The working copy of a basic website should reside on the hard drive of a desk-top PC which will be used to connect to a web-hosting server for publication. However, additional measures are required to effectively guarantee the security of the site. The web-hosting organization will have its own backup regime which should guarantee the security of the published site, but it is also necessary to maintain an independent backup regime. Relevant usernames and passwords are usually controlled by the webmaster who should deposit up-to-date copies with another person.
The working copy of a website on the webmaster's PC should be copied to at least two other locations off the PC. The minimum required action is therefore to make two copies of a backup CD or DVD, each containing all files incorporated into the website. One CD should be stored well away from the working PC so that it would not be damaged or lost in any accident or incident involving the PC. The other CD or DVD should be passed to another person for safe keeping.
The way in which a website is backed up depends to a large extent upon the rate at which it is changing, and also the way in which it was designed. When substantial work is being undertaken, it is appropriate to backup the complete site at the end of each day. However, when few changes are being made, a weekly or monthly backup may be sufficient. The judgement and discipline of the webmaster are therefore essential elements of the process. Two regimes are suggested, one for busy or development periods, and the other for routine backups at times when few changes are being made.
The regime for busy or development periods is as follows:
- Seven folders named after the days of the week are created on the working PC. These seven folders should be on a different hard drive to the working copy of the website, and preferably on a USB backup disk.
- At the end of each day, the website folder containing all website files should be copied into the appropriate day's backup folder. This creates a rolling seven-day record of all changes and provides protection against hard drive failure.
- At the end of each calendar month, a folder named after the current month and year (for example, websiteAugust2012 or similar) should be created on a disk other than the one on which the working copy of the website resides, and a copy of the complete website folder should be transferred to it. This gives a complete record of the website at that point in time.
- At the end of each calendar month, the monthly backup should also be copied to two CDs. A single CD is generally sufficient to store several months of backups. One CD should be stored in a location away from the PC, and the other passed to another person for safe keeping.
The regime for quiet periods where only minor or routine changes are undertaken is as follows:
- At the end of each calendar month, a folder named after the current month and year (for example, websiteAugust2012 or similar) should be created on a disk other than the one on which the working copy of the website resides, and copy the complete website folder transferred to it. This gives a complete record of the website at that point in time. This monthly backup should ideally reside on a USB disk that can be easily disconnected and transported to another PC.
- Each monthly backup should also be copied to two CDs. One should be stored away from the working PC, and the other passed to another person for safe keeping.
The webmaster should be responsible for making adequate backups of the website, and should adjust the regime to reflect the amount of work which might be lost in the event of a computer failure. Clearly it is not necessary to make repeated copies of the website when it has not changed in any way. A final very important, but often overlooked, part of any backup regime is to check that the backup CDs or DVDs can be read on another PC. This should be done routinely, perhaps once every few months. Backup CDs which cannot be read are useless.