While most web hosting providers clearly mention that data backups of the hosting account is the responsibility of the client, some providers prefer to keep mum about backups, until a disaster strikes. When you subscribe to a web hosting account, you are primarily paying only for the space used for hosting your primary email, files and databases. You are not paying for any additional space or backups or copies of your data, unless you have taken a hosting plan with backups specifically included. This article attempts to clarify the confusion on whether or not your website and data is being backed up at the hosting providers end or it is your responsibility.
Taking backups is an expensive affair, especially if you want the backups to be reliable and retrievable when you need them the most i.e. at the time of a disaster. Most hosting providers do NOT take backups for or on behalf of the customers. This means that they maybe regularly taking backups for their own safety or for migrating the data to a new server or just as a courtesy gesture, but these backups will NOT be shared with the client even upon request or upon payment of some fees. This is usually due to the fact that these backups are taken as a single snapshot of the server and can be restored as one part only. These backups cannot be restored account wise or user wise.
If you do want to be able to restore your account at will and at your own convenience, you should subscribe to a paid backup service which allows you to do that. The paid backup service is usually about a half or quarter the cost of your entire web hosting account, depending on the number of backups and the size of backups which you wish to keep. Keeping compressed backups in .zip form may reduce the space usage, but will increase the time of the backup to be completed.
If you do not want to backup and restore the whole website, you can backup micro changes to the website or files, by using version control or revision history tools. These will backup your data in an incremental manner, as and when data is being added or removed. These version control systems will also allow you to go back to a certain date and time or to a certain change that you had made and allow you to restore the account or files, to the same state that they were in at that time. Programmers and software professional often use these tools to secure their code and help them deal with a large number of changes to the files that they may be working on collaboratively.
Many hosting providers schedule backups which are copied in the user’s home directory itself. This means that the backup file is stored in a particular directory in your hosting account itself. This is of little use, especially when you want to restore the backup, because it is most likely that when you want to restore the backup, it will be due to your primary account being unavailable, damaged, destroyed or corrupt, which will also contain the backup file. Hence it is recommended to take backup files to a remote location and store it remotely for safety. This way, if your primary server is affected by a natural calamity and your files are not retrievable, then you always have access to that other backup which was in another location. The chances of both backups being unavailable or destroyed is very rare.
Whether your budget permits you to buy special hosting space for a backup or whether you are taking backups on your own, remember that you can never have too many backups. Regularly backing up your data will ensure that you will not regret a disaster.