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Blogging Pitfalls: Failure to Backup

Everyone knows that you’re supposed to backup your data but how many of us actually do it and, of those who do, how many do it right?

The problem is that far too many bloggers ignore this very crucial security step. Whether it is putting too much trust in their host, not understanding how to backup properly or simply not wanting to put forth the effort, many simply don’t backup their sites and, sadly, often lose months or years worth of work when something goes wrong.

The worst part is that it is a pitfall that can be easily avoided and, thanks to various tools, can be completely mitigated either for free or at very low-cost.

In short, there is no excuse to not backup your site, but there is a lot of reason to worry if you don’t.

The Pitfall

It is far too easy to forget about backups, until we need them. The dirty truth about technology is that things break and bad things happen. Though such occurrences are (usually) blessedly rare, the damage they can do can not be ignored.

Typically, there are three reasons for ignoring or performing inadequate backups of one’s site.

  1. Trust in the Host: Most Web hosts tout their backup procedures and many bloggers feel this is adequate.
  2. Lack of Understanding: Many simply don’t understand what they need to backup or how to do it, causing them to either skip on making backups or do them incorrectly.
  3. Laziness: Backups are work and its work that doesn’t usually pay off until something bad happens. As such, many do not think it to be worthwhile.

Unfortunately for bloggers all of these excuses are poor ones. Host backups are usually for restoring their machines in the face of a disaster and are not aimed at restoring individual accounts. If a hard drive dies they can restore their backups, if your account gets hacked or you break your site, they might not be able to. Also, often times, host backups get hosed at the same time the server does, especially when they are stored at the same physical location. Simply put, Web host backups are never enough by themselves.

Lack of understanding and laziness are not valid excuses either. Though it is easy to see why backing up may be confusing, it’s easier to understand how to backup and restore than it is to try to rebuild a site without one. The techniques and tools are much simpler when a proper backup exists. Likewise, the amount of energy and financial cost it takes to perform good backups pales in comparison to what it takes to rebuild without one.

In short, by not having backups, you aren’t saving time, money or headache, all you are doing is shifting those things to a later date, when you will have to pay it back at a very high rate of interest.

The Danger

This happened to me once. I visited my Web site only to be greeted with a nasty server error. After nearly a day of tortured waiting, I found out that my server was completely hosed and the host’s backups had failed. My only option was to rebuild the server from the ground up.

Fortunately, I was in luck. I had just recently switched to the new host and my old site still had relatively up to date backups. I simply moved everything back to the old server, updated its database and pointed the domain there. Within a few hours, I was back online with minimal data loss.

However, if I hadn’t had that, I might have been in serious trouble. Though I had good database backups, but my backups of the images and other static files were not adequate. I would have been in a very bad place.

If good fortune had not smiled on me, at best I would have been staring at weeks worth of work rebuilding my site and, at worst, I would have lost many weeks, possibly months of data. Others, with even less robust backup plans, could have lost everything.

In my case, that would have included over three years of blogging, all wiped out in seconds by a hard drive failure at my host. I’m not sure my online presence would have ever recovered.

How to Avoid It

The way to avoid this pitfall is extremely simple, have good backups. Specifically, you need to back up two different things:

  1. Your Database: Your content, settings and other blog information, for the vast majority of blogs, is stored in your database.
  2. Your Files: A lot of content is not in your database including your theme, plugins, images and other media files that are stored as files on your server.

How often you should back up these elements depends on your site. If you have a very active blog, you should probably back it up daily. A less active one can probably be backed up weekly. In all cases you should have several iterations of your blog stored at any time to guard against bad backups or any corruption not being swiftly detected.

As far as how to do it, there are actually many different ways. If you’re more technical and want to do it yourself, Franky wrote an excellent guide on how to make database and file backups using cron jobs last year. However, for those who want an easier way and are willing to use a third-party service, there are two great options.

  1. Backupify: Backupify works with both WordPress and Blogger blogs to create daily backups of your site and store them remotely and securely on their servers. Best of all, a basic account is free and you can also backup other services, such as Twitter, Flickr and Gmail accounts. Very simple to use.
  2. Site Auto Backup: Created by Hostgator, Site Auto Backup makes it easy and cheap to backup your site. If your host uses CPanel, which many if not most do, SAB will use your built-in backup feature to backup your files and databases. This makes it easy to transfer your site to another host in an emergency. If your host doesn’t use CPanel, you can configure to backup via FTP and MySQL. A 1 GB account, which should be adequate for most blogs, cost $2 per month.

However, no matter what service you use or if you do it yourself, you need to make these backups and keep them in a safe place. Should something happen, you’ll be able to restore your site quickly and easily with a minimal amount of data loss.

It’s a small effort to make to protect all of the hard work you’ve put into your blog.

Bottom Line

In the end, the important thing to remember is that technology is fallible. Hard drives fail, servers die, natural disasters happen and mistakes are made. Your data can be wiped out at any moment and, without a backup, you could find yourself losing a large portion of your work.

You have the choice of either spending a little time and energy on setting up a good backup plan now, or waiting until a disaster happens and spending many times that trying to recover.

You owe it to yourself, your readers and your blog to make sure your backups are solid and ready to roll when needed. Doing anything less is only an invitation for disaster to strike.

Categories: Backups
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  1. Andrew @ Blogging Guide ) says: 5/26/2010

    I use the BackupBuddy WP plugin from the iThemes guys. Great little tool. You can backup to email or via FTP to a server (not the same one as your WordPress blog is on – I would suggest).



    • Franky Branckaute ) says: 5/26/2010

      Andrew, while I admire the work done for BackupBuddy and I will also review the plugin (positively) here on BP in the next weeks, you are walking a thin and vulnerable line.

      Backups should NEVER be done from within WP. One problem with your WP setup and the database might be borked and there goes your ‘safe setup’.

      WP is a platform, a layer. Operations which can be as critical as backups need to be run/configured without layer in between. And I bet that the Automattic/WP Core team thinks that way as well, otherwise there would be a backup function integrated within the upgrade procedure.


      • Andrew @ Blogging Guide ) says: 5/26/2010


        I was unaware of that – I might take it up with the iThemes team and see what response I get!



        • Franky Branckaute ) says: 5/26/2010

          Andrew, it is different approach and maybe I’m old-fashioned. What doesn’t need to be run in WP shouldn’t be run in WP.

          But like Jonathan said, at least you have a backup routine in place (and use a great plugin for it).

    • Jonathan Bailey ) says: 5/26/2010

      I agree with Franky here. Though. WPBackupBuddy is better than nothing, I personally prefer SiteAutoBackup for my site as it works with CPanel and above the WordPress layer. Though plugins are useful, they can’t be as reliable and it is one of the reasons I am somewhat loathe to mention Backupify in my post.


  2. Unique Web Traffic ) says: 5/26/2010

    Great post. I had this happen to me once with a blog that had well over 100 posts – not to mention all the customization I had applied to it. Needless to say, there were countless hours devoted to its existence. Thankfully, my wonderful host came to my rescue.


  3. John Paul Aguiar ) says: 5/26/2010

    I almost had an issue with this few months back. I was like most, a lil lazy with the backend security stuff.

    Something you don’t usually think of until it’s to late.


  4. junthit lee says: 5/27/2010

    Im using an auto backup plugin for my database files, WP-DBManager. So far Its working great..


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