How to Avoid Losing Your Blog’s Precious Content (and what to do if you do!)

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As you may have noticed during the last several days, this blog has experienced some serious technical difficulties!

A major drive on the server crashed and sadly to say, I was very unprepared! The problem was so bad I had to switch hosts. The move would’ve been fairly seamless if only I had been diligent in downloading backups of my database.

I can blame it on the rain, but ultimately, it’s my fault – I got too busy to take those measures of precautions that would have allowed me to avoid what I’m doing right now: digging up as many posts as I can find from the last two months! (Argh!!)

Needless to say, this sucks! But the good part about blogging is that one blogger’s lesson is another blogger’s strategy for success. So today, I’ll share with you something you can do to keep yourself out of my shoes and what to do if you end up in my shoes.

How to Avoid Loosing ALL of your Blog’s Contents and Settings

Just hearing the word “Database” used to scare me! For the first two years of blogging, I had never even logged into phpMyAdmin. And when I finally did, it looked so foreign that I probably immediately logged out without touching a thing. It just looked too scary! I didn’t understand the importance of exporting the database, I thought the XML file from WordPress was enough. But it’s not!

Don’t be like me! Get an understanding of phpMyAdmin as soon as possible. You need your database files if you want to preserve all of your content, comments, images, users, layout settings, etc. In other words, with a back up of your database, you can simply upload the SQL file and within minutes have a site restored. With the XML file, all you’ll be able to rescue is your content and comments – no images can be imported if you server is down.

1. So right now (I mean after you finish reading this post) go to your cPanel and log into phpMyAdmin and export your Database!

2. Then immediately after that, log into WordPress and export your XML (Go to Tools and click “Export”).

3. Schedule bi-weekly backups – no matter what! (Weekly or Daily if you publish several times a day).

What to do if you don’t have a recent database backup

Like I said, I didn’t have a recent backup of my database and my most recent XML export was from March (you probably noticed that already). I just simply kept ignoring that item on my To-Do list and before I knew it a whole year had passed. I’m grateful that I at least had a year old backup – that’s much better than loosing three year’s worth of content.

So use what you have and take the measures below to recover the rest of your content.

What to do if your database kicks out an error

Search out the error: While trying to help a friend who was trying to restore her site with a database backup, we encountered the most scary thing of all – an error! After waiting a long time for the large file to upload, to our horror, it wouldn’t complete because of a duplicate entry error. We thought all might be lost, but I looked at the information that followed – phpMyAdmin indicated what had been duplicated and what line I could find it on. I immediately opened the SQL file in Notepad and conducted a Control-F search. Sure enough there was duplicate content – I just deleted it and resaved the file.

Save and compress: To reduce some of the upload time, I reduced the file size by compressing the file. phpMyAdmin will accept zipped SQL files.

Retry to upload: I was able to upload the file with no problem the next time. Sometimes a large file will timeout and this can cause an error as well, so you may have to retry to upload your file a few times before it finally works.

Here’s what I did to start the process of salvaging the rest:

1. Refer to the external Feed URL

I immediately tried to access my Feed URL. This worked for me because I had been using Feedburner instead of using my site’s default feed URL. It has my last 10 most recent posts along with some images (at least the ones that weren’t on my server) – that’s another reason to use sites like Flickr for images – they are easily recoverable because they are not on your own site, but hosted at Flickr. But what about the rest of the posts you ask?

2. Search the Inbox

I searched my inbox for emails that I had received from Feedburner – thank God I subscribed to my own feed via email! I’ll be able to copy and paste most of my lost content from there.

3. Use WayBackMachine (Internet Archive)

I looked to WayBackMachine. They don’t update everyday, but I was able to see what my blog looked like a month ago. I was mostly looking at my layout to see where I had images, ads and other links located. It also has some selected posts that I’ll be able to copy and paste also. I have a new appreciation for the genius who decided it was a good idea to try to archive some of the stuff on the internet – thanks!

4. Don’t Alter the Dates or Link Slug When You Republish

I was careful not to change the date or the links! Just in case someone out there has a link to my post on their site, I want to make sure the old links work. Luckily most of my post links are the same as their title (lazy SEO on my part). And just in case, I’m also going through the process of searching for the post in Google and and seeing if it turns up the exact same as it should be.

