I'll never forget a terrifying phone call I handled when working as a customer support technician for a large web hosting company.
“Please, you have to help me. He's going to kill me!,” Ricky nervously screamed into my ear. At first I thought someone was prank calling me (which happens from time to time) but he quickly shuttered out his account information and I was able to verify this call was legit. Ricky had purchased a Virtual Private Server from this hosting company and was using it to resell his own shared hosting accounts.
Voice shaking, he proceeded to tell me that one of his client's (who just happened to have a large WordPress membership website) had come to his house a few minutes earlier, forced his way into his home and “roughed him up” a little bit — literally threatening to kill him if he didn't get his website data back.
The night before, two disks failed nearly simultaneously in one of our SANs (Storage Area Network), causing unrecoverable data loss for a handful of customers. Ricky just happened to be one of them. He had hundreds of clients on his server whose data was gone in an instant.
I felt terrible for Ricky, my heart sunk into my gut as he described what had happened to him, but what could I do? His VPS was located in a data center in England, and I was sitting in a cubical in Utah. I simply couldn't do anything: his data was gone forever. I asked him if he had any backups available and he said no.
“Often greater risk is involved in postponement than in making a wrong decision.”
– Harry A. Hopf
We offered $5/month daily snapshot backups for VPS's, but Ricky had opted out of that. And unfortunately he never made any of his own local backups. He was paying over $100/month for his large VPS, and when I asked him why he didn't choose our cheap $5/month auto backups, he said he didn't like the fact that he had to restore the entire VPS from a backup instead of being able to restore individual parts.
He said he was planning to setup rsync backup cron jobs on his server, but hadn't gotten around to it as it was a fairly technical job.
Ricky was afraid our snapshot backups were the wrong decision, and put off setting up his own. As a result, instead of maybe losing a days worth of data, he lost his entire business and had his life threatened. Who knows how many of his hundreds of clients may have lost their entire business as well.
“Stop talking. Start walking.”
– L.M. Heroux
It's not a question of if you'll experience data loss, but when. Hard drives don't last forever, networks don't have 100% up-time, data gets corrupted, and hackers don't care about you.
When it comes to backing up your website data, don't be so afraid of making the wrong decision that you end up not making any decision at all. Choose a backup solution that fits your budget and is capable of backing up both your website files & your database.
This is especially important if you're running a WordPress membership plugin like MemberPress, as 99% of your most important data is stored in your database. If that data gets corrupted or lost and you have no backups, you could spend weeks drudging through emails, gateway sales reports, etc. to recover it all. Not to mention all of the angry emails you'll be receiving from clients in the meantime who cannot access the site or the content they've paid for. Most likely they'll be wanting refunds or free upgrades. That's enough to break anyone's spirit, and probably bank account too.
This post isn't about how to backup your data but why it's so important that you do. So don't procrastinate! Many web hosting companies offer free or very cheap automated backup solutions, check with them first to see what's available for your account.
Another great solution is VaultPress which is produced by the same people who created WordPress and it's what we use here on MemberPress.com. One of its greatest benefits is that you can have your WordPress site back up and running extremely quickly after a disaster, just select a backup from a past date and click restore.
Whatever you do, make sure your website is frequently backed up and safe because someday you'll be glad it is, and that's a guarantee!