Sunday, August 17, 2008

Don't Be Blog Gone: Tips for Keeping Your Blog Backed-Up and Secure

We all know the feeling: you turn on your computer and are quickly greeted by the Blue Screen of Death. There's that moment of confusion, which turns to horror, the sinking feeling in your stomach, the nausea, the panic...

It's ugly, and no one wants to experience it ever again. I'm getting the heebies just thinking about it!

In the past few days, I've come across several blogs that were "accidentally" blocked, with blog owners locked out, or else hacked by someone seeking to destroy the work of another blogger. In one case, this was done ON PURPOSE by a rival blogger. Most recently, this happened to fellow genea-blogger, Steve Danko.

We all know the importance of backing up the images, data, and music files on our personal computers. Why is it never discussed that we should also back up our blogs?

I'll tell you why I haven't thought about it before. I "assumed" that this was being done by Blogger. I "assumed" that they had some sort of redundancy built into their server system to prevent the loss of any data. However, it appears that this is just not the case.

Having been a web site designer for over 10 years, I really should have known better. Nobody backs up my web sites but me. Why would I expect anyone else to back up my blogs?

So I did a little investigating and found a few simple ways to keep your blog safely backed up. Since I'm a Blogger user, most of these tips are geared toward other Blogger users. However, there are a few suggestions that can work across platforms.

Back up each post after you make it with Blogger's BlogSend feature.
I compose many of my longer posts in my word processor, but after I copy and paste them into Blogger, I frequently make changes. I'm much too lazy to go back and save these changes into my original word processor file, so I wind up without a back up of my published article. BlogSend will automatically send each of your blog posts to a single email address immediately after you publish. (If I'm not mistaken, WP also offers a similar feature.)

This really is a no-brainer, and you can't go wrong by turning on this feature. The only down-side is that if you go back and edit your post later, BlogSend will not send you a new email. However, if you have the Email This Post feature turned on, you can go to your post and email the republished version to yourself.

Subscribe to your own feed via email.
I "burn" my feed with Feedburner, and I offer their email subscription service on my blogs. I have signed up to receive my own feeds via email, just because I wanted to see what they looked like. Later, I realized that I had a back-up of each blog post. Again, like BlogSend, the down-side is that if you edit your posts later, you won't get an updated email.

Create a single file of all your posts.
If you like taking risks and messing with your HTML code, you're gonna love this one! While Blogger does not offer a download or export feature, they do provide you with a convoluted, super-complicated process by which you can delete your entire template (after you back it up, of course), replace it with come complicated code, and republish your blog as a single file.

Yeah, that doesn't sound like fun to me, either, and I'm pretty comfortable working with HTML. It might be an ok, one-time back-up, but no one in his/her right mind is going to want to do this on a regular basis.

For WordPress users: Il Filosofo has created a plug-in that will automatically back up your blog's database to your email. You'll want to have an extra large email box to use this feature, depending on the size of your blog's database.

Download your site to your computer.
There are a variety of ways to do this. If you FTP your blog, you can use your ftp client to reverse the process and ftp your pages and graphics back to your computer.

Several third-party back-up tools out there are worth trying. HTTrack Website Copier is a free tool for Windows users, which will back up and mirror your entire site. WebGrabber is a similar program for Mac users. There's also a Firefox add-on called DownThemAll which looks similar to the other two. I have not tried any of these yet, but I plan to give HTTrack a try very soon.

Automate it and forget it.
Here's one I really like: BlogBackupOnline will automatically back up your blog every day, and you don't have to lift a finger! Ok, you have to sign up for a free account, but after that, no fingers need lifting. Their "Freemium" account gives you 50 MB of storage, which is roughly the equivalent of 50,000 posts of 1,000 characters each. I'm sure that's more blogging than I could ever do in this lifetime!

If your blog is deleted, or you want to transfer to a different platform, you simply select the "Restore" feature, and your blog will be automatically transferred to the new platform. You can also download a file of your blog to your computer.

The down-side - and yes, there always is one - is that the Freemium account does not back up pictures or videos... a real bummer for most of us. To get this feature, you will have to sign up for a paid account:
BlogBackupOnline is designed to backup and restore your content. This includes posts, comments, categories, and tags.

BlogBackupOnline does not backup user accounts, the database, or posts not publicly available.

BlogBackupOnline can backup pictures and video linked from your blog. This feature is available for paid accounts.
So far, I have not decided that my images are worth the extra cash to upgrade my account, but I may change my mind later.

Don't forget to back up your template.
It's a good idea to periodically back up your template, especially if you have spent time customizing a Blogger (or other) template. In the Blogger Layout view, you can click on "Edit HTML," and select "Download Full Template." If you prefer, you can also copy your entire template code and paste it into a text editor like Notepad or Wordpad (depending on the file size).

If you keep a series of these files by date, you'll have several restore points, should you need them. If you log into your blog one day and find that your template looks nothing like you left it, you would simply copy and paste your template code back into Blogger, and republish. Keep in mind that this only backs up your template, not your posts or images.

Comments count, too!
If you moderate your comments, you already get an email whenever anyone leaves a comment on a post. If you don't moderate comments, you can have Blogger automatically send you an email when a comment is posted. This feature is found under the "Settings" tab; select "Comments" and scroll to the bottom for "Comment Notification Email."

If you use Haloscan - a somewhat cumbersome comments platform - your comments are already backed up. Lucky you!

Send a copy away.
Remember, as an additional safeguard, you will want to save an additional copy of your files to an online back-up service like Mozy or Carbonite, a Yahoo! Briefcase, or even a CD or flash drive that you keep somewhere off site. This way, if disaster should strike your house, it doesn't have to strike your backed-up files, too.

Food for thought.
"How I'd Hack Your Weak Passwords"
"Did Your WordPress Site Get Hacked?"
"9 Easy Ways to Secure Your WordPress Blog"

If you have a suggestion for an additional way to keep blogs backed-up and secure, I would be happy to publish them here or in a follow-up post. Please send to littlebytesoflife (at) gmail (dot) com or leave them in the comments here. Thank you!

I'm off to change my password now!


Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

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8 comments:

wendy said...

Thanks for this great tip, Elizabeth! One can never back-up too much!

Kathryn Doyle said...

Elizabeth, well done! This is a fantastic resource for all bloggers. I'm off to post it at the Facebook Genea-Bloggers Group page. This might warrant a special GB Games citation!

Miriam said...

Excellent resources, Elizabeth...our genea-blogging community should be thanking you en masse for all the research you've done on this!

looking4ancestors said...

Elizabeth,
Thanks for thinking about, and doing the research on this important topic before disaster strikes another one of us genea-bloggers. Well Done!

Elizabeth said...

WENDY, KATHRYN, MIRIAM, AND LOOKING4ANCESTORS -

Glad to know that you found this article useful. If I can help one blogger, then the time spent researching this article will have been worth it!

~E

Apple said...

I'll have to check out some of the sites you mention. I subscribe to my feed by email for both posts and comments, but this only saved the posts made after I started that feature. At Miriam's suggestion I have also started a new, private blog that I use only for a backup. I just have to remember to go in and backup to it every week.

Denise L said...

Thanks, Elizabeth, for the doing the research on this one. I think the "blog-backup" will be included in my overall Grand Backup Plan.

Lucie LeBlanc Consentino said...

Thanks so much for all the good tips! I didn't know that we could do Blog Send on Blogger - I have just reset the settings to include this feature. How terrible for anyone who would lose their blog.