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A Stark Reminder About Why You Need External Website Backups

Discussion in 'Hosting & Domains' started by Kevin Muldoon, Apr 19, 2016.

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  1. #1 Kevin Muldoon, Apr 19, 2016
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2016
    Whenever I write articles about website backups I always stress the importance of not relying on internal backups or any backups provided by the hosting company itself.

    I was reading an article today on BBC at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-36072240 that illustrates what can happen if you rely 100% on a website hosting service taking care of everything.

    In the blink of an eye, 123-Reg must have caused millions of pounds of data loss with one error. It's easy to say that this kind of thing will never happen to you, but there are a lot of scare stories like this out there. 123-Reg is one of the most popular website hosting companies in the UK (if not the most popular).

    Web host 123-reg deletes sites in clean-up error

    Web hosting firm 123-reg has accidentally deleted an unspecified number of its customers' websites.

    The company, which hosts 1.7m sites in the UK, said an error made during maintenance "effectively deleted" what was on some of its servers.

    "We can conclude that the issues faced have resulted in some data loss for some customers," the firm admitted.

    It started a "recovery process", but advised customers with their own data backup to rebuild their own websites.

    The web host, which has 800,000 customers in the UK, would not say how many websites had been deleted but said it was a "small proportion".

    What went wrong?
    Websites are hosted on computers called servers that can dish up pages to thousands or millions of people at the same time.

    Some people pay for a private server - a dedicated computer that hosts only their website - but this can be expensive.

    A cheaper option is a virtual private server (VPS) - a machine that can host hundreds of websites, but mimics the functionality of a private server.

    The company said it was performing a "clean up" operation on its VPS systems when an coding error in its software "effectively deleted" customer websites.

    Since the maintenance mistake was made on a virtual private server it was able to wipe out many websites in one go.

    123-reg told the BBC it did not have a backup copy of all its customers' data, but was working with a data recovery specialist to "manage the process of restoration".

    "Our VPS product is an unmanaged service and we always recommend that customers implement backups to safeguard against unexpected issues," the company said.

    "Customers who had purchased 123-reg backups can be online now."

    "Many of our customers keep their own backups."

    The data loss has left the affected online businesses without a website to trade from and 123-reg has been flooded with messages on social media criticising its limited communication.

    One customer noted: "Fault still described as 'VPS connectivity issues' when in fact it seems they lost everything."

    "There must be some information available right? What exactly are they working on?" asked another. "We need details as we need to start planning on how to salvage anything."

    "This will wreck my business and plenty of others," said another affected company.

    In an email sent to customers on Sunday, 123-reg said it had "begun copying recovered VPS images to new hosts" and expected some websites to be restored overnight.

    It said it would audit all its automated scripts and prevent customer websites from being deleted without human approval in the future.

    "The fault was limited to 67 servers out of 115,000 across Europe," the company said.

    "We are investigating the restoration of each VPS on a case-by-case basis and are working individually with customers to keep them informed of the website recovery process."
    The football club Ross County have completely lose their website.


    This is a website that generated important revenue for their club. If they don't have a backup of their website, they will lose tens of thousands of pounds in revenue and then have to spend tens of thousands more having their website redesigned.

    If you haven't done so already, set up some daily external backups for your websites today. You never know when disaster will strike :)

    Raspal and Kris Hoja like this.
  2. It was hammered into our heads on the necessity of backups when I was in the military. At the time in the early 90s, we were still using these [​IMG] to hold our daily incremental and weekly full backups. Talk about sloooooowwwww! It took about 5 hours to do an incremental backup and over half a day for a full one. I think those things could only store a little over 150 megabytes of data per reel. It took anywhere from three to five for an incremental back up and as high as twelve for a full backup.

    No matter where we were on deployment in the Atlantic or the Mediterranean, we always sent a checked copy of our weekly full backup and three random daily incremental ones back to our home base in the US. Whomever was assigned to the night crew responsible for backups hated it, but offsite backups saved our butts too many times to count.

    When we fazed out the 9 tracks in favor of these babies, [​IMG], the night slot became premium work hours. Full backups only took under an hour. We could pretty much sleep or waste time playing Wolfenstein 3D/Spear of Destiny or Doom II LAN parties for cash shipwide all night until the day crew arrived. Oh to be young again.
    Kevin Muldoon likes this.
  3. Wow, I haven't hear of this one. That is sure a scary thought and it's always best practice to keep external backups.

    I learned the hard way about 2 years ago maybe when I lost everything I had at a certain host. I was using an EIG hosting company as one of my hosts, which I changed right after that and another issue for another discussion. Good thing I didn't loose all my sites but still enough to be a big pain.

    Once it happens to you, you will definitely keep it in mind as to how important keeping in charge of backups and not relying solely on the host (if at all). Ever since then I actually have reminders set to make sure and take care of my backups so I don't have to go through that again.

    My saying is that it's better to have backups and not need them, than to need them and not have them! ;)
    Raspal likes this.
  4. There is really no excuse not to have backups. I can back up my whole server on Amazon S3 for just over $1 per month. It's a small expense when you consider how much money you would lose if you lost all of your data.
    Raspal likes this.
  5. Very true!

    I've never tried going the Amazon route myself but have considered trying it out at some point. Many of the backup plugins for WP have that option as I have seen, so I figured it must be a good option.
  6. $1/mo is certainly a small amount for backups. But, when I tried Amazon S3, I got so confused with the amount of info and new stuff I didn't understand, that I closed the site. I tried again a couple times and the same thing seemed to happen.

    How do you back up to S3? Do you use some plugin to do this automatically, or do you use some script or something?

    Can you someday, write a detailed post on how you use Amazon S3 to backup your sites?
  7. Raspal likes this.
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