The Wayback Machine: when the Internet gave you an unfair treatment

If there’s anything more heartbreaking than watching something you’ve spent literally weeks – maybe even years – creating just disappearing down the drain, I’m yet to discover it. While this statement can relate to relationships, video game save files and, I suppose, children, I’m talking about the thing that really matters – your website.

Despite promises to the contrary, a website isn’t necessarily going to go on forever. All it takes is a missed hosting fee, a corrupt line of code or a disagreement with an anonymous organisation of pre-teen hackers and before you know it, everything you’ve worked towards is gone in the blink of an eye.

The key to protecting yourself against something like this is to backup your website regularly and, most importantly of all, in a manner you can control and rely on. Thankfully, the process is relatively painless. With a little experience and a lot of patience, anybody can pick up the know-how when dealing with web management systems.

If you’re one of the 76 million people out there who own a WordPress site, you’ll be relieved to know that the back up process can sometimes be as simple as installing a plugin or arranging for a server backup by your hosting company. Plugins, unfortunately run the risk of becoming corrupted themselves, so may not be the most reliable of options. However, any premium hosting company worth its salt will offer the backup option as part of the initial charge – and can be as simple as a click of a button or shooting a quick email to their customer services department.

For the technically minded, there’s also the option of manually backing up by downloading the site files to your computer using something like FileZilla. Make sure you start with the config.php file, as this holds the database settings and the configuration of your site. After that, you will need to hold onto the wp-content folder that, as the title suggests, contains all the creative content such as blog posts, themes and uploaded media that is the real bread and butter of your site.

This is all well and good, but for those reading who may not have had the foresight to prepare for the catastrophic events that have led to their website disappearing from the internet there is still hope. It’s called the Wayback Machine – the answer to the question: WHY CAN’T THE INTERNET BE NICE TO ME? 😀

If you’re out of options, the Wayback Machine is essentially a scraper bot that is able to access a comprehensive 20 year web archive, pulling out the relevant pages to allow you to access and restore your website. There are even services that allow you to download a website from the wayback machine. It doesn’t just count for your websites either, one of the coolest things is that you can look back at some of your old favourite sites, too. Fancy playing that one flash game everyone was raving about? Or maybe you’re looking to reference some obscure pop culture reference from way back when – the Wayback Machine is there to help you connect with your past.


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