5. Realize I Can’t Save Everything

Important Things that I lost:

While the above three strategies have helped me recover my blog posts, sadly here are some things I lost:

1. Comments

2. Users, their settings and bios.

3. Images

4. Traffic and ranking

5. Plugins

6. I’m sure there’s something else that I haven’t realized (oh well! at least my blog is back).

Hopefully this post will help you avoid the same issues that I’m experiencing. It’s so easy to lose track of time and fail to conduct frequent backups, but from now on I’ll make it a point to get this done – no matter what’s going on. The sad part is that it only takes a few minutes to do, yet somehow, I waited until it was too late.

So please bear with me as a restore as much of this site as I can. Regular contributors, you may need to reset your passwords or shoot me an email to let me know that your user profile was one that disappeared if I missed it. I’m doing my best to get things back in order. Thanks for your patience and thanks to those who sent emails of concern – it’s good to know that this blog was missed! Sorry that it had to be for this reason.

Feel free to contact me or tweet me with your questions.

About Kiesha Easley

This is my blog - where I love to encourage bloggers. My hope is that you'll leave this blog with more than you came with; you'll learn something new or will at least be engaged and entertained.
In addition to teaching others how to blog, I'm also a college instructor who teaches students how to write for mass media.
I've guest posted on Problogger, DIYThemes and many others. I'm also the author of Highly Favored, a blog devoted to Christian inspiration & encouragement. Please follow me on twitter @weblogbetter or on Facebook.

Comments

  1. Hi Kiesha,
    Thanks for the precautions it would be hard if we loose most of our sensitive data when we have a huge follower base. But I am happy you are back now I need to backup my blog though it is new better I start learning how to backup SQL and export XML.

    • Kiesha Easley says:

      Hi Vijesh,
      Getting familiar with the database and XML while your site is new will be one of the best things you can do. It will help so that when you need to deal with the technical issues you won’t be paralyzed by fear, you’ll be able to jump right in and get it fixed. My hope is that through this experience, others like you will saved from it altogether.

      Thanks for stopping by!

    • I have learned and yes the hard way too that backing up data is so very important! You never know when a surge, lightning strike, hacker etc. will take down your site or blog. Once you lose that data you are starting from scratch and even though you may still have the information you will have to set it all up again! I had to do that once, that was enough to wake me up!! I am sorry for your issues, it’s no fun that’s for sure, but I think everyone has learned a lesson and thank you for posting about your technical issues and how you resolved them. It is much appreciated!

  2. Hi Kiesha,

    Congratulations on recovering from what had to be a nightmarish situation. My heart went out to you and Gail …. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to assist.

    • Kiesha Easley says:

      Hi Vernessa!
      I really appreciate your willingness to help! Yes, I’m glad I was able to at least restore the majority of my content. I’ve got a lot of work to continue, but I think I just might be able to recover every piece. I’m trying focus on the positive and not mourn all those missing comments and images that I may never be able to recover. It’s just a blessing to be able to log on and know that at this point, things are beginning to improve. Again, thanks for your help!

  3. Hi,

    Thanks for sharing your experience, and good luck getting everything back up and running!

    I’m curious what your thoughts are about backup plugins for WordPress? For example, I’ve used BackWPUp, which is supposed to be one of the more popular ones out there. Any thoughts you might have would be greatly appreciated.

    Carolina

  4. Hi Kiesha,

    I’m sorry to hear this.

    I back-up my database (export XML), but like you, I shy away from the phpMyAdmin. I’m so afraid of messing up something.

    Thanks for writing about this and sharing.

    Best wishes,

    Evelyn

    • Kiesha Easley says:

      Hi Evelyn,
      I encourage you to get in there and get that database SQL file. It’s just a matter of a few clicks. Without it, you’ll have to scramble around like I’m doing to get all your customizations and settings restored. It’s not pretty. I’m going to write a step-by-step guide for exporting next week, but I’m sure there are plenty of tutorials around the web if you want to try it before then.

      Glad to see ya here! Are you still doing the body shaping challenge or have you reached your goals?

      • Hey Kiesha,

        I’ll definitely check it out and be on this, because if something like this happened to me, I think I’d close up shop.

        That’s a great idea to make a guide. I’ll wait on your guide. :)

        I still keep up with you. I noticed something was going on in my feed with your posts and I knew that was not right, so I had to check on you. If you hadn’t published this post, you would have had an email from me.

