Shopify is one of the best platforms to get up and running with your own online store.
In fact, thanks to its supreme ease of use and applicability to just about any industry and business size, Shopify powers 31% of eCommerce websites in the United States.
Given its accommodating nature, one might think the platform would also be so generous as to consistently and automatically hit the Save button on every single thing in your shop.
One would be...wrong. 😬
The unfortunate truth is that while Shopify makes eCommerce website development look incredibly simple, the data that lies beneath can be complicated and highly variable from store to store. That being the case, Shopify operates on a Shared Responsibility Model, meaning they aren’t responsible for initiating recurring, automatic backups that would allow you to restore the most recent version of your store should something go wrong.
Think of it this way:
You’ve just moved into a beautiful new apartment. The management company is responsible for making sure everything that belongs to the building is sound. That means your plumbing works, the place isn’t crawling with unwelcome insects, all the windows lock, and trash is routinely collected. Once you become a tenant, anything specific to you is your responsibility. Your landlord is not sending a maintenance team to fix the ceramic pot your cat broke by mischievously nudging it off the coffee table, nor are they coming into your house to gather your garbage--you need to take it to the bins outside.
TL;DR Shopify takes responsibility for the security of the cloud they provide; you are responsible for the security of just about anything you choose to house therein.
Sounds scary...but it doesn’t have to be! Ahead, we’ll walk you through what you can and can’t back up manually from your Shopify Admin, why manual backups may not be the best idea, and what third party tools you can use to back up the whole enchilada.
Why You Should Be Backing Up Your Shopify Store
According to a report from Accenture, security breaches increased by 67% from 2015 to 2019.
(And Accenture is probably...very interested in cybersecurity, since 137 GB of their data was posted to the dark web in 2017 as a result of misconfigured media storage. Yikes.)
So, yes, potential cyber-attack is a very good reason to keep your data properly banked and backed up, but it’s not the only reason. There are a number of scenarios where the ability to backup and restore is a godsend.
To Err is Human
As your business grows, you can’t take care of your online store alone. That means you’ll have to delegate some parts of your operation to an employee, a freelancer, or an agency. Sometimes that delegation...doesn’t go so well.
“Well, if you want something done right, you’ve gotta do it yourself.”
Sure, but even you, amazing merchant, are not infallible. If there’s an unintended or poorly executed alteration to your website, you need a way to press the undo button. Otherwise, you’re looking at hours of repeated work.
Glitchy Apps Bein’ Glitchy
For merchants looking to round out their eComm shops with extra features or integrations that’ll simply make their lives easier, Shopify’s app store is where it’s at. Still, adding apps opens up more doors for technical glitches and unintended interferences to occur. Plus, more bells and whistles = more data to manage = more room for error.
Managing Multiple Shopify Stores
Managing numerous eCommerce websites? If the answer is yes, backups can make it a breeze to apply similar settings to multiple stores. Think about how much time it’d otherwise take to upgrade themes, apps, and other common elements for each of your websites. <shudder>
What You Can (and Cannot) Back Up With Shopify
To understand what a complete backup looks like, you must have a sense of all the components that make your store what it is. These include:
- Customer Data
- Products and Product Images
- Gift Cards
- Menu Navigation
- Blogs and Blog Posts
- Shipping Rates & Zones
- Store Policies
(If any of this is sounding unfamiliar, check out our soup-to-nuts Shopify Admin Guide for a refresher.) If something goes awry, you should have a backup of all these components to make sure that your store looks and functions exactly the same as before upon restoration.
Unfortunately, only a small number of those elements can be backed up within Shopify:
- Customer Data
- Coupon codes for discounts
- Theme (live and drafts)
- Gift cards
How to Back Up Shopify Manually
For the components Shopify will let you manually back up, it does so by providing CSV files that you can export and save to your local machine.
To get a CSV file corresponding to a part of your store, you just need to find that part in your Shopify Admin dashboard. To export your product data, for example, go to Products > All Products and click Export.
Do this for each area of your store that Shopify allows you to export, as listed above.
Spoiler alert: those CSVs will give you a skeleton of your store, at best. To paint a complete picture, you’ll need to combine those CSVs with additional manually-created documents.
And when we say manual...we mean it.
Any content for which Shopify doesn’t provide a CSV, you’ll have to copy and paste from your website into a separate document. For example, if we wanted to back up this blog post, we’d have to literally highlight and copy every header, subheader, and text block from this page and paste it into a spreadsheet--not to mention the meta description, alt text on images, the images themselves--all of these things would have to be individually pulled and banked somewhere else.
To make matters worse, we’d need to repeat that process regularly to ensure we always had the most recent copy of our Tako Stand posts on file.
