One week on from the day we’ll refer to from now on as disaster day we’re back up and (almost) fully functional again. It seems like several weeks have gone by in the past seven days. A true roller coaster of emotions going from panic, stress, tears, hope, elation and then hours and hours of boredom which have elongated the most tumultuous week of my blogging career. I honestly do not wish this on my worst enemy let alone my blogging friends so I’m going to share with you my previous backing up techniques (which have saved the day this week) as well as a few more comprehensive backups which would have made the whole process much easier. Some of this is a little technical and WordPress self-hosted specific but I’ve included a lot of other tips to make sure worst case scenario, you’ll never completely lose everything and best, you’ll be back up in the click of a few buttons.
1. Write a draft.
I started using Evernote as an easy way to make notes, write drafts and fine tune posts from my computer, phone or iPad whenever inspiration struck or I had 5 minutes to spare on a bus or in a queue. It’s great for that purpose, but it’s also a great place to store each post just in case the very worst happens and all your other backups are lost for some reason. I particularly like the organisation of Evernote. It makes it much easier to find what you’re looking for and store away what you don’t need anymore. I keep Evernote open on a separate desktop on my MacBook so it’s also a great way to write without being distracted by Facebook notifications popping up or a stream of Tweets that need to be clicked on. As well as increasing my productivity it also helps me backup. Win, win.
2. There’s no such thing as too many backups.
Re-writing posts would definitely be a difficult task but add that to having to take the photos again and it’s almost not worth the effort. The images on this blog are arguably the most important aspect of the site and losing them would basically mean years of work lost so I already take a lot of care to back these up in several places. I have my external hard drive that houses everything. I also zip up the files and save them to Dropbox. I really want to find a third place to keep them all, especially after the events of the last week. I guess the third would be the blog backup which leads us on to the next tip.
3. Let’s get technical.
If the events of the last week have taught me anything it’s that I am not a web developer. I understand enough to keep me online (most of the time) but that’s probably more dangerous than knowing nothing at all. I really love learning about this side of my blog but if I’m going to try to learn more I need a good backup system in place if anything goes wrong. Most of this info is pretty specific to WordPress self-hosted blogs but don’t worry Blogger/Typepad guys. I’ve got something in here for you as well.
From what I can tell there are two areas of your site you will need to back up. The database and the actual content files. If you were going to do this yourself read this help document for more info. If this all seems like getting your head around actual rocket science then you and me are on the same page and we need to find an easier way. First check in with your host. They may provide an automatic backup system. I’ve heard of a lot of near disaster moments. When all seems lost an amazing host provider has swooped in at the last-minute, waved a magic back up wand and all was restored. My host does provide a backup system, but it’s manual and before last week I had not even thought about using it! In fact, I don’t think I’d even noticed it which seems a little unbelievable now. I’m kicking myself for that. If you know how to access your cpanel look and see if you have this option. If you can’t see it then it’s worth sending a quick email to your host support to ask about it. Even if you hired someone to create your blog or website shoot them a quick message. It shouldn’t take them long to find out and chances are they will already know the answer.
If you’re on Blogger or Typepad you can back up directly from your dashboard. Here is a tutorial for Blogger users and also one for my Typepad friends as well. Read, follow instructions and go back up right now!
So, I’ve now backed up my site using my web host panel and I believe (I will be checking) it’s a full backup. This has already given more peace of mind, but there are still a number of problems with this system. Most importantly I’ll need to remember to backup regularly and any posts published in between will be ‘lost’ (nothing gets lost for real now!) if the site went down. Life would just be so much easier if someone or something else could just keep updating the backup each time we updated our blogs. Well people, we’re in luck. There are several plugin options that do just this.
I had been using BackUpWordpress but I was struggling with a problem with my cron(?!?) and it wasn't backing up regularly. Luckily I did have a recent backup from this I used to reinstall most of the site when it went down but I really want something much more comprehensive and reliable (and works with my cron?).
After researching each of the backup plugins, the one I’m most inclined to use is Vaultpress. It’s been personally recommended by Cyd from The Sweetest Occasion and updates every day. You pay monthly for the plugin but at $5 or about £3 for the basic option it's not going to break the bank!
Backing up was something I knew I should do and I would get around to eventually. In reality, it takes a maximum of an hour to set up your backup system which seems like time well spent in comparison to hundreds more correcting one big mistake!
4. One last tip
Finally, if the worst does happen and you have lost the text from your posts you can use Google's cache to find, copy and repost what you’ve lost. Just find the specific page URL and paste it into this Cached Pages Search. It's a real life time machine that will take you back to the post in the past giving you the opportunity to repost, save or copy as you wish. Actual Internet magic!