Care for a beverage? Shaken, Not Stirred
Recently, a client sent me an email asking, "Is there anyway I can get into the back door of my site?" She wanted to send one of her blog posts to a friend. This confused me, as last time I checked her site was online, alive and well. Upon further investigation, I discovered her site was offline, so I inquired if she'd forgotten to renew her hosting or if her domain name had lapsed. She let me know that, due to personal reasons, she'd not been able to renew her hosting account and figured she'd do so whenever the time was right. Sadly, this made me cringe for her, as I realized the client's site had been offline for some time and the likelihood of retrieving her files was slim to none. She had no idea they wouldn't hold them indefinitely.
This is not a new thing and she isn't alone -- we've had several clients over the years abandon their blogs and websites thinking they could just return to them whenever they were able to afford it/had the time/felt like it/the planets aligned. Unfortunately, the internet doesn't work that way -- the companies that manage your website are businesses that need to make money, so they won't hold onto your files or your domain name indefinitely. That would be totally awesome if they did, though!
I thought I'd offer some tips that help explain where your files live, how long they're there and how to prevent the beautiful sites you paid money for from disappearing forever. First, some basics:
Hosting is where your website lives, where the files are kept that make your website a tangible thing. A host runs both shared server space and dedicated server space, but most bloggers and small businesses utilize shared server space. Think of the shared server space like an apartment building. You're renting an apartment in a building and all the furniture in the apartment are your files, graphics, blog posts, etc.
Most of you know this one. A domain name is how people get to your website. So, using the apartment analogy, a domain name is the number on the door of your apartment. There are other domains in that apartment building, but http://www.yourdomainname.com is the one that goes JUST to your apartment. If you live in apartment #3, http://www.apartment3.com is your domain name. You register your domain name through a registrar.
Now, this is where it can get a little confusing, especially for those new to the wonders of the internet: A host can also be a registrar that offers domain names, so you may have a host that is a one-stop shop: hosting and domain in one. You pay to one place, the end. But many people register their domain name with a separate registrar and then assign that domain name through the registrar to the host, where your website files live. So that means you need to maintain two accounts: your domain name through the registrar (renewals, etc.) and your website through the host (where your website files live).
If one or both of these things lapse, either in non-renewal or lack of payment, your website will be unreachable. If left offline long enough, one or both will be deleted (website files) or released into the wild for someone else to purchase (domain names).
With me so far?
Our usual policy is that it's up to the client to maintain backups on their websites and encourage you to do weekly or, at the very least, monthly backups of your website files and database. We do often, especially for Wordpress clients, install a plugin that automatically sends us weekly updates of a client's database just in case and we do keep a backup of the client's themes and files post initial site-launch, but if the client has added any content/photos/plugins since we launched the site, we would not have a backup of that unless the client hired us specifically to do maintenance on their site regularly. Most clients do not choose to do this, though we really recommend it if the're not comfortable backing up their own files.
As mentioned above, do regular backups. REGULAR BACKUPS. Let me say it again -- regular. backups. This means once a week or once a month, you access your files via FTP and download everything to a secure location on your computer or an external hard drive. Also, running a back-up of your database is recommended. This can be scary for clients because the database is usually where all the content lives, so if you delete that, the sky will fall and the earth will shake and you'll probably tinkle and cry a little.
You think I'm kidding.
But most hosts offer weekly backups of databases and files that are simple for you to download in a tidy zipped file. No muss, no fuss. If you have any questions or concerns about this, contact your host and ask how do I download weekly backups of my files and database? They can usually point the way. If they can't, please feel free to drop us an email and we'll be happy to help direct you. Of course, you're always welcome to hire us to do maintenance.
Stay on top of your renewables and make sure your credit cards and contact info on file with your host and registrar are always current. Many times, a registar or host will email you or even snail-mail you -- in fact, they'll usually do it a lot -- reminding you that your credit card is about to expire or your domain name is up for renewal. If you don't have automatic renewal on your domain name and you forget or move and the reminders get lost in the mail or sent to spam, your domain name will lapse and within 72 days, your domain name goes back into the open market for someone else to purchase. You might think that someone won't want http://mamagoatssuperfantastichoofsoftner.com but, once a domain name has been purchased and used, it becomes valuable to someone, even if that someone is just a squatter looking to make a buck off your forgetfulness. So check your domains regularly, check your hosting regularly, and note addresses, expiration dates and credit card info.
