February 2009 Newsletter

Website Backups

**** The 4specs Perspective

Your web host, IT department or web consultant probably has a back ups of your current website. These would be used to rebuild your site in case of a catastrophic server failure. What if you needed a back up of your 1998 website?

I recently I decided to return to the older discussion forum software as the specifier users were unhappy with the new one. The newest usable backup was 6 weeks old. While I had more recent backups, they were not complete and not sufficient to complete the task. Will this happen to you?

Envision being in court on a product liability claim. Most companies maintain copies of their binders and other promotional materials. You need to show what was on your website on March 31, 1998. Could you? If you had the website on a 5-1/4" floppy, do you have a computer that can read the floppy? Can you display the pages in question in the court room to the judge and jury?

Perhaps you could. What about 10 years from now. Today's websites are more complex than the 1998 sites. Most sites today use asp and php server time-includes, databases and other server dependent technologies that will not be directly usable from the backup. The programs to compile the pages may not be compatible with the information on you rbackup. The page names may be .asp or .php that require a server to display in the browser.

I recommend that you have a quarterly copy of your website as it appeared online. Make 3 copies - one for marketing, one for your archives and one for your attorney or legal files. While a small site can be copied page by page, a large site requires an automated program that downloads the entire website and develops a mirror of your website with all the file names being .html or .htm.

Here are several programs that would allow you to do this. Most cost $50 or less:

While you can store the information in long term storage such as on Amazon S-3, a CD or DVD is best. You will want to think through storage media, where the copies are stored, how to display in the future, etc. For legal reasons use a standard DVD and not a multi-use DVD-RW one that can be modified after recording.

[An advertiser suggested using Acrobat (the complete program) to download to pdf's a small or medium website - say 100 pages. That is another excellent way to document your website.]

Backing up your own computer is also important. Here are my tips on backing up your computer that I use for our computers.

  1. Outlook is probably the most difficult data to backup as the data is not stored in the My Documents folder. Move the Outlook folder from the user directory in (may require changing folder settings to see hidden files) C:/Documents and Settings > Your User Name > Application Data > Microsoft > Outlook. Copy the Outlook folder to My Documents. Change the settings in Outlook to use the new folders. This will make backups easier and easier to move the Outlook data to a new computer in the future.
  2. Close all programs. Zip programs will not properly zip files that are open. Outlook data is a specific example of where files can be corrupted if they were zipped while open.
  3. Use a zip program. 7zip is an open source zip program you can download for free. Zip the My Documents folder. Rename to the date - MyDocs_2009-01-31. Burn a copy to a CD/DVD as appropriate. I keep a monthly DVD copy in my car and a copy of all the 4specs files on a memory stick when I travel. The monthly DVD's are filed in a banker's box year by year. I have had to go back several times and recover data or older programs such as an older TurboTax when filing an amended tax return. Having multiple copies was a benefit.

Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.


Colin Gilboy
Publisher - 4specs
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