I am working on getting my older blog posts back on my site. Until I have been able to do that, please read my disaster story…
Like most bloggers out there, my first blogging platform was WordPress. I didn’t have my own domain name, just used the wordpress.com domain which came free with the WordPress account. As my blog developed and I started reading more about the “business” side of blogging, I kept reading articles saying that you really should self-host your blog if you are at all serious about blogging. So in May this year I took the plunge and established isabellelauren.com. I did a LOT of research, but because at the time I didn’t really know any other sex bloggers out there, I had to do all this research on my own. I had no one to advise me or to tell me what to look out for (other than reading the terms and conditions to make sure adult content was allowed). After careful consideration and reading lots of “best hosting companies” lists, I chose to go with Webhost ION.
At first, things were great. It was really easy to set up my website, Webhost ION responded to my queries promptly and I loved having my own website which I could customise and control as I wanted. The webhosting wasn’t the cheapest package out there, but it wasn’t extremely expensive either. Perfect for a blogger just starting out, I thought. I paid for three years’ webhosting to get a bit of a deal and so that I didn’t have to think about webhosting for a long time to come.
Oh, how naive I was! How trusting of the webhosting world! Not even four months after I signed on, Webhost ION disappeared. At first my website was down. I didn’t worry too much, as downtime happens every now and then. When it was still down 24 hours later, I emailed the company. Since their own website was down as well, I emailed their Gmail address. I received a message saying that they were experiencing a major power outage, but that my data was safe and they would send me a back-up soon. I felt so relieved, as stupidly I had only made 1 back-up myself and that was from 3 months ago.
The relief didn’t last long. As the days went on no back-up materialised. After a while, the company stopped responding to my emails. The refund, which they promised to send me, never appeared. The whole company had all been a sham. Not wanting to wait much longer, I decided to take steps to get my website back up, but that in itself proved to be time consuming and frustrating. At least I owned my own website, but as it was registered through the same webhosting company, I had to contact the registry direct to get them to unlock my website for me. Even then I had to threaten to go to ICANN to get them to unlock my website.
The result of all of this is that I have to start all over again. I have lost 3 months’ worth of blog posts, only some of which I have backed up in another format (Word document or email for my blogger spotlights). All the work I did during the Summer 100 Sex Blogger Challenge, all the back links, all the sex toy reviews, flash fiction pieces and thought pieces are all gone. 3 months’ worth of work down the drain. The only positive in all this is that I now have a chance to rewrite my blog posts and in rewriting them, make them even better (small consolation though).
Another positive: you can learn from my horrendous experience. This is my advice:
- Do a LOT of research before self-hosting. Learn about domain names: how they are registered, how you control them, how to transfer your domain to a different hosting service if need be.
- Learn about the different hosting services out there and have a good idea of what you need/want. Read as many reviews as you can: 100% positive reviews is a red flag, as are lots of negative reviews. Ask other bloggers which they would recommend.
- Don’t trust “best web hosting companies” lists. Spaces on those lists are often bought by web hosting companies. Instead, look on Review Hell or Webhosting Talk forum where actual people share their experiences with web hosting companies.
- Investigate the web hosting company you have chosen before you sign up with them. Do a simple WhoIs on them to see who they are and where they are located. See how long they have been in business. Although being in business for a few years does not guarantee they will stay in business, it’s a good indicator they are not a fly by night operation.
- Do not register your domain name with the same company as the hosting company. It may seem convenient at the time (especially if the package includes a free domain name), but if the hosting company disappears or goes down, you can transfer your domain in an instant if it is registered somewhere else.
- Don’t self-host unless you are willing to spend a lot of time on your website. It’s great to have a lot of control over your website, but it also means you are solely responsible if something happens. Even if you use a WordPress plugin you will need to know about how to make a back-up of your website, how to navigate the cPanel, how to upload your back-up if anything happens etc.
- Make back-ups. Depending on how often you blog, make them weekly or monthly (I am planning to make them weekly).
- Don’t sign up for longer than a month in advance, even if you can save a bit of money taking out a longer package. If the web hosting company goes down 4 months into your contract, you can kiss that money goodbye.
- Don’t let your domain name expire. Keep on top of the expiry date so you renew the registration well in time. Nothing worse than losing your domain name.
Starting a blog is great. Taking a blog from the “I am just faffing around” stage to the “I am really going to make this work” stage takes a lot of time and investment. Do I wish I had stayed with WordPress? No, I love the freedom my own domain and hosting provide me. I just wish I had known how much time hosting my own website would take and how vulnerable you are when you self-host. And more than anything I wish I had made regular back-ups.
Now time to get off my ass and rewrite all the lost blog posts.