Updating WordPress and Backing Up Data

People are smart – really!  I know sometimes it doesn’t APPEAR that way but they really are – IF you understand the WHY behind what they’re doing.  In my experience, you must identify the “why” behind a problem before you can begin to provide a real solution.

When it comes to updating WordPress and backing up data – I’ve seen that there’s a REASON for why many people don’t perform these essential WordPress tasks and my daughter provided a GREAT illustration the other day.

Danielle gets REALLY annoyed with one of the exercise DVDs she uses because during the workout – the featured Barbie-esque creature chirps, “You just have to MAKE time for exercise.”  My daughter is annoyed because – when she looked up this woman online – she discovered that she works full time  as a personal trainer.  She snarled, “Of COURSE she has no trouble making “time” to exercise – she works in a gym!”

So I get it.  I get that many WordPress bloggers aren’t “working in a gym”.    Just as you have to find a way to fit exercise into your schedule – you have to find a way to fit blog maintenance into your life.

Nagging Never Works

The reason people don’t back up their data and update their WordPress installation is  not for lack of “nagging”.  WordPress gurus who speak geek fluently (for some – “plain English” is a second language). are constantly admonishing WordPress users to keep their installation of WordPress current.   They go on and on about “security” issues and can even share tales of horror about lost content and blogs destroyed because someone failed to update their WordPress blog installation.

Yet – there are still many – MANY blogs operating on outdated versions of WordPress…. like prior to 2.8 in some cases.  Why?  It’s not because the WordPress development team hasn’t TRIED to make it easy – they’ve included beg notices and made it so you don’t even have to log out of your blog to update.  Yet – I’ve found that even technically savvy clients will contact me – quaking in fear – because of the warning which appears before you update WordPress –

Important: before upgrading, please backup your database and files.

This links to a Codex page which is approximately 10 miles long.  I know from experience that when my people (who aren’t signed up for automatic updates) get to this point – their reaction is something like this…


The reason the page is 10 miles long is because they have to try to cover EVERY possibility available from various web hosting companies.   This is what happens when you try to write a message targeting EVERYONE – but that’s a rant better suited for my book’s blog Beyond Niche Marketing.  🙂

Quick Easy Database Backup

So here’s a quick EASY way to back up your blog – it’s a WordPress plug in called WP-DB Manager.  Install it on your blog and you can not only backup – but optimize and repair your database without logging out of WordPress.  I then FTP a copy of this backup to my hard drive and then burn it to a CD.  (This level of OCD  is  only defined as paranoia if you’re NOT working with Windows based computers.)  By the way – I feel this plug in is WELL worth a $20 donation to the creator.

Remember, your database is WHERE your blog content REALLY lives.  Pulling a backup of your WordPress blog without pulling a copy of the database is NOT backing up your blog. (If you’re thinking “duh”  as you read this – let me just say – there’s a REASON I’m clarifying this here.)

If you think your blog may have been hacked – Donncha et al have created a plug in to scan for exploits.

I know it’s one more thing in an already busy day – but it’s truly a zen moment when you experience the inner peace of having your database backed up and your blog purring along.

Introducing WordPress 3.0

WordPress 3.0 was recently released and it has caused quite a stir in the WordPress community.  I had to chuckle when I saw the RSS feed widget below appear in my iGoogle.

The first post is the post at the bottom which is  “Dowload WordPress 3.0 now.”   It was promptly followed by two later posts of how to FIX the problems caused by updating.

Most of my clients don’t know what they don’t know – and in many cases that leads to WILDLY unrealistic expectations – such as blog updates being effortless.  When it comes to updating WordPress blogs – expect the unexpected.  While the WordPress development team does an exceptional job of vetting the software – there’s no way for ANYONE to know how the software will work on the wide array of hosting providers who host WordPress blogs.

For those of you who don’t know, I provide hosting for over 100 WordPress blogs and as part of that hosting service, I provide automatic updates for my clients.   I also provide support services for about a half a dozen more clients who maintain multiple WordPress blogs as part of their internet marketing strategy.

Which is why – I maintain several blogs which act as “update guinea pigs” – so I can see if it’s time to unleash an update on my clients.   For example, the last time WordPress changed it’s internal architecture this significantly – many of my clients discovered their beloved theme wasn’t going to make the transition.  Fortunately, I was able to contact the clients and warn them of the impending update meant for their blog.

When I began providing my hosting with automatic update service over 4 years ago, WordPress updates were few and far between.

At that time, the battle was raging between Typepad and WordPress – with WordPress being labeled “hard to use” and “only for geeks”. Other blogging software contenders like DruPal were actually in the running in those days so deciding to “back” the WordPress “dark horse” was a risky decision for the direction of my business.

