Monday, October 12, 2009

Technology Lesson: Backing Up Your Blog(s)

Jeffrey Rowland, the mastermind behind webcomics (and novelizations thereof) Wigu and Overcompensating, and merchandise company TopatoCo lost his LiveJournal this weekend. He disseminated the news that his account had been hacked through a volley of tweets (@wigu, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).

Poor Jeffrey! If you're worried about years—or a handful of entries—disappearing into oblivion, it might be a good idea to back up your work. (This is something I worry about a lot, and a topic I expect to return with frequency. Nothing lobs me into a panic like imagining my life's work (35 mm film, mostly) obliterated forever.) You should protected you work if not because of malicious password theft, but for sudden server crashes, weather-based tragedies, a few misguided keystrokes, or a host's sudden goodbye.

After a Lifehacker column last January pointed out the virtues of backing up your work, I set out to back up my own blogs. (I did it that day, because of, or in spite of a long, housebound winter.) I think you should do the same, and here's how:

AOL Instant Messenger (AIM)
Admittedly not a blog, AIM will log you conversations for you. I've been doing this since middle school, with the fear of Mean Girls activity. I'm glad I still do because I've accidentally closed IM windows or suffered a sudden at-work crash and found myself with directions, addresses, or crucial information I'm too embarrassed to ask for again. (What time was that party again?)

To log conversations amend your Settings. In the new AIM client for Windows, click EDIT in your buddy list and choose SETTINGS. Or right click SETTINGS from the toolbar.

Click IM ARCHIVES, the fifth option in the left sidebar. Check ARCHIVE IMS (and ARCHIVE CHAT if you feel inclined). The space below will choose a default folder for IM logging on your hard drive. If you want to set your logging to an external drive or another location, click BROWSE… and choose a location to save your IMs. Click SAVE when you're done.

You can export your whole blog (whole! blog!) as an .xml file to your computer to restore the files in the future (or to another blog). Blogger Help has the instructions here. (The export will not include photographs or widgets.)

See FAQ #8, How do I download all of my journal entries? I admit to backing up my journal from high school plus the first half of college, and my journal from the second half of college through last summer. Yes. I had a LiveJournal. I also confess to saving each web page (File < Save Page As…) for both entries. (Did I mention that last January I was on long-term disability and had a lot of time on my hands? I usually had the energy to do little more than watch TV, but one day I did it.) I'm also in the process of printing each page, but that's a little slow since it takes so much time and paper. I'm maybe halfway through journal one, and like any good teenager, I posted at least once a day.

I don't use Tumblr, and was surprised when I didn't find any support for backing up files, since the platform is supposed to be easy and user-friendly. The best I could get out of Tumble was this:

Can I import an archive file of old posts from another blogging platform to my Tumblr blog? Can I export my Tumblr blog posts to a file?

Tumblr doesn't have the ability to import or export blog archives at this time. You can import posts that are two days old and newer from other blog platforms using the Services tab on the Customize page.

Not what I'd call encouraging. (Personally, I don't think you should use Tumblr, and this reaffirms my belief.)

TypePad has articles to help you back up your blog. See Exporting Your Weblog Content and Backing Up Your Content.

Start here:

Your WordPress database contains every post, every comment and every link you have on your blog. If your database gets erased or corrupted, you stand to lose everything you have written. There are many reasons why this could happen and not all are things you can control. But what you can do is back up your data. After all, it is important. Right?

Right! From there, WordPress guides you through backing up your site and your database.

Other Hot Tips

  • LJBook and BlogBooker will convert your LJ or WordPress into a PDF for you. The service is free.

  • Always back up your backups. My external hard drive crashed this year and I almost lost everything, apropos of nothing. (It was saved by my brother-in-law.) It's a good idea to burn your work to CDs and DVDs, which seem unstylish (MacBook Air has zero optical support) but they last a long time. The Library of Congress used to (and may still) back up its files to compact disc!

  • It doesn't hurt to store your second back up in an offsite location. For example, I store my negatives, sensitive photographic prints, and hard drive(s) in a fireproof, waterproof safe. In theory, I should have another backup in a friend or family member's home. (I had a professor who kept his work in his office, at home, and offsite in a friend's home. He lost his work in a fire and had to retrieve the third back up!)

  • Apple released Time Machine in October 2007 with its release for OS X 10.5. The program saves back ups so you can restore your files later. Time Machine will save new files over old files (name.doc saved on September 30 will be overwritten by name.doc saved on October 1). The program is so ridiculously easy that it makes me wary.

  • If you use a full RSS, and subscribe to your own feeds, you can recover the files through your RSS reader. It's not perfect, but it's a decent last ditch effort. (Lifehacker recommended this for tweets too.) Here's a screenshot I took of Rowland's LiveJournal in my Google Reader:

  • Consider printing and archiving your work. If you save your work as you go, you'll have copies and drafts without having to back up your work. A paper back up isn't easy to restore digitally, but you'd hold onto your print copy, wouldn't you? I like to fantasize about having my angst-fueled missives bound into volumes. (I'm actually thinking of putting together a book on Blurb as a “best of” for the zine, but it seems a little self-absorbed.) But if you have your love letters and important documents on file, shouldn't the digital-only version gets a space on your bookshelf and in your file cabinet too? (Mom, are you getting the point?)
Additional Resources:
HOW TO: Back Up Your Tweets, Mashable

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