Saturday, 11 February 2017

Blogger's nightmare

While I was writing my Sunday sermon yesterday morning I had a phone call from a worried Owain. He'd got back late last night from a week off in Berlin, and had just got around to checking his music and media blog for the first time in a week, only to discover that the homepage wasn't delivering any content. All his content is hosted on a web server we've been sharing for the past ten years. He needed to check the access details before logging into the server, and it was quicker to ask me than rummage through his paper document hoard. I was soon able to verify the information, and left him to investigate.

Later in the day he came to Cardiff to have supper with friends and called in to leave his overnight bag as he was stopping over to watch the Wales v England rugby match, and have a drink with us first. He was still waiting to hear from his mate who designed and built his website, and set it up for him using WordPress on our shared server. He suspected a broken link to the SQL database, but didn't know how to fix it. I couldn't help him as I never had occasion to learn how to use the software, having used Blogger exclusively since I started in November 2005, so it was a matter of just waiting. I enquired about site  back-ups, and he admitted he didn't really know much about what happened where his own site was concerned, a thought which gave me the horrors.

Owain writes and edits copy for a living, daily uploading stuff to an assortment of sites with  more experience than me of different content management systems. I hired server space for us to share not long after I started blogging, and he's used it more than I have, both of us using the excellent CuteFTP browser based app for server file management. I thought he was better acquainted with back end stuff than I am, but apparently not. 

At the time we got started with the web server, I hadn't checked he knew about backups or made this part of his discipline when it came to managing his own web based publications. So, I feel as if I am partly responsible if this glitch turns into a catastrophic failure, and Owain loses the past three years of blogging output.

Part of my evolution as a computer user meant that twelve years ago, all my data was kept on hardware which lived with me, some of which, if needed on-line, would be 'backed up' to the web server. My, how things have changed with the advent of Cloud based computing in the past five years. I still keep hardware backups of everything, and that's a bit of an effort when Windows 10 with OneDrive is the ever so handy default. I'm still reluctant to entrust my entire digital life to web storage. If things can go wrong they may well do, sooner or later. And there's also the threat of getting hacked, and ransomware attacks out there to insure against as well.

I'm crossing my fingers this'll be easily resolved. It's taught me another lesson about being those who seek my help and advice about computing matters both understand and are properly informed. There are some good aspects of this troublesome situation, however. It's the first time anything has gone wrong for Owain with his blog since he got started. This shows how reliable, easy and user friendly it has become to make and run a custom website. Also, he now has the motivation and need to know more about troubleshooting and tackling server issues when his helpful techie friends are un-contactable. But it's not over until it's over!

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