It’s World Backup Day! How do we protect your data?

Today is World Backup Day! If you’re not backing up your own computer and devices, today’s the perfect day to start doing it; that page has advice.

Do you ever wonder how companies like ours handle backups? It’s a good question. Our customers trust us with lots of data — email, websites, and more. It’s important that we keep that data (and our own data) safe. We do that with a 4-3-2-1 backup policy:

  • There are always at least 4 copies of the data;
  • The data is stored on at least 3 different physical servers;
  • The servers are in at least 2 separate physical locations;
  • At least 1 copy of the data is always physically disconnected from power and the Internet (“air gapped”).

These rules protect against different types of problems:

  • Having several copies of the data on the same server (using mirrored RAID arrays) means your website and email keep working without interruption when disks fail;
  • Having copies on different servers allows us to quickly get things working again if a server is physically destroyed, corrupts data on all its copies, or is a victim of “ransomware”;
  • Having copies in different physical locations allows us to recover from catastrophic events like a fire that destroys a data center;
  • Having copies that are not connected to power or the Internet ensures that “hackers” can’t destroy all the data simultaneously, even if they somehow gain full access to every server in every physical location.

In addition to that, we strongly believe in making an extensive backup history available to our customers, without any extra fees. That way, you can easily restore to earlier versions of your site or email. (Many hosting companies don’t make backups of your site at all, or they charge extra for it, or they keep just a couple of backups.) We try to keep at least:

  • Ten daily backups from the last 10 days;
  • Ten additional “weekly” backups — that is, one backup made between 11-17 days ago, one backup made 18-24 days ago, and so on up to a backup made 81-87 days ago;
  • Four additional “monthly” backups — that is, a backup made between 88-117 days ago, a backup made 118-147 days ago, a backup made 148-177 days ago, and a backup made 178-207 days ago.

Depending on the size of your site and how much of your data changes each day, extra backups from other days, weeks and months are also usually available (the backups section of our My Account control panel shows an exact list and makes it easy to restore). The average site hosted with us has more than 80 available backups.

We test those backups for integrity, too. We verify the “checksums” of older backed-up files to detect any corruption, and we reload backed-up database “dump” files into a separate test server to ensure they’re readable and consistent. (Backups don’t really count as backups unless you test them.)

Does it cost us more to manage millions of backups containing billions of files, when most companies don’t keep anywhere near as much? It does, but it’s absolutely worth it whenever someone tells us something like “thank you — being able to restore that page I deleted four months ago saved my bacon“. That’s the goal!