This is a biggie. If you decide to stop blogging for a while or not renew your hosting or you're just not feeling it right now, just drop us an email and let us know (preferably before you let your hosting expire or your domain name lapse). We will go in and backup all your files and your database for you for a nominal fee and keep them on file for your triumphant return. Or we can email them to you for your own safekeeping. This way, should you decide to get back on the horse, we'll have all your beautiful files, graphics and posts ready to fire back up again.
We can't do much about your domain name -- that's yours to maintain, but we highly recommend that should you even consider bringing your website back, keep renewing the domain name. It's roughly $10 a year and worth it, unless you want to see some squatter selling your domain name for an ungodly amount of money or an adult website in place of your perfectly innocent blog about pickling vegetables.
This is where it gets a bit more complicated.
If your domain name lapsed, and it's within 30 days, you can usually contact the registrar and renew it without issue. If it's beyond 30 days, it may be more difficult, but you'll need to contact the registrar for the details. Beyond 72 days, it's released into the open market. Should someone else have a backorder on your domain, they will have first dibs, but otherwise, you may be able to repurchase your domain name if someone else hasn't already snatched it up.
If it's within 30 days, you can usually contact the host and renew your account or update your credit card to get the site turned back on. Some hosts do have shorter grace periods (like 2 weeks), but most are around 30 days. If it's beyond 30 days, it's quite likely the host has written you off and deleted your account. And much like dropping your keys in a volcano, don't bother going after it because man... it's gone. There's always a chance that the host hasn't gotten around to deleting the files yet, so it's always worth it to ask. When it doubt, ASK. But don't be shocked if it's gone after 30 days.
If this happens, contact us -- we will likely have a backup of your site files and the database we saved from when we launched your site initially. But unless we have a maintenance agreement with you or have database back-ups sent to us weekly, it's unlikely we'll have your most current files. If you've let it lapse longer than 30 days, we can only do our best.
Well, kiddo... that's a bummer. In that case, it's luck of the draw. You won't be able to get your hosting files back, most likely, but there is a chance of getting your domain name again, should it be unique enough that no one else grabbed it. And we may have your initial database and files on tap, but they'll likely need some upgrades and reinstall and all that stuff, which we'd do for a nominal fee. If your domain is gone, though, you'll need to start again or have us modify your existing files for the new name... or just throw in the towel and pour yourself a drink. (Though, I'd have done that when I first noticed my site was down.)
So, the moral of this story is simply this: your files aren't stored online forever in the event you might want them back someday. It's up to you to maintain your website and files, contact info and domain names if you don't wish to hire someone to do that for you. It doesn't have to be time consuming or complicated, just set a monthly or weekly reminder on your calendar to confirm your info is up to date and expiration dates aren't imminent. And should you decide to take a break, let us know so we can back up for your files for posterity.
You won't regret it!
While browsing Pinterest yesterday, I realized that I know a lot of people on there, but not that many people actually use it. I'm not sure if that's because they just don't have time or if they aren't sure what it's for or if they just plain got bored by it. These things happen.
I, on the other hand, think Pinterest can be a lot of fun when it doesn't suck your day into a vortex of quinoa recipes and thinspirational quotes about your thighs. There's a lot of other inspiration to be had on Pinterest, be it fashion or colors, food or fitness, art, photography, home decor, whatever blows your dress up. Sadly, like any hot new thing, Pinterest is both under and over-used by it's pinners, so I thought I'd prepare some helpful tips to new Pinterest users and for clients who may be interested in creating a Pinterest account for their brand.
For those who haven't heard, Pinterest is the hottest new social sharing network online. Or maybe it's in a tie with Instagram, either way, it's popular. (Both are popular enough someone made an internet lovechild called Pinstagram so you can pin Instragram photos, so clearly, there's something to it.)
Pinterest, according to their website:
Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes. Best of all, you can browse pinboards created by other people. Browsing pinboards is a fun way to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests.
