We have created our own proprietary backup solution specifically for our hosting platform. Since new customers will have never used it before, we've taken the time to explain how it works here.
How data is backed up from your server to our backup servers
Every server on our hosting platform creates a "Live" backup every single day. This process involves making an exact copy of your filesystems (both SSD and HDD space), and moving it to a completely separate backup server over our secure private network. The process of making a backup is done outside of your virtual server's operating system.
For the most part it is impossible to know when a backup is occurring for your server. The backup process is run using an "Idle IO Priority", which means it will attempt to only sync your backup when there is no other IO being requested on the server. Using an idle IO priority is not perfect, but typically 99%+ of your IO bandwidth will remain unaffected during normal server operations. Unless you are extremely heavily using your server's IO it will be impossible to notice this process occurring, and even if you are heavily using it the process will have a minimal impact.
We ensure that this backup process happens and monitor this process very closely, so that we don't miss any backups where possible. Although the backup process is extremely reliable, we are notified of any issues when they rarely occur, and we ensure that you don't miss a second consecutive day of backups. The likelihood that a server doesn't have one of these "Live" backups in the last 24 hours is far less than 1% (typically we are 100% perfect).
Is my data accurately synced and how long does it take?
Our proprietary code uses what is known as "copy on write snapshots". Without going into the technical details, the benefit of this approach is that we sync a copy of your filesystem that will not be modified. Your server continues to function normally, changes are made to your disks as usual, but outside of your virtual system we have a copy of your virtual drives which do not change.
Due to the way we make backups, the amount of time the syncing process takes doesn't affect your server. Most of our virtual servers are synced under 10 minutes, but servers which have many gigabytes of changes may take up to a few hours. Due to the way our backup system works though, it will make no difference in regards to performance or consistency of your backup data.
Live backups becoming Historical Backups
Most of our competitors simply make daily backups; however, we've taken things a step further by maintaining copies of these live backups. The copies that we keep of the live backup are referred to us as "historical" backups.
The process of making a historical copy of your live backup happens completely off of your server. On one of our backup servers, we go through the process of generating a "backup chain". Effectively the way it works is that every week we make a completely new copy of your most recent live backup. Then the next 6 days keep copies of the differences between each day. From your perspective there is no difference between these days of backups, as every day is equally as reliable as the others.
Historical backups are much more intensive to generate, which is why we do so off of your server. Many historical backups can be made in just 15 minutes, but some of our more "heavy" users can take hours.
Will I always have a historical backup for any given day?
For the most part, yes. We do one day of maintenance every month on our backup server, which will prevent most of the historical backups from being generated for that day. This is a required maintenance to ensure our RAID arrays are in sync.
The other reason you might not have a historical backup is because your filesystems may be so overworked that it isn't able to generate one each day. For almost every client (except literally a handful), historical backups will be generated consistently every day; however, some customers use their filesystem so heavily that there aren't enough hours in the day to generate a historical archive.
How many days of historical backups will I have?
On our end we put no restriction on specifically how many days are stored. We maintain a large quantity of independent disk RAID arrays for storing historical archives. Each of these typically stores up to 8,000GB of historical archives. When those individual mirrored disks reach their capacity, we automatically delete the oldest historical backup chains (the week long chains described above). This process happens automatically and at any time, so a historical backup (typically 7 at once) can be deleted at any time.
The result of this process is that there is no consistent answer as to how many historical backups you may have. The average is 35 days of historical backups, but you may find one day you have 28 days worth and another day you may have 42 days of historical backups.
From our experience the vast majority of our customers tend to need a backup from roughly 4-5 days ago. It's extremely rare that someone needs a backup from 28-35 days ago. Once our customers need something older than a week ago, more often than not they wind up actually needing a copy from literally months ago; for that reason we find 28-42 days to be an ideal range of availability (since it more than covers typical needs, and we'll never be able to maintain 100+ days).
Our Backup Access Plans
In cPanel we give you access to the backup system described above in this article. You don't have to worry about how any of that works, as long as you can use the interface we've provided in cPanel.
Our cPanel tool gives you access only to the historical backups for your filesystems stored on the SSD space. At this time we don't have the functionality to allow you to access historical backups on the HDD space; however, a small portion of our customers actually use the HDD space (you have to explicitly do so).
In the top right of our interface in cPanel, you can access our "How-To" articles, which explain how you can actually use the tool we've provided to interface with our backup system. The articles will walk you through a few real-world examples of how to use the backup tool.
Basic Backup Plan vs Premium Backup Plan
While we try to explain this in enough detail on the cPanel page, we often get questions about it still. The key difference between the plans is the amount of historical backups we provide access to. The Premium Plan gives you instant access to every historical backup we have, while the Basic Plan gives you a much more limited access.
The basic plan gives you immediate access to the most recent backup. Each day you have the basic plan you gain access to one more historical backup, up to 7 total backups.
Historical archive space
The backup plans we offer also can be used to store copies of our historical backups independently. We have multiple servers which store backups internally, and when you make a copy of your historical backup through our tool, that is stored on an entirely separate server from the original backup server (though still not your actual server you have hosting on).
When you request a backup restoration of a database or directory, that data is copied to a server you have access to. You can then "archive and compress", which takes the entire backup and makes it into a single compressed file. This compressed file can be stored on your backup plan forever, and it won't ever be deleted as long as you have space on your backup plan. The progress bar on the backup plan page, is used to show you how much of the limited space you have available for permanent storage. Our basic backup plan has 1GB of this storage, and the premium plan has 100GB.
I've paid for the backup plan, but I don't see any backups!
You're misunderstanding the page, which is fairly common unfortunately. Each date listed on that page is a backup that exists. Regardless of if you pay for any backup plan, that page shows the historical backups discussed in this article. Those historical backups are taken regardless of your backup plan.
The tabs by default show "(0)", because that indicates the number of restorations you currently have available for that backup. You have to actually request those via the tool; they won't just show up automatically. A copy of your files or database isn't actually prepared for you to download until you request it, and once you do that, you'll see the counter go up, and the actual information listed on the page.
The usage progress bar shows no usage, why are there no backups?
See the section above about "Historical archive space". We do not limit you by your normal backup storage, we only have a limit on the historical archives you create. If you have zero historical archives, then this bar will reflect that non-usage. This does not mean you have no backups, see the explanation right above this.
I'm lost and I need my site restored *right now*!
It sounds like you need our "Professional Restoration Service". For $100 we will restore your backup for you, and you can sit back and relax.
Our Premium Backup Plan comes with a free professional restoration every 6 months, so that may be something to consider if you're deciding between each plan. Keep in mind if you sign up for the basic plan, you can upgrade at any time to the premium plan and we'll pro-rate the discount for what you've already paid and used.
One thing to understand is that restoring a backup isn't an instant process. While most sites can be restored in under 15 minutes, your site might not be that quick. Mostly the time a restoration can be completed in comes down to your disk space usage, and the quantity and type of files you have.
Should I make my own backups? Can I rely on your backups?
You should make your own. This is your site and/or business, and it's best that you ultimately can ensure its survival in the event of a problem.
While to date (several years now) we've yet to have a major issue which prevented a backup from being restored, we provide no warranty or accept any liability if a backup cannot be recovered. We strongly encourage you to keep your own backups at least occasionally, even if you pay for our backup service.