Archive-Along part 3: Backing Up Your (Free) Blog

05 Apr 2010

Today on the Archive-Along, I want to talk about a very important form of digital archiving - making backup copies of your blog. This subject can get a little technical, so I've illustrated it with pretty eye-candy crafty pictures, to break up the monotony. Oh - and I've also tried not to make it too monotonous. :-)

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Back ups seem like a lot of (boring) work. Why should I back up my blog?

Well, things happen. Your web host takes lots of precautions, but servers can fail. The building your web host occupies could burn down or flood. There could be massive power problems.

Or, closer to home, your blog could be hacked. Or, you could accidentally click that "Delete Blog" button some morning before you've had your coffee.

When disasters like these strike, believe me, you will want a recent back up copy of your blog on hand!

I could go on and on about why it's important for you to back up your blog, but instead I'll direct you to this post. If it doesn't scare you into making back-ups, nothing will.

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Free blogs vs. hosted blogs

From this point, I've divided this post into two parts. If you use a free blog, like one on Blogger.com or Wordpress.com, then read on. If you pay for a web hosting account and host your blog there, read this other post instead.

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Three Parts to Back Up

So free-blog users, let's get started! First, it's good to understand that when you back up your blog, you have three separate pieces to back up:

1. Your blog's posts, settings, and comments. These are commonly referred to as your blog's database.

2. Your blog's design, or the overall structure that houses those posts and comments. This part is commonly referred to as your blog's CSS file, or its HTML template.

3. And then, you need a back up of all the images you've uploaded to your blog! I'll talk about this part in a separate post.

 

How to back up a free Blogger blog

Let's start with Blogger, where it's pretty easy to back up your blog. Start by visiting the Settings tab of your dashboard. In the basic section, look for the "Export Blog" link. Click that.

Then, look for that big "Download blog" button. Click that, and a copy of your database (posts and comments, remember) will automatically download to your computer.

Now, if a back up copy is sitting on your computer's hard drive, then it's not really 100% safe. After all, hard drives can fail. So ideally, after you've downloaded that back up copy of your database, you'll load it onto a CD or a DVD, label it clearly and store it somewhere safe.

(Or, if you have an external hard drive, you can use that. Or, use both. You can never be too careful with back-ups.)

So, that's a back up of your database. What about your design file?

To back those up, visit the Layout tab in your blog's dashboard. Click the "Edit HTML" link.

From there, find the "Download Full Template" link and click it. This will automatically download a copy of your blog's design template to your hard drive. And from there . . . you guessed it. Make some copies on CD or DVD, label 'em, and store 'em.

That's all there is to it!

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How to back up a free Wordpress blog

Now, since the world of Wordpress can be a little confusing, let's clarify: a free Wordpress blog is one you got from Wordpress.com. It's hosted on their servers. (If you pay to host your own Wordpress.org blog, read this instead.)

With a free Wordpress blog, you can save your database (posts and comments) by clicking on "Tools" in your blog's sidebar. Then click on "Export." This reveals a "Download Export File" button. Click that to save a copy of your database to your own computer.

(And then, I'd like you to copy that database file to a CD or DVD, or an external hard drive. Label them clearly, and then store them somewhere safe.)

With Wordpress, however, you can't actually save your theme - unless, that is, you are paying their annual fee to access your blog's CSS file. (If you are paying for that service, then you'll have access to an Export tab that will let you download the CSS file to your computer. Copy that file to a couple discs as well.)

If you aren't paying for CSS access, then you can't back up your theme. Wordpress backs up your blog's theme regularly. (But they aren't backing up your database - that's up to you!)

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How to back up your images

I covered that in this post.

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Great. So, how often should I be doing back-ups?

Well, the best answer is "regularly." You get to set your own back up schedule, but here are some things to think about:

First, consider this: you can do a full back up of your blog's database, but the minute you add one new post or someone leaves a comment, that back up is instantly out of date. Ack!

Most experts recommend setting yourself either a weekly or monthly back up schedule. Since your database gets updated with every new post or comment, you'll probably want to back it up more frequently. Since your design file changes less frequently, you can generally get away with less-frequent back ups.

For the record, I pull a database backup of each of my websites every Thursday morning. It's set up as a recurring alarm in my Google Calendar so I won't forget. Then, I take a back up of my design files about once a month.

Oh - and on the subject of those design files, any time you decide to go into your blog's HTML or CSS files and start messing around, always, always download a back up copy first!

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The Archive-Along Continues...

Remember, you can keep up on all the posts from this project at the Archive-Along page. If you blog about archiving your work, leave a comment and let us know, so we can link to you!

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Comments

Great suggestion, June - thanks!


I use the Wordpress Database Backup plugin (http://www.ilfilosofo.com/blog/wp-db-backup) - I set it to automatically email a backup of my database to me every day. Every week or so, I delete all but the most recent backup from my email. If I had to do it manually every time, I'd never remember!


Diane, you are just the best wealth of crafty information on the planet. Since I can picture myself clicking that 'delete blog' button before coffee some morning just like you said, I'm going to do every little thing you've suggested. Thanks so very much.


Excellent, Ann! Protect that wonderful blog of yours!


wow! I never thought about backuping my blog!
I have a wordpress.com one
thank you for these instructions. you are brilliant.


My pleasure! I didn't think of it for my first couple years of blogging. Luckily, nothing catastrophic happened to me. :-)


Thanks for reminding me to backup my blog; I hadn't done that for a while, and never copied the template! Great post!


Thanks for the reminder! I dutifully exported my blog.


I have two backups now. I'm all over the place. If I ever enter the witness protection program, I'm screwed.


Thank you for showing how to back up blogger.Lost one on blogger for who knows whatever reason.Will back up now.Thank you again.