Is your blog safe?

How often do you back up your blog? I suspect, for many Web2 bloggers, the answer is never – big mistake. You should never assume your data is safe unless it’s somewhere you can actually get your grubby mitts on it in person. Online it’s massively vulnerable. Back when I wrote a magazine column, I repeatedly stressed the importance of backing up one’s PC – it’s even more important to back-up your online data. And that means to your system, not to somewhere else online!

The blog I operated prior to this one was part of my website, and was stored on my PC, so no problems, as that was backed up to an external hard drive. Web2 blogs, like this one, aren’t as safe.

Overall, the risk of losing your blog to a systems failure is low, but the more people hosting services have on board, the greater the risk. A 1% failure rate, for example, is pretty low, but in real terms that’s an awful lot of individuals whose data is at risk.

And, of course, it’s possible to inadvertently piss off your hosting company (by breaching someone’s copyright – very easily done, even without malicious intent – or accidentally libelling them), who will just shut you down without notice or appeal – as WordPress will, and doubtless other hosting services operate a similar policy. In my view, this is entirely wrong, and the blogger should at least be given the opportunity to remove the offending post and, maybe, apologise. But we have to deal with the reality of the situation, which is that your blog is vulnerable.

For a whole variety of reasons, mostly related to the weaknesses of cloud computing, into which far too many people who should know better are getting sucked, you really should back up your blog, because that’s part of the cloud too. There’s only one safe place to store your data, and that’s on your personal system. And don’t neglect your security – back up to an external hard drive and physically disconnect it when it’s not actually in use; that’s as safe as it gets. Even backing up to a CD or DVD is better than nothing.

WordPress has a backup widget which takes seconds, and saves your blog as an XML file, but we’re asked not to use it, except when moving hosts, or renaming the blog, or whatever, as it puts too much pressure on the system if everyone uses it for backing up. Fair enough, but when I started backing up a few months ago, I used it just once, as there was far too much to do manually, and that’s only possible for the current month anyway, as once a month is archived, all you get is the first few lines of each post in the month’s summary. I’m not sure if that varies depending on the theme used and/or the hosting service – you’ll have to figure that out (I’m using Misty, obviously on WordPress).

Since then, though, I’ve backed up several times a month, simply by copying my current month’s posts, which are shown in full on my Home page, and pasting them into a Word document. A few seconds work to delete the extraneous gubbins that comes along with them, and I’m safely backed up. (Those of a more techie disposition may know of a better, or at least different, method, but this one works for everyone, no matter what their level of expertise.) This isn’t as tedious as it might sound. For reasons I won’t bore you with, I never got round to backing up September’s posts until today (and I must remember to add this one), but even doing a whole month at once only took a few minutes.

There’s one shortfall using this system – you don’t get your comments (you need to back up each post individually to do that, and life’s just too short). The important thing, though, is that all your hard work is safe. Just remember to do it on or before the last day of the month, or you’re stuffed!

So, there you have it; it’s the last day of September – get backing up now, before some unforeseen event consigns your golden prose to oblivion.

NB: If you subsequently update a post, don’t forget to back that up, too.