We had a server outage last week that effected about 25 shared hosting customers due to a hard drive failure. Coincidentally, the Supreme Center Hosting corporate websites were also down when our drive failed as well. Anyone in this industry, or who has had a website for any length of time knows that hardware failures are as incalculable as is mother nature. We emailed updates to the effected customers almost daily and had suggested that, if any customer had a backup of their account, even a home directory and database backup, to please email us so that we could get their data restored on new servers. Needless to say, we here at Supreme Center hosting spent countless hours working to restore all effected customers, but our effort was ineffective. Fortunately, we had enough data in our office to restore 19 customer accounts – the remaining 6 were a total loss due to corrupt remote backups. Our corporate data, including site files and databases which included customer data, account info etc, was also lost.
Why tell everyone about the hard drive failures and loss of data? Are you trying to scare customers away? No. I say this simply because some lessons are better learned the hard way. The failure of hardware and loss of data was frustrating to me to say the least. What I found to be more frustrating was how many of the 25 effected customers that had absolutely no backups of any kind. There was one customer who was clever enough to backup his files, but failed to backup the databases for his dozen or so websites. Customer data is obviously important to any hosting provider. Important enough that we do daily backups and weekly remote backups of data. However, that can not in anyway be considered a fail-safe, anything can happen and in this case, it did.
Each effected customer who’s account we could not restore emailed and pleaded with us to restore their data. Each one seemed genuinely concerned about their website and obviously their data was important to them, but not important enough to take the time to backup do a full backup of their account. Not even a home directory or database backup was produced by the 6 customers who lost all their data. I am not about to suggest that a single one of them is unintelligent. I do have to ask how it is possible for someone to pay for shared hosting, create a website and then not do anything to protect their investment. I ask myself, “self, how is it possible that so many of your customers failed to backup their precious data?”
Some of you are probably asking yourself… “didn’t he say that Supreme Center Hosting lost their data as well?” Aahhh yes, it is true we were effected also. However, we do an additional account backup of our data which is stored separately from customer data. Therefore, we were able to restore our sites and get back on line without a hitch. Seeing as we offer our hosting customers cPanel, it is just as easy and painless for all our customers to backup their data too.
I kept asking myself, “why don’t these customers have backups of their data?” It occurred to me that website data is probably as important to most people as is other possessions you might have in your home. So, would you:
1. Go out of town on vacation and leave your door and windows open?
2. Place your important documents [insurance papers, will, stock certificates] in a cardboard shoe box and leave it next to your fireplace?
3. Store all your family heirlooms and photos next to your water heater?
I am willing to bet that most of you would lock up when leaving on vacation, would keep your important papers in a safe or something similar and would store your family heirlooms and photo’s in an area that is free from humidity and/or a water source. So, why is it that so many people don’t take the same precautions with their website data? Its hard to replace that one-of-a-kind photo. Costly to have your will rewritten or your furniture replaced. There is a reason we use the word “invaluable” when describing certain things we find important to us.
Lesson learned, we hope. In light of the recent loss of data we have implemented a mandatory, but unenforceable rule. All our customers are “required” to backup their data. The rate of backup should depend on how often you work on your site. Sites that are not modified often can probably get away with a monthly full backup. Sites where files are rarely modified, but a database is used, than a database backup should be taken at least weekly. If the database is updated frequently than the database backup should also be more frequent and it is suggested that it be done daily. However, you should still be doing a full account backup at least weekly.
What is the moral of this story? I have always said this to people in forums, email and even on the phone… backup, backup, backup. If you are not sure, backup. If you just did a backup, it does not hurt to backup again. One can never have enough backups.