I feel I must use a blog to share a lesson I learned this week.   If you like, you might substitute this title for “Excuse the Mess” when looking at this site.

I left for a convention this week – I headed off to the Global Speaker Summit in Vancouver, B.C. on Sunday morning at 5:15am.  Just as I was leaving I was about to turn off my phone and I received an email message from Sucuri to tell me that I had some malware in one of my blogs.  I was a little concerned as it was this one, but quickly dismissed it with a “I’ll have to look at this later”.

When I landed, I proceeded to pick up my messages again and one came from my webhost.  www.sharoncevans.com has been suspended – click here to read the associated message.  Whoa – I am heading to a conference with speakers.  I will likely hand my business card to many people and some might even go to my site.  Maybe.

whoopsIf you are here and things look wonky – chalk it up to “the cobbler’s child has no shoes”.  I got busy, I let things (updates)  lapse.  I thought no big deal, I’ve got backups, I’ll quickly just recover and off I go.  Not so fast – the web host imposed something new on me – I had to rebuild my site and my last backup of the structure of my site was a few months old – I hadn’t changed any of that for quite some time.  I had a 30 day old back up of the data, no problem.

I proceeded to try to do what I always did to get out of it and there was a snag – I have a new Windows 8 laptop and it requires me to download or buy every single little app that usually comes standard, including winzip.  I was using a trial version and the gig was up – time to pay.  So I paid.  Rude awakening when it doesn’t really work properly.  I tried a few things and now it’s about 1am the night before I’m supposed to start my conference.  I give in and give it up to my trusty go-to web developer I employ with other parts of my business.  He’s right there, available – no problem.  I go to sleep thinking it will be nice to wake up and have this all fixed and figure no one from our opening night mixer is going to be looking at this.

I wake up and am horrified to see some bizarre version of the original theme.  I had overpaid some local company hansomely to customize it and it wasn’t there.  As well as some blog posts that weren’t there either.   So fortunately I had my newest little toy with me – a small 1TB backup drive that had all of my wordpress sites backups on it.  I proceeded to site through them and find a few copies.  I skyped with my developer and we determined that he could just take some of the theme files and fix it.  Which one of these two are the child theme he asked?

Lesson #1

If you are going to PAY someone to do some web work for you ESPECIALLY customization of a WordPress theme, insist they create a child theme and ask them/pay them to document what EXACTLY they did and which files the customizations are in.  Even better yet, pay them to give you a “recovery checklist” if you have to reinstall WordPress.   Most web designers won’t do this, and even when you do ask, you’ll get some vague answer.  They want you to ONLY use them again and rely on them for the rest of your site life.  Or not, but it’s not their problem, right – it’s yours.

Lesson #2

Take some snapshots/screen shots of your site.  Even if you have backups you might not remember exactly what went where and the developer who’s helping you definitely doesn’t know unless they’ve been with you a long time.  Backups aren’t enough – keep a log of what is where and take local companies.  I currently use a host that I paid to have extra service for backups – I found out the hard way they only keep 3 days worth of data around – seriously? Oh yes, Sharon – this isn’t corporate – this is cheap hosting world.  If you are doing a lot of posting or changes, make sure you take a fresh backup of your database and for each menu change or structural change – take a new FTP copy of the entire site.

In summary – if you are reading this and it’s all Greek – don’t worry – just cut and paste it and send it to whomever is taking care of your site and ask how you are protected against these two errors.  I relied on knowledge that was old and some expectations – in the many years I’ve been using WordPress, I’ve never been unable to recover.

Today I’d like to ask you to EXCUSE THE MESS, and I look forward to seeking my drives for copies of the content that used to be here so if you come looking for something that you saw awhile ago, you can see see it, download from the page, or enjoy what’s new.  I think I’ll take the time to redesign this site as it’s starting to get a little old anyways.

It was nice meeting you at the conference – come back soon 🙂