Backup, Hosting, Themes
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Beware of shared hosting and the storage of backups

Backups of your WordPress site or at least your database are essential right? Yes, absolutely, but sometimes you need to be careful where you put them, as I seek to show in this true story.

A good number of years ago I assumed responsibility for a non-profit, private sector organisation’s WordPress site and, because money was an issue, a well-known shared hosting provider was used to host the site.  We were mindful of the importance of backup so installed iThemes’ excellent BackupBuddy plugin. Periodically we made full site backups with the plugin. The backups were saved to a backups folder within our WordPress installation on the shared hosting server as well as to a local computer.

Some time later I received an unexpected email from the hosting provider which said, among other things:

“Your web hosting account for [website url] has been deactivated, as of [a specified date]. (reason: Backups/Storage Constraints)

This deactivation was due to a Terms of Service violation associated with your account. At sign-up, all users state that they have read through, understand, and agree to our terms. These terms are legal and binding.

Although your web site has been suspended, your data may still be available for up to 15 days from the date of deactivation; if you do not contact us during that 15 day period, your account and all of its files, databases, and emails may be deleted.”

I was a bit puzzled by this (not to mention miffed) as the site itself wasn’t massive and we weren’t using anywhere near our hosting package’s disc space allowance. After some digging, it turned out that the precise reason for the sudden site deactivation was the presence of the BackupBuddy backup files on the server. The host considered that the existence of those files was contrary to a sentence in its terms of use (in provisions discussing unlimited usage policies) that said the host did “not provide unlimited space for online storage, backups, or archiving of electronic files, documents, log files, etc., and any such prohibited use of the Services will result in the termination of Subscriber’s account, with or without notice.” This clause could have been better drafted but we could see that the hosting provider may have had a point.

The story ends happily, in that we removed the backup files and asked the host to reinstate the site which, thankfully, it did. (I believe the host has a good reputation. I’m not meaning to disparage it any way. If anyone was at fault, it was probably me.)

But what’s the moral of the story? The moral is actually two-fold. The first and perhaps obvious aspect is that those setting up hosting accounts for clients or others need not only to read the governing terms of use when signing up but also to remember the terms of use, or remember to check them, when doing anything subsequently to which the host might object (not always an easy thing to do…).

The second aspect is that WordPress users may need to take care of the manner in which they deploy the standard functionality of certain plugins. In particular, care may be needed where a given deployment could have an impact on one’s web host that amounts to a breach (or an arguable breach) of the host’s terms of use that you agreed to back in the dim dark ages. In our case, the BackupBuddy backups were being saved automatically to a folder at www.domain.org/wp-content/uploads/backupbuddy_backups and that is what the host didn’t like.

Thanks to Bob Mical for the Data Center photo above, licensed under a Creative Commons 2.0 Generic licence

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