Jul 7, 2010 by Matt | Posted in Software & Scripts
I use some shell scripts to back up my web server to Amazon S3. It’s very cheap and off-site, two things that make for a good backup strategy. But what about personal computers? Most people, myself included, simply back up to external hard disk. Off-site backups stored “in the cloud” on remote servers would be a much preferable option. (But most people balk at paying $5-$20 per month for a service like Dropbox, JungleDisk, SpiderOak or Carbonite.)
Arq, by Haystack Software, takes a slightly different approach. It’s designed for those of us who already have Amazon S3 accounts. Arq lets you set a monthly budget, say $5 (which gets you 50GB or storage). The application then keeps the folders you choose mirrored with Amazon S3. It operates on the same hourly schedule as Time Machine, keeping multiple versions of the files. It periodically deletes old versions of the files to stay within the storage space equivalent to the monthly budget you set. It even encrypts your files with a passkey of your choosing.
If you’re selective about the data you back up, the pricing should be fairly reasonable. It seems like a good way to back up data. You could use it in tandem with Dropbox; Arq+S3 for backing up your critical data, Dropbox for sharing and collaborating.
Apr 6, 2010 by Matt | Posted in WordPress
I’ve said this many times: back up your blog on a regular basis. Unfortunately, not many bloggers keep daily backups. It’s time-consuming, and it’s something that should really be automated. Unfortunately, it’s not very easy to roll your own automated backup system. You need a VPS, and the skills to setup a cron script that packages everything up (database included) and ships it off to a remote server, such as Amazon S3.
Automattic has the solution. Their new beta service, VaultPress, is a WordPress plugin that ensures all of your data is safe. It syncs your files to Automattic’s servers, as well as two other cloud services run by other companies.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Not only does VaultPress back up your data, it does it in real-time. If you upload an image or write a new post, it’s backed up within minutes. There’s no storage cap, and “[it’s] going to do more than just backup. The VaultPress engine will be able to push hotfixes to zero-day security vulnerabilities, for example.”
The service is currently in beta, meaning you don’t have to pay anything if you manage to snag an invitation. If their signup page is anything to go by, it will cost around $15/month. Not bad for a comprehensive off-site backup plan.
Backups are essential when you’re running a website, and while $15/month may seem a little steep, it won’t after you have the inevitable server meltdown. As Mullenweg says:
The only thing I’d add for that is that I don’t want to entrust my backups to a free service. I want to know there’s a business on the other end whose livelihood is making sure my backups are 100% secure as long as I can pay them, not just until their VC funding runs out or they figure out how to monetize the eyeballs of all their free users.
Mar 15, 2010 by Matt | Posted in Hosting
If you manage your own web server, as you do with a VPS, one thing you need to look into is a backup strategy. It wouldn’t be pleasant for your files to vanish into the ether in the event of some sort of catastrophic server meltdown, would it? Optimally you want to, on a daily basis, offload a copy of everything important to a separate geographical location. One excellent way to do that is to follow Pro Blog Design’s new tutorial on how to automatically back up your files and databases to Amazon S3.
S3, or Simple Storage Service, is Amazon’s cheap cloud data storage system. Michael Martin, the author of the tutorial, says that his bill from last month was $2.60. ($0.15 per month per GB for stored, $0.15 per GB transferred.) Using a backup script on your server, you can automatically archive and encrypt your files and MySQL dumps, then send them off to Amazon’s servers for safekeeping.
I should start by saying that while s3 is not a free service, it’s incredibly inexpensive! My bill for the last month was $2.60, and that was with backing up a lot more than just this site! It’s the cheapest peace-of-mind ever.
Automatic Amazon S3 Backups on Ubuntu/Debian [Pro Blog Design]
Feb 1, 2010 by Matt | Posted in Services and Tools
Dropbox is an excellent little service that I’ve written about on more than one occasion. It’s a nice off-site backup tool, as well as easy way to keep data synced between multiple computers.
I imagine it would be nice to get one of their larger plans and automagically sync all of your files between a desktop and a laptop, but not all of us are willing to pay for that luxury.
