What Can You Do if Restoring Your WordPress Backup Doesn’t Work?

by Sherryl Perry on November 10, 2011

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Last Saturday afternoon, around 3:30, my Thesis theme for WordPress “broke”.  Suddenly, website visitors started seeing (or not seeing) black text on a black background with no sidebars. Basically, within seconds, my blog became illegible. Why? What had I done and how could I get it back?

Discovering that my WordPress Blog Theme was Broken

Well what I had “done” was go into the design options for my theme and make a very simple change to one setting.  It was such a minor change that I hadn’t made a new backup of my blog. (Oops! – I’m a huge proponent for always backing up your blog before making any changes, no matter how minor.)

I did have backups. What I expected to lose was the most recent comments and replies. I could have lived with that. To my surprise, restoring my SQL database didn’t work. Okay . . . my next step was to restore my entire website (the“ /public_html/” folder). Well, restoring that didn’t work either. So, what next?

Since my blog posts were completely illegible, I temporarily turned on a generic theme. (Even if it wasn’t pretty, at least it would appear that my content was intact and that my blog still existed.) Then, I started tracking down the cause and a solution.

Fixing a “Broken” WordPress Theme

Here are the steps that I took to troubleshoot and rectify the problem:

  1. Deleted my cache using the W3 Total Cache WordPress plug-in that I had installed. (Didn’t work.)
  2. Deactivated and deleted the W3 Total Cache WordPress plug-in that I had installed. (Didn’t work.)
  3. Restored my SQL database using WP-DBManager, my WordPress plug-in for backups. (Didn’t work.)
  4. Restored my entire website using Filezilla, my FTP (File Transfer Protocol) software. (Appeared to fix the problem for a few minutes and reverted to not working.)
  5. Tested a different theme to verify that the problem was with Thesis. (Verified.)
  6. Temporarily activated a generic theme.
  7. Searched the DIY Themes support forum for a solution.
  8. Implemented the solution and reactivated Thesis 1.8.2.

It turns out that the W3 Total Cache plug-in sometimes causes issues if you’re running Thesis 1.8.2 on a WordPress 3.2.1 blog. To be specific, when object cache is enabled. The solution was to re-enter all of the settings on the design options screen in Thesis.

The Importance of Documenting Your Website Design

When I launched my blog in March of 2010, it was a bit of trial and error where I played with fonts and colors and tweaked my design to fit into the brand that I was trying to build. (I was experimenting with blogging at the time and I wasn’t working with a professional graphic designer.)

Not expecting to ever need to recreate my blog design, I didn’t have a formal process for tracking changes. Thankfully, I track almost everything in Excel spreadsheets. So, the information that I needed to recreate my design was documented. It just wasn’t in one place. Plus, I had written it for an older version of Thesis. (This wasn’t going to be fast or pretty.)

Lessons Learned:

  • Restoring backups won’t always be the solution.
  • You never know when you’ll need documentation of something as (seemingly) simple as font sizes, colors and column widths.
  • Being connected to a community of bloggers provides moral support, ideas and is an effective way of being alerted to problems. (Thanks to everyone who contacted me to let me know that I had a problem.)

Bottom-line, my website was in varying stages of “ugly” for approximately 28 hours while I troubleshooted the problem and repaired my WordPress theme. Hopefully, I didn’t lose any new blog readers during that time. In the scheme of things, that’s relatively minor but it still was a wake-up call that no matter how prepared I thought I was, it’s awfully easy to miss something.

Have you run into a similar situation with your website? Have you ever encountered an issue that couldn’t be solved by a simple restore? Do you think you could easily recreate your site if suddenly you lost all the settings for your theme? As for my blog, at the moment, I don’t have a caching plug-in installed. So, I’m also interested in recommendations and opinions. Do you notice that my site is loading slower?

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Sri Varshan
Twitter:
March 14, 2014 at 2:04 am

Hi Sherryl,
I think you have attacked your problem in a brilliant way. You have highlighted two important points in this article for every one of us, first is the documentation. I document each and every change that I apply to my blog, long back I did some changes to my theme files and I couldn’t login into my admin panel 😉 but since I had documented the changes I have been doing it was easy for me to back track and resolve it. Documentation doesn’t have to be made complex, scribbling on a notebook in a way that you understand would be more than suffice.

