Wipeout!

Operation Wipe-Out

I ran an ‘optimization utility today on this blog, it seemed to go fine in the WordPress Dashboard but then I visited the website and *poof* the entire site of posts, pages, comments and links were gone. It was almost like a brand new WordPress site install.

Of course these optimization utilities always say, ‘back-up your database before proceeding.’ And like reading the iTunes Music Store Terms of Service I ignored it and plowed ahead. Truthfully, I usually do backup the database before doing this kind of operation 99.9% of the time. But this was a 0.1% opportunity to live dangerously.

Of course one of the funny things is that I had just deleted another database backup plugin before destroying the site so I couldn’t use that to restore the database. Actually I could by re-installing the deleted plugin since the back-up directory and files still exist but hey I proceeded to screw things up even more.

Operation Restore

I did still have the plugin utility BackupBuddy installed and I could see that I had a full database backup from December 22, 2014 which included all post changes before this one so I was in luck. Should be easy to restore.

The plugin has a restore wizard and also a button to rollback the database. That rollback thing sounded good so I pressed the button, watched it do it’s magic, watched some progress indicators spin then watched it stop and spit-out an error message that linked to an explanation saying that there was an error and things stopped, not like I didn’t already know that.

Okay, I decide to try again. I hit a link and *boom*. Blank webpage saying, site is unavailable, undergoing maintenance. Both the Dashboard and front page saying this. Can’t go forward, can’t go backwards.

Operation Restore! Part Deux

Okay, this is more serious. Not quite website Chernobyl, more like Three Mile Island. A wrong step could make life difficult but still far from meltdown.

BackupBuddy has a feature that allows you to do a restore, or migration, without using WordPress or needing the Dashboard. Just run a PHP script and voila, your restore begins. I run the script and it asks for a password. Not just any password, it asks for the ImportBuddy password. This is NOT the website password, not the BackupBuddy company password, this is a special password that was created when first installing the plugin. And, get this, there doesn’t seem to be any password recovery system if you don’t remember the password.

Of course I don’t remember the password, nor is it written into any of my password keeper apps. After a bunch of failed attempts, getting locked-out of the login screen, resetting the logs so I can try again I finally guess at the correct password. I guess at it because I have a mnemonic system I used to generate unique passwords and it worked. By the way, I don’t use that system anymore as it’s kind of only medium strength.

Success!

I now had my password, ran through the moderately complicated restore instructions (or very complicated if you’re not used to WordPress or other other database driven websites). Some online unzipping and database building and the website is trasported back six days in time.

So what did we learn kids? Aways back-up your websites. And back-up when you’re doing some kind of optimization or website upgrade, especially if just above the do it button says, ‘back-up your database before proceeding.’

Resources

BackupBuddy – A solid backup plugin/utility. This is a paid app but it’s worth it.
VaultPress – Offsite automatic backup utility that keeps your mission critical site backedup every minute and they even can hold your hand when restoring. Better than BackupBuddy and for extra money they can security scan your site continuously. It’s a paid subscription but it can get you out of a serious jam.

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