You can use it for just about anything you like. Do you collect elephants? Start a pinboard for elephant stuff or if you're into owls, start one of those -- or follow other people's boards about owls. You have no idea how many owl pinboards I've seen. Owls are the new black.
Are you rennovating your house? Start a board to save fabric or wallpaper swatches, dog-ear that chic sofa you saw on that style blog, flag your favorite paint colors.
Are you watching your weight? Do you want to be inspired to roll your tuchus off the couch? There are hundreds of pinboards for delicious healthy cooking and fitness regimens, everything from "you go girl, run the bejeezus out of that race"-type quotes to grain-less cooking to recommended training gear.
Getting hitched? Then Pinterest is for you -- create boards for the big day, for your favorite dresses, for food, invitationand decor ideas. The possibilties are really limitless.
As with anything awesome, there's always something that threatens it's cool factor. True Blood -- one of my favorite shows -- it was so awesome and then...? Werepanthers. Coca-Cola was doing just fine for 81 years, and then New Coke had to screw it all up. Love Boat was a Saturday night staple and then Ted McGinley happened. Someone always has to throw a monkey wrench in the awesome, so here are a few "do's and don'ts" to keep Pinterest on the upswing:
I follow about 75-100 people on Pinterest, but I only see pins from about 10-20 users because my screen often taken up with 20-30 pins in a row from just a handful of users. This in itself isn't awful, but when it's all nail art or all paleo recipes or six rows of nothing but gladiator sandals, my instinct is to unfollow that board... if not all the boards from that person. (Gladiator sandals are grounds for social divorce.)
It's understandable to "get on a kick" when you're surfing online -- you're looking for something specific, so you just start pinning one pair of Ugg Boots after another. That is totally your prerogative -- we're proponents of "do what you want" (though not so much Ugg Boots) -- but if follows are important to you, then consider mixing it up.
If you're are on a kick, it's understandable -- we're all human and I get on them, too. But, perhaps only pin a few "salad in a jar" recipes at a time. Or, if you do post 20 pins in a row, mix it up -- post things from different genres. One of my favorite things to do is go into the "Everything" section -- I often find a nice mix of things that strike my fancy so my pins aren't a wall of LOL Cats and bunny photos (which, I'll admit, is a slippery slope -- I love bunnies!).
People love to be re-pinned. If you see something you like from a friend or even a stranger, feel free to re-pin it. That's what Pinterest is for! It also encourages those you pinned to come check out your stuff, as it sends them a notification when you've pinned someting of theirs. Maybe they'll re-pin your stuff or otherwise connect you with someone else that's into what you're into. You just never know and being social is what social networking is all about.
This is specifically for brands, but applies to personal websites, too. Pinterest has a policy about pinning and sharing your own content on Pinterest, but they really don't enforce it which causes some brands and even owners of personal websites to do a lot of self-promotion. This means if you're a company that sells Whatzits, don't pin every Whatzit you sell on your boards. It's not an online store or your own personal portfolio, it's meant to share things that interest you. If all that interests you is yourself, then Pinterest is not the place for you.
I've followed a few brands that I've since had to unfollow because they pinned every promotional item in their own stream. If I wanted to know what they sold, I'd look at their website. I'm following, say, World Market (*cough*), because I like to shop there and I wonder what inspires the people at World Market... what do they like? I realize that most companies aren't going to want to direct you anywhere but to their own stuff, but again, if that's the case, they shouldn't be using Pinterest.
Look, I realize brands want to market to us -- and I don't mind if I see one or two items from their latest collection in my stream. But when I see 3-6 rows of nothing but outdoor umbrellas and votive candle holders from India, with little price tags in the corner, I am no longer inspired, I'm being sold to. And I, personally, don't use Pinterest for that.
Whole Foods is another that shills a lot of their own stuff, but the way they are doing it right is that they share recipes. They're actually pinning things you can make from products in their store, not just "Buy this olive oil, it's squeezed from rare olives picked on the solstice by nubile Mediterraneans".
