Tag: wordpress

I Love When It Just Works…

So this summer's "I've taken on too much" project was to set up and maintain a website for my neighborhood's Homeowners Association.  

Our HOA is relatively new (we just elected board members for the first time, earlier this year), and our only web-presence was a really pitiful little link on the property management company's website.  A Google search for the neighborhood only brought up a couple of hits on forums of people asking information about the community, with less-than-coherent responses from other forum members.  I decided that if *I* was moving to the area, I'd want to have a better idea of what was going on in the community and be able to know, in advance, what I was moving into.  So I *urg* volunteered to take on the IT Committee lead role and set up a website.

I wanted something that would be pretty easy to maintain in the long run, so I ended up going with a WordPress based blog for a content management system, hosted on BlueHost (who I also have a personal account with).  Once I found a nice-looking template, I started to cobble things together and ended up with a pretty nice looking product.  I added some other services on here or there and in the course of the past two months, spending probably about 40 hours total of my free time, put together a decent community website with the following:

I've got to give an introductory talk about everything at the annual HOA meeting coming up this Wednesday.  I've still got a few more things I'd like to play around with before everything is *exactly* the way I'd like it, but I'm very happy with the product so far.  Sometimes, when you get things to work just as they should, it's like the clouds part, the sun shines down, and the angelic choir begins to sing (but only in your head).  Now only if I can keep things running this smoothly in the upcoming months, I'll be incredibly happy.

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BlogBackupOnline… Because Really, Who Wants to Lose Their Posts?

Recently, I've been trying out a free online service from Techrigy called BlogBackupOnline.  Up until now, I wouldn't have recommended it for Vox users due to a bug that wouldn't let them back up my posts past a certain date in history.  However, now they've fixed that and I feel comfortable recommending them here on my blog.

What It Is
What BlogBackupOnline claims to be is "an effortless way to backup, restore, and export your blog".  Supporting more than 10 different blog sites (including the big ones of LiveJournal, Vox, Blogger, Movable Type, Typepad, and WordPress), BlogBackupOnline crawls a specified blog for all your posts and comments, and creates a backup on their third-party servers.  Once the blog undergoes one full backup, you can then turn on daily update scans, that will record changes made to your entries, new comments, and back up any entries made from that point on.

How It Works
Once you sign up for a free account (50 Mb storage per account), you can register one or more blogs to be backed up using this "full scan" crawl.  After the scan is completed (took me about 7 minutes for ~200 entries in my blog history), you can enable the daily scans.  From that point on, all the existing entries, are scanned daily for changes and new comments, which are then added to the blog's backup.  New entries are also backed up the same way.

The Backup
Once your entries are backed up, you can go check it out using the dashboard provided at the BlogBackupOnline website.  The "Content" tab shows you all of the individual entries, and selecting any one of them will show you the full HTML backup of that page, as well as all the comments that have been backed up.  Although some people may only want the text portions of their posts backed up, I like having the HTML because it includes all hyperlinks, text formatting, etc.  Plus, if you ever want to restore/transfer your posts in the future, you're probably going to want this info.  There's no way to turn off the backup of all HTML, though, so for now it's like-it-or-lump-it.

Restoring Your Blog
Although BlogBackupOnline claims to restore blogs, there is NO option yet for restoring a Vox blog.  Although this may be due to the nature of the Vox platform, I hope that at one point in the near future, BlogBackupOnline will have a means to restore individual posts or full blogs to Vox blogs.  In the meantime, you can restore/transfer your posts to Blogger, LiveJournal, WordPress, or Windows Live Spaces.  You can, of course, copy/paste an individual entry from the backup into the Vox compose screen, but that defeats the real purpose of the restore feature and would be tiresome for someone with a large number of posts.

Exporting Your Blog
Are you one of those untrusting souls who can't stand not to do it yourself?  You can always export the entire backup's contents to a single .xml file (in RSS 2.0 format) via the export tab on the dashboard.  You can do whatever you like with it, including burning a copy to CD in case you want a hard-copy backup.  (Theoretically, you could try doing a Vox import off of this file if you hosted it somewhere, and see if Vox was able to pull it all in – that might get around the "restore" issue, but I can't vouch that this works.  If someone would like to test this and let me know, I'll update the review to let everyone know how it works.)

Other Features
The dashboard also contains a "log" tab that lets you view status of recent full/daily update scans (helpful, but not necessary unless you're paranoid about ensuring your backups took place).  There is also the option to back up "media files" (currently images), but this doesn't seem to apply to Vox blogs, as checking this box made no change to the backup content of my blog.  With a 50 Mb storage limit, I'm not sure you'd really want to back up media anyways – you might be constantly pushing the limit if you tend to post a lot of photos on your blog.  A better way would be to post your photos on flickr and link to them via Vox, if they're that important to you.

In Summary
BlogBackupOnline provides a quick-and-easy means to back up your blog.  I like the ease of signing up and setting up an account.  Tech support was very courteous and quickly responded when I had issues with my backup, and worked to fix the actual bug I discovered, rather than just putting it on a "to-do list" for a future rev of the site. 

While the site DOES say that "backups are free during the beta period" and gives no indication as to when this beta period will end or what the fees will be after that point, it IS a free service for use right now, and does a good job of doing what it is supposed to do.  At the very least, it provides a modicum of protection for your blog in case of catastrophic loss of posts/comments.  I'd recommend anyone without a backup solution in place currently to look into signing up.  It only takes a couple of minutes of your time, and can't hurt you to try it out.  Because really, who wants to lose their posts?

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