This is the kick off to our annual January Blog Challenge: 31 Days To Clean Up Your Blog. What better time than January to sit down and review your blog? Over the 31 days we'll be sharing 31 tips, ideas, and strategies for you to deal with all those pesky maintenance tasks, take steps to grow in the new year and make blogging easier.
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For Day 1 of the 31 Day Blog Cleanup Challenge we're starting with perhaps the most important step you can take for your blogging life, especially if you are on a self-hosted platform like WordPress:
We did that all in caps on purpose.
Back up. Right now. Start the year off with a solid backup of all your files - your computer files, your photo files, your blog files - all of it.
This is the perfect time of year to grab an external hard drive in a Boxing Week sale. Multi terabyte drives are available at very affordable prices - much more affordable than the pain of losing all your files.
You should do this regularly but, very few people do and people pay the price for it every day. Hardware fails, cloud services fail, it happens.
If you have work you do for clients, such as sponsored posts, photography, etc, it's even more crucial. Backup client files to more than one location. For files like photos and documents we like to use a combo of an external hard drive and a cloud storage system like Dropbox to make sure we can always access what we need.
Backing Up Your Blog
If you have a self-hosted blog then you need to make sure you backup your blog files (this applies mostly to WordPress users). You need to back up your database and your theme files. You can do this through a number of plug-ins like BackUp Buddy, UpDraft or JetPack Backups. Check out this article for some other suggestions.
Many reputable web hosts will back up your files regularly but it's a good idea to double check with them and find out what and how often they back up. Some may charge additional fees for this and service levels can vary widely.
If you have a web developer you work with regularly, ask them if they provide daily blog backups as a service. A lot of developers will offer their clients a maintenance package that will include daily backups (database and theme files) plug-in updates, core WordPress updates and even a limited number of special minor programming requests per month.
If you need help with this, ask for recommendations in any on-line blogging communities or forums you participate in. This will give you an idea of who works with bloggers in your niche and what level of service they provide and for how much.
How Often Should You Backup Your Blog and Files?
Easy answer? Depends on what you're ok with losing if your computer or blog were to crash or be hacked right this second.
For computer files, If you do a lot of daily work that you can't afford to lose, then backup daily. If you're ok with losing a week's worth of work, backup weekly. If you've just uploaded all your Christmas photos, backup right now.
You don't need to do a full backup every time - you can just do what's called an "incremental" backup where you backup the most recently changed files.
Blogs are a little different. It's important to have a regular schedule of backing up to protect you in the event of a hack. It can sometimes take days or even weeks after being hacked before you become aware of it. And if you've been backing up all along and not keeping old backups, your backup may well be infected as well.
A good rule of thumb with a blog is to backup once a month and keep each month's backup for a year. Then regularly backup based on your posting schedule and keep those backups a week or two. That way if you do get hacked and don't notice it right away, the likely worst case scenario is you may lose a month of posts to get to a clean set of files.
Speaking of Hacking - Website Security
Having a security monitoring service that can alert you to suspicious activity and help you cleanup in the event of a hacking or cyber attack can offer another layer of pieces of mind. Services like Cloudflare, Sucuri or WordFence (an WordPress plug-in) can all offer an extra level of security. This is another area where a good web developer can help guide you.
It's a good idea to change your passwords regularly. Most of us don't do it often enough. The start of a new year is as good a time as any! Change your passwords on all accounts relevant to your blog - your site log-in, social media accounts, services like Tailwind, Adobe, your email newsletter provider etc.
You should also do this with your personal accounts too!
Data Security & Insurance
Data security also needs to be top of mind. It's very hard in this day an age to avoid collecting some kind of user data - even if it's just with website cookies. But with more and more countries passing data protection and privacy laws it's important that you are compliant.
There are WordPress plug-ins that can help you with this and all major third party service providers (like Mailchimp or ConvertKit) will have tools to help you manage this.
If you have an insurance policy for your blogging business (and yes, more and more bloggers who earn a full time living from their blogs have insurance) you can also get a Cyber Security policy option added on to protect you if you should have a data breach. This can be a good idea if you have a membership site or collect any kind sensitive data from your users (like credit card information or health information).
Going away? Backup. You never know what might happen while you're away - fires, floods, locusts. Backup and leave your external drive in a separate location from your house.
Also ensure that you have a cloud backup just in case you lose a device while traveling. That way if you need to borrow a deveice or replace one quickly while on vacation or on the road for work, you can be back up and running in not time at all.
However you do it or whatever schedule you set yourself, start they year off with a fresh clean backup of all your files. Go do it right now!
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