The Importance Of Backing Up Your Blog

By: Danny Wirken

Backups in every computing endeavor just make good sense. Without your good, reliable backups, you're likely to go through the hell of data loss and the frantic rush to recover everything at least once and probably more than that in your lifetime. Data loss can happen for many reasons: the degradation of a hard drive, an upgrade, a hostile hacker, even a catastrophic power surge. Whatever the reason, it happens even to the best systems.

According to a recent poll sponsored by Maxtor, though, almost half of U.S. computer users don't back up data to external devices. Most don't do it because they aren't sure about how to back files up. Another large group doesn't think it's important enough to worry about. Others don't want to spend the time on it, or think that backup devices cost too much money. These aren't good reasons; you can back up to your own computer or to a different one, not a device; or you can burn data to CDs (replacing these every year or two, as we now know they degrade over time). And backing up is simple as well as easy to automate.

While there are online archives and caches that can help you recover your blog data if you work fast, it's still a better idea to ensure that you have the backup to begin with. For one thing, recovering blog data from other sources can never replace your file structure or any of the alterations you may have made to your blog system. For another, your most recent posts and comments will still be lost. In some cases, this can be a major blow.

Once you get into the habit, backing up your blog becomes second nature, not a hassle. You should back up at regular intervals, making it a habit or finding a way to automate it. You should also back up everything just before you do an upgrade or otherwise work with your blog system directly. This way, if anything goes wrong, it's not hard to restore your database and other files from the backups.

There are a variety of things you can do to create a backup. For instance, phpMyAdmin is a popular choice for many bloggers, including those who use WordPress. phpMyAdmin uses a simple menu-driven system to back up your WordPress databases (though it may not catch your special modifications and certain standalone files, and your file structure and images are also high and dry).

For very large databases, straight MySQL code may be necessary; phpMyAdmin can't handle the largest databases. This involves using a special command, mysqldump, or going to the graphical interface MySQL Administrator, provided by many blog hosts. For MySQL solutions, you'll need to know what you're doing with that program as well as with WordPress, and you will almost certainly have to download some extras from the MySQL website.

In one other case, you may need a different solution. If you're using Mac OS X, you should consider using Cocoa MySQL as your MySQL client; this version of SQL is specifically designed to work with Mac computers.

The WordPress Database Backup Plugin

The above solutions are inelegant and often complex to use. Fortunately, Skippy has created a plugin for WordPress users that will do the backup work for you on WordPress databases. This plugin is included in all WordPress versions from 2.0 forward, or you can download it from the plugins page from the wp-db-backup files.

If you need to download the plugin, be certain to follow the directions in the included text file so you're certain of installing the plugin properly. To activate it, make sure that the CHMOD is set properly on your wp-content folder so that you can write to it with the server, and then go to the Administration | Plugins | Plugins Panel to activate the plugin.

Backing up your files with this plugin is simple. You navigate to the Administration | Manage | Backup Panel. Then select all tables in addition to your main WordPress tables that you want backed up. Select the option for where to back up; your choices will be to save the backup to the server, to download the files to another computer, or to email the backed up files somewhere else.

Once all your options are selected, click the Backup button to perform the backup. If you've got the wp-Chron plugin installed, you can even set it to backup your files every day, or at an interval you prefer. The backup you will have created is a standard SQL file. It should be simple to follow directions for restoring your SQL database from backup.

Backing Up - More Information

The frequency of your backups should depend on how often you blog and how much irreplaceable data you could lose in case of failures. If you only post once a week and don't really care if you lose a week's worth of comments on your posts, a weekly backup should be fine. If you're more worried about losing daily data, you should back up every day. If at all possible, automate your backups so you don't have to worry about missing one.

When you back up your databases, be certain you back up everything possible. Special modifications done to your WordPress files of any sort may be as irreplaceable as a dozen posts, but may not be captured when you back up databases. Check with your administrator if you're not certain what else should be protected; he or she will have a very good idea.

Sometimes you'll find that you have enormous database backups; this can be a real problem if you email your backups to yourself and sometimes even if you just download them or pay for that server space. Statistics plugins and anti-spam plugins may be your culprits. These plugins gather data constantly, and may increase the size of your backup beyond what is acceptable. Because this data is not usually critical, try skipping these tables when you're backing up and see how your size comes out.

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