How to backup and protect the virtual things that are important to your business!
As a website and logo designer, I'm pretty familiar with the concept of backing up my files. However, so many people don't do regular backups and it scares me how vulnerable that makes them! So I have a few questions to ask you...
- What would happen if your website crashed right now with no way of restoring?
- What would happen if your computer died right now and wiped all your files permanently?
- What would happen if your email marketing provider (eg, Mailchimp, Convertkit etc) shut down overnight or deleted your account?
- What would happen if your project management tool crashed/got shut down/deleted your account right now?
I'm not just playing Devil's Advocate right now - these things happen (especially the top 2 - both of which I have personally experienced!).
Hopefully that's some food for thought! Now let's get into what you can do today to avoid the awful consequences of those 'what ifs'...
What 'digital assets' should I be protecting?
When I say 'Digital Assets', I'm talking about virtual files and data that your business 'owns', and that are important for benefit of your whole business! Here are some example:
- Files on your computer (logos/branding/contracts/documents/photos)
- Your website files and database
- Your website content (webpages, images, design, blog posts)
- Your email list (you've worked so hard to accumulate them!)
- Your project tasks and reminders (if you live by these like I do!)
How To Protect: Files on your computer
I've had a couple of computers die on me in the past, resulting in losing years worth of family photos and documents. Luckily I wasn't in business then, so other than emotional value, I didn't have really 'important' files. I eventually learned my lesson and have invested in ways to make sure I never lose my files again!
Use a Cloud Filing System like Dropbox
Not only does Dropbox enable you to access your files from anywhere and share folders with anyone you like (super useful), it also provides a pretty nifty backup option if your computer packs up.
Invest in an External Hard Drive
If you've got some super sensitive, important stuff in your life (you probably have as a business owner!), an external hard drive that you back up your files to at the end of each day can add a layer of extra security.
Print REALLY Important Files
If you have documents that you absolutely cannot lose (mortgage documents anyone?), print them and store them in a safe place, or indeed an actual safe.
how to protect: your website files & database
When you are self-hosting a website on WordPress (or another platform), you'll probably be aware of the risks and responsibilities you are taking on. If things go wrong and your website breaks (it happens!) or worse, is hacked, you are responsible for getting your site back up and running.
But if you don't have a back up... well, you're in a bit of a pickle.
Download a Back Up Plugin
For my WordPress sites I use a free plugin called UpdraftPlus Backups which allows you to do full backups and downloads them straight to your Dropbox!
Get to Know Your FTP
Kind of scary I know but you'd be surprised how useful it is to know your way around your website files. Plugins and updates can cause things to go wrong, and if you know how to find the culprit of a website crash in your files it's a life-saver!
Set a Schedule to Perform Back Ups
You can get a premium backup plugin to do this automatically, or you can set reminders in your calendar for when to do it yourself manually. Once or twice a month is usually a good plan!
how to protect: Your website content
Sometimes things just go wrong with websites, especially if you're not a developer yourself and you're trying to add functionality or edit your self-hosted site. It's possible that your whole website may not disappear, but your content might. In which case, all those articles, pages and photos you've spent weeks of your life writing and uploading are gone... forever if you haven't backed them up.
Draft Your Content Somewhere Else
It's tempting for speed-sake to start writing your page content or blog post in your website dashboard, but it's a much smarter idea to draft your content somewhere else first (a Google doc for example) in case you need to re-upload it later.
Back Up Your Website Content
You can do quick content backups in WordPress by going to your dashboard, then Tools > Import/Export, and exporting a content .xml file. In Squarespace it's the same thing; Settings > Advanced > Import/Export (it will only export to a WordPress .xml, and no, I don't know why!).
Take Screenshots of Your Webpages & Settings
Sometimes it's all too easy to delete a page by accident, and you may have spent hours perfecting the layout. Once I've set up my clients' websites, I take screenshots of all the pages, so if they DO delete a page, I know the settings to restore it as quickly as possible without having to do a full backup.
how to protect: your email list
Aha! You might be reading this thinking, yeah yeah - I know about website backups cheers, but has your email list crossed your mind? If it has already, then hats off to you, because I only thought of this a couple of months ago. Your email list is a hugely valuable asset and should be backed up just as regularly as your website!
Export Your Email List
Most email marketing software providers should offer you the option to export your list as a .csv file like Mailchimp does on your main List page.
Save Your List to Your Cloud Storage/Hard Drive
Once you've exported your list, back it up!
How to protect: your project tasks & reminders
I rely on Trello and my phone Reminders for everything; projects, life tasks, work - you name it. If my account got shut down I'd be pretty lost and it would slow my life down substantially for at least a few days.
In the middle of a super important project with loads of tasks and details? Take a screenshot of your to-do list or project management tool, just in case!
If you're someone who does better with physical to-do lists and whiteboard kanbans, take a photo of your stuff at the end of the day, in case someone comes along and throws your list out or wipes your board clean!