On February 20th, there was an an accident during the annual inspection of the fire-suppression system at WestHost’s data center. If you rewrite WestHost’s account of the incident in the active voice, it amounts to “The vendor forgot to remove an actuator before the inspection, and this triggered a release of Inergen all over the data center.”
According to Wikipedia, Inergen is non-toxic…to humans. It is, alas, highly poisonous to computer servers. And John’s blog just happened to be on one of the worst-affected machines.
The good news is, WestHost actually had backups of its clients’ sites. Not all hosting companies actually back up your website for you. (You can usually make your own backups through the control panel, but you may or may not be able to automate this process. Of course, if you have a traditional HTML site and edit the files on your computer before uploading them, you should be able to back up your local versions easily.)
The better news (theoretically) was that John, being a smart guy with lots of IT experience, had recently made his own backup of his blog. That meant he was starting out in better shape than Jeff Atwood over at Coding Horror, who had to rely on other people to piece together bits of his lost blog for him.
But the first attempt to restore Ronin Marketeer left a bit to be desired. When I sent a sympathetic inquiry to John after hearing the podcast, he sent me a link to a post he had titled “When Even a Backup Is Not Enough.”
As you can see, everything is all f’d up here.
Over a week ago disaster struck at my hosting company, during a fire alarm test the suppression system was triggered, hosing all the servers. This blog was dead for a full week.
We were offered to move our hosting from the version 3 infrastructure to v4, and I took up the offer since it got my domain back 2 days earlier. Unfortunately the new environment is not the same – even though I have a full backup of my Database that supports this blog, the new system does not allow you access to the directory where that data is kept.
I’m no expert in MySQL, but it looks like I’ve gone from having my own instance to sharing one on the server with everyone else.
The end result is that all my archives are gone for now and my Google juice vanishing as there’s no access to any of my archives. It looks like my only path is to install WP and MySQL on a box of my own, then do a WordPress export so I can then import it back in. I cannot believe that having the actual files is not enough for me to do a restore.
“My god,” you may be thinking. “If having the backup is no good, why bother making one?”
But if he hadn’t had the backup, the story would not have had a happy ending, and it does. John had to do some heroically geeky things, but he was able to get the blog back up and running. He did lose some comments, probably due to the nature of the restore process, but everything else seems to be intact. John started Ronin Marketeer in November 2006, and he’s a pretty prolific blogger. It would have been a serious loss, and no fun to try to reconstruct from the Google cache and the Wayback Machine.
I’m betting John will be especially interested in the WordPress backup plugin I’m going to be writing about next week. Everyone else certainly seems to be, and I’m very impressed so far.