Four tips to prevent ginormous website mistakes

Imagine you’ve got a website. You’ve sowed the seeds of careful preparation and work, and you’re reaping the rewards of high traffic and sales from customers.

Then one day the server that hosts your site goes down. Not just a minute but for hours. You’re finally fed up and call the hosting company to discover that all the files for your website are gone.

What would you do if that happened? If you didn’t prepare ahead of time, you’re going to shell out lots of time and money to get your site back up again. Here’s four small tips to help you prevent ginormous mistakes.

Mark your calendar

Some hosting companies, such as the one I use, will email you reminders that charges for hosting and domain registration are due. But some don’t, and you don’t want to discover after the fact that something went wrong with your debit card.

Find out when your hosting and domain registration is due and mark it in your calendar. Make sure you’re alerted a good week in advance. That way, you’ll have time to check the confirm your billing information is correct.

Document critical information

If something goes critically wrong with your website, you need to know the following:

  1. Registrar contact (where you registered your domain name)
  2. Hosting contact (where you store the files that make up your website.)
    • In many cases, you might have registered for a domain and gotten hosting at the same company.
  3. Site Admin login (i.e. the login information for WordPress or whatever content management system you use)
  4. Email passwords. If something goes wrong with your hosting company and you’re using an email address with your domain name, you could temporarily lose email.

Backup your site

Make sure you’re backing up your site.

If you’re using WordPress or another content management system, you should back up two types of information:

  1. Files: These are what runs the website, gives it the appearance and functionality. This also includes images and video, where applicable.
  2. Database: This has the bulk of your data, or content. When you write pages or posts, what you write is likely being stored in the database.

WARNING: Some web hosting offer ‘backup’ plans that don’t backup everything you need. That’s why you need to…

Test your backup

You don’t want to have false assurance, believing that your site is safe, only to discover that your backups don’t work. Make sure you can restore your website completely using a backup within a reasonable amount of time. Document the steps necessary to get it going so when the site does go down, you’re not panicking.

Once good way to test a backup is to install a testing version of your site on your home computer. For my next post, I plan to explain how you can do that and how a testing version can help with your development.

If you have questions, please leave them in the comments below.

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