I have mixed feelings on this. On one hand, I love the idea of sharing boards with someone else. Kathy and I share two boards: Moxie Dream House and Cocktail Hour. She contributes, I contribute, it's a very tra-la-la experience. However, when brands you follow make a board a "group board", a couple things can happen:
Like I said, Pinterest is a social network, so I don't mind discovering new people, but if I wanted to see hoards of pins from strangers, I'd go look at that "Everything" stream or go look at that board directly.
I can't emphasize this one enough. It's positively maddening to click a photo of a great pair of shoes or a lovely dress only to be taken to:
There are probably always going to be copyright and privacy issues swirling with Pinterest. They recently changed it due to some outcry from the community, so I encourage you to read the terms of service and to read it again whenever they update it. If you are concerned at all with things like copyrights or people using your images without your permission (say you're a photographer), do not pin them to Pinterest.
Given the nature of our business, it's probably no surprise that we, like most web professionals, are Email People™. We have our smartphones attached to us all the time, we eschew actually speaking on the phone and handle 99.9% of our business via email. But, as the internet grows, and more and more previously "unconnected" people join the ranks of users, we realize that some people are just not Email People. I wouldn't call them ludites, per se, but some people feel that the phone is faster -- and it can be, but can also result in unfocused chats, miscommunication or overlooked tasks because it wasn't discussed in the conference call.
So, we like email: it leaves a paper trail, allows us to reference your comments verbatim and like most creative or development professionals, it allows us to focus on work and prioritize communications for specific times during the day. Does this mean we'll never talk to you on the phone? Of course not. If a client wants to talk over the phone, we're more than happy to do so, but email is our preferrred method of communication.
That said, some folks aren't Email People™ because, well, they're simply bad at email. Their emails can be lacking in nuance, tone and common courtesy. We do our best here at Moxie to open emails with a kind greeting, to thank the emailer for their inquiry (should it be their first), to use full sentences and proper punctuation and to show respect for your clients with professional grammar and a writing style that conveys our warm and jovial personalities. We're not dry and we don't expect our clients to be.
But some emails we receive are quite terse, without any pleasantries. It's understood that email is meant to be a "speedy" method of communication, but you don't have to be a jerk about it. We don't need you to sugarcoat it, but it is possible to get your point across in a professional and cordial manner while still maintaining brevity.
We appreciate respectful communication. No need to be overly prim, just please remember that we are business owners and skilled professionals, just like you're a professional at whatever you do. We are not your kid, your neighbor, or, despite some misconceptions, your employee. We are experts in what we do or you wouldn't have hired us. We will never accept verbal abuse, unrealistic demands or blatant rudeness.
But we also don't love overly familiar interactions, either. If you're emailing us for the first time, please don't call us "honey" or "sweetums". That actually happened. SWEETUMS. We're not on the pole here, sir.
Of course, none of our clients are like that -- our clients are awesome. Why? Because we will usually ignore emails that are condescending, grossly undervalue our skillset or use netspeak, grammar and punctuation appalling enough to shock a teenager.
This post was inspired by a great article I read this morning called Professional Communication 101 by Mike at BoyInk! He breaks it down much more specifically.
In conclusion, we love email. And we probably will love working with you, too.
So be nice, would ya?
I think I mentioned this once before, but for the last few weeks, I’ve been contributing posts on blog design to BlogHer’s How to Blog Better series. Since some of these posts might be helpful to our clients and readers, I thought I’d toot my horn a little and link them up!
In the coming weeks, I’m going to cover how to create a seamless background pattern, some “do’s and don’ts” in blog design, Twitter background design, best practices for ad placement in design… and, hopefully, more! Is there anything you’d like to know how to do or know more about? I’m open to your ideas! Let me know in the comments here or on Twitter.
Speaking of BlogHer... are you going to BlogHer ‘10 in NYC this August? We are! Kathy and I both will be there and we’d love to meet you. So look for us [in the lounge] or let us know you’ll be there so we can look foryou
. It’s my first trip to New York, so I’m really looking forward to it. Hope to see you!
Just about everyone and their hairdresser’s granny has a Gmail account (Google’s email service). It’s free, it’s web-based so you can access it from anywhere, there are tons of applications that work with it, it (usually) blocks spam like a champ and it holds a boatload of archived email. What’s not to love? We highly recommend Gmail as an email service and if you can get the name you want, it’s a good companion account for bloggers, if for example, you’d like to keep your “real life” email anonymous.
