Sunday, the server that hosted Plagiarism Today had a catastrophic failure that prevented it from booting. Though we were able to recover data from it eventually, for a time there was a very real possibility that 13 years of history was wiped out.
Fortunately, I had multiple backups of this site and all of the sites on this server (save one) and was able to restore things relatively quickly.
Still, the story was a lesson on the importance of backups. Plagiarism and copyright infringement hurt creators and can certainly harm their ability to gain an audience or earn a living from their work. However, data loss can actually destroy that work, making it like it never existed at all.
Online, data loss happens for a lot of reasons. Technical failure is a common one but so is hosts and services closing their doors, accounts getting suspended, hacking, or just accidental deletion. In some cases, such as with Photobucket, hosts can just change policies and wipe out millions of images.
So, while we talk about plagiarism and copyright and ways to protect your content, it’s worth an aside to discuss how to protect your work from being destroyed. To do that, we’re going to discuss how to backup your work, wherever it may live today.
(Note: This article was written on March 22, 2018 and all information was accurate as of that date. Obviously, things may change as time progresses.)
WordPress (WordPress.com and Self Hosted)
If you self-host WordPress, there is no shortage of solutions to backup your site including plugins such as UpdraftPlus and BackUpWordPress. UpdraftPlus is especially helpful because it will automatically move your backups to another location, such as your Google Drive.
You may also want to check your host as they likely provide a backup solution as well. For example, if your host uses CPanel, you can backup your entire site through it easily.
If you’re on WordPress.com your options are much more limited. The service provides an export function but it’s mostly aimed at moving you to a different server. Still, you can use this function to periodically download your work.
Medium provides a simple tool to export your content. Simply go to “Account Settings” and click the “Export Content” button. You’ll be provided a zip file with HTML files of your posts and drafts.
Tumblr does not provide a simple backup tool but does offer an API that you can use to move your data to another platform, such as WordPress or Squarespace. Because of this, some set up WordPress blogs to backup their Tumblr blogs.
Squarespace offers an export feature but it is only designed to work with WordPress and, even then, is limited. Still, you can make regular backups of most of your data by going into settings and clicking “Export”.
Wix does not offer a backup feature at this time though it does have the ability to duplicate a site. However, that backup is not complete, especially if you operate a store, and doesn’t help you get the data off of their servers or move it to another location.
Facebook makes it easy to download all of your posts, images and other uploaded content. It works by going to settings and clicking the (rather small) “Download a copy of your Facebook data” link at the bottom. After re-entering your password, Facebook will zip up all of your content and send you an alert when its ready to download.
Please be warned, this file can be very large.
Twitter provides a similar service to Facebook but makes it much more obvious. Simply go to your Twitter account settings on a desktop computer and click the “Request your archive” button. After confirming your email, you should get access to a zip file with all of your Twitter content.
Unfortunately, Instagram doesn’t provide a backup function. While there are third party tools that can do it, none of them are services that I would trust linking here. The best way to backup your Instagram is by backing up your photos before you upload them.
This is especially true since Instagram uses low resolution images, and you’ll likely want to save your full-resolution photos instead.
YouTube (And Other Google Services)
For YouTubers, Google provides a service known as Takeout that allows you to download all of your content. This includes not only your videos, but your subscriptions and other data. It also works with other Google services such as Blogger, Google Photos, Google Pages, Google Drive, etc.)
If you need to download a single video you uploaded, you can do this by going to the Creator Studio, clicking Video Manager and then, after finding the video you want, using the dropdown by the edit button, download the MP4.
Generally, data on mobile phones is automatically backed up to the internet via iCloud and Google Drive respectively. However, you can add extra layers of protection by using Google Photos to automatically upload images online.
While it might seem strange to talk about backups on a blog named Plagiarism Today, the reason is simple. If your content is worth protecting from copyright infringement and plagiarism, it’s worth protecting from being destroyed.
In an era where backups are the easiest and least expensive they’ve ever been, there’s no reason to not backup your site.
Good backups saved this site and may well save yours too.
Please, if you care about your work, backup your stuff today.