        I’m still working on my challenge. For some reason I get sidetracked with my exercising and eating, but I’m challenging myself to hit it hard. NO excuses. Thanks for asking. P.S. I’m loving my arms though; the abs, now that’s another story. :)

        • Kiesha Easley says:

          Thanks for checking on me! Evelyn, I admire your level of commitment to your health and fitness – we definitely have different definitions of what “sidetracked” means. Now, me on the other, I had gotten so far away from fitness goals. I just recently started back up at the gym, I’m trying to develop the habit of getting there at least 3-4 times a week, but it’s so easy to find an excuse not to go. But one thing for sure, I’ll never stop trying. I’m going to check out more of your videos for inspiration!

  5. Hi Kiesha,

    I understand it can happen to anyone. But your blog is not just … yours. It’s a collective work by many: you, WordPress, plugin creators, commentators etc. One innocent action (like approving or rejecting a comment) can affect other people.

    I made some comments on your blog. Not so many. About 5. Now I can see they are lost. OK. Not so big deal. But you need to think of what happened.
    Your fear of learning what you have to do because it seemed too technical, affected me and will affect other people.
    You need to find exactly what you have to do to protect your blog and do it. If you just can’t, pay someone to do it for you. Otherwise people may ask themselves: Why should I comment on this site a second time? The first time I lost everything. Why should I do it again? What if it happens again? And again? And again?

    OK. I trust you. I am sure you are a good person with a big heart and your intentions are good. You have just made a mistake. We all make mistakes. I did, too. I will continue to comment on your site, if you allow me but please, be careful not to be caught unprepared next time.

    Have a nice day

  6. Hi Kiesha,

    Great article about the importance of having a backup of your site,although, if you’re using WordPress, there’s an easier way to deal with it then having to go into phpmyadmin (especially if you’re tech-challenged). Get a plugin iike Backupbuddy and you’ll be able to get a regular backup done AND have that sent to an off-server place, Amazon S3 for example, or dropbox. No need to worry about anything and you can set backups as often as every hour.

    • Kiesha Easley says:

      Hi Leslie,

      Thanks for stopping by!! I actually have tried to use plugins, but I’ve experienced issues with plugin conflicts also, especially ones like this that run Chron Jobs. I had to cut down tremendously on all plugins and now only operate with the bear minimum. I think the bigger the site gets, the more trouble plugins can cause. Since I’m on a new server, I may try the plugin route again, but I’ll still periodically have to do a manual check up on things.

      • Hi Kiesha,

        I understand what you’re saying, I am not a big plugin lover myself. Try to do as much as possible without them (when building sites for clients, it also means less ways for them to mess up things LOL). But backupbuddy is one of the three that is on my must install list, together with Commentluv (both for the “love” for my commenters as for the anti-spam feature) and google analyticator (because I love the fact I can see my stats from within my wp-admin). The rest gets done manually or I will debate very carefully whether or not it’s a big must before I add them. Looking at some of my sites plugin lists, you’d wonder if I ever even heard of them LOL

        Leslie

  7. Great article. It’s really important to have a backup for your site…!!

  8. Understanding how the database works is key. Some people who consider themselves “tech illiterate” like to put themselves down and say they won’t understand it, but if you really want to protect your content, you need to bite the bullet and learn how your site works. My site once got malware on it, and I was almost ready to give up my blog completely after trying to reinstall WordPress multiple times. As soon as I went into the database though, the problem was obvious and the malware was right in my face. I just deleted the first line of my database and everything was fixed.

    • Kiesha Easley says:

      You’re right Dan, but the bullet can be so hard to bite, right? But once you take the time to get familiar with it, you’ll come to find that it’s just a matter if handling plain notepad text files that can be tinkered with like what you did. All I had to do for my friend was delete some stuff, and viola! it worked!

  9. I am terribly sorry you had to experience this. As an owner of a digital marketing company I would like to stress that this is exactly why smaller hosting companies are usually better to host with – your fees might be more but they offer extended services, backing up your data base included. We offer hosting and we update our clients website back up folders regularly – I will add that we decided to do this after we burnt our fingers and learnt our lesson the hard way.

    Glad you are back on line!

    • Kiesha Easley says:

      Thanks, Amie! It’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one who has learned things the hard way.

  10. Thanks for the precautions it would be hard if we loose most of our sensitive data when we have a huge follower base. But I am happy you are back now I need to backup my blog though it is new better I start learning how to backup SQL and export XML.
    Also Visit my blog http://www.parufile.com/

  11. Oh, this sounds so painful! I appreciate you taking the time to guide us through not experiencing what you currently are. However, the steps that you have mention for the database seem a little confusing for someone who has never worked in phpMyAdmin. Is it difficult to use?

