There has been some confusion over what our CMS does and does not back up as a part of its revision process, so the purpose of this blog post is to clarify things. This information is accurate for both Percussion Rhythmyx and OU Campus.
Enterprise Content Management Systems store pieces of content. You have a Generic Page which stores the meat of your webpage’s content. However, there is more. Think of a sidebars and sliders (Highlights). Images. And navigation—made up of Navons. There are also Files. Maybe some Script items or Personnel Information items. All told, any given webpage is made up of 50-100 total individual items.
Any CMS does a good job of keeping track of revisions for these items. Each revision is basically a backup of that individual piece of content. As long as an item is not deleted (purged), we will have a history for that item. If the item is deleted, then its revision history is also deleted.
Enterprise Content Management Systems do not store webpage backups. If you want to see what a webpage looked like on January 12, 2012, you won’t be able to in an easy manner. That is because you would have to comb through the multiple individual content items that make up that particular webpage. What’s more is that you won’t be able to determine if any content items were deleted between January 12, 2012 and today. So, even if you combed through all the related content items that comprise a webpage, you still may not have an accurate picture of what it looked like on a specific date in the past.
Information Services provides short term webpage backups—typically 30 days—to guard against losing content in the event of server failure or other technical issues. This does not help with long-term history of your website, however.
Over the past ten years of using a CMS, we have found that it is very rare to need to reference a specific webpage backup from more than a week or two in the past. The web is constantly evolving and websites are meant to be living documents that change frequently. Clients who house important records on their website—such as the Registrar—develop internal processes to back up and keep records outside of their website.
The free online service Internet Archive: Wayback Machine is a great tool for looking at the history of webpages. It crawls various webpages across the Internet and takes and stores snapshots. It is limited in that it does not take snapshots daily or sometimes even monthly. It is a great place to start, though, if you need to find a general history of a particular webpage.
If you are concerned about backing up your web content for internal or even legal reasons, such as your policies and procedures or course requirements—and you do not have an internal process already in place—we recommend subscribing to a paid service that will automatically create webpage snapshots for you. The Internet Archive and other vendors have subscription services with different features and price points. If you are interested in subscribing to a paid backup service, contact firstname.lastname@example.org and we can discuss your needs and budget.