Simply put, they're a really important part of owning and running a website!
Data centers play the biggest part in securing your data integrity and availability, though each have different levels of expectation in what should be their role and responsibilty, compared to our responsibility and your responsibility.
Data centers, like any web host or other online service provider, believe it's not their responsibilty to backup your files. That said, everyone involved will always do their best to reduce the risk of any data loss, even though, ultimately, they can't prevent it. Hardware can, does and will fail and it's the backup measures in place that aid data recovery.
So how do data centers help to reduce the risk of data loss...
Most data centers, but not all, protect their data stores by using RAID configured disk arrays, which is only one level of data security of many available. We are careful to select and use data centers only making use of RAID storage.
RAID controller cards are the biggest risk in RAID configurations, and can some times fail to the extent of corrupting the stored data. Such failures are extremely rare, but can and do happen.
Some data centers take backups of their data stores, daily, every other day, weekly or monthly, and that varies between data centers. This is not a mandatory service requirement of a data center, and some flatly refuse to offer/perform this on hard disk (HDD) servers because of the I/O impact to customers during the backup process.
These scheduled backups are stored on different storage arrays from where they were taken, though usually in the same data center. So if one storage array fails, the data center can recover from their own backups.
We provide an additional third-line-of-defence backup service which can be used in the event of an irrecoverable system/data disaster at data center server or storage level. This is only performed if it's part of your hosting plan, or if you selected it as an add-on service at time of ordering, or by requesting the service at a later date.
Our backups are stored in a different data center than where your data is usually held. For example, if you host your sites or VPS in Los Angeles, we might store your backups in Dallas or Miami and, in the event of an irrecoverable system/data disaster or other type of catastrophe, your data may be able to be recovered from these off-site / remote backups.
There can never be a 100% promise that recovery will be possible, but our backups have proven useful in the past, and can severly reduce your risks of total data loss.
During our backup process, our backup servers retain the previous backup set until the new backup is complete, effectively holding two backups sets of your data until the new backup is complete. If we were to delete your old backup before completing the new backup, there is risk of total data loss if the servers were to fail during the backup!
You, as the owner of the VPS or website, have a responsibilty to protect your own interests. The Web Hosting Control Panel has a backup feature that allows you to run your own backups at any time, and even to schedule them, in additional to our Automated Weekly Backups.
Backups are something you should push yourself to learn.
If you want us to perform additional backups for you, ask us, and we'll explain the options and associated costs.
If you have any questions about the above, please let us know.