Saturday, October 15, 2005

Basic Backups Can Help Prevent Disaster

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Most people think, "It won't/can't happen to me." They sometimes do not bother making backups of the data on their computers...or of their blogs. But, count on it: Every computer user will, sooner or later, learn the value of doing regular backups. Sometimes, people have to learn the hard way, after loss of data has occurred. Other times, users have the foresight to plan ahead to avoid disaster. Recent events concerning this blog serve as a case in point regarding the value of keeping data backed up. Yesterday, Doug sent me a message saying something was very wrong with the blog. I quickly checked it out, and he was correct. Somehow, at least half of the HC template had vanished. That left the entire blog broken; it was unreadable and un-usable. Fortunately, we were prepared. We know the actual posts are stored on Blogspot's servers, so we were fairly confident they would be okay. Just in case they were not, we do have backups of individual posts.

Note: To make a backup of your blog's template in Blogger, follow this procedure: From the Blogger Dashboard, click the title of the blog to go to the edit window. Choose the Template tab. Place your mouse anywhere in the large editing window where the template code appears, right click, and choose select all. This will highlight all of the text in the editing window. Now, open your favorite text editor to a blank document, right click again, and choose, "copy". All of the template code is now in your text editor. Name the file, and save it in a place that is easy to find. Follow this same simple process each time you make major (or several minor) changes to your template, and you will always have a backup available if needed. The procedure for making a backup copy of your template may be different if you are using a different blogging platform than Blogger; simply refer to the documentation for your platform.

Doug had a fairly recent backup of the blog's template stored on his hard drive, so he used that to restore the template. From the Blogger Dashboard, he clicked the title of the blog, then chose the Template tab, and selected all of the code in the template editing window and deleted it. He opened a text editor, and then opened the backup copy of the template in the editor, selected all of the code text, and simply copied it into the template edit window. He saved the changes and republished the blog. The template was thus restored quickly and easily. From that point, we could see that the posts themselves were intact, so we did not need to restore them with backup copies. Had we needed to do so, it would not have been difficult; it would have meant opening the Create Post window, and simply copying the posts into the window, individually, and publishing them. (This would have taken some time, since we have 40-plus posts, but it would have been do-able.)

I needed to replace one recently added link in the sidebar, which took about 20 seconds. Then, as long as we needed to update the categories anyway, we decided to make a change in HC's postings on Del.icio.us. Since I started entering tags for HC on my personal Delicious account, a lot of them were there. Doug also had a Delicious account he began using for HC posts when I told him about Delicioso (I've published a review of Delicioso previously.) So, we had two partially complete De.licio.us accounts for HC. To make things simpler and better organized, we consolidated the two partial accounts for HC on Delicious into a single account specifically for HC. Doug used Delicioso to quickly tag each of the posts in the entire blog. Then I pulled the information from the HC-Delicious account pages and created a new, updated and expanded categories list in the new template, after I deleted the old categories list from the template. Finally, we each copied and saved a fresh, dated copy of the new HC template. Now, we are fully protected in the event of another crash. It does pay to be prepared for such events, because in the world of computing, as well as in the world of blogging, strange things can and do occur, often with little or no warning. And yes, it can happen to anyone, including experienced computer users and bloggers.