In case you are one of the people who didn’t email me for an explanation, XGW went off-line last Friday morning, May 15. While stories of “being hacked” would be more intriguing and perhaps increase polarization, that didn’t happen. The truth is actually boring — a total disruption of services at the data center we use for our server. We outgrew an individual hosting account long ago and instead lease a server from a place that manages many of them. After a notice of about 9 hours, they attempted a massive move from one location to another which they thought could be accomplished in 7 hours overnight. It turns out, that isn’t possible.
During the down time we moved to a better location and restored from various backups which we keep for just such a scenario. This is the real message you should take from this. While this is true of everyone who uses a computer, we want to send this message specifically to those who are doing important work on the web. Many of our readers have their own sites and, even if they don’t realize it, they add important, sometimes irreplaceable information to various efforts. Work to illustrate the truth of ex-gay issues and organizations, factual analysis of junk science used against equality, hypocrisy by those who wish to make the lives of others harder to live, and personal experience and views from people who live through many of these issues, this and more is held in web sites which are more fragile than one might think.
Take this seriously! You need to have all your information backed up in a format that can be restored from scratch. That doesn’t mean just using the data backup in WordPress or similar. That is important and will back up your words and comments, but none of the images and documents you have uploaded to accompany your posts. Most standard hosting accounts have a control panel, most of them use one called “cPanel” and it has a great backup wizard. You can backup your entire site by using the “Home Directory” backup. This will place all your files from your entire account in a compressed archive and allow you do download it to your own computer. Do it often and keep it safe.
This type of backup will give you everything except the data from your database, the stuff that the WordPress backup saves for example. If you have cPanel, you can also save that information separately by using the same backup process but selecting your database from the MySQL section. Both should be downloaded so you have possession of them yourself.
This is not meant to give you detailed instructions — many systems are different. We simply want to illustrate the issue by saying that, if we had not done this ahead of time and on a regular basis, XGW would be gone. The same could happen for any other site. Do not assume that your host can restore your information. And do not wait another day. Get a backup plan in action and be ready for what will inevitably happen.