Why You Need a Backup System

We see it all the time: horror stories of systems crashing, web hosting providers losing data, and RAID cards failing. Hours upon hours, days upon days, weeks upon weeks, months upon months, years upon years. Hard, dedicated work lost in the rubble of a failed RAID card, a gasping and churning hard drive, or a full file system corruption.

So what do you do? Well, if you're a typical computer user, you probably call upon a Systems Engineer or your company's IT Technician. They take your computer to a dark closet, or a (hopefully well insulated) basement office, and in a few hours, or maybe a day, they bring the computer back to you. Most likely, they've brought back some or all of your data as well. What they couldn't salvage, you'll feel bad about.. but hey, you got some of it back right? Magical.

Except it's not magic; it's backups. If you've worked in the IT industry for a significant period of time, you probably know just how crucial backups are. However, not all of us work in the IT industry, and not all of us understand the need for backups.

There are many companies, websites, and even software applications that don't properly backup their data. Over the course of the next week, we will introduce you to a few methods of backing up your system, and then provide what we believe to be the most ideal solution for backups, and how to build it.

So let's say you run a typical website, something small, perhaps a blog. You might be thinking, "Why do I need backups? My site is small, doesn't generate much traffic, and a backup system would be a waste of money."

The fact is, you need backups even if your website is small. You may think backups are a waste of money, but they're actually relatively cheap. If your website is small enough you can:

  • Create a weekly backup
    • Chances are, if your website isn't updated daily, you can probably get away with only backing it up once a week.
  • Store the backup on your local computer
    • The only reason a backup solution gets costly is because you need a place to store the backups. Now, if your website generates enough content and traffic to have a backup that's larger than sin, then yes, you'll need to pay for the resources to store the backup. But if you're running a relatively small website, why not download the backups (likely a few MB in size) to your computer?

System failures happen, regardless of the size, traffic, or complexity of your website. Although most web hosting providers routinely maintain their servers, we've seen more system failures in shared web hosting providers and virtual private server providers than dedicated hosting providers.

Hosting providers that share resources across many clients often run into a problem called 'overselling.' Some providers even intentionally oversell their resources. This act causes strain on the physical server, as well as limits the performance and resources that your system receives.

That's not to say overselling is the cause of all system failures. Even if your hosting provider doesn't oversell resources, it's entirely possible that your system will fail. This is why backups are crucial, because a full system failure can happen at any time and may happen without warning. While some files are recoverable, and RAID technology allows us to maintain backup disk arrays, you are not immune to system failures regardless of what kind of system you run.

Tomorrow we will discuss the problem with your current backup system, your web hosting provider's backup system, and why you should maintain more than one backup method.

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