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I received quite a bit of feedback from last week’s email about hacking.

And one of the key things that I was asked was, “Is there an easy way to back my site?”

Fortunately, there is.

Backing up your site:

Like any process, I’d recommend having multiple processes in place for backing up your site.

1. Hosting Company Backs It Up?

First, start with your hosting company and have them do daily backups for your site.

Make sure that the site and any databases are being backed up each and every day.
(We just worked with a client who had their site backed up each and every day automatically, but the database – where a lot of their key information is stored, was not).

Some hosting companies do this automatically, especially at the higher end of the hosting spectrum. But double-check, and make sure this is actually being done.

2. You should also back it up.

You should have a copy of your site downloaded somewhere at your office, and plan to bring a copy home as well.

Make sure to get a copy of the files, images, and the database. Sometimes the database might be on a completely different server.

I’d recommend doing this once per month at minimum. You can do this as a manual process, or via an automated process that can run on a schedule.

We do this for a lot of our clients, and simply mail a DVD or USB thumb drive to them for safekeeping.

If you want to do this, you might need to learn how to use an FTP program, or learn how to create what is known as a mySQL dump file. But it’s not that difficult to do.

Now, the important part is to not just sit on these files.

Once in a while, try to do a restore from the backups. Depending on the complexity of your site, this could take a few minutes, or it could take a couple of hours. It’s time well spent.

We did have an instance where a client thought they had their whole site backed up. Turns out, they didn’t backup a big chunk of the site, and it took about 250 hours to recreate all of that information. Ouch.

3. Consider a hot-swapable site backup:

If you’re paranoid, like me, have a hot-swapable site that is synchronized.
This is an exact copy of your Website, hosted on a different Web server, that is never more than a day or so out of date.

In case your primary Webserver fails, or the datacenter is affected by bad weather (this happened to a bunch of clients during Hurricane Sandy), you can switch over via a DNS change to the A records of the site.

You can generally get away with a much lower cost hosting plan for this, and you can have automated scripts that allow any changes on the live site to be backed up at another location.

Overkill? For some, absolutely. But if your business depends on your Website, it might not be such a bad idea.

If you plan for failure to occur, you will likely avoid it.

As you probably know, I’m a professional photographer, in addition to running Customer Paradigm. A lot of the photography is related to websites, including product photography, head shots, business photos, etc.

But I also shoot a lot of once-in-a-lifetime events. And once a moment has passed, there’s no way to get images back.

I use a backup system that is multi-layered, but ensure success.

First, I shoot with cameras that have multiple card slots. When I’m shooting an important event, I’ll have the camera write images to both cards. That way, if a card fails or data corruption occurs (and if you shoot enough, it will), you have another backup. This is also known as a RAID-1 array.

Second, I’ll never format a card in the field. I go out with a lot of blank cards, and never have to worry if I’m going to erase an image.

Third, once a photo shoot is complete, I’ll physically separate the one set of cards from the other. I won’t leave all of the cards in the car, for example.

Fourth, the first thing I do when I get back to a computer is download all of the images to a computer, and back them up to another USB hard drive. (Now I have FOUR copies of each image.) If it’s a really big shoot, I might back them up to yet a second USB hard drive, and store that in another fireproof, off site location.

Fifth, I have a secure, off site backup location where all of the RAW files are also stored. Unfortunately, cloud storage isn’t always a great option – in a single after non, sometimes I’ll shoot over 100 GB of images, and that could take a long, long time even on a very high-speed connection.

Sixth, once the images have been processed and retouched, then they are exported and saved in even more locations, including a cloud-based backup storage drive.

I‘m paranoid about not losing images. And to date, I’ve planned well, and not had any major problems. (Knock on wood.)

Now this process to an average camera buff might seem pretty excessive, and reek a little bit of OCD.

But the difference is that I’ll take images of people at weddings, bar mitzvahs, baby namings and more, or capture news events for the international media. Failure isn’t an option.

Back it up!


Jeff FinkelsteinFounder, Customer Paradigm
Jeff Finkelstein
Founder, Customer Paradigm


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