Fast forward 4 years and it seems everyone is on the WordPress bandwagon – with good reason.  One of the reasons WordPress blogs are SO popular is that they are so search engine friendly.   Another reason is – despite the initial “press” – the only “hard” part about using WordPress was installation.  My business began offering WordPress installation for clients and discovered there were a LOT of people who were ready to take control over their web destiny.    As a result, I have several clients whose technological expertise is limited to opening and responding to emails who have successfully taken their blogs to the top of the SERPS for their chosen keyword.

This has not gone unnoticed and the same quality of people who fill your mailbox with offers of “get rich while watching porn” – are also launching attacks on WordPress self hosted blogs.  The early “hacks” were an attempt to hijack your blog – or to hijack your email program to send spam.  However, lately the attacks are becoming more frequent – and more fiercely devastating.

It is more important now than ever before to make sure your installation of WordPress and all of your plugins are up to date.

Over the past few months, I’m getting more calls than ever to try to “rescue” blogs on older versions of WordPress.  Unfortunately, these are people who “passed” on my Cyber Angel hosting service and they are now facing the consequences of their decision.   In yet another example of ” WILDLY unrealistic expectations” – if your blog is hacked – there is no magic ritual which will enable anyone to retrieve your database without a backup.

The “foundation” of your WordPress blog is your database.  To perform a periodic backup of your WordPress blog – you need only to download a backup of your database and then simply FTP the contents of your wp-content folder to your hard drive.  You only need to FTP the contents of your wp-content folder once – to preserve your theme.  As for backing up the database – do this once a week – or even once a month -and it will mean never having to say “goodbye” to all of your blog’s content overnight.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

What a week this has been and it’s only half over!

On Monday I get an email from a client who has been neglecting to protect her online reputation by neglecting her blog.  She’s now busily meeting with lawyers to try to trademark her branding elements – something I suspect would be easier to do had she been maintaining her blog under the domain name she registered.  At least she would be ranking #1 on her term – which is what started the fuss.

Yesterday, I got a phone call from Truly Nolen telling me that they’re sorry for the “misunderstanding” and that my account will be removed from collections.  Ah, the power of social media.  Don’t let ANYONE tell you that your blog is worthless.

I give Truly Nolen props on two issues.  First, they were obviously “on top” of managing their online reputation.  They came, they saw, they replied and they followed up with me.   I’ll also give them props for handling this over the phone.  They really didn’t have ANY defense and it was truly wise to handle this situation “offline” – because if they had sent me an email with the absolutely LAME excuses I was given on the phone for why it happened,  I would NOT have been able to resist posting it here.  But, they picked up the phone and it ended amicably.

So it’s been an eventful week thus far.   I’ve got not one but TWO great “blogging and social media are da bomb” stories to share.

However, this morning I got to see the ugly side of the web. I got an email this morning from another client – this one is asking me to look into a website I did for her about 4 years ago.   When I go to visit the site, I see this:

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – there is NO SUCH THING AS A SET IT AND FORGET IT WEBSITE!!!

This is especially true if you’re running a website with a popular and “easy to use” CMS system such as WordPress.

If you’ve been ignoring the beg screen in WordPress – you know, the one that asks you to upgrade your installation to the latest version – allow THIS to be your wake up call!!!

If you think no one is visiting your blog – if you think it’s not “worth” hacking – check out how busy Askimet has been on your behalf.  I tell my clients that a busy Askimet is a sign of a blog that is hitting the mark when it comes to targeting attractive keywords. Even if visitors aren’t commenting – if the spammers are trying to get comments from your site – then someone who knows how to set up a spambot thinks your site is worth a try at an incoming link.

If Askimet isn’t working hard protecting you from spam comments – then MAYBE you don’t have anything to worry about – and instead you should get to work creating a blog that spammers WANT to hack!  Seriously, if you’re not the bell of the blogging ball – you should be!!!  Pick up a copy of the 8 Week Power Blog Launch. On a positive note, I got another email last week was from a client who’s been using the system and who had to upgrade her hosting package to get more bandwidth to handle all the traffic she’s been getting!!

NOTE TO SELF:  I should start posting POSITIVE emails instead of just the negative ones!!  Though I must admit, I don’t think my client thought it was a positive email when she sent it.

Waking up to a message that you’re over your bandwidth is a GOOD thing – assuming you’re not using Bluehost as your hosting provider.    Waking up to the message above isn’t!!!   Make sure you don’t EVER see the message above being displayed on your URL –  go ahead – bite the bullet.  Upgrade your WordPress installation NOW!!!

An ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure.

WordPress 2.5: Fix for the “unable to upload files” blues

I love WordPress… really I do. WordPress blogs are great for so many reasons which I’ve covered before here. I’ve got clients who can barely use email who are creating posts on WordPress blogs that are getting GREAT SERPS.

WordPress is DEFINITELY the technically challenged person’s dream application.

Installing WordPress is easy.   Using Fantastico, it’s positively simple.  The devil is in the details.

