Data Backup Planning is the Smart Plan

I worry — a lot. It has to do with ensuring my Web and mobile products never fail. Still, there are rare occasions when they do, and because of those instances I’ve learned how to have a better handle on my data backup.

Live & Learn

A few years back, my sports website, CheapSeatsRadio.net, was hacked. The rich New York sports content was replaced by a splash screen containing Chinese symbols. It was extremely time consuming and frustrating to get the website stood up again. My two regrets are 1) Not using Google Translate to figure out what the symbols meant, 2) Not being better prepared for such disastrous instances. From that day on, I vowed to better protect myself, my clients’ properties and my holdings.

BakBurner Digital owns a virtual private server, managed by HostGator. Every week, all of that data is automatically backed up securely to a remote VPS. That, however, is not nearly as active as I desire, especially considering we have tons of data getting updated every second into MySQL databases. Needless to say, if our server was completely erased and we were to lose a week’s worth of data, that would be a huge hit to our business.

Web Server for data backupFirst and foremost, security needs to be stressed here. If you’re secure, then no one should be able to attack your digital properties. I am confident BakBurner Digital and its data is secure — it would be insecure to discuss why we think so, right? I’ve worked extremely hard to make sure we are protective. The following is being discussed in precautionary context should your site/data be there one minute, gone the next.

Let’s take a look at one example: A few weekends back our VPS was down. Winery Passport couldn’t connect to the server, which meant no stamps, wineries and other such data was accessible. Neither were our websites. At first, HostGator told me it was a malicious attack and the server had shutdown for precautionary reasons. I knew our data was secure even if the server got brought down, so that wasn’t a concern. It was later discovered that a file became corrupted when the VPS had restarted and had nothing to do with an attack. Still, during those few minutes I thought it was the latter, I wondered, “Am I in a position to recover quickly?”

The answer is yes.

Our Data Backup Strategy

1. First, any content that is file-based I store locally and in the cloud. I use CrashPlan to automatically backup all of my MacBook Air’s files. CrashPlan updates as I make changes, ensuring the latest versions of existing or new files are stored safely and securely should something happen to my machine. CrashPlan even backs up my Mover. The data is not retained or stored by Mover’s servers. They simply encrypt the data through the same type system that banks use to secure customer data. Mover also utilizes Amazon EC2 servers, which are claimed to feature “military grade perimeter control berms, video surveillance, and professional security staff to keep their data centers physically secure.” We’re really transparent about all of the way user data is touched in any of our privacy notices. We’ll be discussing Mover much more in November.

3. Third, I bet you’re asking, how do I know my server has been attacked or brought down? The best tool on the market is Pingdom, which hits your server at regular intervals to measure response time and connectivity. You define how often they send a request to your server and at what point of inactivity should they notify you. One of my gripes with HostGator is when something not good is going on with the server, I have to notify them; they aren’t alerted on their own. This at least keeps me on top of the connectivity issues. To HostGator’s credit, however, when Winery Passport saw 15k downloads over two days, the VPS stood up perfectly to the influx of requests. HostGator also has top notch support. These are two reasons why I’ll write about my experience with them in a future post.

4. Lastly, as mentioned earlier, security is key. All of the user information stored in the Winery Passport and other databases are encrypted. You can never have enough security surrounding your data.

This all might sound scary, but it’s better to be prepared and think about worst case scenarios then think you’re fully covered. That’s the point here. I don’t expect to or think BakBurner Digital’s properties will ever be taken down, but if they are, we’ve taken steps to ensure the data is secure and backed up to return to normal as quickly as possible. Sure, there will be some stress involved, but not nearly as much as starting from scratch, like creating that wedding slideshow.

How do you protect your data and prepare yourself should something happen to bring down your servers? Let us know in the comments below.

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