Backup is the process of making copies of the original data, so that the copies can be restored after a data loss. Regular data backup is very important for data which are business critical, loss of which will affect the business and its operations directly or indirectly.

With the increase of usage of online web applications for business operations, backing of the web application data is as important as backing up any other business related data. A web application can be anything from a company’s online portal, community or a social networking website, private web applications like accounting, inventory applications etc or even a simple website.

How can a data loss occur in a web application?

  1. Server crash – Server hardware or software crash such as hard disk crash or corruption, Operating system crash, memory or SMPS burnout etc. which may cause irrecoverable loss of data
  2. Malware or Virus – The application may be infected with a malware or virus resulting data loss
  3. Accidental deletion – Due to human error of the system administrator or developer, data may be accidentally deleted
  4. Sabotage / Hacking – Hackers (cyber criminals) , business rivals who want to sabotage business operations may break into the system and delete the data
  5. Webhosting companies – The web server host or ISP who owns the web server in which the web application is hosted, may go out of business without notice, making the online data permanently inaccessible and lost
  6. Natural disasters – The webhosting company or ISP where the servers are located may be affected by natural disasters or calamities thus causing irrecoverable damage to the servers and data within

When such data loss occurs, a backup will come in as a life saver and the data can be restored easily quickly and business operations can resume without any disruptions, saving time and money.

What needs to be backed up?

What needs to be backed up entirely depends on the type of web application. Backing up unwanted data is going to add up to wasted space. Failing to backup important data/files affects the restoration process after a data loss, resulting in partial or non-working restoration. It is very important to backup the necessary data properly.

For simple static website, the backup will may contain just the html pages that contain all the information displayed in the website. But nowadays most of the web applications are way more complex than a simple static website. It is very difficult to list out what needs to be backed up in a web application without a clear understanding of how the system is built and how it operates. However for ALL web applications in general, the following need to be backed up.

  1. Source Code and related files: This is nothing but the programming code which makes the web application to work. The source code and other relates files that need to be backed up are
    1. Source code and scripting files ( ex .php, .jsp or .asp files, depending on the technology and platform of the application) and also JavaScript files (if used)
    2. HTML, CSS files
    3. Image files (.jpg, .png, .gif etc)
  2. Database: The database is where the web application stores all the data generated or entered and is the heart of the application. For example in an ecommerce application the database stores customer information, product information and order information. In an accounting application the database stores all information about transactions, sales etc. Regularly backing up the ever-changing database is very important as it contains the most important business critical data.
  3. User uploaded files: Files that are uploaded by the user or created by the system like photos, documents, pdf reports and other similar files which are stored in the server.

Apart from the above list, there may be several other files like configuration and setting files that needs to be backed and may be essential during a data restore. It is very important to come up with the list of data items to be backed up after consulting with the development team / implementation team and also the web hosting / ISP.

Where to backup?

Where to backup? This is as important as what to backup? The backed up data must be easily and quickly retrievable when it is required for a data restore. If the backup itself is lost or corrupted, or it is not accessible or un available when required for a restore, then the situation is as bad as not doing a backup at all.

It is also very important that the backup needs to be stored in a location away from the location of the main data, such that the backup location and the backup data is not be affected by the same reason affecting the main location and it’s data. For example if the backup location and the original data location are one and the same, there are chances both can be destroyed together due to a fire in the premises.

For continuation of this particle, please read “Website Backup: Part 2: Available methods