Backup Your Ecommerce Website -- or Kiss It Goodbye

Do you backup your small business ecommerce site? Helen Bradley shows what you'll lose if your data backup fails, and how you can avoid that potential financial disaster.

Your small business ecommerce website is a valuable asset. Every hour that you spend adding content is an investment in your business, but it's an investment that could be wiped out in an instant. If that happens you could be faced with rebuilding your small business ecommerce website from scratch, and that's often such a daunting task that many business owners opt to walk away from the business instead.

In this column, I'll explain the risks, show you why ignorance is not an option, and how you can protect your investment in your small business website by ensuring that adequate data backup process are in place.

Small Business Ecommerce Website Security Risks

One slip of a finger by a disgruntled employee, or by your own carelessness, could delete your website. Your site's also at risk if the hard disk it's stored on crashes, or if the building that hosts your server is damaged by fire or natural disaster. And if the company that hosts your site goes out of business, well, you're pretty much out of luck there, too.

In any of these situations your website will go offline -- only the largest of businesses can afford to have a fully redundant system where a second machine in a different location can take over without significant delay. For most small business websites, a disaster will take your site offline for a substantial length of time if not for good.

Who's Got Your Back(up)?

If your site goes down for any reason, the question then becomes "How do you get it back online again?" If you have a recent data backup and if your programs are backed up then, with time, effort, expertise and dollars your website can be re-built and made fully operational again. It won't be easy but it is possible. However to do it, you need a backup, and it has to be a backup of everything. It has to be recent, and it has to be undamaged.

Whether or not you have what you need depends on who is doing your data backups, whether they're doing their job and if the backup they do includes everything that you need.

If you purchased a Web hosting service, and you're assuming your hosting service is attending to your data security needs, then that assumption could cost you your business. Ask your Web hosting service if it's performing regular backups. Ask what specifically its backing up, where the backups it stores and how many it keeps.

You also need to ask what sort of assistance will be available if you have to recover your site from those backups. If your hosting service cannot or won't answer these questions, you have cause for concern.

Small Business Ecommerce: Disaster Recovery

You need this information from your Web host provider because a backup to a duplicate drive on the same server won't save your website in the case of fire or natural disaster. At least one backup should be stored off site and well away from the server itself.

If your hosting service doesn't backup your shopping cart software and customizations, your product data and images, your email data, mailing lists and SSL certificates, then the absence of any one of these could cost you your business. For example, your email mailing list took years to build and, if you lose it, you won't be able to contact your customers. Your product details and images, sales data and historical record are all key parts of your website. If they aren't backed up, you won't be able to recreate them easily, if at all.

The number and frequency of the backups is important in case your system becomes corrupted or infected with a virus. If you have only backup, by the time you realize you have problems, it too might be corrupt or infected. Retaining a series of backups from different dates gives you a better chance of having a clean backup to restore from.

Small Business Ecommerce: Web Host Failure

If your Web-hosting service goes out of business, not only will your website go down but you may not be able to access any backups that your hosting service made. To protect against this, you should have a second backup, which could be one you do yourself using a FTP (File Transfer Protocol) program to make a copy of your server files onto your own computers. There are also online services that will, for a fee, perform an online backup to copy your shopping cart and data to a second location that's not controlled by your hosting service.

Unfortunately, creating a data backup system and ensuring it works is something that's often left undone because it isn't a money earner. You won't see any immediate return from spending time organizing backups today, but tomorrow those backups could be the difference between being in business and not.

Smart business professionals don’t go without data backup. To ensure you won't be kissing your small business ecommerce website goodbye if it crashes, make sure that it is backed up regularly, and that at least one backup copy is under your control.

Helen Bradley is a respected international journalist writing regularly for small business and computer publications in the USA, Canada, South Africa, UK and Australia. You can learn more about her at her Web site, HelenBradley.com

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