3 Lessons From an Outage

Everyday Adventures

If you tried to access this, or any of my other, website(s) from Thursday to Sunday morning, you saw a blank screen, potentially an error message, or a directory of, essentially, nothing.

The server my sites are on had some “unplanned downtime.”

Frankly, it would have been tough for this to have come at a worse time for me, as I’d partnered with a friend’s book launch to promote my cocktail design services for corporate clients and the launch party was that night (Thursday). Plus, Friday was my 9 year hosting anniversary with this company. Nine years of being on the web with no significant glitches and this is how we start year ten? Not the best omen, folks.

And, yet, as odd as this situation was–I felt bereft and adrift without my online identity being intact–there is always an opportunity to learn from and experience and a way to be creative within it.

Time to start living my tag-line: better living through creativity? Even in this?


So here are some of the lessons I learned through this downtime:

1. Always have a backup.

A Plan B, a fall-back, a secondary route. In this case, it reminded me that it’d been quite some time since I’d done any sort of manual back-up of my sites. While the content was secure (the databases are on a different server, so at least I wasn’t worried about losing 9 years of posts!), the framework, the custom this and that, and anything not included in a WordPress post or page was potentially lost, worst-case-scenario. I could have rebuilt it, but if I’d had a recent backup, it wouldn’t have been as worrying.

Not that I could have just gone in and uploaded it, for the majority of the outage, anything uploaded would have been overwritten as the backups were reloaded.

But the lesson stands. And I will be taking care of those backups in short order.

2. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

This is not a new lesson, we’ve all heard it in one scenario or another, but it’s not a lesson I really wanted to learn. There’s a very good chance that, had I not complained on the status blog, my Twitter account and sent in a support ticket, I wouldn’t have my site up to write this post as of 8pm EST on Monday night. That’s right, some sites on that server are still down.

I complained, though I tried to be reasonable, and my sites were moved up in the queue. I’m not proud of that, preferring, in most situations, to wait my turn and not rock the boat. Eventually my sites would have been restored, I knew that, I just hated the non-response or the vague updates we were being given.

Sometimes you have to be the squeaky wheel, though, or you’ll never see the change you need.

3. The what-if game is not always counter-productive.

Perhaps more than any other lesson, this was the big one for me. It might sound rather doom-and-gloomy to ask ‘What if my sites don’t come back’ but it was a real learning experience.

For one thing, I realized just how much a part of my creative expression blogging takes up. At times I lost the drive to work on one thing or another because, well, if I couldn’t blog about it, what was the point?

I both cringed and chuckled at the hipster-y sound of that statement both then and now.

But it’s true, blogging is the final step in my creative process. And I like it that way. I like the sharing aspect that blogging affords. Without it, I was a little lost.

So I’d have to rebuild, if the worst happened and my site wasn’t fully restored from back-ups. If I had to rebuild, though, would I do it any differently?

Originally Scraps of Life was going to be what we now think of as a magazine or lifestyle-style blog/website. Different main topics under 1 umbrella (it was not, as many assumed, a nod to my scrapbooking hobby). For the longest time, though, that format was cautioned against and we were urged, as forward-thinking bloggers, to separate and specialize our blog content so that we could better brand and monetize.

For some projects that makes sense (What to Feed Your Raiding Party, as a book and soon-to-be-community site, benefits from its own corner of the web), but if I were to combine the food, cocktail, wedding, and creative blogs, even toss in the webcomics for a touch of humor, all under one domain or another, maybe that would serve the community I’m aiming at all the better.

Even though my sites came back just as I’d left them, Wednesday night, I’m still considering this option.

Maybe the outage was just the kick in the pants I needed to move me out of the status quo.

Any thoughts on this? I’d love to hear them…

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