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Backup/Restore: Web 3.0 Server side

With so many turning to cloud computing with sophisticated CMS based websites, there are times when a very minor error can cascade crippling, or worse a downing your site. I just recovered from a frustrating week while attempting some maintenance on a client’s rather complex Word Press based ecommerce site. Before starting I ran a full server backup for 5 nights as I’ve been down this road before. One can never have too many backups!

Actually I made two errors. #1 was not reading the documentation from the control panel supplier about installing additional Word Press applications. Thus, my first attempt at a new WP install failed. After repeating the same steps several more times in vain I requested a server reboot from the hosting supplier. After completion there was no status change in the additional WP installation. It was still pointing to the same DB.

So it seemed like a good time to restore one of those 5 full server backups. Being diligent I then looked at the documentation for the restore process only to discover that it was CMD line oriented while I was working on the web based panel. After digging and finding a help table, I attempted to restore the system from the most current backup.  There were no Customers in the system so only the Administrator’s web sites needed to be restored, a piece of cake or so I thought.


Errors on the restore log told me the web sites where already there in the panel. The light goes in my head (dimly as it’s 3 AM), looking back at the restore panel, I see an unchecked box marked something like “admin entries” and realize my error. Too late, Ed! Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades! I then try the next backup with both Admin boxes checked but I have corrupted the panel. Time for tech support #1.

I chat with the hosting supplier’s Tech Support agent gets me nowhere. They don’t know about restoring a system from the control panel as they sell another backup product. Now on to the panel supplier’s web site to enter a ticket.

The pain continues

I create a ticket, a lengthy process where requiring  the panel license info and other details to make an incident report. After submitting the report, their system tells me I don’t have a service contract and must prepay $75 pls tax for a single incident. After a brief WTF moment, I pay them gladly thinking that their “front-line” team will be my heroes and resolve this restore issue quickly.

Ha Ha! Bottom line is that 15 emails and 5 days later they finally got the panel and web sites fixed with 3 false starts finally using the 3rd of the 5 backups. The client did agree to reimburse me the incident support fee, but I cannot in good conscience bill them for the time spent AFTER I made that fatal check box error.

The Moral of this tale

If you manage a server or use a cloud backup service for your personal PCs of small biz systems, do not assume that you will be able to restore from  hardware, software, or BUOD (Bad User On Device) errors unless you have:

  1. Multiple Backup Copies
  2. Read the documentation carefully
  3. Made a “Steps” outline for the restore process
  4. Rehearsed all restore steps while not under stress
  5. Actually restored at least part of the system.

I like to make a little “cook book” with notes extracted from often obtusely written documentation. Tools like Evernote and Snagit make it very easy to take a few relevant screen shots of a process and annotate them with some outline steps for future reference. Later tonight I will follow my own advice and update my server cook book with the shots and steps needed to restore from the server control panel backup/restore utility. Now I can get back to my other work!

Copyright © 2013-2014 Edward Martino, PhD. All Rights Reserved.