At time of writing, we have 98 posts on our blog. Just...no.
In the event you need to perform a recovery from one of these CSV backups, that isn’t simple either. You’ll have to import data from each CSV file the same way you exported it. To recover your product information, for example, go to Products > All Products and click Import.
Any data not included in the CSV files will have to be added manually. If you exported it manually, it’ll have to be imported manually. Holy workload Batman.
If it’s still not obvious why manual back ups are a bad idea, consider the following:
- When you export a CSV file, Shopify doesn’t export all the data — only what it considers relevant. That means bidding farewell to key details like product categories, images, or how your Shopify store has indexed products.
- When importing data, your CSV file cannot be more than 15MB (for product data) and 1MB (for customer data). If it is, you’ll have to import in batches.
- When you edit a CSV file in any way, like sorting the data, you risk product variations and other information getting disconnected.
- Your import may accidentally replace your current details with bad data. If this happens, there is no way to retrieve what was there before. There’s no reversing an import.
- If you want to import only a portion of the data in your CSV file, you’ll have to create a copy of the CSV, sift through every row and column, delete any extraneous stuff, and import what’s left (hoping that no data was mortally jumbled in the process).
Manual Shopify backup and recovery is a complicated process with lots of opportunity for error. That’s why we highly recommend using a Shopify backup app.
Backing Up Shopify Automatically With Rewind
Unlike Shopify’s default backup mechanism that allows you to save only parts of your shop, a Shopify backup app can automatically save your whole eCommerce store at regular intervals.
The backup app Rewind (a beloved partner of ours) provides account-level backups of your entire Shopify store! With Rewind, you can safely store:
- Products: Headline, Description, Photos, Availability, Pricing, Tags, Vendor, Organization, Page Title, Metafields, Page Description, Image Metafields, Weight, SKUs, Barcode
- Product Variants: Title, Pictures, Price, SKUs, Metafields, Options, Inventory
- Custom Collections: Title, Photos, Description, Collects, Sort Order
- Custom Fields: Field Name, Field Value
- Smart Collections: Title, Images, Description, Rules
- Themes: Assets, all the theme code including custom theme code
- Customer Data: Name, Address, Email, Order Count, Tags, State, Note, Total Spent
- Pages: Content, Metafields, Title, Author
- Orders: Name, Customer Email, Number, Price, Fulfillment Status, Processed Date, Financial Status
- Blog and Blog Articles: Blog Metafields, Name, Tags, Content, Images, Excerpt
- Other: Locations, Shipping Zones
So like...almost everything. (Just a few caveats here.)
The best part? Rewind doesn’t just save individual items, but also the relationships and dependencies among them. For example, if you back up your product data, Rewind will also include the product’s relationships to variants, rules, and collections.
Put simply, a backup app ensures that your store will look exactly the way it did as of the last backup in the event you need to restore it.
Getting Started with the Rewind App
Rewind sets their prices based on order volume. (They have a handy little slider that will help you figure out your price bracket here.) All plans are month-to-month. Cancelling is as easy as deleting the app from your Shopify store(s)*!
*Note that if you have Rewind hooked to multiple stores or other platforms, you’ll need to uninstall the app everywhere to ensure your account is fully deactivated.
Adding the Rewind App to Your Shopify Store
Locate Rewind in the Shopify app store and click Add App, then Install App.
Back Up Your Store
Once you’ve activated the Rewind app, it will automatically start performing daily backups. You can also initiate a manual backup, if needed, by going to Apps > Rewind - Backups for Shopify > Rewind Vault.
In your Rewind Vault, simply click Backup Now in the top right corner. That’s it. Rewind will start processing your request and in a few moments, your new backup will be ready.
Restore a Backup
Restoring your Shopify website from one of the stored backups is just as easy. With the restoration functionality, you can bring individual items, multiple items, or your entire shop back to a previous version.
To restore a single item, head over to Apps > Rewind > Rewind Vault. Next to the item you wish to restore, click View Versions. From there, you can restore a version of just that item.
To restore a collection of items or your entire store, go to Apps > Rewind > Rewind Vault, then click Advanced Restore. There, you can select the types of data you want to import, or check All Item Types to select the entire website.
Th-th-th-that’s All, Folks!
How’s that manual backup-and-restore looking now? 😵💫
Running an online shop can be overwhelming. It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day and lose sight of more esoteric things, like all the data that comes together in the background to make your store what it is!
If--heaven forbid--you’re a victim of a cyber attack or a developer makes an errant move while playing around with your site’s code, devastating data loss can occur. Regular backups and restoration capability are critical to your peace of mind--and, ultimately, success--as a merchant, especially as you scale. (And we KNOW you’re out here scaling. 💅🏼)