7 tips to insure your blog against web tsunami

tsunami.jpgThese are practical advices how to insure your WordPress blog. It can be applied to any blogging platform or website.

Insurance is one of the most profitable businesses in the world and something all successful people have in common. And the reason is very simple, for a small fee you protect your big investment against potentially catastrophic events.

Same reasoning can be applied to blogs. You have invested a lot of time and effort to put your blog online, create content and gain readership, but have you thought about protecting that investment? What could happen if your server crashes? During traffic peaks? Hacker attacks?

By following these concrete tips you can prevent lot of unnecessary effort and frustration in the future.

1. Keep WordPress updated

As much as WordPress is reliable and tested platform, dangerous software bugs are discovered every once in while. Last two months, two important patches were released, versions 2.3.1 and 2.3.2, which fix potentially critical vulnerabilities. Last discovered vulnerability was a way for a hacker to read your draft posts! In order to prevent problems like this, it is important to keep your wordpress installation up to date.

Recommendation: WordPress Automatic Update is a plugin that does all the work for you. It features one click automatic upgrade which will upgrade your WordPress Blog to the latest version. I have already used it several times without problems.

2. Keep backup of your database

Your WordPress database contains all your posts, settings and comments and is in fact the heart of your blog. With every other bit lost, only keeping a copy of your database would allow you to replicate your blog. This is why it's critical to save a copy of your database in regular intervals.

Recommendation: Installing WordPress Database Backup plugin and setting it to send updates to your email weekly (or daily if you are frequent blogger) will guarantee you chances of reviving your blog back online. Best thing is all the hard work will be done automatically.

3. Keep backup of your plugins (and themes)

Every plugin you put on your blog is usually a result of careful research and personal preference. Losing the plugins, while not as dramatic as losing all posts, still can set you back a lot of time and effort.

Recommendation: Backing up your plugins and themes folder once in a month (or oftener if you change your plugins more often) will save you potentially a lot of time and effort finding and install the plugins all over again.

4. Never alter WordPress core files

While you might be tempted to change core files of WordPress to get a desired effect, this is particularly unwise thing to do. First reason is you can damage your wordpress installation to the point it is not running your blog correctly anymore. More importantly, when a new WordPress update is out you may forget about changes you did and overwrite them with new version.

Recommendation: To change behavior of your blog, always use external plugins and themes.

5. Prevent access to folders

By default, WordPress will allow anyone to open your wp-content/wp-plugins and wp-themes folders in their browser. This will allow a potential hacker to gain information on themes and plugins you are using, which can further expose you to more dangerous attacks.

Recommendation: Create an empty index.html file and copy it to your wp-themes and wp-plugins folder on your server. This will prevent listing of those folders to potential attackers.

6. Protect against traffic peaks (so called Digg effect)

If you are running popular blog or just wrote a very useful article you may experience a surge of visitors to your site. This is also called Digg effect as it reassembles the event of hitting a front page of Digg. If you are not prepared for it, your hosting server may crash due to excessive CPU and MySQL usage. Your account may also be temporarily disabled and all in the moment when you were about to gain a massive popularity. Surely this is something to think seriously about ahead.

Recommendation #1: Use WP Super Cache plugin, which is the much more advanced ancestor of popular WP Cache. It will make sure your pages are served from cache instead of generated every time a new visitor comes to your site. It works because the content stays the same between two near visits. This will relieve your server of any excessive work load and potentially allow you to survive the Digg effect (at least you did your best!)

Recommendation #2: Bandwidth usage is also something to think about in this situation. You can easily fill your allowed bandwidth quota in which case your account will be again suspended. To prevent this, use lightweight wordpress themes such as Amazing Grace. Reduce the amount of javascripts you use (various plugins may come with external javascript files). Always save your pictures optimized for web (Save for Web option in Photoshop). This will reduce their size and help save the bandwidth. You may also display your images as thumbnails where appropriate.

7. Monitor your server

All above efforts may be in vain if you have chosen a bad hosting. You can monitor the performance of your hosting and decide if it satisfies your requirements. The most important factor of web hosting is called uptime and is a percentage of time (daily, weekly or monthly) that your server was up and serving visitors. So 99% uptime will mean that 99% of the day your server was available. That 1% of downtime represents roughly about 14.5 minutes. 10% of downtime and you are looking at almost two and a half hours of your blog not being available. Most hosting companies will promise 99% uptime but this could vary as you may find out.

Recommendation: Using uptime monitoring services like Monitis (which is free for one site) you are able to precisely monitor your server uptime and have a chat with your hosting company if they do not meet minimum criteria.

Do not forget that purpose of blog insurance is not to impose extra work on you, but to save you from a much greater work in the future in case of undesired events.


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17 Comments

  1. Apr 1st, 2010 12:58 PM

    Great Posting!!
    thanks for your tips.
    this very helps for me..

  2. Sep 14th, 2009 10:45 AM

    I would suggest you to monitor sites with 100pulse.com - free website monitoring service, monitor site uptime and downtime 10 mins interval, instant email alerts, customizable templates... much more added features.

  3. Rajesh
    Aug 26th, 2009 3:41 PM

    for monitoring you can use 100pulse.com which gives free 10 minutes interval

  4. Aug 3rd, 2009 9:21 PM

    good 7 tips man. keep your blog good going.

  5. Apr 7th, 2009 4:10 PM

    hmm... informative :)

  6. Les
    Jul 9th, 2008 12:41 PM

    Excellent tips Vladimir. I had some of the plugins you recommend already. I will now install the others and keep them updated!

  7. Mar 22nd, 2008 9:33 PM

    I have just discover your blog and I must say you tell lots og good tips to insure your blog etc. I´ll will visiting your blog again – keep up the good work, regards Rene.

  8. Jan 27th, 2008 5:33 PM

    An excellent article! Very informative and I will certainly take your advise on many points! Thank you for the links to... I have been looking for recomendations on plugins that auto-upgrade.

    Rich :)

  9. Jan 26th, 2008 2:58 AM

    Excellently-written article. Thank you, especially for the recommendations. Most tip articles just say what you should do, not HOW to do it! Really appreciated.

  10. Jan 25th, 2008 1:30 PM

    Nice article and good advice, thanks very much!

  11. Rhianna
    Jan 23rd, 2008 4:21 AM

    Thanks for the great advice!

  12. Jan 22nd, 2008 1:26 PM

    Awesome Article, really nice recommendations! thank a lot :)

  13. Jan 22nd, 2008 11:08 AM

    Thanks guys, insurance is important.

    Arun: I checked site24x7.com and they give for free 60 minute checking interval. If you want a usable statistics the interval has to be at most 5 minutes. Other then that their service looks to be great.

  14. Jan 22nd, 2008 10:47 AM

    I like this article.. I never thought about insuring a blog or website either. Good idea!

  15. Jan 22nd, 2008 12:54 AM

    Thanks for reminding me of the wp-super-cash plugin. Got a CPU crash today, but, now that I've installed the plugin I hope it would be ok..

  16. Jeanie
    Jan 21st, 2008 7:07 PM

    Very cool article. I never thought about insuring a blog!

  17. Jan 21st, 2008 1:58 PM

    Another uptime monitoring service you can try is site24x7.com . It is free for 2 sites.