people asked me about my free website service. Specifically they asked about the backups. What happens if the website breaks? Would I restore the website to a backup for free? The short answer is no, most people, including me won't restore your website for free.
Ultimately it is YOU who has something to lose if the backups aren't working properly. If you are paying for a maintenance service, you should be able to rely on the service provider to ensure your backups are working fine and they're kept offsite. But what if they aren't doing a good job of looking out for you?
A few people I've talked to think that having their web host create their backups is good enough, but this is far from the truth. The backups that your host provides are not sufficient to make sure you have a bullet-proof blog. Most hosts, including Bluehost, Dreamhost, Hostgator, and even my sponsor host Inmotion hosting only provide backups for a few days or maybe a week. After that, the backups are deleted or overwritten.
Why is this bad? If you are a daily blogger, then this may not be such a bad problem. If there's a problem with your blog, you'll notice right away (hopefully). But if you have just a business website that doesn't get updated very often or you blog only occasionally, this could be very bad.
Imagine that you make a change to your website on Sunday. Then on Monday something happens to your site and maybe it gets hacked, or you accidentally break it but don't realize it. If you were to rely only on your hosts' backup files, you would have to know about this problem right away and restore the website very quickly.
If you don't notice the problem for a week or so, then chances are that your hosting provider will make a backup of the bad website and then by the time you take notice, it could be too late to restore to a point in time when your site was not broken. Essentially they will have a backup of the broken site only! This has happened to several people I know and it is a common fear of the conscientious systems administrator. That is why we have elaborate hourly, daily, weekly and even monthly backup schemes.
So what can you do to protect yourself?
- Make sure you have a recent backup of your database and files on your computer, or somehwere else other than your hosting account.
- Review your backup files on a regular basis to make sure they are actually setup properly.
- Make sure your backup schedule matches the frequency with which you blog or update your site.
Use a robust backup solution like Backupbuddy or Vaultpress. Both of these are paid solutions, but they offer peace of mind and if configured properly can save your butt in case of a successful hacking attack or fat-finger mistake that goes unnoticed for a while. Do NOT rely on someone else doing your backups especially your web host. You can find free backup plugins in the WordPress.org repository as well and some of them work great, but I know for a fact that these two I mentioned work wonders and have saved many people from a catastrophe.