Backup Technologies in the Hosting Industry

One of my most often talked about topics is the wonderful world of backups!  Last week I spoke at HostingCon on this very issue, so I wanted to make sure I took the time to let those who were not in attendance know everything that was discussed.

I spoke a lot about great information you can use to prioritize your backup policies, how to implement monitoring into your backups and I also touched base on how long various backup technologies will take to restore after an incident.  I’ll be sure to touch on a few of those here.

First I want to talk about the importance of backups for you.  The fact is simple; hardware fails.  When outages occur, you are going to lose potential revenue while you are scrambling to fix the problem.  This, of course, is not something anyone would want, especially those whose livelihood relies on their online businesses. Customer’s trust your website will be up when they go to it, so having those backups is important to ensure you're always up and running; ultimately helping you sleep much better at night!

To begin, you will want to formulate a simple plan of action and answer some key questions:

  • What are we backing up?
  • Is this data vital for my company to function?
  • How long is too much downtime?
  • How often do I need to backup my data?

By looking at those areas, you will be able to get a better understanding of what type of backup you’ll need, how much you'll need, and the importance of response time.

Different types of backups can vary, so I’ve compiled a list of a few good ones and what they can do:

cPanel Backups:

  • Backs up all data in the cPanel account
  • Daily, Weekly and Monthly snapshots
  • FTP Backup Support
  • Support for individual account restoration/migration

Plesk Backups:

  • Supports whole server snapshots, individual accounts and individual websites
  • Allows scheduling along with FTP support and e-mail logging
  • Can be password-protected starting with Plesk 11

R1Soft Backups:

  • Supports all major Linux Panels
  • Highly customizable backup policies
  • Individual users can customize and interact with their own backups
  • Incremental backup support using block-level replication
  • “Bare Metal” recovery from complete failure
  • E-mail digests easy to read

Customized Backups:

  • Backs up everything you need and nothing you do not
  • Hundreds of possibilities for implementation
  • Possible to fully automate the deployment and recovery

Good backups require certain things.  You want to make sure there is a HIGH disk throughput as well as a high network throughput.  If you're going to be compressing your backups, remember that it's important to have a higher-quality CPU.  Of course you want to make sure you have enough RAM to be able to function, and construct a good file system to match your unique needs.

Your final steps will fall under monitoring and testing your backup solutions.  For monitoring, here are some helpful tips to look for:

  • Automation is best
  • Report to multiple locations
  • Monitor not only backup integrity but system integrity
  • Common tools utilized are Nagios, OpsView, Observium and
  • Sometimes the best monitoring is custom-tailored to your needs

When you test, it is important to keep in mind:

  • Necessary to gauge impact on service
  • Should be scheduled regularly to ensure backups continue to function as needed
  • QA process necessary after backup recovery completed
  • Documentation is key

With these quick tips and hints, you should be able to get a good idea of the importance of having backups, and how to go about choosing the right one to secure your website.  Remember, your situation will be unique to your website, so it's important to really understand what you need and what you're looking for, before choosing your backup plan.

My presentation slides and audio from my speech will be available on the HostingCon website shortly, as well as other speeches from the conference.  Feel free to leave a comment, or if you have any questions, hit us up on Twitter, @SingleHop, or Facebook and we'll be sure to answer your questions.