These days, even people who don’t have regular websites have blogs. (My e-zine readers may be the exception.) One reason for this is that you can set up a blog in five minutes, for free, at Blogger.com. And that’s exactly what I did when I realized that a blog would be the perfect way to put the back issues of this e-zine online.
In some ways, I might have done better to wait. Blogger is very easy to use, but it has some limitations. The new Blogger Beta adds a number of functions, but also a number of hassles. I’ve had trouble publishing for the last two weeks, getting no end of FTP errors with no apparent cause. (This may have something to do with the fact that the new Blogger is designed to work best for people who use the Blogspot hosting service.)
Things seem to be working again, and I’ve managed to give the blog a facelift and some added usability, but the hassle definitely brought home to me the importance of backing up my blog.
Most of the posts on the FileSlinger™ Backup Blog are “reprints” of my e-zine, and I compose them in Microsoft Word. So I have both my original Word doc and the e-mail version sent out to the list as backups, and those get backed up with everything else on my drive. I could possibly survive without a backup of the blog per se.
The idea behind blogs, however, is to write spontaneously and directly into the blog, whenever you discover or think of something worth blogging about. That means that most users of Blogger don’t have any other copies of their blog posts.
For reasons unknown to me, Blogger does not provide any kind of export function (unlike the vastly superior WordPress, which I use for my Author-ized Articles blog, and to which I will almost certainly switch the Backup Blog as soon as I have time). I’d hoped that along with its other new functions, the new Blogger Beta would include backup, but not so.
Blogger Help does provide instructions on how to back up your entire blog, but their solution is kind of strange. To make a backup, you have to replace your template (the thing that tells the system what the blog looks like) with the code they provide. This results in publishing your entire blog on a single page. (There are more than 200 posts on my blog, most of them upwards of 800 words in length. That’s a very long page. And I’m not a prolific blogger.) To make a backup, you then save the web page from your browser.
My response when I saw this was “You’ve got to be joking.”
Because I do publish my blog by FTP to my own web server, all the archive files are actually up there anyway, handily divided into different folders by year and by month, with an individual page for each posting. I can just copy those files, along with the rest of my website, onto my local disk, and have them backed up with everything else. They also get included in any web backups I make from the control panel.
For those using the Blogspot hosting option, though (which seems to be most Blogger users), that’s not an option. Hence the rather crude workaround that the Blogger team recommends.
A few enterprising souls have created products designed to make it easier to back up your blog. CodePlex Blogger Backup is an alpha release, which means you have to expect bugs and other problems. I got an unhandled exception error the first time, but after that it worked just fine, and saved the posts as individual XML files in a folder, very quickly.
Lab Asprise’s Blog Collector is another option. It works with MSN, Blogspot, and other blogs. The only problem is that the Blogger Beta puts out a very strange, completely invalid RSS feed (or it does for my blog, anyway), and a valid Atom feed. Neither appeared to work, but then, my WordPress blog didn’t either. I’m not sure what’s up with that. The Lite version is free, so you can try it, but for obvious reasons I can’t recommend it myself.
Lifehacker recommended using a site copier like HTTrack (Windows) or WebGrabber (Mac) to back up a Blogger blog. Both the CodePlex and the Asprise products are Windows only, so if you’re a Mac user, that may be your only alternative to the one-page backup option suggested by Blogger Help.
And if you don’t have a blog yet, but are thinking of starting one, my advice is to avoid Blogger and go with WordPress—and not just because it’s easier to back up.