The second point that I liked in your article is about staying connected to the community of bloggers. Blogging is not just about writing it is also about connecting with people and building relationships. Thanks for sharing your experience with us, have a wonderful day.
Sri Varshan recently posted..Treat Every Blog Post as a Software ProjectMy Profile

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
March 14, 2014 at 3:44 pm

Hi Sri,
It’s always nice to meet someone who feels the same way about the need for documentation. (From the title of the post that you linked to, I suspect we have a technology background in common.)

You’re right. Even scribbling in a notebook can save you hours of work someday. Personally, I use Excel spreadsheets for tracking. (I linked to a post that I wrote about that a while back in case anyone reading this is interested in hearing how I do it.)

Being part of a community of bloggers can be a life saver. We all have our own skill sets and you never know when you’re going to run into a situation where you need help. Even though I was able to solve this dilemma on my own, I once ran into a situation involving an htaccess issue that was driving me nuts. I reached out to someone and in less than 5-minutes, he emailed me the code.

Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us. When you’re documenting something, it can be easy to question whether it’s worth the time. As you’ve attested here, it can save you in the long run.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..Tracking Changes to Your Website Blog and Social Media StrategyMy Profile

Kate May 27, 2012 at 7:39 am

I never realised documenting basic details like font could matter that much. Thank you so much for sharing your lessons – I’m not a techie and things like theme problems have caused me immense frustration in the past! I’ll try to follow your tips 🙂

Regds,
Kate.

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
May 27, 2012 at 10:41 pm

Good luck Kate! I wouldn’t worry so much about the font as I do about things like the colors and column widths. Our website design is very much part of our brand. I realize that sometimes, it’s a good idea to redesign your site but no one wants the redesign to be because something broke! 🙂
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Brigit April 9, 2012 at 3:30 pm

I have just had the exact same thing happen to me. I clicked “Display tagline” in the Design Options, and bang, the whole website was messed up.

However, unlike you, I do not yet have a solution. 🙁

I have had a full restore done from my hosting provider, but no luck. I then read your post, deactivated W3, and then redid the Design Options manually. It just made my website even worse. I am now requesting another restore from the hosting provider. Fingers crossed something works this time.

I have my developer working on it too, but he is just as stumped as I am.

Any tips, please let me know!! I’m desperate!

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
April 9, 2012 at 5:28 pm

Brigit,
I’m sorry to hear you’re still having problems. Here’s the link to the message thread where I found the solution: http://diythemes.com/forums/showthread.php?62231-Wordpress-3.2.1-and-Thesis-1.8. It’s the forum for DIY (the creators of Thesis). If you’re not a member, you’ll have to sign up. I searched high and low before I found that forum. Hopefully, the moderator can help you too.
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Brigit April 10, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Thank-you Sheryl! I don’t know exactly how but my web developer got it fixed. *phew* I won’t be using W3 cache for a while, that’s for sure.

I love your idea of setting up a change tracker. And I am now investigating some solid backup options.

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
April 10, 2012 at 5:51 pm

Hi Brigit,
I’m glad you’re back up and running again. One other lesson I learned is that I should have exported my design options for Thesis. Then, I could have uploaded them. To do this, go into: Thesis > Manage Options. You can download both your site options and your design options. There’s a way to upload them on the right side of the screen. I have never uploaded them before but if I were in a similar situation again, I would definitely try this. One other thought I had is that after my hosting provider restored my SQL database, I backed it up. Even though it was a backup of the broken site, I still could experiment and then by restoring, I’d at least be back to where I was. Then I’d test something else. Nice meeting you and I hope the next time we chat, everything is going smoothly for both of us! 🙂
Sherryl Perry recently posted..How to Ping Your Website Blog and When Not ToMy Profile

Geoff
Twitter:
January 20, 2012 at 9:34 pm

Hi Sherryl, I too have destroyed my blog in seconds with what seemed like an innocuous little change to Thesis. Of course your heart immediately stops.

I went through a similar restoration effort that failed. Then I called my hosting provider. Unknown to me, many providers (even low cost ones) take a full snapshot/backup of your entire site and database once a day. I was able to ask them to go back to the previous morning and restore based on that and the problem was fixed in minutes. I lost a few hours work, but at least I was able to sleep that night. Anyway, the lesson is that calling your hosting provider for help is a viable option too!

BTW- Thanks for stopping by my blog earlier!

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
January 20, 2012 at 10:28 pm

Geoff, I drove my hosting vendor nuts. They do have snapshot/backups and they did restore the one from that morning. (It should have worked because I had just made the change that destroyed my design.)

