4 Life Saving Lessons On How To Avoid Your Blog Being Taken Prisoner

Posted on /by Natalie Sisson/ in Business Tools, Social Media / 20 comments

You may ask `Why the dramatic headline Natalie?’ and I would respond with this.

I don’t EVER want to go through what I did back in December of 2010 when I went through 48+ hours of nerve-wracking, frustrating, technically challenging, completely disempowering crap.

Even more important I don’t want YOU to ever have this same experience. So please make sure you read this full post, whether your business is purely online or not.

Forbidden To Access My Own Blog

On this particular Sunday I visited my website to read this  `forbidden access’.

Imagine rocking up to your office and seeing this sign on the main door and then trying to open the door with your key and finding you’ve been locked out – permanently and all our intellectual property lies behind that door.

Scary right? Next up I received an email that said this:

Hello Natalie,

As you probably aware, here at Just Host we proactively monitor all our servers to ensure that our clients websites are loading as fast as possible at all times. During this routine monitoring we have found that your account is utilizing an excessive amount of system resources, and we have been forced to suspend your site as per our terms and conditions ‘10% CPU Policy’

For your reference, here is a copy of your usage report:
Top Process %CPU 57.0
Top Process %CPU 46.0
Top Process %CPU 39.0

No warning nothing. Just a suspension as I highlighted in yellow– and with it my entire business stopped dead in its tracks.  I suddenly had no access to my WordPress Account. If you visited my website it now said `Suspended’ and other dire words that don’t exactly illicit trust from a visitor.

Key point: It pays to read terms and conditions.

What’s more my good friend Natalie MacNeil had just sent out her newsletter to thousands of women entrepreneurs telling them about my Ultimate Toolkit eBook.  Who knows how many potential buyers and more importantly, new members to my community I lost as a result of being suspended.

Emails, tweets, messages started flooding in – all asking where my site was. It felt like my world was crashing around me.

And yet I was powerless to do anything about it because I did not have a back up plan or files in place.

Yes with the redesign of my blog in December my backup plugin had been disabled and I had not checked to enable it again. Until JustHost answered my email and let me access my Control Panel on my hosting account I could really do very little.

Two hours later they did, perhaps because I called their support abysmal. The minute I had access my friend (a lifesaver throughout this whole process) helped me complete a back up of my entire WordPress database – can you imagine how big that file was and how long that took with the speed of internet in Argentina?

Meantime I was busy transferring domain nameservers from GoDaddy to direct to HostGator (a hosting company I’ve had my personal blog running on for over a year).

It’s time like these when you realize how confusing some of these sites are and how many details have to be changed, updated, transferred and downloaded in order to work. If you asked me to tell you the steps it took to get the blog resurrected and completely backed up I could not actually tell you.

What’s more at 3am in the morning none of this is appealing to deal with at all!

What I can tell you is this:

It’s now Tuesday afternoon and the following has happened:

  • 8072 files from my database have been uploaded, close to 200MB of data
  • 6724 email messages have been saved in natalie@suitcaseentrepreneur.com!
  • My temporary redirect to a page I created out of sheer desperation on my personal blog has been removed so that people can land back here
  • I can access WordPress backend again and that’s the best feeling in the world
  • My domain nameservers now point to HostGator (in simple speak my website URL is handled by them) and I now host my blog with them and have upgraded to a better plan.
  • I’ve created a new email account and am now receiving emails to my Natalie@suitcaseentrepreneur.com address again (although I know I’ve lost some so if you haven’t heard from me please resend)
  • I’ve been dealing with terms like this for the last 24 hours CGI scripts, FTP sites, MySQL queries, Backup Wizards, Domain Forwarding and registration, encrypting, decrypting, support tickets, live chat, temporary servers…. Well you get the gist.
  • Many things are still not right on this blog – you can likely spot them – whole pages have disappeared and I’m still working on that

The real gem? 1 minute after my blog went up again early evening on Monday, JustHost emailed me to tell me they have unsuspended my account!

What can you learn from this?

While I may extol the benefits of running a virtual business from anywhere this whole experience made me realize how crucial it is to protect your assets, your intellectual property and to make sure that you put your trust in the right companies.

I’ll be taking the time over the next month to focus on all the elements of running a successful online business in a special series! For now I’d like you to ask yourself the following important questions:

Are all your passwords protected in a secure online location that you can access anytime?

Both you and I know that it can be really hard to keep track of all the passwords we are creating on a weekly basis for new services and sites we’re signing up to. While I’ve always been organized keeping these in a secure password protected excel file I’ve found a much better solution.

Solution: Use LastPass to safely store all your passwords and have this program remember your logins for each site you visit so you don’t need to constantly hit `Remind me of my password’. It’s changed my life. It synchronizes across computers too and at any time you can visit all your sites and change any details plus you can categorize them according to your business area, for example I have Blog, Social Media, Travel

Are all your documents and files on your computer and those of others backed up nightly?

I bought a 200GB external hardrive back when I was in the US and enroute to Argentina and backed up all my files. I set that up to run routinely on a Sunday night for a full computer back up. Before that I would have essentially lost everything had my laptop been stolen or crashed.

Solution: By a hardrive or better yet use DropBox or Amazon Simple Storage Services to back up and store your files in the cloud on a regular basis, safely and securely.

Do you have a back up of any databases you own?

If you’re a WordPress user and adding new content every day, uploading images and installing plugins then you better be backing it up. I was until the redesign of my site in December when all my plugins were disabled and added back in one at time to make sure I was using the best ones. What I now know is I need to delete all unused plugins as they take up valuable storage space. Plus I need to reinstall WordPress EZ Backup.

Solution: Install the free WordPress EZ Backup Plugin to have your database emailed to you every night. Or use WPB2D that backs up your database straight to Dropbox – it’s very simple. There are many other solutions but I like this for its simplicity. For contact databases and such make sure you do a regular download to CSV (comma separated value file) and store this in the cloud too.

Do you do your research?

While I pride myself on researching companies I choose to work with and tools I use (hell I wrote the definitive book on the best tools to use by this very methodolgy) I think when you do your own due diligence it’s best to do your own reviews and to ask your trusted peers for their own personal experience with the products and services you want to use. Since posting about my experience on social networks I received several replies from people who had received the same message and threat to force them to upgrade.

Solution: Google the terms `What is the best company for XXXX’ as well as `Who has the top customer service for XXXX’ to make sure you get the full picture. Check the date of the review and make sure it’s current. If it’s a really big investment hang out on key forums you find through your search and ask the right questions. Finally read the fine print – anything that’s free or unlimited and extraordinarily cheap will have rigid terms and conditions that will come back and bite you in the future.

What are you doing today to ensure you’re protected from any unforeseen small business disasters?