As Jason has already pointed out, we write a lot about backing things up here—and with good reason: data loss can be devastating, not just to your work but to your general peace of mind. And most of us do a pretty good job of ensuring that our local files are backed up (and many of us are careful to ensure that these backups are redundant and off-site).
But as our work lives move increasingly into the cloud, we need to ensure that those files are backed up as well. Natalie has discussed the importance of having a backup strategy for your cloud-based files, including your Gmail account, your Flickr photos, and your Google Docs—but what about your blog?
Whether you’re blogging through a hosted service or using software you install on a shared server, you should think about how your blog posts are being preserved. Given the promises that hosting services make about keeping your data safe, you might think you’re in the clear, but ProfHacker has one friend who came very close to losing seven years’ worth of blog posts when his hosting provider’s server failed and all the backups failed as well.
The thought of such a loss has made me—well, some might say paranoid; I prefer prudent—and so I’ve instituted a regular backup regime for my blog files. This entails two key parts:
Backing up the files: Julie has discussed ways of making sure that your website’s files are safely backed up. Once a month or so, I use the synchronizing feature of Transmit to be sure that I have an up-to-date local copy of all the files that are stored on my hosting provider’s server. (These files then get further saved through my usual local backup processes.)
This is all well and good, of course, but as Julie noted in the post linked above, the key aspect of the blog’s data isn’t in the files, but in the MySQL database that WordPress, in my case, accesses. So the second part:
Backing up the database: It’s fairly easy to do a MySQL database backup, whether from the command line or from a graphical database administrator like phpMyAdmin, but I really wanted something automated and idiot-proof, so that I wouldn’t have to remember what to do. Enter WP-DB-Backup, a plugin for WordPress, which (as you might guess from the name) backs up the database tables that your WordPress installation uses.
The plugin allows you to save that backup to the server or to email it to yourself, and it lets you do that backup either on demand (by clicking “Backup Now!”) or according to an automated schedule.
I’ve set WP-DB-Backup to email a backup of all of my relevant database tables once a week; I have this sent to my Gmail account, so that I don’t have to worry about file size or filling my mailbox. I’ve set up a filter on Gmail that assigns the “backup” label to these message and automatically archives them; once every couple of months I’ll go through the messages tagged with that label and weed out some of the now-redundant older versions.
This is the best kind of backup system for me: one that I don’t have to think about very much. How about you—do you have systems in place for backing up your blog? I’d be particularly interested to hear from those of you who don’t use WordPress; how are you ensuring that your online writing is safe?
[Image by Flickr user dustout; / Creative Commons licensed]