BACKUP – Are You Covered?

If you are still reading this congratulations! Most people ignore the subject of this post. Many will acknowledge it is something they should do, like exercise or flossing, but usually don’t or procrastinate about it. I understand this aspect of our human nature as I too am also guilty of it. I decided to write this series to share a recent experience where I paid the price for not paying attention to this precaution like I should and what I am doing about it now.

Backups are really a form of insurance. And like insurance, you really hope you never have to use it, but when if the situation arises, you’ll be glad you are covered.

Recently I discovered that our church website (which I maintain) was wiped out. By wiped out, I mean WIPED OUT – GONE! My heart sank when I saw the blank screen and confirmed the disappearance of all of the sites files in the directory on our web host. We had worked hard to roll out this new site about 9 months ago. There were countless hours of work that were simply lost. I suppose it was like a digital version of finding your home destroyed by a tornado.

Causes and Excuses Don’t Matter
At that point, what can you do? It is too late to prevent the destruction from happening. You can only rebuild. Rebuilding in either the real or virtual world is much easier if you have insurance. I certainly understood the need for backups and have done them before for other things, but I had not yet gotten around to implementing a backup procedure for that site. I had excuses for the delay including trying to find the perfect process which would automate everything, but the fact remained, I had not made a backup and now the site was gone. Excuses aren’t worth very much at that point.

I found myself also wanting to find out the logical question, what happened? This makes perfect sense and might help justify yourself by pointing blame at someone else but at the end of it you are still in the same position – your site is gone.

Rebuild from Scratch or Recover?
Those are really the two options you have. If you haven’t made any backups you are forced to rebuild. With backups, you have the option of being able to more quickly recover from those backups and only have to recreate changes since the last one was taken.

I was practically sick to my stomach as the impact of the devastation sank in. I cringed at the thought of having to recreate everything we had done over the past 9 months. I searched and searched and finally found something that held a glimmer of hope. While our site files had all be lost, the SQL database which was used by our CMS (Joomla! in our case), was still there.

Moving Forward
This meant I still had much of the content that was created with our Joomla! system including various articles, web pages and basic content that is part of the site. What I didn’t have was the system to present that information and the controls and images to make it make it look good. No mistake, I still had much work to do including reinstall of Joomla!, gathering and uploading of media files (pictures, podcasts, etc) but not nearly as much as I would have if we had lost the database as well.

How About You?
Have you ever suffered loss when a computer or website crashed on you?  Did you have any backups?

In the next post in this series, I’ll talk about some tools and procedures you can use to help prevent this kind of catastrophe.

6 comments

  1. I actually wrote a blog about this last year (shameless plug: http://www.matthew-phelps.com/2009/12/why-you-should-back-up-your-files/). Long story short, a hard drive, which just happened to have sermon recordings back to late 2004, at my last church died in December. Fortunately we set up a backup system last spring, so it was a simple task of restoring the files. We did this after a near data loss when a computer quit, but the hard drive was still working.

    I personally have a backup system that uses the same technique as what I had set up at the church, but I also have an off-site backup. I also use this system to back up clients’ websites. I’m working with my last pastor on set up an off-site backup for the church.

  2. I can hardly wait for what follows. I’ve been looking for the “right” backup solution for small organizations. Maybe you’re getting ready to tell me you’ve already found it. Should I start holding my breath?

  3. Thanks for sharing Matt! I’m going to look at your post and compare to what I’m currently doing as well.

    Tony – I don’t know if there is a “perfect” solution but I’ll share what’s working for me currently (which is always subject to change / improvement!)

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