Website Backups – WayBackups

As a website developer it is amazing and disconcerting the number of times the “problem du jour” is a website backup recovery. Yes, just getting a website recovered either after a hack attack or sometimes simple “misplacement” is a 4-8 times a year consulting task. Now the reason this is surprising is because most hosting services provide   both very good security firewalls and automatic website backup procedures.

But there are so many new websites being created [5 million brand new websites in 2017 to 2018] that things et out of hand. Many new websites have new owners taking a DIY-Do-It-Yourself approach to development. Facing off against the neophyte  developer are a)hackers with a an increasingly potent arsenal of hacking tools, b)more marginal hosting providers who have to cut corners in an ultra competitive environ, and c)the new web owner who has to stay abreast of all the web threats and opportunities – a full time business for web developers and consultants. So when Robbie Burns intrudes,  “the best laid plans of mice and men  oft go agley”, here are some basic backup processes.

When Website Mayhem Occurs

It is a surprising the number of times the following occurs  – a page is missing, not showing or appears corrupted. Where as the real problem is that a caching routine is misfiring or an update is missing. One can verify the problem by access the website in another browser or checking with your service provider. If it is a hacked website, your browser firewall should warn you. Also the security procedure on your website or hosting service should provide  a warning message either live or via email.

If  there is an outage or a hack attack, a call to your hosting provider or website developer should easily clarify the circumstances and what can be done. Many times I have discovered that the problem does not require going to a backup ; but rather changing a caching setting, updating a routine, or applying a simple fix to one or more website routines. If you cannot dea

But on those situations where a backup must be used, here is a backup drill. Go first to your webhosting’s  backup facility. Mosts hosting services provide fairly resilient backup operations. When your site was created the service provider will have a backup process that includes several key options:
1)complete or partial website backup – choose complete backup in the first 1-2 years of  the website’s operations when the bulk of changes  occur;
2)user triggered or regularly scheduled backups – choose regularly scheduled, too many times end users forget to do a self triggered backup;      3)time between backups – choose a schedule that matches your change cycle; make it daily at the beginning then adjust as change slows down;
4)storage of the back-up on the server or locally – choose on the server for quick emergency access as long as your server’s storage quota is not endangered.

If you have a good webhost,  your website is protected by easy and fast backup recovery. Use the backup procedure to restore your website. Most good web hosting services provide simple automated procedures that can be quickly used in the CPanel or administration dashboard.

BUT, in the past few years I have encountered some nasty cases where the backup procedure has been badly fumbled by the webhosting service and/or the website owner. Now you are looking for a backup  from the website application. Uhoh, there are some real opportunities for plans going agley.

Website Application Backups

Most CMS either provide backup as part of their service like Wix and SquareSpace. Others have available  backup plugins/extensions that the user owner and/or developer provide for as in the case of WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal, etc. Here is where I make a pitch for a consultant to help in a website start-up. For $50-100 dollars one can get major issues like what web hosting to use, backup, security, staging services, and basic SEO put inplace and started.Add to this  perhaps a head start in use of a Web Designer or PageBuilder+Theme and a website can be well launched with plenty of room for both DIY savings and user  creativity.

In the case of backup for a WordPress website, here are 4 good backup plugins with a number of options:
1)UpdraftPlus – freemium, all files & database, scheduled or manual triggered, store backup on local machine or on several cloud services;
2)Duplicator- freemium, all files & database, scheduled or manual triggered, store backup on local machine , migration capabilities;
3)All in one WP Migration – freemum, all files & database, manual triggered backup, migration capable. Premium delivers huge-sized migrations;
4)Boldgrid – freemium, all files & database, scheduled or manual triggered backup, migration capable, Premium delivers more storage options.
having used all four backup plugins with excellent results, the choice comes down to which plugin matches your storage requirement and scheduling needs. Again, tools/plugins for backup, security, SEO, performance tuning, etc should be a part of every website. But they are often NOT which leads to a Backup Collision

This is what happens when there is no webhosting backup and no  working application backup. Backup Collisions  unfortunately  not a rare  occurrence. For example,clients with no webhosting nor application backup has occurred 5 times in the past 2 1/2 years among diverse clients. Literally, a vibrant website becomes inoperable because there was no viable backup from either the webhosting or the client own website application settings. There appearsed to be no recourse.  But before pulling hairs or taking drastic action, consider using the WayBack Machine.