Restoring the complete site worked for less than 5 minutes. I bugged my vendor to restore my site about three more times. The tech support at my hosting vendor are the ones who told me it had to be some weird sort of caching issue going on. (In between restores, I had removed W3 Total Cache and thought I had cleared all cache humanely possible.)

I finally found the message forum that documented this issue. The head “guru” there insisted that the only solution was to re-enter all of the settings on the design option screen. (I did that and it worked.) No one has ever explained to me why the settings on that screen are not stored in a file that is backed up somewhere.

You’re welcome! I can’t remember exactly how I found your blog but your post about Google rating stars is fantastic. I had never heard of it before. I’ve shared it several places and I will be back to your blog. Actually, I just followed you on Twitter. That’s like leaving breadcrumbs to me. 🙂
Sherryl Perry recently posted..What Impact does Social Media Have on Businesses?My Profile

rich January 20, 2012 at 1:07 am

Wow.
There I was in ignorant bliss, I run a mobile car mechanic business in Kent and have recently started running my own website using w3. My view was to make regular backups and if I encounter any problems just restore it.Today I will document all my settings and coding. Thank you for sharing your experience Sherryl, it could save a lot of time in repairing my site if the worst was to happen in the future.

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
January 20, 2012 at 12:18 pm

You’re welcome Rich. I was very surprised that a restore did not fix the problem. This just goes to prove that you can never have too much documentation. Thanks for taking the time to let me know that you found my post helpful.
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Arjun Rai January 16, 2012 at 4:04 am

It dosent happened with me, I’m having five wordpress site and if it will happen then i know what to do. Thanks for sharing this informative post.

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
January 20, 2012 at 12:17 pm

Good luck Arjun. I really believe the odds of this happening are slim and I truly wouldn’t wish this on anyone. It was frustrating to spend that much time just trying to get back to where I was before.
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Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
January 11, 2012 at 2:19 pm

This was just one of those things. Thankfully, I had the information I needed to recreate the design settings in Thesis but it was definitely a lesson learned here. It also reinforced my strategy to document everything even if I question whether or not I’ll ever need it again.
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Arthur
Twitter:
January 8, 2012 at 5:48 am

My website went the same way at probably the same time as yours. I tried it all to but reverted to Hostgator to re-apply the backup from a week earlier. In the end it was W3 Cache which was the cause. Back up and more backup. I should do it more regularly but don’t (will tonight) and then use Carbonite to backup the files offsite.

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
January 11, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Usually, a restore of a backup does the trick but for some reason, it would not repair this. I don’t understand why the design settings for the Thesis theme are not stored in the SQL database. Even a complete site restore by Rochen Hosting wouldn’t repair my site. I searched and found threads on this issue. The only solution available was to rebuild the design.
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Mark December 12, 2011 at 9:23 am

In the past I had 2 or 3 problems with my wordpress site and the backups were always the solutions. The idea is to not save your backups only from WordPress wp-admin, you need to save your database from phpmyadmin and wp-content, then you can run a fresh install.

Anyway, I didn’t have a problem like yours.

I’m glad you solved your problem and I hope your blog will be always available for visitors. Good luck on everything.

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
December 12, 2011 at 11:16 am

Mark,
Restoring my backup from the“ /public_html/” folder did not work. Do you think that if I had backed up WordPress from phpmyadmin that it would have worked? I cannot figure out what I could have done differently and the only solution I found online was to re-enter all the design settings in Thesis.
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Yehudit Steinberg
Twitter:
December 3, 2011 at 9:12 am

Sheryl,
I’ve had issues with wp3 cache plugin and thesis too.
Finally disconnected the plugin. My site is not that big yet, so thought I’d put off adding any other plugins for now. Rebuilt my site a couple times. Now I have backup buddy. Haven’t had to restore a backup yet. Definitely jittery about breaking my site as it is the heart line for new clients. Thank you for your excel doc tips. I’m going to set up a tracking worksheet and start following your blog. Thanks to John Soares for retweeting your post.
Def having my IT person handle upgrades from now on too. Way too busy to spend a week rebuilding a site.
Yehudit
Yehudit

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
December 3, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Hi Yehudit,
Thanks for letting me know that you found my article helpful. I also appreciate knowing that you found my blog through John Soares.

That’s too bad that you had issues with this plugin too. Plugins can be tricky because they’re programs and you never know when one will conflict with another. I always recommend backing up your blog before updating any plugins (or installing new ones). A spreadsheet that you makes it easier to troubleshoot if you notice something has gone awry. You should be able to recognize any potential “suspects” and deactivate the plugins that possibly could cause the problem.

