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Business data: Best practices for data security

It is recommended firms always have a recent backup of their website, ideally at least daily or weekly.

Computer code
Photo by Chris Ried, Unsplash
Photo by Chris Ried, Unsplash

Despite only being a few months into 2023, this year has already seen some high-profile data breaches. From Twitter and JD Sports to GoDaddy, major corporations have been exposed as being vulnerable to online cyber-ambushes.

The domain and hosting provider Fasthosts have provided Digital Journal with some best practices for data back-ups.

What does backing up mean?

A backup is a digital copy of data that can be restored in case something goes wrong with the live version. What the backup includes depends on data identification and the size of the database.

When should you back up?

We recommend you always have a recent backup of your website, ideally at least daily or weekly. Obviously, that will change depending on how frequently you update your website, but the longer you leave it, the more work you’re likely to lose if something happens.

It also depends on the site – smaller, static websites should be fine without regular backups. However, online stores, blogs and bigger websites need consistent backups. It is good practice to back-up the entire website before making any significant changes to it, moving it to a new host, or changing your site’s domain.

What needs backing up

There are two parts of a website that need backing up – its web files and its database. Website files are the files stored in the main directory sometimes known as ‘public_html’ or ‘htdocs’. They include core files, images, code files and static web pages, plus plugins and themes if you use a content management system (CMS).

The database stores site data not included in the site files, like user info, application data and CMS data including posts, shop content, and comments. For the majority of sites, a full backup requires you to back up both the website files and the database.

Types of backups

  • Full backup – A full backup is a complete copy of all data in a single instance.
  • Differential backup – A differential backup will include any changes since the last full backup, even if the changes have already been included in a previous differential backup.
  • Incremental backup – An incremental backup will include any changes or new content since the last full or incremental backup.

Consider what to back up

Backups will not always need to contain all of your data, especially if you have multiple backups going daily and weekly. If the data you’re backing up is not regularly changed or is completely static, then you can get by with periodic full backups

If you are making changes more often, then you might consider incremental or differential backups, both of which are partial backups of data including changes since previous backups. Implementing these methods can allow you to save space and time.

Automate and schedule backups

In some systems, irregular and/or manual backups can be enough, but where possible, you should implement automatic and scheduled backups. This means you’re less likely to run into issues as a result of human error and will have consistent backups.

Have multiple backups

Having a single backup is a great start. However, especially when backups are automated, this can result in issues in the original content being copied across into the sole backup – leaving you with nothing to restore from. How many backups, how often you make backups and how long you can keep them will vary based on how often you make changes and how critical the backup is.

Backup to multiple locations

When backing up data, at the very least it should be in a different location to any original/live content. If the backup and original are stored in the same place then both could be lost if there were any issues. You may consider keeping one backup on a local system and one off-site backup such as using a remote server or online storage provider.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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