You may remember that we recently lost several weeks' worth of content here at All Freelance Writing. There was apparently a problem with database backups that began after our recent server move that caused the database backups to be incomplete and impossible to restore. While this wasn't an ideal way to discover that issue, fortunately we had another way to retrieve the last few weeks' content. It was our RSS feed that saved the day.
Let's take a look at the two RSS-related tools that allowed me to access the deleted content for a manual restoration -- tools that might save your site too should anything similar ever happen to you.
Email RSS Subscriptions
Quite a while ago I wrote an article here about bad blogger behavior, such as when bloggers delete their posts to hide things they've said in the past (such as taking on sponsorships from sites they used to speak out against or after changing their mind about an important issue when they don't want to explain why their position changed). I pointed out that those bloggers are never quite as stealth as they think they are. Why? Because everyone subscribing to their blog via email still potentially has a record of those deleted posts. Once they show up in your inbox, deleting the content from a blog doesn't make it go away entirely.
That same thing can be used to help you find old archived content after a server or database failure to bridge the gap between your last backup and the freshest content added to your site. I'd suggest setting up a separate email address solely for subscribing to your blogs so the subscriptions can be a true archive and not litter your inbox on a regular basis. Or you can filter those emails into a separate folder if you don't want to manage a new email account.
If you subscribe to your own sites via email and keep those emails rather than deleting them (or at least the most recent ones to cover gaps between backups), then you can simply copy / paste your newest posts from your inbox should you lose them for any reason.
You can do something similar with Google Reader. If you subscribe to your own blogs using that tool, the posts won't disappear as soon as the on-site content is inaccessible. It's still archived in your feed reader (other feed readers might be equally effective, but Google Reader happens to be the one I use).
While I haven't been able to restore all comments from the crash period here yet, I also have access to those via my reader, because I subscribed to the comment feed as well. I highly recommend subscribing not only to your posts, but to any other content areas you may have on your site (comments, job board listings, and forum posts to give you some possible examples from this site).
Your feed reader can do much more than keep you up to date on the latest posts from your favorite websites. It might also save your ass if a tech disaster strikes. Are you subscribing to your own feeds? If not, now might be a good time to start.
Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. She began writing for clients in 1999 and started her first blog in 2004.
She owns 3 Beat Media - a publishing and client services company which operates All Indie Writers as well as several other websites and blogs including The Busy Author's Guide and BizAmmo. Jenn comes from a background in online PR and social media consulting, having owned a small PR firm for several years before choosing to pursue a full-time writing and publishing career.
Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names in the areas of children's fiction, mysteries, and horror fiction. Jenn is an active member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and currently serves as the organization's Assistant Coordinator of Promotions and Social Media.
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