How to backup cPanel server to avoid a business catastrophe
Server owners often encounter disasters in the form of hard drive crash or network failure. To safeguard their business, its crucial for hosting providers to minimize the calamities caused, mainly downtime and data loss.
In our role as Outsourced Tech Support for web hosting companies, we manage hundreds of cPanel servers for them. Configuring and managing fool-proof backups is a critical activity in our cPanel server management services.
Backups refer to duplicating the data contents present in the server, which can be restored in the case of a data loss. Today we’ll see how to backup cPanel server data and the various aspects server owners need to consider in the process.
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How to backup cPanel server – The key points!
A fool-proof backup design should take into consideration, many aspects such as backup location, type, tools, cost, time, schedule, etc. Here, we’ll address these backup concerns one by one.
1. Why should you backup your cPanel server?
No customer prefers to host their website with a provider who cannot guarantee uptime. If you are a web hosting provider, providing data backups readily available to your customers helps you gain a competitive edge in the business.
Some scenarios where backups turn out to be the saviors are:
- The server hard disk crashes all of a sudden, leading to partial or total data loss that cause business downtime.
- Customers accidentally mess up with their website data and need it restored to previous working condition.
- To revert the modifications or accidental server-wide changes made in the service, software or other config files.
- To ensure business continuity for your servers in the case of data center calamities.
But merely having a backup may not be adequate. We’ve been approached by server owners who tried to restore the backups during server crash, but found them to be useless or inadequate. That’s why we follow a systematic backup management system.
2. What data should you backup in cPanel servers?
Okay.. now that you’ve decided to be on the safer side with backups, next question that may pop up into your mind would be, which all data to backup – Only the critical files or the entire server data?
The following are the different categories of data in your cPanel server. Based on the importance of the data and the requirement, all or some of these data would have to be backed up:
- Customer website and database files.
- Configuration files of all services.
- Binaries or images of custom applications.
- License keys, SSL certificates and 3rd party application data.
- Important log files like login data, command history, etc.
Before setting up backups, we discuss with our customers and help them choose the data that are to be backed up, from this list. Space availability is also a major aspect that we consider before excluding some data.
3. Full backups or incremental backups – which one to choose?
Full backups save the entire server data. While they can be quickly restored, it requires so much disk space. Incremental backups, on the other hand, backs up only the changes compared to previous backup.
To restore the incremental backup, the last full backup plus all the incremental backups until then are needed. The storage space needed is less but restoration time is more.
There is a third type called Differential backups, which contain backup of all the changes made since the previous full backup. To restore, the full backup and this differential backup is used.
At Bobcares, our expert technicians decides the backup type for cPanel servers based on the storage space available, the magnitude of changes happening and the importance of the data.
Ideally, we take full backups on a monthly and weekly basis, and differential or incremental backups on a daily basis. But this can, again, vary based on the business requirements of each web host.
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4. How to prevent backups from taking up too much space?
One of the major constraints in backup management is the disk space availability. To minimize the space usage by backups, we perform these measures:
a. Using compressed backups – Compressing the backups helps to save space, but requires more CPU and can cause server load. We take compressed backups during off-peak hours to tackle this.
b. Rotating the backup files – Periodically rotating the backup files helps to reduce the disk space usage caused by too many backup files.
c. Deleting old and obsolete backups – We define a backup retention policy for customers, where the old backups are either deleted or moved to another storage, to save disk space. Periodic audits helps us to remove backups of non-existing accounts or duplicate backups.
5. Where to store the backups for cPanel servers?
Storage space is a concern for many web hosts when opting for a backup design. These are the main aspects we consider before finalizing a backup location for our customers:
- Cost – Storage space comes at a cost, so we always ensure an optimal usage of the available storage space. Storing backups locally in the same server or same drive is a cheap option, but less reliable as the backups can also be lost during a hard-drive crash.
- Reliability – To ensure that the backups are available even in the case of a server crash, we configure external servers to store the backups. Backups can also be stored online, which are easily expandable and less expensive, unlike in the case of external drives.
- Bandwidth – Since bandwidth usage is incurred while transferring backups to external servers, we configure VPN to connect to backup servers in the same network, to reduce the transfer costs.
- Confidentiality – Though online backups are cheaper, they may be less secure and not readily accessible compared to the data stored in your external hard drive, which you have more control over.
Along with cost, transfer rate and accessibility of the backups, we also consider the risk factor before finalizing backup location. For instance, for web hosts who wish to avoid risk of network failures, we configure backups in an external network.
We’ve been able to prevent server incidents by up to 15% by using our proactive server checks (click here to see how we improve web hosting support).