Zen and the Art of Website Maintenance, Part 1: Backups

Photograph of stacked stones in a rock garden

Websites are not “set it and forget it” affairs. You need to put in a little effort in order to keep your web presence humming along like a well-oiled machine. Just like you take your car to get its regular, 3,000 mile maintenance to keep it running smoothly, websites require a number of maintenance tasks—performed on a regular basis—to keep them running strong and contributing to your business’ bottom line.

In this blog series, I’ll show you all of the maintenance tasks that are necessary to help prevent disaster from striking, and to help you recover as quickly as possible if disaster does strike. Taken together, these steps will give you piece of mind that your website will be able to weather any storm that comes along. They may not help you achieve a feeling of inner calm, but they can take one source of worry off your plate.

Why Back Up?

Just like your car comes with a spare tire in case of a blowout along the highway, you need to have a spare copy of your website available. There are a myriad of reasons you might need to restore your website from a backup quickly: Your web hosting provider suddenly goes under; Your site gets defaced by an external attack; A corrupted database chews up your data. When disaster strikes, a good back up can be the difference between getting your website back online in a matter of minutes, or a matter of days.

What to Back Up

A WordPress site is made up of three major components: the files that make up the core WordPress platform, themes, and plugins; the files that are uploaded into the media library; and the database where the content and settings are stored. The core software, themes, and plugins are likely easily recovered from their sources—either from the WordPress.org repository or your developer who has kept any custom work in a revision control system like Git. But the other two pieces—the database and media uploads—are not so easily recovered.

A good backup solution will take a snapshot of your database and media files on a daily basis, and a complete end-to-end backup of every file in your website on a weekly basis. A number of popular WordPress solutions exist which will perform these backups and allow you to download them to an on-premises hard drive. For an extra measure of safety, many will even store the backups directly to a cloud service like Dropbox, Google Drive, or Amazon Web Services to protect you from theft, fire, or other physical threats that come with storing your backups on-premises.

Backup Validity

But backing up is only half the battle. You need to make sure your backups are valid—that is, your backups are saving what you need them to save, and that you can recover them if (and when) you need to. For that, periodic testing of your backup system is a good idea, because you don’t want to discover after a problem that your backups aren’t adequate to restore your site in a timely manner.

Lastly, you want to keep your backups for a period of time, and rotate through them at prescribed intervals. That way, if you discover that your website has been hacked, you can go back and find the last clean copy from before the attack occurred. Many times, security violations aren’t discovered until long after they have occurred (more on that in a later post), so having only one round of backups at any given times means that whatever malicious code was used to compromise your website may still be lurking in your backups, ready to strike again after you restore your data.

Beyond the Backup

In the next post in this series, we’ll look into possible security risks your WordPress site can be exposed to, and how to defend against them.

Need Help?

Just like most people don’t change their own oil, you don’t have to maintain your WordPress website all on your own. Taupecat Studios can help. We offer monthly maintenance plans to take the tasks of backups, security monitoring, software updates, and uptime monitoring off of your plate so you can focus on your business. Get in touch and let us know how we can help.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *