Web site hosting - backup

Disasters like floods and fires can happen. These can hit your web hosting provider in the same way as any other business. Suppose for example their building with all the computers burns down. It may take them weeks or months to get back to normal. Or it may be such a disaster they go out of business altogether. So your Internet presence is zero - email stops working and you have no web site. The same issue may occur on a smaller scale e.g. one computer may suddenly fail completely.

Any organisation using computer equipment has to consider what happens if equipment fails or is destroyed. The solutions come under the title of "backup". For example if a computer fails then your web hosting supplier may be able to switch to a backup computer, or if a whole building containing computers is lost then they may be able to switch to another backup building containing backup computers.

Providing backup is quite a technical problem. If you know little about IT (Information Technology) and ask your web hosting provider "what do you do about backup" then there is little chance you will understand if what they say is really good enough or not.

So how do you approach the problem ?. Here are some broad guidelines:

  • Keep your own copies of whatever content you have with your web hosting supplier. Then at least if they suffer a total loss of your data you have something to fall back on. Some content you may already have e.g. web site content from your web site designer. Other content you may have to ask your web hosting supplier for. For example you could ask them if they could send you a CD-ROM or memory stick once a week containing all data they have for you.
  • Larger web hosting suppliers tend to have more backup than smaller ones. This is not an cast-iron rule, but backup is expensive - particularly when it comes to whole buildings.
  • The first priority is going to be recovery of email. If you lose all your current email addresses, get some alternative ones fast.
  • Think about who you need to contact if you suddenly lose your Internet presence altogether. Phone them and explain what has happened. Generally they should be sympathetic. Make sure they have telephone numbers for you if they can't get hold of you via the Internet. Give them your temporary email addresses to use.
  • Plan to move your business fast to another web hosting supplier if it looks like your existing supplier is unable to get up and running again within a set period of time. Be firm on deadlines. Figure out what delay you can give your current supplier. Within that time-frame, start talking to alternative suppliers anyway.
  • As soon as you start running application systems with your web hosting supplier, revisit your backup plans. For example if a fire destroys the building occupied by your web hosting supplier, you can lose valuable real-time business data which may force you out of business unless you have proper backup arrangements.

October 2014.