Having a website has become crucial for businesses and organizations of all sizes. However, building and maintaining a website can be challenging, especially for those without technical expertise. This is where website builders come in – they provide easy-to-use tools that allow anyone to create professional looking websites without needing to know how to code. Two critical aspects of managing a website built with a website builder are backups and updates. Implementing a solid backup strategy and keeping the website builder software up-to-date are essential to protect the website from data loss and security vulnerabilities.
In this article, we will examine why backups and updates are so important for websites created with website builders. We will look at the risks of not backing up your site or running outdated website builder software. We will also outline some best practices for backups and updates that can help safeguard your website.
The Risks of Not Backing Up Your Website
One of the biggest risks of not backing up a website created with a website builder is catastrophic data loss. Website builders store all of the pages, content, images, themes, and other elements of your site. If the website builder software or the server it is hosted on were to crash or become corrupted, all of that data could be lost permanently unless proper backups are in place. Some potential scenarios that could lead to data loss include:
- Server failure – The physical hardware that hosts the website builder software could fail and all data not backed up could be unrecoverable.
- Software failure or corruption – Bugs, viruses, or errors in the website builder software can sometimes cause data loss or corruption.
- Hacking and malware – Malicious actors can gain access to websites and damage, alter or delete data. Backups provide an unaffected copy.
- Accidental deletion – Administrators may accidentally delete key website files, pages or other data. Backups make recovery easy.
- Natural disasters – Events like fires, floods or earthquakes can destroy servers and make data recovery impossible without backups.
Losing all of the hard work that went into building a website would be utterly devastating. The downtime involved to rebuild the site from scratch could also have major financial implications for businesses that depend on their websites for revenue. Having recent backups to restore from helps minimize any potential downtime and damage.
Compliance and Legal Risks
In some industries, lack of proper backup can also put organizations at risk of non-compliance with regulations. For example, financial and healthcare companies often have defined data backup retention policies required under industry compliance rules. Not following these backup best practices could put them at risk of hefty fines or other legal problems if they can’t recover lost data following an incident.
Similarly, losing website data could make it difficult to comply with e-discovery laws if involved in any legal matters. Backups ensure organizations can recover lost website data in order to comply with any court orders related to evidence from the site. Simply saying “we don’t have the data” when ordered to retrieve website records or emails could potentially lead to charges of obstruction of justice.
Security Risks of Outdated Website Builder Software
Using outdated website builder software also poses significant risks, especially when it comes to security. All reputable website builders periodically release updated versions of their platforms with new features and performance enhancements. More importantly, these updates often contain critical security patches.
As vulnerabilities in website platforms are discovered, hackers will seek to exploit them to compromise websites. If you are running an outdated version of website builder software, it likely contains security flaws that can be used to steal data or take control of the website. Some potential risks include:
- Data breaches – Hackers can exploit software vulnerabilities to steal website data like customer details, passwords, financial information and more.
- Malware infections – Security holes allow hackers to upload viruses, ransomware and other malware to website servers.
- Phishing and scams – Criminals can leverage lax security to create fake pages mimicking the real website to steal user credentials and payment information.
- SEO spam – Spammers can inject unwanted backlinks or content into vulnerable sites to manipulate search engine rankings.
- Denial of service – Attackers can take down outdated websites by overloading them with malicious traffic.
The consequences of a security incident like a breach or malware infection can be enormous. In addition to embarrassing publicity, organizations can face hefty recovery costs, legal liabilities, and loss of customer trust after a hack. But keeping website builder software patched and updated is one of the best defenses against attacks.
Best Practices for Backing Up Websites
Now that we’ve covered the major risks, let’s look at some backup best practices that can mitigate potential data loss and downtime.
Use built-in backup features
Most website builders like WordPress and Wix offer integrated backup features or plugins. This makes it easy to schedule regular automatic backups of your website to either external locations or cloud storage. Enable automatic backups from within your website builder admin panel and configure the frequency, whether daily, weekly or monthly.
In addition to automated backups, it’s a good idea to supplement with periodic manual backups of critical website data. This provides an extra layer of protection in case the automated backups fail for some reason. Most website administration panels let you perform full manual backups on-demand which you can download and store securely.
