When you think about your web host, and you really break it down, they are basically just renting storage space and connectivity. Connectivity is easy to get, but the storage can be problem. All storage isn't made equal: Your current host has your content... others don't. If you can overcome the problem of your web host being the single place where your website content resides, you are no longer a potential "hostage" to your host.
This is why keeping your own backups off-site is so critical. If your host goes out of business? No problem, just move your website to another host. Host gets hacked and loses your files? Same deal. Off-site backups are the key to the freedom to use whatever host you want, and change whenever you want, for any reason.
Steps to hosting independence
- Create a robust backup plan to keep copies of your website files, user submitted contents, databases, settings, email accounts, and anything else you can't lose.
- Regularly execute the backup plan and keep the resulting backup archives or copies somewhere that isn't your web host.
- Create a plan to restore the site at another host. Test the plan periodically, or at least review the backups, to ensure nothing important is missing or forgotten.
- Periodically identify one or more backup web hosts that you can use without further research in an emergency.
- Ensure that you own your domain name. It should be registered in your name, with current contact information that can actually reach you. As a general rule, it's best to register it with a company specializing in domain registrations or to at least not register it with your web hosting company.
- Understand DNS as it relates to relocating your servers. You may need to manually edit your DNS zone file, or you might be able to restore the DNS zone with a new host and then change nameservers with your domain registrar.
- Relax, you're covered if anything goes wrong. Potential data loss will be minimal, and getting back online will be easy.
Off-site means the backups are stored somewhere other than your web host. Depending on their size, you could keep them on a home computer, a cloud based file storage company, or with a company specializing in backup storage. ↩︎