I’ve already talked about how important it is to backup your computer. If you are a server administrator, it is arguably more important to backup your server. This is because your server is most likely hosting critically important files, and if they get deleted, corrupt, or hacked, that could mean serious damage. It could even lead to financial damage if you host files for a client (i.e. offer shared hosting). What’s my point? It’s best to have your server on an automated backup schedule (I recommend at least once per night). That way, there’s no need to worry in the event of an emergency, and no need to remember to manually backup files to another location.
Offsite = Better
Sure, you can always make a second copy of your files locally to your server. While this can help if a file gets accidentally deleted, it won’t help if your hard drive fails or if your server gets hacked. For this reason, it’s a better idea to store all of your files on an offsite location, preferably in a totally different geographical area. For example, my main server is located in New York, and my backup is in Oregon – totally different sides of the country. If an unfortunate natural disaster took out the New York data center, all of my data would be safe in Oregon.
Offsite (Can) Mean Renting Two Servers
If you pay for the server you administrate, you know that server bills aren’t cheap, and the idea of having to pay for a second server certainly isn’t fun. While you can certainly buy two servers and use a script to backup the files via SSH or SFTP, it’s certainly not the most cost effective solution.
The Best Solution: Amazon S3
What is Amazon S3? It’s file storage without the price of a server. I store 3 backups of my server on Amazon S3 at all times, and it costs me around $10 per month – much cheaper than the $40 per month I pay for my main server. By using Amazon S3, I’m saving approximately $30 per month, and I’m only paying for what I use. Amazon S3 even offers a free tier for 12 months for new users, so you can try it out without paying a cent. After that, Amazon will give you a breakdown of your bill so you know exactly what you’re being charged for. In addition, Amazon is a reputable company who is reliable, so you know your data will be safe. I’m willing to bet that Amazon S3 makes backups of customer data, essentially giving you two backups by using S3.
The Downside to S3
Unfortunately, Amazon S3 has one major downside, and that’s understanding pricing. They market that you only pay for what you use. And that’s true… actually, too true. They break down the different costs so much that it gets confusing. I had to schedule a phone call with a sales representative and ask what the different options were in the pricing calculator. There were so many options that I didn’t understand! I had stuff about PUT requests, such as if one PUT request is one file, or one session with multiple files (one PUT request is one file, FYI). After about 10 minutes on the phone, I was able to understand how much I would get charged by S3.
Automating the Process
There are many ways to automate your backups to S3, and my solution won’t work for everyone. For my solution, I’m using a VPS running cPanel/WHM. Personally, I chose to use the Jet Backup Manager plugin to handle my backups. It allows me to make nightly backups to S3, and retain 3 backups just as I would like. In addition, I can quickly restore an account in the user friendly interface. The plugin does cost $3.95 per month, but it’s very worth it to me since I just pop in my Amazon secret key, enter in the settings I want, and it does the work for me. I also love being able to restore any account with ease.
Going the Extra Mile
If you really want the best backup solution, it is recommended to make a local backup and an offsite backup. This way, if some files get deleted or damaged, you can restore the account quicker (in the event that your entire server is not damaged). This can also save you on cost as Amazon S3 charges you partly by how much data you ‘GET’ every month (these are called GET requests).In the event that your entire server is damaged, you will still have a safe backup in S3!
There are many solutions to backing up your server, but it is important that you choose a reliable company to store your backups, and that you automate your backups. By following these two steps, you will add an important layer of protection to your personal data, and the data of your clients.