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Saturday, 6 February 2016

Sharing Some "Techspertise" — Safeguard Your Stuff!

This little guy keeps
4GB of my "stuff" safe!
With the first month of another year already gone, is it time to get real about adopting some good technology habits?

For example, have you changed any (all) of your passwords?

From December to about mid-February, it's part of my routine — and it's a darn tedious one, believe me — to change all of my various passwords and record them. Doing it is a royal pain but it's one of those things that I could live to regret if I don't make the effort. (How does one keep track of them afterwards? All of my user names, IDs and passwords are stored in a password-protected spreadsheet. It's definitely a "must have" for accessing my various accounts if I walk out onto the street and get hit by a bus.)

If you're a blogger... and this post isn't just about blogging, so don't run away yet... :-)

When was the last time you backed up your blog? Me: Within the past week.

In general, how often do you back up your blog? Me: After completing a post or making significant updates across several posts. There have been days when I've backed up two or three times.

And finally, where are you trusting that backup to be? Me: It's on my computer, as well as on a flash drive... as well as on an external hard drive.

How did your answers compare to mine?

If you're not a blogger, ask yourself the same questions about the important files that you may have, either on your computer or online. Are they protected? Would you care if they disappeared into the internet netherworld, never to be seen again? Are you one of those people who just happily "clouds" everything and assumes it's all good because someone else is taking care of your worries?

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We all know people who have had technology nightmares happen to them. For most folks, photos are often the things that are lost, and that's painful enough. For a blogger, it would be an absolute disaster to lose not only past posts and their associated comments, but posts that are completed and scheduled and those that are in draft mode.

But like most computing disasters, that heartache can be avoided so easily. Take copies of your important stuff and store them in safe places; it's as simple as that. (And if that stuff is password protected, you really do need to change those passwords regularly so that bad folks don't go in and steal or otherwise trash what you have.)

I had originally outlined the steps to back up on Blogger, but since it's already been done so many times, I will defer to those who have come before. (Need a suggestion? Try this ThreadingMyWay post.)

Download your [Blogger] blog to save it on your hard drive...

The resulting XML files from the backup are not the most friendly things to look through, but they contain everything you need to recreate your blog at a certain point in time. Oh, and by the way, I have had occasion to go through the file to retrieve prior versions of posts that mysteriously went missing while I was editing them, so consider yourself lucky if you've never backed up and have never had Blogger do crazy things to you.

Once you have created a backup, take proper precautions by copying those files to some place other than just your computer.

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Copy them to where, you ask?

Small flash drives (with up to 128 GB of storage now; check out this comparison review) are dirt cheap these days. (I purchased my first one around 2002; it was 16 MB and cost $119. Believe me, I am not an "early adopter" when it comes to new technology. The price had come down significantly before I purchased.) One of those can easily meet your backup requirements for blog or personal use. And they don't take up much room in a small fireproof safe.

But of course, the penguin at the top of this post is too cute to hide!

A year and a half ago, I purchased this Western Digital My Passport Ultra 1TB portable hard drive, complete with neoprene carrying case, for $69.99 (I've recently seen it selling for $59 on both sides of the border). For practicality purposes, it replaced a big external hard drive that I have sitting beside my computer. (If a fire tore through my house or if a burglar ransacked the place, that unit sitting beside my computer wouldn't be very safe or useful, would it?) It's so small that it easily fits in a safe.

Tiny in size but large in memory capacity: this holds 1TB...

Interestingly enough, here is a review for it:

Doesn't that strike a chord?

One final suggestion to add to your blog backup routine that doesn't require you to expend much effort: subscribe to your own blog by email. You have a widget along the side of your blog that invites visitors to sign up for your blog, right? (If you don't, you should definitely add one; it's the simplest way for people to follow your blog without signing up for other stuff like Bloglovin, etc.) Anyway, if you do this, you'll get copies of your individual posts — as they go live, of course — delivered to your inbox. How much easier can that be?

And to extend that idea one step further, how about emailing your blog backups (those XML files) to yourself on a regular basis?

The standard Blogger tool to enable following your blog by email...

Speaking of email, how many of you simply assume that your web-based email will forever be free and available to you? I guarantee you that stranger things have happened than for Gmail or Yahoo! or whatever to say one day, "oops, so sorry, but your emails from x number of months ago and back have all gone bye-bye".

I'm fortunate in that I've always used an email client (Eudora), which means that my email archives are already on my computer (and on my backup media). Over the years, however, I've incorporated Gmail into my routine because of its effective spam filtering. I've also gradually let Gmail be the primary keeper of some of my less important emails. With that dependence comes the need for some reassurance, so I have downloaded a backup.

If you've used a free web-based email service since forever, I urge you to look into how to take a backup... check out this post from PC World for how to do so if you use Gmail.

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One final word of advice about anything that is free to use on the internet: there are no guarantees that it will be free tomorrow or accessible forever. (Just a little over a week ago, all of PhotoBucket's servers went down — I use the service to host the slideshow images on my sidebar — and likely gave many users headaches about when it would come back.) If you think about it, this includes services like Crafty's storage services for free (or paid) patterns.

How many of you have purchased patterns that you have never downloaded? Think about it. The money you paid goes to the designer. If Craftsy shuts down unexpectedly, how many patterns will you lose because you never downloaded them? I occasionally take a look through my Craftsy shop and notice that despite having purchased them, people often do not (immediately) download patterns, whether free or paid. If for some reason I decide that I want to remove those patterns, those who have not downloaded them at all would have no access.

Now, I'm not saying that I'm about to do that or that Craftsy is in danger of closing down. My point is that the safest place for any electronic data that you hold dear is on two or more physical devices that you have full control of; i.e., not in "the cloud" or someone's free piece of that cloud.

And now that I'm finished updating this post, I'm off to back up my blog again.

What about you? Did this discussion make you think at all about how your stuff is stored and whether it is safe? Did it spur you to change some habits?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the link back! I might have written that post, but I still don't back up my blog as often as I should. Everything on my computer is automatically backed up every night to two external hard drives and one internal hard drive - overkill maybe. Stops me having to remember as for the blog backup.


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