WordPress Tips You Really Should Know, Part I: Backups

Posted: February 4th, 2010

Photo by Eric M Martin (Flickr)

Photo by Eric M Martin (Flickr)

Many of us who have our own blogs also do all the maintenance on it. So while I could go on all day about how those nifty Twitter or image plugins can do this or that, you are better off with some tips that you really need to know if you are a do-it-yourself with WordPress.

This will be the first part of three posts on the topic. So here we go.

First, I will assume you are familiar with FTP software to access the WordPress files on your server. Note that I’ll be referring to FileZilla, which is free to download and can be used on all platforms.

Part I: WordPress Backups

A couple months ago, I ran across a post from Coding Horror that raised my eyebrows. Here, we had a programmer who writes and maintains his own blog but ran into a server catastrophe and scrambled like mad to piece his blog back together again.

Now that I’ve apologized, it’s time to let the healing begin. And by healing, I mean the excruciatingly painful process of reconstructing Coding Horror from internet caches and the few meager offsite backups I do have. My first order of business was to ask on SuperUser what strategies people recommend for recovering a lost website with no backup. Strategies other than berating me for my obvious mistake. Also, comments are currently disabled while the site is being reconstructed from static HTML. Oh, darn!

Remember, this was A PROGRAMMER. If this isn’t a wake up call, I don’t know what is.

Luckily backing up your Worpress isn’t such a complex task and consists of the following which I’ll go over:

  • Frequent backups of the MySQL database.
  • Frequent backups of the /wp-content folder on your server.
  • Having a copy of your entire WordPress blog.

Backing Up Your MySQL Database

There is an excellent plugin called WP-DB-Backup which generates an SQL file of your entire WordPress database that can be downloaded or, best part, emailed to you automatically at regular intervals.

Simply download, unzip and upload the wp-db-backup folder to the /wp-content/plugins directory and activate from the Plugins section in your WordPress admin. You can then configure the backup under Tools > Backup in the admin.

Note that, to get this to work, you will need to set the permissions  of the /wp-content directory to 777 (see below).

Setting file permissions using FileZilla (right click, select File Permissions)

After you download your first backup, be sure to set the file permissions of the /wp-content directory to 755.

Backing Up Your /wp-content Directory

As of this writing, I haven’t found a reliable plugin to backup the images on the posts and pages. It’s probably moot anyway since those images would add up to a large backup file over time; likely too large to have it emailed to you.

In the meantime, its best just to do regular backups of the /wp-content directory which contains your uploaded images, plugins and themes. One great way to remember to do this, at regular intervals, is to configure a schedule in the WP-DB-Backup to receive the database backups by email.

Then, immediately after receiving each of those emails, you have a reminder to download the /wp-content directory onto your computer to keep that backup updated.

Downloading You Entire Blog

It’s very important that you have a copy of your entire WordPress blog. This is especially true before upgrading your WordPress or when those unexpected moments of breakdown happen to occur.

Since WordPress files only change when upgrading this only needs to be done once, to have a current copy, then after each upgrade.

(One thing… be sure use the WP-DB-Backup to immediately download a backup file of your database before performing any upgrade.)

Due to conflicts with some plugins and themes, WordPress is known to break down and give hell after upgrading. So better to be safe than sorry.

* * *

Coming next in this series:  Speeding Up Your Blog.

Freelance In 40 Days [Day 29]: Setting Up Your Own Blog

Posted: November 17th, 2009

Photo by Laughing Squid (Flickr)

Photo by Laughing Squid (Flickr)

This is Day 29 of the Freelance in 40 Days series where you’ll learn to freelance just by taking it one day and one task at a time. Today you’ll see how to set up your own blog.

In Day 19, I explained several advantages of blogging as a freelancer. If you create your own website for your freelance business blogging, in addition, can offer additional advantages that can be beneficial for your business too:

  • Awareness: By blogging, you establish yourself as an expert in whatever subject you are writing about. That exposure leads to your brand awareness and could lead to new business.
  • Promotion: Blogs are one of the best ways to promote your business website in the search engines. Search engines love blogs because they are updated frequently. Put a link visibly to your business website from your blog and you can easily generate traffic to it.
  • Networking: You’ll notice on any of your favorite blogs that they link to and promote other similar blogs. This is a great way to meet other freelance bloggers while also generating traffic to your blog from theirs.

There are some caveats to these advantages however.

  • You need to blog  frequently.  By frequently, I don’t mean every day, but develop the habit to blog at least once or twice a week. Try for three times a week if time permits.
  • You need to be willing to grow in your blogging skills. For some freelancers, take writers for example, blogging comes naturally. For the majority who are not use to writing, this will be difficult at the start. The only way to improve is to keep writing. Writing will improve with time.
  • You need to be patient. The benefits of blogging will not happen right away. In fact, this will take months or even a year or more. I’ll go over methods to promote your blog in a future tutorial so stay tuned.

To start blogging, there are two ways to set this up.

Hosted Blog Platforms

Hosted blog platforms offer the advantage of being easy to set up yourself while not having to deal with the techy issues of installing it on your own server. While you can customize the look of your blog to your liking, there are limits to what can be done.

So for those who do not need all the bells and whistles and are content with a simple, easy to manage blog, then this is your best option. The best part, too, is that it is free to set up your own blog account and start writing away.

The best and most widely used free platforms are Blogger and WordPress.

Hosting Your Own Blog

Installing a blog on your own web server is the preferred way to go if you want complete control in design and maintenance. WordPress is, by far, the most widely-used software and is raved for it’s slick editor and ability to customize in virtually any way possible. Plus it’s free to download and use.

It takes a little technical savvy to install and configure WordPress but the following resources will get you started:

Afterwards, you can customize the design of your blog by finding and installing a theme that suits you. There are plenty of free themes available to choose from and, don’t worry, this is easier than it sounds.

In addition, you can kill two birds with one stone by combining your portfolio website (from Day 28) with your blog in WordPress. Smashing Magazine offers a killer tutorial on how to do this.

Blogging Resources

To help you become a better blogger, check out these websites which offer useful tips on attracting an audience, making money from blogging and even a tip here or there on how to improve your WordPress installation:

Your Homework For Today

Start your own blog by setting up an account with Blogger or WordPress or install WordPress on your server using the resources above. Remember to keep writing too. Blogging gets easy over time.