Hostgator recently announced a new site backup service aimed at users of CPanel and WHM. The service, named Site Auto Backup, aims to give CPanel users a low-cost automated backup solution that is off-site and updated daily.
Priced at $1.95 per month for the first GB of storage and $1 for every GB beyond that, it is designed to be an affordable solution that works with other hosting accounts, including Hostgator’s but not limited to them, and gives users peace of mind. Even better, the system is completely automated beyond the initial setup, making it a “set and forget” solution that is only there when you need it and not something you have to think about and check in on.
But is it something CPanel users will want or need? That is something that is difficult to say for certain.
How it Works
The idea behind SAB is that it works with the backup system already built into CPanel and WHM.
When you sign up for an account you’re asked to choose between either a base 5GB account, which is $5 per month, or a base 1 GB account, which is $2 per month. You can also get two months free for paying for a full year in advance. After that, you are then asked to designate how much additional space you’ll want, at the cost of $1 per GB per month.
(Note: CPanel backups are compressed and are significantly smaller than the total file space used on the server in most cases. According to SAB, the backups can be as small as 20% of the actual size of the files stored if they are predominantly text.)
Once set up the account, you sign in and then connect it with either your CPanel or your WHM account (using your root access). You then tell it how often you want it to backup your site and how many backup files you want it to store (it deletes the oldest with every new backup) and it runs from there.
If you use SAB with your WHM account, it will not only import all of your existing CPanel accounts, but also automatically add any new ones you create. This is ideal for resellers and VPS operators that want to protect their accounts. If you don’t want to protect one, however, you can easily disable the individual accounts to prevent them from being backed up.
All in all, the system is straightforward and simple enough. No messy FTP setup or other cron jobs, SAB handles everything.
Though it is an interesting service, is it one that customers will have use for?
Backing Up the Backups
The question is whether or not anyone will want or need this service. Most Web hosts already provide backup services though many, as SAB points out, are server-wide backups that may or may not help restore individual accounts. If your server hard drive crashes, you’re covered, but if your account gets hacked or you make a mistake, it is less clear if you are.
It may be wise to ask your hosts the kinds of backups they keep.
But even if you need this service, it can be fairly pricey. Though $1 per GB is fairly small, most individual bloggers will probably get by with just the $2 per month account, considering that they likely only pay a few dollars per month in hosting it can mean a marked increase in monthly hosting bills. VPS customers, such as myself, would likely need an account that would cost at least $10 per month to backup all of my sites, that would be a 20% increase in the amount of money I spend per month on hosting, all for a service that may be largely unneeded.
In short, most likely you’ll need to plan on adding another 20% or so to your monthly hosting budget to make this happen.
Still, a remote, automated backup system can be very compelling. After all, such a system can make switching hosts much easier, make recovery from errors much quicker and, perhaps most importantly, provide great peace of mind.
But whether it is worthwhile will have to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. If you have a lot of data that can’t be compressed neatly in the backup files, SAB will likely be too expensive to be worthwhile and you’re better off looking for an alternative (though more hands on) backup solution. But if your data needs are slight, SAB may be a great way to go.
No matter what, it is a good idea to keep your own backups of your site. Whether you do it on your personal computer, a separate hosting account or using a specialized service such as SAB, you definitely want to have a backup plan in case your host fails or you otherwise need to reload your site in a hurry. Relying on your host to keep your backups is a foolish strategy even if they are site-specific.
Simply put, security is not a matter of being secure or insecure, but rather, of adding layers of protection and SAB can be a very powerful layer to add.
That, in turn, is why I’ve signed up with SAB with a 5 GB account. I don’t have it backing up all of my domains yet, many are not active enough to warrant daily backups, but I have it saving my main sites. As a blogger with mostly text content, it made sense to add the layer. However, my more image-oriented domains will probably need to find another system and I’m moving some audio files off of my server to further streamline the backup process.
But despite these space concerns, SAB is a good deal for my sites and, given my occasionally rough history with hosting, will help me sleep a lot better tonight.
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