Recovering a website is a bit like roaming a beach with pieces of ice washed up on it.
Well, from destruction comes creation. After a disastrous experience with previous web hosting service, I have gone through the painful and time-consuming process of moving everything to a new service. I thought I would share some of the interesting things I learned from this experience. I use WordPress for my site, but these comments should apply to almost all types of website.
Don’t trust your backup plugin. I was using one which failed to create usable backups. For WordPress, this means backup up the actual website files AND the database itself. The best solution is if your hosting service does this for you.
Your hosting support is one of THE most critical services they provide. My previous service turned out to be terrible with support, confused about how to deliver it, and by the time I finally reached someone who could help, they had deleted all the database backups. I discovered that I can swear coherently in more than 12 languages. It became an obvious choice to leave at this point.
The Way Back Machine (https://archive.org/web/) is a fantastic resource, which is not known by many people. I have used it for tracking websites infringing on work. If they take it down and play innocent, I can show when they put it up and when they removed it.
It’s also an excellent source for recovering text and appearance for pages and blog posts.
Unfortunately, you cannot directly restore a website from the Way Back Machine, but you can ask for an archive file, which is sent to a recovery service. I did this, and they created a custom theme and recovered almost all of the site. This customization can create no end of problems if you try to change the theme, but it gets you back on the air with a fully functional site again.
Significant effort went into reviewing and selecting my new hosting service. Considering the widespread use of websites, I expected this to be an easier process. I’m a rather technical person, so I was looking for solutions that saved me time and effort rather than something I could not do myself.
The first thing I did was write down my requirements for a website. It’s easy to get lost in the options and lose sight of the objective. This list kept me focused more than anything else. I have no desire to write code and no interest in having to read HTML Any solution that forced me to become a developer was discarded.
Given the wealth of themes available, WordPress became my platform of choice. The challenge of themes is many of them are very similar to each other. Although I have selected a new theme, the search continues. Luckily changing themes is very straightforward.
From the chaos and destruction of this experience, several positive things have come from it.
- Rebuilding my website has created the opportunity to rethink how I was presenting my work and using my blog.
- Rebuilding galleries had (and has) me revisiting old work with fresh eyes. I am now happily exploring some ignored parts of my Lightroom archive.
- I am still looking for a gallery plugin that is both simple to use, reflexive, and easy for users to navigate. This requirement has turned out to be hard than expected with nothing meeting my requirements completely. I’d be interested in hearing what other WordPress users has learned here.
- Focus on the work, not the site. I want a very simple design that shows my work in the most direct manner possible. Too many themes, seem to want to show off their code while I want them to get out of the way.