For example, when WordPress 2.5 is running on a security minded hosting platform… well, let’s just say allowing WordPress 2.5 to upload images or video is NOT viewed as a desired activity.

In order to work around this, you have to rewrite the htaccess file. It’s not a biggie and while I was in there, I found some great suggestions on how to rewrite the htaccess file to keep the “bad bots” out.

With that said, it only takes a misplaced character to screw up your ENTIRE website when you’re messing with your htaccess files. Mistakes were made…. but no clients were injured in the process. <grin>

Here’s a bit of the code that I found on the WordPress.org message boards which fixed the 2.5 image upload file error. Add this to your htaccess file and VIOLA… WordPress 2.5 uploads files, images and videos.

<IfModule mod_security.c>
<Files async-upload.php>
SecFilterEngine Off
SecFilterScanPOST Off

As for my clients… they are ecstatic that this is my job and not theirs.

Unfortunately, as WordPress becomes even more powerful and more popular, it’s becoming less accessible for the technologically challenged.

Easy Transition to WordPress 2.5

So far so good…. I must admit, I was REALLY worried about the upgrade to WP 2.5

The upgrade to 2.3 was a real bear for me. It took a bit for me to sort out which plug ins could co-exist peacefully within the new framework.

However, I just upgraded to WordPress 2.5 and the only plug in that didn’t make the transition was the one I used to display online videos inline in blog posts. Since WP 2.5 offers that feature as part of the “standard” package…. it’s not a great loss.

If you’re one of my “people”… ignore the beg message from WordPress asking you to upgrade. Allow me time to make a few test posts on the new system to ensure there aren’t any “hidden” surprises in store.

The administration panel is completely revamped… which means all those video tutorials I created for my people are now obsolete. New video tutorial creation will be filling my early morning hours for the next few weeks.

Definitely not worth migrating to a new platform over!

Moveable Type Takes an Ugly Swing at WordPress

WordPress 2.5 is scheduled for release and the buzz on the web is that the transition is going to be another difficult one.  Like the previous upgrade to the 2.3.x, themes will be broken and plug ins will be rendered useless.  It’s part of the carnage of progress.My blog clients don’t have to worry.  When WordPress 2.5 is released, I’ll go through these steps, work out the kinks and when I upgrade their blogs to 2.5 the only “surprise” in store for them will be whether their chosen theme makes the transition.

However, Daily Blog tips reports Moveable Type has taken a “swing” at WordPress and tried to spin the negative buzz surrounding the upcoming WordPress upgrade into positive growth for their platform.

The biggest problem I can see in the PR war between the two platforms is that it’s been my experience that Six Apart (Moveable Type/Typepad) customers are much less tech savvy than WordPress users... they don’t understand blogging basics such as trackbacks which is an important part of building a successful blog.

So we have two camps in this war… in one corner we have Moveable Type and Typepad users… who don’t understand why turning on trackbacks for each and every post is important.  Their “flagship” blog is sporting an Alexa ranking of 55,035.

In the other corner, we have the tech savvy crowd backing WordPress.   Users in this camp include heavy hitters such as Micheal Arrington of Techcrunch (Alexa  ranking 926)  Darren Rowse of Problogger (Alexa ranking 3,529), Daily Blog Tips (Alexa ranking 14,490) and the Blog Herald (Alexa ranking 33,003)

I know, I know… Alexa is skewed towards the tech savvy user…. which is why it’s a valuable resource in this discussion.

For my non-techy readers… Alexa is a type of traffic spy device provided by Amazon.  You install the toolbar and Alexa tracks your web surfing activities and ranks sites in order from 1 to 10,000,000 + and displays this ranking in the toolbar.  Alexa detractors point out the “regular people” don’t usually have the tool bar installed so results are skewed and instead of displaying the ranking of a site’s traffic, instead the tool bar displays the ranking of a site’s traffic amongst the most tech savvy of web users.

WordpressI’ve already placed my bets on the optimal blogging platform for me and my clients…. because when faced with the choice of a platform backed by the tech savvy and a platform of choice for the “less tech savvy”…. I’m going with the platform with the big guns behind it.

My parents bet on Beta as the format of choice for home video recording more than 25 years ago…. they still have that beta max machine in their basement today.   I didn’t want my clients stuck with the “beta” equivalent of blogging platforms.  Therefore, my choice was influenced by several factors.  First, WordPress has incredible community support.   Combine that strong community support with the caliber of bloggers choosing the platform, and WordPress pulled into the lead.  However, the final “straw” in making my decision was when Template Monster began offering WordPress Themes.    Commercial backing + strong user community = winner in my book.

I know there are other GOOD blogging platforms out there, but rather than be a jack of all trades, master of none… I made what I believed to be the BEST choice for my business.  Speaking of which,  I don’t see Drupal’s developers taking potshots at WordPress.  Instead, they’re heralding the migration of Popular Science Magazine to their platform.  Way to go Drupal!