Tech Tips: Backing it up

bigstock-the-concept-of-thinking-backg-33314345I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost information in the past.  Most of the time it was pictures, and from unique places from around the world to which I’ll never return (either because I can’t, or have ZERO interest in revisiting).  Some pictures I lost during my frequent moves.  Some I converted to digital so they were easier to store (and less inherent to loss).  Those I would immediately lose when a hard drive failed on my computer.

Then I started backing up.  At first, it was just to a DVD.  As the years went on and technology got better, it was external hard drives (which can still fail, and still get lost, come to find out).  Then came the Network Attached Storage (NAS) which holds Terabytes of information, and has redundant hard drives, but isn’t easily accessible when traveling.  Finally, Cloud storage became more accessible, and most everything gets saved automatically, and is with you wherever you go.

Now we have a blog, and run our own business.  If you’re reading this, chances are you do too.  Do you back up your blog?  Do you pay someone else to make sure it’s backed up regularly?  If your answer is “no” or “I don’t know”, now is a good time to find out.  Because it’s not a matter of if you need a backup, but when you’ll need it.

There are hundreds of settings and thousands of files that go into making your blog work correctly.  All it takes is one corrupt or accidentally deleted file to render your site useless.  Think of the hours you’ve put into building your audience.  Proudly displaying your wares.  Documenting your thoughts.  Sharing your experiences.  Are you willing to part with all that effort?  Can you afford to?

Technician Is Analyzing The Hard DiskEnough doom and gloom.  There are ways to make sure you’re protected.

Your web host should come with a built in backup solution.  For those of you that are self hosted, it will be in your cPanel under Files.  The problem with this method is that it’s not automatic.  You have to remember to generate the backup, and you have to move it somewhere for safe keeping.  Not to mention you have to perform the restore, should it be needed.

There are other, options to be found.  WordPress.org has dozens of backup plugins that can be installed right through WordPress.  Some are free.  Some aren’t.  Some are automatic, saving you hassle of remembering to do it yourself.  There are options that will store your backup to Google Drive, Drop Box, and more.  Whichever you choose, make sure the backup is encrypted where it’s stored.  This will ensure that your private information stays private.

What do I recommend?  This tech geek pays $9 a month for a plugin that does my backups automatically.  They’re stored encrypted across Amazon’s S3 servers (in the Cloud), virtually guaranteeing that I won’t lose any data.  And if there is a hiccup, I can restore quickly and easily.

Shameless sales pitch:  We include this very same backup service with our Gold and Platinum Maintenance Packages.

Learn from my past mistakes.  Don’t wait until its too late: back it up now.

Tech Tips: Keeping Updated

bigstock-the-concept-of-thinking-backg-33314345These days, it seems that everything needs updates.  Your phone, your computer, and even your TV voice their occasional need for attention.  Sometimes these updates are just performance improvements or content updates.  Most of the time though, they provide security upgrades and enhancements.  In last week’s Tech Tips I talked about the need for secure passwords.  Keeping your blog updated is no less important.

One of the most important settings to check is that WordPress is set to receive security updates automatically.  Click on Dashboard, then Updates, to make sure it’s set correctly.  Don’t worry, this isn’t going to upgrade you to the next major version without asking.  It’s only going to make sure that WordPress is patched if and when security loopholes have been found.

While you’re here, make sure everything else is up-to-date.  Good Wordpress automatic update screenshotplugin and theme developers will fix other potential issues with their products as soon as they find them.  The only way yours will get fixed is if you update.

Finally, make certain you have a good backup of your site before installing any major update.  At a minimum, ensure your database is backed up.  I’ll be covering this in more detail in next week’s Tech Tips, but until then, you may want to check out WP Database Backup.  Don’t forget, our Maintenance Packages also include update monitoring and installation!

*While I don’t recommend it, some hard-core technical bloggers have custom-coded installs that will break if automatic updates occur.  If you want to know how to turn these off, you can check out this article.

Tech Tips: Password Strength & Security

bigstock-the-concept-of-thinking-backg-33314345How many passwords do you have?  Wait, let me rephrase that:  how many websites or applications do you have to enter a into?  “What’s the difference” you might ask.  The difference is huge.

If you have one password (or maybe a couple) that you use for everything, you make a hacker’s job that much easier.  Once they get a password for one login, it’s just a matter of trying the same credentials on other popular websites.  And if all your passwords are the same, it won’t take them long.

Here’s another question:  How strong is your password?  How long will it take a hacker to crack it?  If you really want to find out, head over to Intel’s Password Game.  It will tell you how many days (or years) it would take for a hacker to crack your password, and has tips on how to create a strong password.  Here are some examples:

  • password = 8 characters = 0 seconds to crack
  • [email protected]$$w0rd = 8 characters w/ upper case, lower case, numbers, and special characters = 4 hours to crack
  • sWemybMhuNS3vDrA9t9 = 19 characters w/ upper case, lower case, numbers, and special characters = 144,883,728,284 years to crack

Now, you’re probably thinking “How am I supposed to remember multiple complex 19 character passwords?  There’s no way!”  Unless you’re Rain Man, you’re right.  I personally have over 80 sites that require a username and password to log into.  I’m not always the sharpest tool in the shed, but I’m no slouch either.  I know for a fact I can’t remember that many passwords, let alone think up a unique password for each site.  There was a time when my “little black book” was the one I used to store usernames and passwords in.  Until my dog ate it.

Time to call in the reinforcements.features_3_centralize_your_data

I use a password manager from Marvasol, Inc called LastPass.  It remembers my passwords so I can get on with more important things in life.  I use one complex password that I can remember to secure my vault, and have multifactor authentication enabled by using Google’s Authenticator on my smart phone.  Data is stored in the cloud, protected by 256-bit encryption.  Passwords and sites sync between all my devices (iPhone, iPad, computers, etc) so I never have to worry about forgetting.  The best part? LastPass comes with it’s own password generator, which lets you define the length of the password, and which characters should be included.  That’s how I came up with “sWemybMhuNS3vDrA9t9”.

This isn’t a sales pitch.  You won’t find LastPass in our Affiliates section.  There are other password managers out there that perform the same basic function.  Cnet.com did a review on 6 popular apps, which you can read about here.

Take the time to evaluate your password situation.  If your dog eats your little black book, how much of your life are you going to lose?  Worse yet, if you’re using easy to crack passwords, or the same password on multiple sites, how much are you going to lose to hackers?

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