Good luck with your site! That’s smart that you have an IT person to work with. It probably would not be the best use of your time to perform the tasks that they handle.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..Utilizing Social Media to Build Brand Awareness and AuthorityMy Profile

Trish
Twitter:
November 26, 2011 at 11:44 pm

Sherryl, Oh, this scared the crap out of me. I don’t use Wordpress but my first thought is that I would be lost if something happened to my blog. Learning more about the tech side of it just moved up the priority list for me. I’m a fellow lover of excel spreadsheets and my first order of business will be to put everything I have in my paper file about my blog onto the spreadsheet. (I have to tell you that I started a Klout & Twitter spreadsheet, too, based on your own comments about keeping track of +Ks that way). Again, I am indebted to you for such great info. Thanks!

Trish
http://www.robertssister.com
caregiving. family. advocacy.
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Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 27, 2011 at 11:15 am

Trish, I’m happy that you find my articles helpful. I don’t mean to scar anyone but I do think that sharing personal experiences does make it very real.

I think the odds of something like this happening to you are about 99 to 1 in your favor. I just wanted everyone to know that this sort of stuff does happen. So, the more prepared we can be the better. (Should you ever encounter something like this, you know where to find me.)
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Jayna Locke
Twitter:
November 25, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Thank you for the wake-up call, Sherryl. I’m realizing it is very important not to be complacent about the stability of your Wordpress site, any more than any other data. Off I go to do a backup!
Jayna Locke recently posted..5 Marketing Strategy Ideas for Your Blog | Plus Blog SEO TipsMy Profile

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 25, 2011 at 7:56 pm

Jayna, I was very surprised to find that restoring neither backup worked to restore my design. Thankfully, I’m a little compulsive about tracking what I do. I’m definitely paying more attention to the design settings that I use from now. (Off to create another spreadsheet!)
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Heidi Alberti & Atticus
Twitter:
November 23, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Ok, now this is the stuff nightmares are made of! This hasn’t happened to me on wordpress (yet!) and I appreciate the warning.

Your idea of putting every change into a spreadsheet is inspired! I’m definitely going to do that with any changes from now on.

As always, thanks for your wisdom, Sherryl!

Heidi (& Atticus)

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 23, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Hi Heidi,
I think what happened to me is a rare occurrence. My main reasons for sharing this was to give other bloggers a little insight into the troubleshooting process. As I mentioned in another comment, even though my theme was broken, I backed up my site anyways just in case my attempts to solve the problem created a bigger mess.

Keeping spreadsheets takes time while you’re updating them but they can be invaluable. One of the spreadsheets that I keep is just to track my blog posts. There are certain repetitive steps that I take every time I post (including submitting it to sites that I don’t subscribe my RSS feed to). Every time I publish an article, I copy and paste those steps. Then, I update the post # and title and delete all the dates. As I submit my new article, I’ll track the date and any specific info like the category/topic I’ve submitted it to. This helps me make sure that I don’t forget to submit it to all of the sites too.
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bill austin howe
Twitter:
November 23, 2011 at 3:31 am

Wow Sherryl. I didn’t understand 90% of what you were talking about, but every time I read one of your posts, I feel like I now have an idea of what questions to ask. Thanks so much!

Bill Austin Howe
Austin’s Thoughts

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 23, 2011 at 11:48 am

Bill, You’re welcome. I appreciate your letting me know that my posts are upping your comfort level. Managing your own blog can be challenging for all of us even those of us who have a strong technical background. You can take comfort in the fact that a lot of us are here to help each other. We’re all part of a bigger community. (Starting with our little CD group on Facebook.)
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Steve
Twitter:
November 18, 2011 at 10:20 pm

Hi Sherryl. Don’t publish this one. I really just want to give something back. Please follow this link. http://web-design-sussex-seo.co.uk/friends-allies-knowledge-reputation-business/
Steve recently posted..Friends + Allies = Knowledge, Reputation & BusinessMy Profile

Steve
Twitter:
November 18, 2011 at 2:39 am

As I mentioned in one of your other posts, backing up all the theme files as well as the usual backup process has always kept me safe. However I did make a small change to my theme once and all seemed fine. Several days later I opened up the dreaded Internet Explorer, for whatever reason and found that my sidebar was displaying below the main body. AS a web designer, this was not a good advert and left me wondering if it may have cost me several thousand pounds. So a lesson learned. Not only should you back up when making even the smallest of changes, you should also check that all is OK accross all browsers.
Steve recently posted..Promoting A Local Business On FaceBookMy Profile

