(And 4 other WordPress horror stories you can avoid only with a comprehensive backup plugin…)

Have you ever experienced the chilling, spine-tingling realisation that your website has been hacked? Or perhaps you’ve lived through the horrible nightmare of seeing your entire website vanish into cyberspace?

Your website is surrounded by unseen threats, lurking in the darkness: hackers, regular security flaws, bad plugins, insecure web hosts and user error could strike at any moment. Unprotected, it could end up maimed, hijacked or even DEAD.

Now, we don’t want to scare you. OK, maybe we do, but there’s a point to all this, and I’m sure you can guess what it is. Yes, make backups!

Take a look at these real-life horror stories, as told by users of the backup plugin, UpdraftPlus before they started making backups. Some of them have a happy ending, but some of them don’t so you should probably cover your eyes…

  1.  “My Web host went Missing In Action!”

“A couple of years’ ago, my Web host went MIA. I had been managing 30+ websites at the time, and although I could still access the websites, I could no longer log in to the hosting control panel.

The rumours I’d heard about the Web host’s financial difficulties turned out to be true; I knew it was just a matter of time before it vanished forever. Unless I acted fast, the websites would be lost in oblivion.

Thankfully, I’d been making regular backups for all of the websites I managed. It took me a whole week to track down all the various domain name details to point everything to new hosting, but transferring the sites using the backups was actually a breeze.

 -John, New Zealand

  1.   “A teenage hacker from Tunisia hijacked the site!”

“I once volunteered to maintain a website for my partner’s friend. It was a laid-back arrangement; she wasn’t paying me, and I didn’t have access to her hosting. I just logged onto WordPress now and again to check everything was OK.

Then one day, it wasn’t. This woman went on her website, only to find that a teenage hacker from Tunisia had hijacked it, putting up a page with a link to his Facebook profile and repurposing the entire website as a Paypal phishing host!

Needless to say, she was horrified and felt a whole spectrum of emotion. She was furious with the hacker, desperate for her website to be up and running again, and cross with herself for not bothering with security or backup measures.

Luckily, and to her immense relief, I had installed a backup plugin on her website whilst doing it on my own. I had to set up her hosting again, because it turned out that the original one had expired but once that was done, restoring her website only took half an hour- compared with the umpteen hours it would have taken to recreate everything from scratch. Without the backup, the situation would have been a disaster!”

-David, New Zealand

  1.      “I thought I was being clever!”

Things went wrong for you the one and only time I thought I was being clever. Last weekend, I decided to have a go at creating a child theme for my already-in-place website.

I tried to speed up my site loading time by en-queuing the three css files that used @import. After a couple of hiccups over incorrect file naming, I managed to get the child theme available for activation in the WordPress admin. I went ahead and activated it and… disaster!

I could see some commends from the functions.php file, but there was no website. It was gone, entirely. I FTP’ed into the website, changed some of the code and refreshed. All I got was an html 500 internal server error. I attempted to remove the Child theme folder completely, but I couldn’t. I tried to change back the Name Server info I’d been playing around with so that it would properly point to my Security provider. I couldn’t even do that.

Because it was Sunday, the Web host hotline was closed and I was left fretting and helpless for the rest of the weekend. On Monday, they told me the Name Server changes that were behind all the problems. They sorted it out, warning me that it might take 48 hours for the website to come back online.

I couldn’t afford to wait. When the site was still down the following day, I asked the Web host to restore a backup- which cost me. My website’s online again now, but I’m kicking myself for trying to be clever and forgetting to use a proper backup.

        Rick, New Zealand

  1.      “The entire website disappeared”

Back in 2014, I’d just about finished setting up a website when I decided to pay a specialist developer/ coder to help create some complicated plugin customisations. I didn’t want to take the risk of doing it myself.

On the fateful day my website disappeared, I was chatting to the coder over Skype. Although he seemed to comprehend written English perfectly well, verbal communication was more of a challenge. He was Indian, and sometimes had trouble understanding my Australian accent.

Speaking as clearly as I could, I explained that I wanted him to remove some redundant directories that were taking up too much space on the web server. I refreshed the browser, and that’s when it started: all the media on my website had vanished.

I told the coder what had happened, and refreshed the browser again. This time, the index.php had gone as well. Panic-stricken, I logged into the server via FTP, only to discover that my entire website had completely disappeared.

My blood pressure was rising fast. I’d toiled over this website for 4 months; to have it all vanish before my very eyes was too much to bare. Heart pounding, I screamed at the coder, “What have done to my website?”

The coder claimed that while we’d been speaking, a hacker had deleted the site; the fact we’d witnessed it was just a coincidence. As he nervously threaded together obvious lies and feeble excuses, I pieced together what must have really happened. I’d asked the coder to delete a couple of redundant directories; he had obviously deleted the entire website instead- by accident, of course, although I wished he would just own up to it.

Ending the Skype call, I was miserable at the prospect of rebuilding my website from scratch. I then remembered that I’d installed a couple of plugins a week or so earlier- was one of them for backups?

I anxiously reinstalled WordPress and searched madly through the WordPress plugin repository to find them. What was the name of that backup plugin again? UpdraftPlus. It was there. Needless to say, I’ll never forget it again.”  

  1.      “Everything I tried only seemed to make things worse”

“The worst thing that ever happened to my WordPress site was all because I wanted to change the theme. My website was up, and it looked good. However, it was lacking some of the features I wanted, so I installed a new theme that had all the latest features, assuming it would be pretty straightforward.

The new plugin required a list of new plugins. I ended up spending many hours modifying the theme and removing and adding plugins; everything had to be updated individually! Having done all of this, disaster struck! My website crashed. And I didn’t have a backup. Everything I tried only seemed to make things worse. You can’t begin to imagine how frustrating it was.”

The moral of these stories is obvious: every website needs a backup. If something strange happens and your site goes AWOL, who you gonna call?

Make sure your horror stories have a happy ending: make sure you install a backup plugin that covers all these horror scenarios like UpdraftPlus Premium.

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