But what if you want to present a more polished web presence? What if you’re using your website or your blog for business? It usually looks more established to send and receive email using your domain name. It carries a bit more grativas. Would you hire a realtor who’s email address was email@example.com (or @gmail.com or @yahoo.com or any other free service). You might, but that realtor would probably appear more “pro” by having an email address like firstname.lastname@example.org, don’t you agree?
Sometimes clients will ask us to forward the emails from their website email (email@example.com) to their free web-based email address. That’s an alright solution, but what happens when you want to respond to that received email? It will come from your @freeservice.com address instead of @yourdomain.com. And that breaks the tone that we set by sending to the domain name to begin with.
Well, you can always check your email using webmail, accessing your email via your web host’s control panel. They generally provide one or more options for reviewing your mail. Again, this is an alright solution, it’s web-based, but… ehhh, the interfaces aren’t that nice and they’re not as robust as using something like a desktop-based email program (or “client”, as they are often called, that lives on your computer as opposed to on the web), say Outlook, Thunderbird or Mail for Macs. But did you know that you can use your trusty Gmail account to act just like one of the usual desktop-based email client? You can check your Gmail and send/receive your domain email all in one convenient web-based location. No matter where you are, if there’s an internet connection, you can access your email (especially handy if you’re in a serious relationship with your iPhone or Blackberry).
Follow the steps below to make your Gmail account do more than just receive chain mail and jokes about kittens from your Aunt Edith.
You can sign up here. Pick a name that you like or that corresponds to your business or use your own name if you want. Whatever blows your dress up.
We can’t account for every web host’s mail set-up, so we recommend contacting your host directly if you have any questions about this. But usually, you login to your host’s control panel and find the ‘email’ section. If your email account is not already set up, go ahead and do so and make sure to write down your password, especially if they randomly assign one using a bunch of crazy numbers and characters. You’ll never remember that and you’ll need it later on. If you’re allowed to choose your password, go with something you’ll remember, but be sure to keep it secure.
This information is usually provided when you initially sign up with your host. Again, contact your host directly to get this information if you’re unsure. It’s usually something simple like mail.yourdomain.com. You will also need the SMTP information from your host; usually it’s the same as the mailserver information: mail.yourdomain.com, but your host may have something specific that pertains to their servers, so be sure to ask.
This is where the magic happens. I’ll bullet-point things to keep it straightforward. I could yap all day.
The “POP Server” field may automatically fill in the logical choice as mentioned above (mail.yourdomain.com), but if yours is something different, enter the correct information in that field. You probably will not need to change the “Port” drop-down unless instructed by your host. You can choose to leave a copy of the emails you retrieve on the server for safekeeping, but Gmail has so much server space, we generally don’t check this option. We also don’t usually check “retrieve mail on a secure connection”, as many hosts don’t support this option by default. You can choose to label your incoming messages from your particular domain account or any other label you like to help sort and organize your domain email from your regular Gmail. And, if you so desire, you can immediately archive your mail and skip the inbox entirely, though we don’t recommend this unless you’re a power user and know what you’re doing. You wouldn’t want to miss something important; you can always archive it with one-click later on.
That’s it! Ok, so it seems like a lot of steps, but once you see the ‘wizard’, you’ll see it only takes a few minutes assuming you have all the information you need at the ready.
If you get stuck or you need further trouble shooting, here are some reference links:
We hope this helps! Happy Gmailing!
Ok, so it's not really a magazine. It's barely even a newsletter. "Low-volume" is an understatement. We save the mailing list for the really exclusive stuff or the really BIG stuff. So, you can feel confident signing up without fear of us flooding your inbox.
We may be bijou, but we're the cat's pajamas, so we're only able to accept a limited number of projects per season. We encourage you to submit your inquiry early.
Joelle is available for projects starting in Fall & Winter 2014 and beyond.
Kathy is on hiatus and no longer accepting projects.
Oops! We ran out of vacation time over the holidays and it's time to get back to our clients. This section is still in progress, but it will be finished very soon.