How to Back Up Your Backups for Bulletproof Protection

Of course you back up your websites! But what if something were to happen to your backups? Do you have a plan B in place to cover that possibility?

You may think I’m being alarmist, but I think I’m only being realistic. Recent events have shown that the only way to really keep your data secure, whether we’re talking about website backups, family pictures, or business data, is to backup your data at least twice — that is, to backup your backups.

Backing up critical data and files in just one location is a recipe for disaster. In this post, we’ll take a look at recent events that demonstrate the importance of a comprehensive backup system and then discuss strategies for backing up your website backups.

Ready to rest a little easier? Let’s get started.

How WordPress Website Backups Are Lost

Data loss happens all the time. If you’re paying attention, you’ll see stories of data loss hitting consumers and businesses alike with alarming regularity. Data is lost for all sorts of reasons:

  • Human error can always cause data loss. Recently, Upvato users learned this the hard way when the free backup service failed to pay for the cloud storage hosting its users’ files.
  • Malicious activity can also come into play. There are people out there that want to encrypt your website files and force you to pay to have them decrypted. Yes, there is now ransomware out there that targets web servers.
  • Technical errors such as server failures can cause data loss — even if you’re storing your data using a best-in-class provider like Amazon.
  • Natural disasters can strike anywhere, and if they hit the datacenter where your data is housed all bets are off. Google cloud storage was affected in this way when their Belgium datacenter was struck by lightning, not once, but twice. Who could’ve predicted that?

The list of factors that can cause a loss of data is long, complex, and unpredictable. And you cannot assume that data stored anywhere — even data stored in world-class datacenters — is completely, 100%, secure.

So what’s the point? Am I just sounding the alarm for the sake of stirring up worry? No. I’m pointing out that when you see your website backup files safely stored to Google Drive (or anywhere else) realize that those files are never 100% secure.

When it comes to backing up mission-critical digital data, you need a plan B.

Multiple Backups: Gotta Keep ‘Em Separated

When it comes to backing up your backups, the thing you’re trying to protect against is the possibility that any single incident could wipe out both sets of backups. Let me explain.

Let’s say you backup your website to your computer and then create a second backup to an external hard drive connected to your computer. You’ve got two sets of backups and you’re good to go, right? Your computer could crash or your external hard drive could be damaged and you’d still have a second set of backups to fall back on.

Wrong. It isn’t even difficult to come up with plausible scenarios in which both sets of backups would be lost.

Scenario #1: Ransomware

As prevalent as ransomware has grown in the last few years, you shouldn’t be shocked if your computer is hit by ransomware that also encrypts any connected external hard drives.

Ok, so you disconnect your external hard drive. Now, you’re good to go, right? Nope.

Scenario #2: Natural Disaster

A small flood, such as from a burst pipe, or an electrical fire in your office could easily destroy both your laptop and external hard drive while you sleep.

You’re going to need to do better.

The key is distance. You need to put some physical distance between your backups.

You should never keep both sets of backups in a single office. And you should never keep both sets of backups with a single provider — such as relying on your host’s automatic backups and keeping a second set of backups stored on a web server managed by the same host.

With that guideline in mind, let’s look at three strategies for keeping multiple backups.

Strategy #1: Backup Locally and to a Web Server

If you have plenty of space on your web server, creating and storing one set of backups right to your server is a pretty simple process. All you have to do is use a plugin like WP-DBManager to create backups of your database and store them with your website files. Then you just create an archive file of your website files (which now contain your backed-up database) and store that archive file as a website backup.

You can easily create a separate “backups” directory on your web server to keep track of your website backups. However, since a single server crash could take out both your website and backups, you would also want to download a copy of your backup files for safe keeping.

This method does tick the boxes in the sense that it backs up your website twice. However, it isn’t perfect.

  • Creating and copying backups using this method is a manual process. You’ll have to schedule the task and have the discipline to keep your schedule. That’s probably doable if your site is updated infrequently and you only take backups on a weekly or monthly basis — but not so much if you take backups daily or every few hours.
  • Site restoration is completely manual. That means that if your site goes down it’ll stay down for as long as it takes you to manually restore your site.

This method certainly beats keeping all your backups in one spot, but it isn’t ideal.

Strategy #2: Backup to Two Cloud Storage Services

With your WPMU DEV membership you get 10GB of free cloud storage space for backing up your WordPress websites.
With your WPMU DEV membership you get 10GB of free cloud storage space for backing up your WordPress websites.

Rather than keeping your backups on your local computer, another option is to store website backups using multiple remote storage services. You can do this easily with our Snapshot backup plugin. Just set up automatic backups using two different storage locations — such as managed backups on our servers (WPMU DEV members get 10GB free!) and a second set of backups stored using Google Drive.

This is also a good strategy to pair with automatic backups created by your host or with backups you create manually and store to your web server. The key is to make sure that both sets of backups aren’t stored on the same server, stored by the same service provider, or otherwise linked in such a way that they can be affected by a single incident.

Strategy #3: Backup Locally and to the Cloud

Just copy your backups from cloud storage to a local backup directory.
Just copy your backups from cloud storage to a local backup directory.

This is the backup method I would recommend for the most critical data. And it’s simply a combination of the prior two backup methods.

With this method you store backups to a remote server (or cloud storage) using a plugin like Snapshot, you then copy the backups either to an external hard drive or right to your computer. That way, your site is securely backed up in the cloud, but your backups are also accessible offline in the event that you lose access to your cloud storage platform.

It’s actually quite easy to implement. Simply use a backup plugin like Snapshot to send backups to Google Drive or Dropbox. Then install the desktop app offered by your cloud storage provider. Once your backups are synced to cloud storage, open the desktop application, find your backups, and make a local copy of your backup files.

Conclusion

Backup services aren’t bulletproof. If you want to make sure you have a backup on hand when you need it, there’s no substitute to backing up your backups.

Setting up a system of multiple backups isn’t hard — you can even set it on autopilot with a plugin like Snapshot. The key is to come up with a system that you’ll be able to stick with and that stores backups in two locations that can’t be affected by any single incident.

Jon Penland
Do you backup your website backups? If so, how do you do it? Shared your backup plan with us in the comments!