Now if you have a few assorted folders that you want to keep synced with Dropbox, what’s an easy way to do so without physically moving them into your main Dropbox folder? You can use the magic of symbolic links. (A magic that only exists on Mac OS X, Linux, and Unix…)
Open a command line and type the following two commands, changing the paths to whatever is relevant in your situation:
ln -s /Users/Matt/path/to/my/files The_New_Folder_Name
Now if you go back to your Dropbox folder, you should see a new directory called “The_New_Folder_Name” that, when clicked, should bounce you right over to the original folder. Dropbox will see this “shortcut” link as the real deal and back the files up to the cloud.
Dec 21, 2009 by Matt | Posted in WordPress
WordPress 2.9 is now available.
The new version includes plenty of new features on both the user and developer sides, including a global “trash can” for posts and comments, basic image editor,
rel=canonical support, native support for post thumbnails (should your theme activate the feature) and an updated new Press This bookmarklet.
TechnoSailor has a 10 Things You Need to Know About WordPress 2.9 guide, which covers some of the more interesting features.
So take five minutes to upgrade your WordPress installation. Be sure to make a backup of your database first, since 80% of you probably don’t do it on a daily basis like I do.
Apr 30, 2008 by Matt | Posted in General
I’m still kicking myself over a big mistake I made recently. A few months ago, I made some major changes to The Site of Requirement, my Harry Potter analysis and news site. I installed a copy of WordPress, moved all of the content into it, and reworked the design to take advantage of CSS instead of tables. After a few weeks of work, it was running smoothly again. My mistake? After finishing all of that work, I didn’t back it all up. I neglected to make a new backup over the following months as well.
Recently, the host the site is on put some new servers in place, and started migrating the sites to the new machines. I was unaware of this until the site stopped working. What I at first thought was just outdated DNS settings that needed to be updated proved to be far worse. The host had lost all of my files during the switch, as well as most of the database. The best they had was an older version of the database.
The backup I have contains the site before my move to WordPress, as well as a directory containing the WordPress installation, with about 80% of the work done. I should be able to get the site back up in a few days, but a few months of news posts will be AWOL, unfortunately.
The lesson here? Backup your website. Bad things will happen. Whether it’s accidental data loss, or some %@$&*# sabotaging your site. Be prepared. Make regular backups.
Edit: The database loss wasn’t as bad as I thought, luckily. I didn’t lose much at all. However, I still have to deal with the missing files.
Photo by Wysz
Feb 7, 2008 by Matt | Posted in Blogging
When was the last time you backed your blog up?
If you couldn’t say “less than a week ago” in response, then you need to rethink your backup strategy. How much time have you spent writing posts, and tweaking your template, over your blog’s lifetime? Isn’t it worth spending a few minutes a week to back it up?
If you don’t backup, you will have data loss. There’s no doubt about it. Plenty of bad things can happen. The server your site is on could fail, the datacenter could catch fire, or more likely, some moron could vandalize (or “hack,” if you insist on appropriating the word). I admit that I don’t backup my websites as often as I should. My PC, however, is well protected. Every week, all of my important folders are copied to an external hard drive automatically. No work involved. Unfortunately, you can’t really do that with your blog (unless it’s hosted on a server located in your closet…).
Here is my recommended backup strategy:
- Create a new folder (or directory as I prefer to say) on your local computer. Call it “Backups.” Inside it, create a new dated folder every time you create a new backup (e.g. “2008-02-07″).
- Once a week, backup your database. To do this, log-in to your database admin (e.g. phpMyAdmin), and use the “Export” tool. Copy and paste the resulting text into a text editor and save it to a dated backup folder.
- Don’t forget to backup your template! FTP a copy of the files to your backup directory every week or two. Depending on how often you edit your template, you may not have to do this as frequently. Heck, download the entire WordPress folder. That way you have all of the plugins,core files, and anything else you have.
- Keep several past iterations of your blog handy in your backup folder. Every few months, transfer some of the old backups to a CD-R or DVD+/-R. You just throw them a way. After all, you may need them sometime in the future.
Remember, something bad will happen eventually. Be prepared.