I recently found out the importance of preparing and keeping up to date a few backup servers. Let me explain briefly what happened. Yesterday I tried to check my e-mail on one of my websites. When I tried this the website didn’t load.
So I logged in to the web administration site of my hosting provider. That just kept claiming I wasn’t a member. After contacting the helpdesk I found out that the server my websites were hosted on (including this one) had some problems. No really!!
Getting back online
I didn’t expect the problems to be resolved quickly so I wanted to activate a backup server with the same websites. It’s a slow home served computer, which was kinda outdated with it’s information. It took me three hours just to get it up to date with the latest situation of the website (had to wait until the web administration was up and running at my hosting provider).
After that I still had to modify the DNS settings on a different provider. But I had forgotten to set the refresh rate that other DNS servers use to 5 minutes. Instead it was set to one day, which would mean one day of downtime.
Luckily my hosting provider had the problem fixed in ‘just’ 10 hours. So I never had the change to activate my backup. But after this I have scripted my backup to regularly fetch the websites from the primaries and set the DNS refresh time to 5 minutes. This all to be back up and running very quickly.
Last piece of advice, next to synching a backup server regularly, have your DNS on a different provider as your website. I could get my website back online because the DNS server was still working. On one of my sites that is, the other has its DNS running on the same box as the hosting.
It may cost a bit more money then single hosting, but it’s worth it in the long run.