Melting CD

A backup that doesn’t work is as good as no backup at all

Okay. So you’ve done a great job of creating regular backups. Awesome job! But you’ve got one more step to go… testing your backups!

The entire reason that you are backing up (and storing your backup offline, of course) is in case your website gets hacked, or the server crashes, or one of the million reasons you might need that backup. But your backup is only valuable if it works. There’s nothing worse than needing the backup, thinking you’ve got one, and then seeing it fail when you need to restore it. Been there, done that, no fun!

But what could go wrong?

When backing up your website, you need to make sure that it is done correctly and that the backup file is intact. Backups can have problems for a number of reasons. Here are just a few:

  • Something interrupts the backup process such as running out of computer memory or anti-virus software interrupting the backup process
  • The file gets corrupted when you download it
  • The drive or disk that you were storing it on gets corrupted
  • New directories or database tables got added to your site but did not get included in your backup
  • The list goes on and on…

Okay, so how do you test your backup?

At its most basic level, “testing your backup” means to restore your website to a test site (aka “test environment”) and make sure that it works. Your “test environment” can be on a local server (which could be your desktop computer) or you could setup a subdomain such as test.yourdomain.com (obviously replacing ‘yourdomain.com’ with your actual website domain). Once you have that set up, then you restore the files and the database and start running through the site to make sure all the critical pieces are working.

If that all sounds a bit complicated, well… it can be. This might be one of those instances where you want your web developer to help you get things set up or possibly just run the tests for you. But if your website is important, then you definitely want to be testing your backups at least quarterly – because a backup that doesn’t work is as good as no backup at all!

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