For the online learning world


Data Backups

Have you lost data before? Misplaced or accidentally deleted a file? Made changes to a file and then been unable to revert them? Losing data can be a major problem and some data can be irreplaceable. You can’t always prevent a data loss but you can have a backup plan in place to recover from the loss. In this article we will examine your options for backing up your data. We will start by looking at some general backup concepts and then identify some resources specific to backing up a Moodle installation.

What to Backup

Basically, backup any data you do not want to lose. If losing the data would be anything from inconvenient through to catastrophic, you want to back it up. You will likely want to backup your documents, files, images and videos. You may also want to back up software or system settings, passwords (securely!), scripting files etc. Anything that you do not want to lose you should backup.

How to Backup

There are multiple ways to backup data depending on what the data is and where you want to store it. It can be as simple as making a copy of a file and storing it somewhere else; in another folder, on another drive or in the cloud. You could export a backup of a system or piece of software. You could sync your data with a cloud-based system. For software scripts I use git to maintain version control and push the latest version to the servers to prevent the loss of the script in the event of a problem with the local copy. The best backup systems will incorporate some or all of these methods.

When to Backup

It is important to keep to a backup schedule. You do not want to find that your most recent backup is weeks old – that is a lot of data to have lost. A typical backup schedule will have different levels:

  • Near continuous backup of files, such as through a syncing service like Dropbox or OneDrive
  • Daily backup such as saving a folder of work to a USB drive to take home
  • Weekly backup to an external drive that is left at a different location
  • Monthly archival of data (set aside in case it is required in the future).

Backup Locations

A good rule of thumb is to have your data backed up in three locations. One will be a physical device that is not your main computer, such as a USB stick or a hard drive. A second location will be in the cloud – possibly Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive or a dedicated backup provider. A third location will be somewhere offsite. This could mean taking a USB drive home with you or leaving a drive with a friend or family member you do not live with. Having your data stored in multiple locations means you are more likely to be able to access at least one copy of the data.

Moodle Backups

Maintaining good backup practices of your Moodle site is very important. Having the ability to restore from a backup will save you a lot of time and frustration. It will ensure that you do not lose the progress and completion records of your users and that you can minimise downtime. The Moodle Docs contain a lot of information on backups. The Backup page provides links to various Moodle-specific backup processes:

  • Site backup
  • Course backup
  • Course restore
  • Automated course backup
  • Year-end procedures
  • IMS Common Cartridge import and export.


A backup process needs to be started before you require it so get familiar with these documents before you suffer from a data loss situation. You should be making regular backups so get into the habit of backing up often. It is also important to understand how to restore from a backup, and to ensure you can restore from your backups, prior to needing to restore.

Key Points

The key points to remember when it comes to backing up your data are:

  • Backup your data regularly
  • Backup your data to multiple locations
  • Know how to restore your data – and make sure you can before you need to.
Jeff Mitchell
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Jeff Mitchell

Jeff is passionate about the role of learning and development, and has a specific interest in how people and organisations can be developed in order to achieve their potential. Jeff has a keen interest in information technology and specifically data analysis and the e-learning space.

One thought on “Data Backups

  • Really great advice Jeff 🙂
    I learned my lesson 20 years ago, when I was working at home and the roof collapsed with rain (long story).
    I lost 3 computers and backup drives.
    It was a nightmare, and took a few years to recover.
    Since then I now think of backups as EXACTLY as important as the actual work / data.
    If you make this mental shift, then the best-practice behind multiple backups, in multiple locations, becomes the norm.
    As it should be.


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