This afternoon I got a phone call from my good friend and colleague Emily White. It went something like this:[Me] Hey, how’s it going? [Emily] Um…my site is gone. [Me] Like, it’s not loading? Sometimes that happens. Just wait a couple of hours and check back. [Emily] No, as in – there’s a blank WordPress install showing up where my site should be. I’ve been hacked.
A malicious hacker had gotten into Emily’s site somehow and messed up the databases, the files – everything was destroyed. It went from looking like this:
in the blink of an eye.
Obviously this is no way to wrap up a great week.
If you’re blogging on self-hosted WordPress, you’re working with the best there is – you have amazing flexibility and control over your content on an awesome, professional platform. But with freedom comes responsibility: it means you’re also responsible for all your own files.
Emily called her hosting company, Bluehost, and while they did have a recent backup of her site, it was a week old…and she had just finished a complete design overhaul of her site. We’re talking, 30 hours of work gone.
…or so she thought.
Luckily for Emily, we had a backup plan: literally the day before, I had installed Backup Buddy for her once her new site was live. In about 10 minutes of setup time, we had created a backup of all her files and sent them to her Dropbox storage folder. It’s something I recommend doing with all new sites, as soon as they’re live.
Once we remembered the backup, it was smooth sailing to completely restore her site. We simply erased all the files on her server and went through a 6-step process and BAM! – she was back in action.
I used to use a free plugin called Backup to Dropbox but found it lacking: in order to make it work properly on shared hosting, I had to go through the extra steps of increasing the upload memory limit on my server…and while that isn’t too bad to do once, on my own site, it was impractical to do it for all my blog design clients, as well. Still, it’s free – and if you have more time than money, this might be a good option for you.
About a year ago, I switched to using Backup Buddy, for myself and my design clients – not just for backups, but to move blogs to a different hosting company, as well. It backs up not only your WordPress database, but also all your theme files and plugins. I like the fact that I can set a backup schedule (monthly, weekly, or daily) and it will run automatically, saving a copy of my blog to my Dropbox account without me having to ever touch it again. I also like the fact that it’s supported – there is a support forum where I can go if I run into any snags in restoring to an earlier version of my site, and they’ve always gotten back to me within 24 hours when I contacted them with questions.
Another choice might be to look to your web host to see what options they have for keeping backups of your blog. I know that with Bluehost (who hosts this site), you can pay a few extra dollars a month and have them run frequent backups for you…and then if you ever need to use the backup, they’re there to restore your site for you.
Edited to say: Since publishing this post, I have changed my backup method to VaultPress. At $5/month, it’s an absolutely amazing deal for the added level of protection and ease of use. See my post on the best WordPress plugins for a more thorough discussion.
I wish it hadn’t ever happened to me, but yes, I’ve lost a website before, too. …although it wasn’t malicious hackers; in my case, it was my own stupidity. I had to chalk that one up to “life lessons learned.”
So If you’re running a self-hosted blog, please make regular backups of your blog. Instances of hacking are few and far between, but if you ever do need it, it’s good to know you have a “blog insurance” policy that will get you up and running again.
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