Independent Thinking Blog

Here’s How to Protect Your Website Before Something Goes Wrong

You might have noticed that I didn’t have a blog post last week. (Or not. That’s okay; you’re reading this one.)

Actually, I didn’t have a website last weekend.

Here’s what happened (and what you can learn from my experience).

First, the white screen of nothingness.

Early Saturday morning I saw an email from my web monitoring company, Sucuri, that there was malware on my site. As I went to fill out a repair ticket, I discovered that my entire website was down. Nothing. Nada. White screen of nothingness.

So before I filled out the repair ticket, I called my hosting company to see if they knew why the entire site was down. They flagged it as malware embedded in lines of code in my custom WordPress theme. Okay, then Sucuri it is.

Not malware! (but, yes, something went wrong).

It turns out the problem was not malware after all (the good news). My hosting company had upgraded my site to PHP 7 (it’s an HTML scripting language, which is not important to understand per se), which usually is a good thing except when it doesn’t play nice with your current WordPress theme. Once Sucuri identified the problem, they installed a backup of my site with an earlier version of PHP (v. 5.4).

On Monday morning my site went back up.

Three takeaways you can apply to your business.

First, a good web hosting company is critical. OneWorldHosting has 24/7 support, so whether I’m calling to make sure I’m using the right FTP log-in information or I need to know how to ask Google to remove the malware tag on my site, I know that help is just a phone call away.

Second, Sucuri is worth its weight in gold. I’ve been paying them to monitor my site since it was hacked three years ago. Think of it as an insurance policy with tech support included.

Third, back up your site. I use Backup Buddy, and it just paid for itself. What kept me completely calm was the knowledge that I had all my files backed up. So even if we couldn’t get my current theme back up, all the pieces were there to build a new site.

You get what you pay for.

This is always true. But people (and companies) can be stupid. Why pay for backup when I can do it myself? (True, but are you?) There’s always a cheaper hosting company or a chance you won’t ever need outside tech support.

I can’t tell you what to prioritize for your business. I can just tell you my weekend was pretty relaxing.

Postscript: As I was getting ready to hit publish on this post I realized that all my WordPress plug-ins had disappeared. After a little aggravation unsuccessfully trying to reinstall a couple, I figured out that my hosting company had disabled them. Another call to OneWorldHosting (and a little back-end work on my part), and they’re back up and running.

Be Careful by Abulic Monkey (Flickr); Feature photo by Stinging Eyes (Flickr).

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