Not only that, I was setting up a new blog site for a client until late last night and had plenty of opportunity to think about backups and blogs in more than one context.
When I first wrote about backing up your blog on February 12th, the Backup Blog was barely a month old, but I’d posted all the back issues of the e-zine there and the archives therefore date back to 2003. After the time I spent on re-posting them, I didn’t want to lose them.
I created the Backup Blog using Blogger, the free blogging tool owned by Google. (Five minutes to set up the blog and five hours to customize the template so it looks like the rest of my website.) Blogger gives you two options: they’ll host your blog on blogspot.com, or you can host it yourself. I chose to host it myself, being the sort of person who likes to keep control of my own data.
What that looks like is a directory on the fileslinger.com web server called “blog” with subdirectories for each year, and each month within the year (for example, public_html/blog/2003/07/), with each post as a separate html file. To back up the blog, I download those folders using Dreamweaver or FTP. Then they get copied to my external drive along with the rest of my “Slinger Docs” when Karen’s Replicator runs at startup. That means I have three copies of the blog files.
As “flat” HTML files, they don’t take up much room, even though there are a lot of them: the entire blog folder is only 5 MB, and that includes the PDF file of the San Francisco Chronicle article about small-business blogging.
If I go into my vDeck Host Manager and make a backup of everything I have on fileslinger.com, that also backs up my blog. This backup function creates a single backup file containing my web, ftp, and e-mail directories, and I can download that and store it elsewhere.
My two other blogs, FileSlinger™ Favorites and Author-izer™ Articles, are WordPress blogs and I both host and manage them on my website. WordPress has several features which Blogger doesn’t, such as categorized posts, static pages, and trackbacks. (Contrary to some people’s beliefs, you can create permalinks with Blogger, but only if you turn on the “separate pages” option in your archive settings.)
This “state of the art semantic personal publishing platform with a focus on aesthetics” (to quote its home page) does not store blog posts as HTML files in folders: it keeps them in SQL databases. What that means is that even though I can log in to WordPress and see a list of my posts, edit them, or delete them, they don’t live in the same folder as WordPress itself. If I download the index.php file for either the Favorites blog or the Articles blog, I don’t see anything remotely like what you find when I look at the blogs in FireFox. What I see is a set of PHP script commands and a link to a CSS stylesheet.
Fortunately, WordPress (unlike Blogger) provides detailed instructions on how to back up your blog, and even those like me who know nothing about PHP and even less about SQL can follow them. It took me a bit of fiddling, but when I needed to move the Favorites Blog into a new directory, I was able to export the database, download it to my hard drive, and import it to the new database that was created when I reinstalled the WordPress software. I’m going to have to do this soon with my Author-izer™ Articles blog, because I messed something up fiddling with WordPress plugins. The entire database contents get stored as a single .csv (comma-separated values) text file, which can be opened in Excel or imported into anything that will read .csv files, which is most kind of database programs.
You can find the instructions for backing up and restoring WordPress databases at http://codex.wordpress.org/Backing_Up_Your_Database and http://codex.wordpress.org/Restoring_Your_Database_From_Backup.
Even though the posts are stored in the database, it’s important to back up the wp-content folder, because that contains your style sheet. If you’re not a whiz at CSS—and I’m not—you’ll want to be sure you have a copy of the original style sheet before you start modifying it to match your site layout. Since I downloaded templates for the blog I was working on last night (www.organize.com/blog/) as .zip files, I knew that even if I messed up the style sheet, I could extract the original from the .zip. Being the stubborn type, I just kept messing with it until I got the result I wanted.
If you have your own domain and use a commercial web host, you probably have WordPress available to you through your control panel. If not, you can always go to blogger.com.
But whatever software you use to create it—back up your blog!