Why have a backup? What could go wrong?
Advancements in technology over the years have drastically improved web server reliability, but this does not mean you should completely rely on the web hosting company to keep a backup of your website for you.  It is very important for you to retain a copy of your website so your website can be recovered quickly if there is a catastrophic server failure or hack.

Here are a few reasons you should keep a local copy of your website:

1. Hard drive failure. Even though hard drives and servers are built to be more reliable, there is always a chance of hard drive failure. The chance of failure depends on the type of server your web hosting company has setup and how those servers are configured. Most reliable hosting companies have a hot swappable hard drive option or have a spare drive already installed on the server. You should always contact your service provider and ask them what types of backup options they offer.

2. Hackers. Even though your website may seem secure, there are sometimes holes in the code used to build your website that have exploitable vulnerabilities, which the hackers in the world are always trying to find. You should speak with your web design and development teams to ensure your website is secure.

3. Catastrophic server failure. A full server failure typically does not happen very often. When it does, it causes a lot of issues and unnecessary downtime of your website, especially if you do not have a copy of the files stored locally. Having a copy of your website will allow you to do a full website restoration quickly and efficiently.

4. Prevent data loss during upgrades. If your website was build using a CMS (Content Management System) there are a number of plugins and components that need to be upgraded on a regular basis. These updates rarely cause issues but it is important to have a copy of your website as it is better to be safe than sorry.

How often should you make a backup of your website?
This depends on the type of website you have and how many content updates you make. If your website is static and you do not make any changes to the content, keeping one backup is sufficient. If your website is more dynamic and is being updated regularly, you should be making a backup before you start making your changes. This allows you to keep a recent snapshot of your website in case something goes wrong when you are editing the content.

How do you make a backup of your website?
When you are backing up a website built in HTML (HyperText Markup Language), you should copy all of the website files from the root directory on your server. Depending on the server your web hosting company has setup, you will typically be looking for a folder called 'web', 'home', 'www' or 'public_html' as this is where your website files will be located. Talk to your service provider for more information on where your files are located on the server. In order to download the files themselves you will also require a FTP (File Transfer Protocol) program, which are available to download for free and need to be installed on your computer. You will also require your hostname, username and password, which you may need to get from your service provider.

If a CMS was used to build your website, you have a couple of options for making a backup, which also depend on the CMS used. You will need to download your website files and do a MySQL database export in order to have a full backup of your website. To accomplish this you can either use a FTP program and PHPMyAdmin (MySQL database) or check for a plugin or component for the CMS as it will do all of the work for you. For example; if Joomla was used to build your website, you can use a tool similar to Akeeba Backup to export all of the files for you. You can also use Akeeba to restore your data if it is lost.

If your hosting company used cPanel as their control panel, you should see a backup wizard option when you login. Simply login to your control panel, click "Backup Wizard", under Backup/Restore click "Backup", then click "Full Backup", enter your email address if you would like to be notified that the backup is complete and click "Generate Backup". Once the backup is finished, you can visit the same page to download the latest copy of your website. If you have to restore your website you will need to have this file on your computer, so it is very important to download this file.

In conclusion, we have covered a number of reasons why you should make a backup of your website and a few different ways to create these backups. Speak with your service provider or web designer to find out more information on the location of your files and the login information you will require to make a copy of your website. Remember, it is very important to have a copy of your website. If you do not keep a copy of your website, ask yourself how much information you can afford lose and how much time and money would it take to recreate the website. The answer should be very clear.

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