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Backups. Do you do them?
Recent FAIL at large companies reminds us

 10:06 pm on Apr 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

There have been a few reports over the last few weeks of large companies losing their hardware/software and having to restore from backups... not long ago Google lost a chuck of Gmail and Bing lost a chunk of Hotmail...

A. What backup methods do you use?
B. Have you ever needed to restore?
C. Have you even thought about it?

If you can't answer A or B above, be sure to read C below!

My answers:

A. The website is one copy, then a Local copy (personal machine), a dev copy (development, but located in same building as personal machine), and a backup server with removable hard drives AND tape. While the machine is located in the same building as Local and Dev, these removable drives are stored in an off-premises location and the tapes are stored in a different off-premises location. Why tape? 1/10th the cost of disk drives... and I like belt AND suspenders.

B. Twice over the last 5 years. First time was via tape... which was a tad painful in time but spot on for accuracy. The second time was from hard disk and, with exception of one non-essential file, was accurate. These restores were done because at the time I did not have the other systems in place. These days any "restore" comes from the personal machine first, or the dev machine.

C. I learned the necessity of backups back in the DOS Daze and have been a fan of regular and "as frequent as needed" backups. That second part "frequent as needed" is determined on the amount of activity in either new content or UGC on the various websites. Obviously Evergreen sites do not require as many backups as new, in development, or highly active websites.

New webmasters, keep in mind all the time you've taken to develop your site, only to have it hacked/defaced. You have a copy on your dev/personal machine, right? Hope so! But what if that machine meets the same fate or coincidentially conks out. If you don't have a THIRD backup you'll be, as they say "S.O.L."... (look it up).

Consider this a PSA for webmasters... we sometimes forget to do ordinary house-keeping.



 11:02 pm on Apr 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

A) Most code on the server has a local copy on my desktop. (I will sometimes make minor edits directly on the server.) Weekly backups of server code and data (also daily incremental data backups) to hard drive on the server and a copy of the files to an external hard drive. (Backups are on autopilot and I manually check the files periodically to make sure the backups ran.)

B) Yes- late last year crashed a hard drive, then mangled the mirror so bad that it wouldn't boot. Was able to restore the code backups in a couple of hours (data was on a different server and unaffected). Took a few more days to find and eradicate a few configuration issues on some minor pages.

C) Yes!


 12:26 am on Apr 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

Many hosting companies use R1Soft for backups, so it is easy to restore. There are online services for backups and I also have multiple backups of HDD data.


 2:16 am on Apr 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

Thanks Tangor.

A) Local and host backup, dev server.
B) Not yet.
C) Yes.

I know you backup your files and databases, but do you have a good system for keeping track of server settings (Apache configs, etc.) and knowing how to set up a new server if yours bites it?


 2:41 am on Apr 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

One thing you should do is periodically test your back-ups. Actually use them to recover to a test environment. Can you recover a full system? Are you able to recover just a single file or a database table?

It's all very well diligently taking back-ups but if you have no idea how to recover from them or if you discover they do not contain quite what you expected then you're going to be piling on the agony.


 9:58 am on Apr 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

Onother aspect that I think should be considered here is the security of the info on those backups.

Does your db backup include peoples names, emails etc? If so than your backup should be as secure as the original.

So I do not simply download a db backup and store it on my computer unless I can protect it with something like winsesame (which I hope is secure - anyone else use this?). Otherwise I store those backups on another webserver where they are as secure as the original db.


 6:14 pm on Apr 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

B. Have you ever needed to restore?

About 6 years ago I had to re-construct a personal web site.
It was static -- but ran about 100 pages. No backup - my bad.
I rebuilt it using the WayBack Machine.
That was an interesting experience.


 8:37 am on Apr 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

Not as often as I should is the answer.

For the web site I normally regard the on-line copy as the backup. That isn't always reliable -
I had a lot of photos on a web based hosting service and on hard disk - no problem two copies.
PC crashed and I lost the disc but didn't bother to copy them all back from the hosting service
Hosting service went bust and was taken down without warning.


 9:22 am on Apr 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

periodically test your back-ups

Ran into trouble a few years ago when backup was stored on ZIP-drives and I thought that everything was fine. Found out the hard way that I couldn't read from the ZIP-Disks anymore.


 9:22 am on Apr 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

Yes, you do need to ensure that your backup media are still accessible.
Organising an office move at a very large mainframe user several decades ago I discovered a large stack of punch cards at the bottom of a filing cabinet. On enquiring I discovered that it was a vital back up for the mainframe operating system. Pity we had scrapped the punch card readers just a few weeks earlier.

With the present pace of change things become redundant far more quickly.


 10:01 am on Apr 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

A. What backup methods do you use?

Major changes backed up as they are made.
Every three days an automatic incremental backup done to external HD.
Every seven days a manual incremental backup done to external HD.
Every month a complete backup done to external HD.
Every week, and offsite backup done to another HD.
Every month incremental backups done to DVD and two copies stored, one onsite and one at remote location.
Once per year a complete archive produced before archiving off old data from the live set.

B. Have you ever needed to restore?
Yes, over my career, more times than I care to think about. Often, it's a 'finger trouble' restore required. i.e., when someone accidentally deletes a file. Corrupt files are rare, but do happen. HD failure has happened about three times. Once recent incident was malware. It was easier to wipe the disk and restore os and data to the latest backup rather than try and clean the pest.

C. Have you even thought about it?

Regularly. It'll save us from hd failure, malware, fire, etc.

Backup shold be part of the disaster recovery program and everyone should have a disaster recovery program.

Oh, and yes, I completely agree, check the efficacy of your backups, otherwise, what's the use of doing them.


 2:17 am on Apr 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

(A) Two hosts; two local laptops; external drive; several thumb drives
(B) Three times
(C) Weekly: see (B); also, routine from 30 years large shop mainframe habit


 4:06 pm on Apr 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

B) And again last night. Due to a stupid bit of code, I managed to delete part of the data for about 40,000 records.

Restored that table to a separate table and just about to jump into the surgical restoration of the lost data.

ETA of time to recover because of the backup? Probably less than an hour. Without the backup? At least a day.


 5:59 am on May 2, 2011 (gmt 0)

A. I do daily backup of files every 24 hours because I have new files daily. I use my FTP software that does file comparison of server and local copy. In addition to that I have incremental snapshots of the files every week that I rotate out occasionally.

Same thing with database but I'm looking to improve it so in addition to the 24 hour backup I'll have 1 hour incremental backups.

My host does backups too but these are not guaranteed and for any newbie reading this don't depend on your hosts backups unless you're specifically paying for it, even then I wouldn't trust it fully.

B. Yes and I test it occasionally.

Why tape? 1/10th the cost of disk drives... and I like belt AND suspenders.

This is why I like tape cams, storing 10 or 14 GB for 1 hour of video on disk is expensive enough let alone having a backup. At least with the tape it becomes economical to keep the original as a backup and there is no work involved.


 8:59 am on May 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

Do the backup manually whenever something changes and change the passwords after for good measure. Leaving backups to an automated process exclusively, or to a 3rd party *gasp* will eventually catch up with you, eventually.

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