WayBackUps

WayBack Machine is part of the  Internet Archive, a Silicon Valley non-profit in the style of Wikipedia. But as you can see from their home page:
The Internet Archive contains a lot more than a historical backup of web pages as it includes multi-million copies of books, movies, music , software and images [consider these photos as an alternative to unsplash.com or pixabay.com]66. The WayBack Machine is a collection of 376 billion web pages according to Internet Archive but other estimates nearly double the figure to 750 billion webpages. This would allow the average of 20 pages among the 100 million websites to be captured 16 times in the last 23 years of the WayBack Machines existence. Suffice it to say many requests to a website with a top level domain name  produced results like the following:
The WayBack Machine found an early version of LouisePitre.com which would hopefully have some desired early images of Louise’s performances. And because the snapshot of the website is live, clicking on the Gallery menu tem took us to the following page:
At first it appears the WayBack will rescue all the lost images. But some WayBack website snapshots are only partial website lsaves which proved the case here. And moving along the WayBack timeline both back and forward only managed to rescue a few more images. The rest were either missing or medium to thumbnail size images of limited usability.

So the WayBack Machine is not a backup panacea. Getting a complete website backup is dependent on  a number of factors-:
– top level domains get “better” and more frequent snapshots;
– popular websites with frequent content changes also receive more frequent snapshots;
– some websites may,through a roots.txt option settings, have reduced the frequency of snapshots;
– the quality and frequency of  WayBack Machine snapshots have really improved in the past 5-8 years;

In contrast, both web application or webhosting backups can and should  be precisely specified. – what directories, programming files, database and media assets are to be included in a backup. Hence getting backups setup properly is one of the 5 defining tasks in website development [ 1)Website mission and  strategy; 2)Security setup and operation; 3)Backup process in place; 4) Application design and correponding development tools; SEO and  Marketing strategy]. Thus, if you are doing a major website revision or startup, having a savvy web developer  can save a lot of time and money during startup or sitewide revision. This system savvy is particularly important in backup recovery.

Backup Recovery

Even in the case of having a webhosting or application backup there are cautions in doing a recovery. For example, in the case of a webhosting backup, some hosting services only provide a bulk backup so a two step process of creating a staged backup followed by extracting from the staged backup to the live website ensures a clean backup recovery.

Likewise, in the case of an application backup there maybe a need to do a series of partial backups for media file, then code files, followed by database, etc. This multi-step process may be required when the backup file exceeds some threshold limit depending on the application and the host server. For example, 1GB or less is the limit for many WordPress backup plugins doing a single step backup restore. Any backup larger than 1GB will have to be redone into separate backups into database, program files, and media files. Alternatively , premium editions of some WordPress backup plugins will handle the multi-step process “behind the scenes”.

Finally,  WayBackUps are really fishing expedition. First, users have to find  a complete snapshot of the application. Or second,  assemble from multiple WayBack snapshots, a multipart recovery of the application. During the WayBack  recovery process each program element has to be scanned for viruses and updated if it is out of date. There are a number of companies that will help with the initial file and object retrieval from the WayBack timeline:
https://waybackrebuilder.com – specializes in multi-site recoveries for their SEO Banner revenues, monthly $27/US secure unlimited downloads
http://waybackdownloader.com – specialize in multiple website and WordPress recovery, $15-45 but discount pricing
http://www.waybackmachinedownloader.com/en/- specializes in WordPress Recoveries, Special Search/Scraping tools, and PBN service ,$15-60US
https://www.waybackdownloads.com – very competitive  pricing at $11US per site with bulk deals available
But the user is still responsible for  virus checking  nd updating routines. This can be a significant task.

Summary

Backup and recovery is a defining task in website development. This is especially true as hack attacks in the past 3-5 years have increased. The WayBack machine provides a measure of backup insurance in the case that a web hosting backup and   application backup both go awry. Having used the WayBack Machine to rescue parts or complete websites, the machine is invaluable. What makes the Wayback Machine  so intriguing is the wealth of additional cultural backups from books to  movies to vintage images and software. The WayBack Machine is part of a cultural treasure trove.