Five Lessons From The Blog Black Hole

Last week I lost my blog; in fact, I lost two. Seems a bit careless, doesn’t it? But it wasn’t my fault. Here’s what happened. On Friday I posted to Get Paid To Write Online and everything was fine. On Saturday, my host had an unexpected maintenance timeout; on Sunday my sites were suspended. Not good news at all, especially since the sites in question were my main blog and my professional site, where I send all my prospective clients to look at my stuff.  I knew I had paid my hosting fees, so what was the problem?

After a bit of digging around and a live chat with tech support, I found the problem. Somehow I’d ended up in the middle of a battle between my hosting reseller and the hosting company – and I was losing. The hosting company’s position was: ‘Tough; sort it out with the reseller.’ The reseller’s position was: ‘The hosting company has made a mistake but they are being stubborn.’  Either way, I was blogless.

Lesson 1: Backup Regularly

So, what to do? Luckily, I had been about to transfer my hosting anyway. I’d been going for a phased transfer of my three blogs, but it was clear that I needed to speed up the timetable, so I set that in motion, and learned my first lesson. Weekly blog backups are not enough. If you are using WP-backup, backup daily and have the backups emailed to you. If they are on the FTP server when services are withdrawn they are no good to you.

Lesson 2: Google’s Cache Is Your Friend

My last backup of Get Paid To Write Online was almost a week old. It meant that two posts were missing along with a whole heap of comments. One of my Twitter friends suggested I search Google’s cache – lesson two. Job done – I managed to retrieve the two posts. Incidentally, if you use Windows Live Writer, you also have a local copy of your post with the date and time stored. That makes it easy to upload it again.

Lesson 3: Comment Moderation And Email Backups

Lesson 3 was about comment moderation and email backups. Since I use Google Apps on two domains, I have one forwarded to the other. The first serves as a backup. Since I moderate all comments on my blog, I can actually restore them from those comment moderation emails.

Lesson 4: Save Local Copies Of Backups

The toughest lesson was lesson four. You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t mentioned the other blog that disappeared into a black hole. That’s because I didn’t have a backup. I know better, it’s true. And I am sure that somewhere on my hard drive is an old backup of the site. However, I never automated a backup because I didn’t post regularly. If I had backed up, I wouldn’t be writing this. Lesson four is: always backup even if it seems like a waste of time.

Lesson 5: Buy Hosting And Domain Names From Different People

There’s one final lesson, and at least it was one thing I did right. Always buy your blog’s domain name separately from your hosting. That means that if your host goes AWOL, you can start up again with another host in only a few hours. My situation was slightly more complex because of email, so I bought a new domain name, logged into GoDaddy and redirected my old site to the new one. I used Google’s cache to recover my pages and wrote a post.

I had remembered to keep my tweaked blog theme files on my hard drive, instead of updating them online, so I quickly uploaded the theme and was good to go. Needless to say, I will be backing up this blog daily.

So, that’s my sad story with a happy ending. Has anything like this ever happened to you? How did you handle it?

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