    • Kiesha Easley says:

      Hi there!
      PhpmyAdmin actually isn’t as daunting as it sounds. I’m actually working on a step by step guide that any beginner can use. Be on the look out for it next week.

  12. Glad your back up and running. After your experience and reading the above I think I will have to do the same. You never know! I havent backed anything up on my site for several months at least!

    • Kiesha Easley says:

      Hi Richard!

      It’s so easy to get comfortable, especially if you haven’t experienced an outage like this one. After all, it feels like an extra unnecessary step. You never know the importance of saving information in two (or three) places until you lose it. You don’t want to go OCD with it, but it’s hard not to after something like this. Please, stop what your doing and take five minutes to save your content.

  13. I can see how scary that would sound! I’ve been there too! Database surely is scary. Luckily I have a team that takes care of it – but I should learn about it for sure. Thanks for the headsup Kiesha. And so glad you’re back (minus all the trouble, of course!).

    • Kiesha Easley says:

      Hi Lisa!
      Yes, while it is great if you have a team available, it’s still important to know how to do these things for yourself. You don’t want to rely on someone and have them get sick or disappear with the login details of your database and have no clue how to recover something if it fails.

  14. Glynis Jolly says:

    Oh Kiesha, I am so sorry that this happened to you. I’ve had similar experiences in the past. However, I’m sure it was much worse for you because you probably have much more in you ‘back room’ than I do.

    Just as a point of reference for anyone: I’ve been using the plug-in from UpdraftPlus Backup/Restore. It periodically backs up the database and backs up files every day. I installed it 6 weeks ago and have not had any problems with it. Everything I need is at my Google Drive.

    • Kiesha Easley says:

      Hi Glynis,
      I’ve used plugins like this in the past as I was explaining to Leslie and they gave me problems. I’m weary of trying them again, but maybe I will just to see how it goes.

      • Glynis Jolly says:

        Just check it out. It’s a free one at WP.org. Read the details about it. Maybe it won’t work for you because of your volume of files and such. I just know that for me, a tech moron, that it’s wonderful for me.

  15. I’ m so sorry for that…but- thanks for sharing!

  16. Thanks for sharing! I never care about this before but from on I will aware on this..!

  17. Hey Kiesha,

    Great tips for everyone. I normally use several kind of backup options to protect my data from any kind of mishap. I daily take 3 and more backups of my whole server including each and every file, and save it on remote server and on a computer at my home to prevent any kind of loss. Well, your tips are really helpful.

  18. Hey Kiesha,

    Now that explains why I can’t access this site in the past few weeks. You had encountered a problem in your site which is basically the problem that most bloggers would want to avoid. Well, database back-ups are very tricky sometimes and like you, I am not fond of looking at my phpMyAdmin before. It’s like a horror movie to watch it while knowing that you don’t have a clue on what to press or what to do generally with it. But problems like what you’ve encountered can be beneficial if you look at it in a brighter side. With it, you can now have a reason to learn how to manipulate or access your phpMyAdmin. It also gave you an idea on how important to have a back-up file for your blog which is very important to have. Sometimes, we need undergo a problem to make us realize what we need to do next and to learn a few more things which can be very useful in the future. Nevertheless, thanks for sharing this informative post.

  19. I just hate when it happens. Thank you for this tips, I know now what to do the next time this terrible thing happen to me. Kudos!

  20. Sorry to hear about that Kiesha! It so easy to take things for granted. Your post reminds me of the same, and I need to start protecting my content. I will start taking these steps this week :)

  21. You poor thing. I noticed your site was down for a few days, and now I see why. I’m sorry this happened to you. I had a similar situation where I lost a lot of data and work at my office after a surge protector didn’t work during a lightening storm. But, glad to see you are getting it all back up and running, and quite gracefully I might add. Thanks for the suggestions, I’ll take them to heart.

  22. This is such a great article and put well all together. I am sorry to hear about what happened to you. However, it is great information that could really help people when they find themselves in the same situation. Thanks for sharing this with us!

  23. This Post teaches us that every content is is precious & why not!!! … we try day in and day out to write articles use important plugins to drive traffic. But, these servers and technical problems does not allow us to save these articles and by the time we lose all the contents that are important to us. Whether it is a blog or WordPress you need to make a backup plan to save your contents on a weekly basis.
    This Information is very useful to me, I would share it with my friends too.

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