Back up Your Backups - Other Types of Not So Obvious Backups
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Some hosting companies will offer a more direct back up approach, whereby they grab all of the content off your hard drive nightly or weekly and place it on one of their hard drives on a separate server. This approach is an unusual one, and not many hosting companies offer it. The ones that do tend to charge an arm and a leg for it. However, you can see this means of backup definitely has some serious upside potential. First of all it is usually much more reliable than the previously discussed back up options. Second, to restore from an identical backup which is located at your existing hosting company is usually pretty painless. There will still be some down time, but not usually as much as the other back up scenarios (with the exception being a RAID configuration where the RAID stays intact).
There are also some back up services outside the web hosting spectrum where you can pay a third party to log onto your server(s) and download your data as frequently as you wish to pay for. This is also not a bad solution which takes into account the minute possibility that something disastrous happens to your entire hosting company. At least with this scenario your data should be safe since it is being stored outside the hosting company facilities. The main downside with this alternative is that it tends to be extremely expensive and not entirely secure, as a third party would have all of your data and would require FTP access to all of your boxes in order to pull down the data.
One other possibility, depending on how handy you are with customizing and creating your own scripts, is putting together a cron which would grab select data at regular intervals and copy it to a destination of your choice. A "cron" is the clock daemon in UNIX which executes commands at specified dates and times according to the instructions you provide it. Crons are used to run scheduled jobs such as system tasks and nightly security checks. In this particular instance, a cron would handle backups as well.
And Now It's Time For the Breakdown
Okay, so we covered all of the different types, forms, and functions of backups and the obvious question is, which one should you use? Well I can tell you the kind of set up Developer Shed uses and you can decide for yourself if any of it makes sense. I will say this much – I have at some point during my 10 years of running web sites tried all of the previously discussed solutions and have still lost my share of data to all kinds of freaky situations you never think could occur – until they actually do.
We actually employ a mix of all of the above back up solutions. Like I said at the beginning of this article, you might think that it would be overkill to have so many different solutions in place which are all basically doing the same thing – backing up data. But it has been my experience that whenever I have had to rely upon a back up due to hard drive failure or any kind of hardware issue, more than half of the time it was not a complete restore.
We have our own home grown crons which back up critical data on a daily basis, we have RAID across all of our hard drives and servers, and we also have secondary boxes which are constantly replicating all of our data. Finally we have our hosting company download all of our data nightly to one of their own servers. Would you consider this to be overkill? It most likely is. Even as I sit here typing this article it occurs to me that I should probably look into one of those off site third party back up solutions because we are located in South Florida, landing site of numerous hurricanes, and our hosting company is also located in South Florida. I suppose the answer to that question really depends on just how paranoid I really am. Please excuse me, I have a few phone calls I need to make…
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