Store backups externally
Don’t just backup data to the same server that hosts the website. If that server fails, the backups will be useless. Instead, keep redundant copies on external hard drives or cloud storage services. Popular options like Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon S3 and Microsoft Azure make cloud backup seamless.
To ensure your backups are working as intended, it’s critical to test actually restoring from backups periodically. Validate that you can successfully recover your website by importing the backup data into a staging environment. Catch any issues with the backup process before you face a real emergency.
Keep backups secure
Website backups likely contain sensitive data and should be protected behind strong passwords and encryption. If stored on external media, make sure to physically secure the devices. If in the cloud, enable two-factor authentication and restrict access.
Document backup procedures
Having detailed documentation of your website backup procedures and restoration process enables smooth recoveries. Clearly record critical details like backup schedules, storage locations and passwords. Review and update documentation regularly.
Key Tips for Keeping Website Builder Software Up-to-Date
Now let’s go over some tips for keeping the website builder platform itself patched and up-to-date.
Enable automatic updates
Most website builders come with the ability to enable automatic updates in the admin console. This ensures new security patches and features get installed as soon as they are released. Turn this on to remove the manual burden of managing updates.
Review release notes
When updates occur, take the time to review the vendor’s release notes. Look for details on new features as well as any specific security or compatibility fixes. Watch for updates that require you to take certain actions like theme updates.
Test updates on staging environment
Before blindly updating your live website, first test new software version on a staging copy. This helps catch any issues before they affect your production website. Make updating staging sites part of your release management procedures.
Monitor for available updates
If not using auto-updates, periodically check your website builder admin console for any available new versions. Don’t let required security patches sit idle waiting to be installed.
Consider managed hosting services
To take the burden of updates entirely off your plate, partner with a managed hosting provider for your website. Top providers handle all software updates, security patching, backups, and monitoring as part of the service.
Set reminder to review software EOL plans
Most website builders will eventually reach their end-of-life and stop releasing updates altogether. Know when your website software is approaching EOL so you can plan a migration to a supported, updated platform if needed.
The Role of Website Administrators
We’ve covered a lot of technical ground on the proper precautions around website builder backups and updates. But it’s important to remember that technology alone doesn’t backup websites or install software patches. Real people have to take responsibility for properly managing these critical tasks.
Website administrators play an enormously important role in stewarding a website and protecting its data. All the technical tools and services covered in this article rely on admins adhering to sound backup and update processes.
Properly training website administrators is crucial for website integrity. Admins must be educated on risks like data loss and cyber threats. They need to be familiarized with available backup and update features built into the website platform or third-party services. And they must be empowered to make backups and updates an ongoing priority, not just a checkbox.
Setting clear expectations and requirements around frequency of backups and install of updates is also important. Establish written policies that codify data protection expectations tailored to your website’s unique security needs and level of tolerable risk.
Audit admins periodically to ensure compliance with defined backup and update standards. Track measurable benchmarks like time since last backup or elapsed days between completion of software updates.
With careful training, resource allocation and oversight, organizations can equip their web admins with the knowledge required to protect website data and keep platforms secured.
Websites built on popular website builder platforms hold the lifeblood of many organizations – customer data, ecommerce orders, marketing content and more. Failing to implement robust backups of website data can lead to catastrophic loss and extended downtime in the event of disaster or technical problems. Likewise, neglecting to update website builder software creates massive security holes that put data at risk of theft or compromise.
While no IT strategy can completely eliminate risks like hardware failure, human error or sophisticated hackers, following the backup and update best practices detailed in this article goes a long way to reducing exposure. By leveraging both manual and automated safeguards, organizations can implement a defense-in-depth approach to securely backing up website data and keeping software updated.
Commitment from both technical personnel and leadership is required to make backups and updates an enduring priority, not just an occasional to-do list item. But this commitment pays enormous dividends in the form of reduced risk, peace of mind and ability to quickly recover from any worst-case scenarios. In a world increasingly dependent on websites, proper backup and update procedures are the bedrock of information security and risk management.