Normally, my first blog post of the month is our State of the Blog Report.
I realized as I was writing it this time, however, that the Blog Stuff Section of my State of the Blog November 2017 report was really its own post. You know, when I got over 1000 words.
November is the month the blog broke, and I had to fix it. I thought I’d share how yes, even a clueless user like me can fix my website.
The Blog Breaks
We wrote a whopping two articles last month, and one of them was Jon’s tale of installing our programmable thermostat.
There’s not much of an excuse. Sure, Little Bit was home on her three-week break, and I had some classes for my tax prep gig to take. We went out of town a couple of days for Thanksgiving. Still, I had time to write…but I didn’t.
I just didn’t feel like I had much to say this month until last Monday. I sat down to write a post on middle-aged feelings, ready to say something profound.
However, I couldn’t get into the website. At all.
Huh. I went to my web host, Hostgator, and there was some maintenance going on. I didn’t think it was on my server, but I wasn’t 100% certain. Crossing my fingers, I figured I’d wait it out. And then Little Bit wanted to play Sonic, and I never got back to the computer that day.
Tuesday, I logged on, and again, my site was down. Crossed fingers hadn’t worked. By now, I’d figured out that it was the site, and not the server. I was getting an error code about a quiz plugin that I used for three posts, so that was the likely culprit. Now I just had to figure out how to fix it.
I had signed up for a Vaultpress subscription last year as part of the Ultimate Blogger’s Toolkit, and although I hadn’t gotten the toolkit this year, I had renewed the Vaultpress subscription.
That at least meant that I had multiple recent backups. I just had to figure how far I needed to go back.
Now, I knew that Jon had answered comments on the 20th. I had logged in to the site without problems on the 23rd. So I checked the time stamp on the backup for the 23rd (2:30 am) and hit restore.
It didn’t work.
Getting Sidetracked by a Birthday
Okay. I knew the easy method wasn’t going to restore the website. Fixing the site was going to take research, time, and trial and error.
But first, about those middle-aged feelings that I wanted to write about…Yeah, last week I hit the big Half Century mark. Five-Oh. Fifty.
I had hinted, no, baldly stated that I wanted to take an epic trip for my fiftieth birthday. Vegas, or New Orleans, or some other fun place I’d never visited.
That didn’t happen. Family happenings were such that Jon wanted to stick close by in case he was needed.
But Jon did declare that we would have a week-long celebration of Emily’s Birthday this year. So in addition to getting an awesome shiny new Kindle 10, I got various treats throughout the week. The week’s events included, among other things,
- a bonfire night
- a trip to Trader Joe’s (this is a rare treat these days)
- a washed car
- Christmas Lattes
- a new FitBit from my dad to replace the broken one
- dinner out at my favorite Mexican restaurant, complete with margarita
- Irish coffee
- a viewing of Coco
- a hike and various family walks
- cake and ice cream
- Chinese takeout night
So while it wasn’t the vacation of my dreams, it was a pretty awesome birthday week. However, all that fun was time-consuming, and it all corresponded with the dead website.
The one thing I needed to fix the website (four or five uninterrupted hours in front of the computer) was in short supply.
On Thursday, I finally got a little break in the action to deal with the website.
I am hardly a website expert. I use the easy method whenever possible, and I haven’t really done much on the server side with WordPress since I set up the site two and a half years ago.
So imagine my consternation when I realized that not only did I need to reinstall WordPress from scratch, but also that the “easy install” option on my web host did not work any better for me than the easy restore button in Vaultpress.
I renamed various files within the public HTML folder. No dice. I tried setting up a new SQL database. Nope. No adjustment seemed to allow the easy installation option to work.
The manual installation then.
I downloaded a clean WordPress file and looked at the instructions. From there, it pretty much went like this:
- Hmm. I don’t have any programs to unzip files on the computer. Search for a decent option. Find and install 7-Zip.
- Oh. I don’t have an FTP program either. Find and install Filezilla (which I’d at least used before.)
- Crap. My name and password don’t connect to Filezilla. Find the initial email from Hostgator with my username and password.
- Um…that password doesn’t work. Reset my CPanel password.
- Connection! Upload the WordPress file into the public HTML file.
- Oops. I forgot to unzip it first. Delete the first upload. Unzip and upload the actual files.
- Upload complete
- Go set up a new MySQL database. With a new user.
Go to the website. Yay. Fresh WordPress, complete with the choose your language option. I used my existing username and password to set up again and logged in.
There we go. Fresh WordPress. One “Hello World” post. Now, how do I use that backup?
Working the Backup
First, I tried the easy restore option again. Nope. Even though my website was now accessible again, I’d forgotten something…Vaultpress had not been installed on the website.
You know, I really need to read these directions more carefully.
I went into my fresh WordPress install and installed the Vaultpress plugin. Then, I went back to Vaultpress to get my registration number. I pasted it into the Vaultpress configuration.
I got a message that the registration was assigned to a different website.
Checking the troubleshooter, I realized I have set up the new site as “www.johnjanedoe.com” instead of “johnjanedoe.com.” Fortunately, I was able to add the “www.” part to my Vaultpress registration. Then, I pasted in the registration key again.
I went back to Vaultpress, found the right day, hit restore and held my breath.
Website is Up, Content is (Mostly) Back
I went back to the website and logged out.
Quickly, I did my first test...I logged in with a different account than the admin account I’d been using. Since I hadn’t added that account in manually before I did the restoration, I figured that would tell me something about how much data had come through.
All my posts seemed to be there. I went to the front end and everything looked back to normal.
I immediately logged out, logged in as admin and disabled the quiz plugin.
If you want to access one of those old quizzes, you’re out of luck for a while. I’ll need to figure some other way of doing them…like setting them up in SurveyMonkey. In the meantime, they’re nonfunctional.
While that’s not optimal, there are approximately 250 other posts that are accessible again.
The Lesson Is…
So there’s my story. Despite feeling utterly clueless most of the time and being tempted to call in someone with more technical skills, I still managed to get my website back up and running with only minimal cussing, fussing, and head pounding.
I should even have a second post this week...I still haven’t updated you on our other November happenings, and I’ll do that on Thursday.
In the meantime, what have I learned?
- You need a backup plan. Preferably one that backs your site up automatically. I can’t imagine how I’d feel if I’d lost 2 and a half years of posts. Well, yes I can. I would have quit then and there. If you don’t have an automatic backup, get one.
- It doesn’t fix itself. Admittedly, I waited to see if the issues on the website would fix themselves. Yeah, that approach never works. I should have just started working on the fixes on Monday
- When doing something you’re uncomfortable with, read the directions thoroughly and carefully. Okay, we learn this in school, and I kept thinking I’d done this. Evidently Not. I kept missing details I needed, probably because I was jumping between windows. I really should have printed out all the directions and troubleshooters I was using, or at least used a separate device for reading the directions.
- Frustrated? Walk Away…for a bit. By Thursday, I felt the need to get the website fixed pretty keenly. But Jon also needed me to run an errand, and I had to finish one last tax prep class. So in the middle of all of my experiments in what wasn’t working, I had to take a three-hour break to get those other things completed. I came back. I looked at the directions again. After taking a deep breath. I did something a little different, and voila, I was on the right track instead of the wrong one.
Have you had to fix your website? What’s your best advice for working out of your comfort zone?
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