If you think your website is safely backed up by your hosting provider, these examples from their terms of service might make you think again!
Do you know that safe, secure feeling you have, knowing your web host is keeping your website backed up safely in case anything should go wrong?
Well, it's completely misplaced!
Web hosting companies - even the most respected in the industry - like to list their long list of services. This is so that you can see and know how much they'll do for you and your website.
They use smart and clever marketing to tell you how expert they are in the business.
They'll try to convince you that your site is safest with them since they know it all.
Certainly they know way more than you.
Isn't it great to know someone expert has your back when all of that technical stuff goes horribly wrong, as it inevitably does when software is involved.
Except that it's not true.
I'm not accusing them of lying. But they certainly aren't telling you the whole truth up front!
This could be the most important thing you learn this year about placing your online business in the hands of someone else.
Let me explain...
The common misconception - how hosts tell you about backups
Everyone in the industry knows how important backups are.
Many of us learn it the hard way. I once deleted the entire set of course files for a college course I was helping with at my university. This was during the course. And, of course, none of us had made a backup. Ah, the memories...
But have you ever actually tried restoring one of those backups? They generally aren’t that easy to use and - for a non-technical user - it can be a nightmare trying to restore a website from them.
Luckily, your host is there to help you with 24/7 support when your site goes down, right? Well... maybe not!
The claims are superficial statements at best and don't tell you the full story. The full story can be found only in their Terms of Service.
Now, I know you didn't read those Terms of Service but don't worry, I've done the reading for you!
The truth is, most hosts deny any responsibility for backups of your website. And they aren’t obliged to do so.
Don't worry if this is news to you. You aren't alone. I recently had a discussion with the CEO of a thriving web development business here in Switzerland who assured me that she didn't need my backups because the host was doing it for them. When I checked directly with the hosting provider they assured me no backups were being taken. If people in this business don't know the full story you needn't feel bad if it's also news to you!
Your host makes backups for their convenience, not yours. Here's why.
The vast majority of websites are hosted on shared hosting. This is where your website runs on a web server with many other websites and you share the server resources like memory, internet connection, CPU etc. It's not uncommon to have dozens or hundreds of sites on a single server. I used to manage operations for one of Switzerland's largest cloud platforms and I can tell you - there's no reason why your site couldn't be squeezed in with 1,000 others!
With all those customers to please, your host needs to make sure they backup their own setup for when something goes wrong.
Did you know that your hosting company doesn't have to give you access to the backups they make? Learn more ...
I told you I've done the reading of Terms of Services for you, so here are excerpts regarding backups from some popular hosts (current as of February 2018).
terms of service for backups from popular hosts
You agree to back-up all of your User Content so that you can access and use it when needed. GoDaddy does not warrant that it backs-up any Account or User Content, and you agree to accept as a risk the loss of any and all of your User Content.
You shall be solely responsible for undertaking measures to: (1) prevent any loss or damage to your website or server content; (2) maintain independent archival and backup copies of your website or server content; and (3) ensure the security, confidentiality and integrity of all your website or server content transmitted through or stored on our servers.
...we do not guarantee the availability or restoration of any lost data. Restoration of data can be requested from our Expert Services
HostGator backups are provided as a courtesy and are not guaranteed. Customers are responsible for their own backups and web content and should make their own backups for extra protection.
BlueHost.com assumes no responsibility for failed backups, lost data, or data integrity
Bluehost from time to time backs up data on its servers, but is under no obligation or duty to Subscriber to do so under these Terms. IT IS SOLELY SUBSCRIBER'S DUTY AND RESPONSIBILITY TO BACKUP SUBSCRIBER'S FILES AND DATA ON BLUEHOST SERVERS, AND under no circumstance will Bluehost be liable to anyone FOR DAMAGES OF ANY KIND under any legal theoryfor loss of Subscriber FILES AND/or data on any Bluehost server
… you agree that you will maintain at least one additional current copy of your Customer Data somewhere other than on the Rackspace Public Cloud Services. If you utilize Rackspace cloud backup services, you are responsible for performing and testing restores …
We will use good faith efforts to backup data stored on the shared Services once a day (Shared Backups). Shared Backups are intended for internal use only and we cannot guarantee that a Shared Backup will be available for restore upon your request. It is your responsibility to backup data of all your content in order to prevent potential data loss.”“While we may provide assistance, it is your obligation to restore your website.
While we do provide backup, there is no guarantee that the backup will work properly and that the content will be completely recovered or formatted properly. You are solely responsible for keeping a separate backup of any data that you do not want to lose.
Switchplus are one of the "internet presence and domain name" experts here in Switzerland.
Their Terms of Service make no mention about backups. When I contacted them they replied thus
switchplus doesn't offer backups of websites - doing regular backups lies in the responsibility of our customers.
An important point to note from these examples is that, by using your hosting providers' services, you have implicitly agreed
- to make your own backups
- to test those backups work correctly
My question to you: Are you honouring that agreement?
Most of you are in breach of your agreement with your hosting provider! Here's how ...
Some higher-end hosting plans will provide proper backups for you, but these are generally out the price range of many small business owners.
Of course, hosting is a business and these companies are just protecting themselves. They aren't being deliberately devious and dishonest. After all, there are no guarantees when it comes to software.
But they certainly could be more up front. The bottom line is it's your business. It's your website. It's your responsibility!
You can bemoan the apparent deceit in your hosts' marketing efforts. You can wail and gnash your teeth and wave your hands in the air at the injustice of it all. That won't change the fact that you and you alone are still responsible.
What to do
A much better approach is to take a stoic view of it. Accept that they’ve been clear (if not completely up front) about their conditions and this is just the way it is.
There’s only one thing you can do - take backups into your own hands.
There are a few approaches you can take ...
Usually you can do this from the Backups section in your hosting's cPanel (or similar administration area.)
The best part of doing a backup this way is that you are in charge of it and you know exactly when it's been done and where. However, do you really want to add this to your long list of things you've to do in your business?
Backup with plugins
There are a host of free WordPress plugins to do backups and I've written about them before, e.g. this post
Make sure you choose a reputable backup plugin like UpdraftPlus, BackWPUpBackUpWordPress, Duplicator or, if you want to go the premium (paid) route, BackUp buddy or UpdraftPlus Premium.
There's an important thing to know about WordPress backup plugins. These plugins use a PHP script that relies on your website server resources to run.
According to ManageWP, such scripts have about an 80% success rate. They go on to say that "if you run a serious business, anything less than a 99% backup success rate is unacceptable."
In other words, one in 5 of your backups will fail! This is more than one a week!
Backup through a Professional partner
When they need some work done on their car, most people won't hesitate to bring it to a reputable mechanic to be looked after professionally.
This is the way you should be treating your website. It doesn't cost a lot to outsource all the management of your website to someone who does this for a living.
That's what we do here at WPStrands and you can try us free for a month. No pressure.
Now you know you can rely only on yourself to set up those all-important backups of your WordPress website.
Many people are incredulous when I explain that their host isn't doing it for them at all.
Are you surprised? Shocked? Furious? Let me know in the comments.