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 18, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Steve, I ran into a similar problem with the Share Bar plugin. All was well until someone told me that my share buttons were sitting squarely in the middle of my posts. It turns out that this happens (with the Thesis theme) in Internet Explorer 8. I found other bloggers who had run into the same problem but I could not find a solution. I ended up deleting it and installing the AddToAny plugin instead. Thanks for the reminder.
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Joseph November 17, 2011 at 4:36 pm

I don’t know much how to fix this kind of problem , in case it happens to me. I bookmarked your site to get back.thanks for this tutorial

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 17, 2011 at 6:22 pm

You’re welcome Joseph. If something like this were to happen to you, I think the thing to remember to do first is start documenting it. When did it happen and do you have any idea why? What was the last thing you did? One of the first things that I did was to backup my site even though I knew it was damaged. I noted in my documentation that it was a backup of the “broken” design, so, I wouldn’t ever mistakenly restore it. My logic for making this backup was that if I did go through steps to solve the problem and they didn’t work, I could always go back to this point if I absolutely needed to. Honestly, this is the first time that I’ve run into a problem with a WordPress site and restoring my backup did not work.
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Raj
Twitter:
November 17, 2011 at 11:44 am

Even I have encountered with similar problem once, but luckily my backup helped to rescue from it.. but the tips which you have shared by your own experience helps me to be more cautious.. thanks for the share…

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 17, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Good for you Raj! I was very disappointed that restoring my backup did not solve this. Oh well. Lesson learned.
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Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 17, 2011 at 11:21 am

Hopefully, you’ll never run into a problem with your site Alfred. One of the things to keep in mind is that some hosting companies (like my vendor, RochenHost) perform backups for their clients. That’s a safeguard that you don’t get with some of the less expensive vendors but to me it’s worth the peace of mind to pay a few more dollars each month. (Their backup of my site was more recent than the one that I had.)
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Alfred November 17, 2011 at 4:04 am

Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this. I don’t know what I’ll do if ever my site goes down. It’s a good thing you shared some tips and techniques. Cheers!

vhien November 16, 2011 at 9:47 pm

I’ve started documentation since I’ve been enlightened by one of the article I’ve read. Quite great points there, as it mention how you can handle this kind of situation. But I’m glad to know that you’ve deal with it already. So true, having an online support is like having a savior at all times.

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 17, 2011 at 11:12 am

That’s great that you’ve started keeping documentation Vhien. Like anything else, it becomes a habit. The first time you need that information, you’ll be so relieved to have it at your fingertips.
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Franziska San Pedro
Twitter:
November 16, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Hi Sherryl,

oh no! I hate it when that happens. I am using all those plugins too and I was wondering if they were helpful or not in such a case. Having a messy website for 28h really stinks; I get so mad about it and I won’t rest until it’s solved (but sometimes there is just no quick solution and one needs sleep, too).
I am so glad you got it solved and up and running again. It didn’t feel slower when I opened your blog. I usually save a backup on my computer but I know that it doesn’t include the theme settings, I am wondering if there is a solution? Someone mentioned openhooks, should have a look if that works with the theme I am using.

And yes, online communities are always so supportive, glad I have all of you!

Franziska San Pedro
The Abstract Impressionist Artress

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 17, 2011 at 11:09 am

Hi Franziska,
Thanks for letting me know that my site doesn’t load any slower for you. That’s valuable input.

As for the openhooks plugin, what that does is provide an easy way to make modifications to the CUSTOM_FUNCTIONS.PHP file. It’s a useful plugin but it honestly wasn’t of any use trouble shooting or solving the issue I had with W3TC. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re using Thesis as your theme and you need to modify that file.

I’m glad you’re in my community too!
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Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 16, 2011 at 11:55 am

The Thesis openhooks plug-in is great for making modifications to the custom_functions.php file. I have it installed and it’s useful to add code. However, it was really not of any use as a solution to this problem. Thanks for mentioning it though. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re using Thesis as your theme.
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Clemens November 16, 2011 at 11:29 am

Thanks Sheryll for the hints. I hope I will never have to use them 🙂 But I would now be prepared!

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 16, 2011 at 12:18 pm

You’re welcome Clemens. I hope you don’t need them too.

jewel3000
Twitter:
November 16, 2011 at 9:38 am

That’s crazy, what happened to your site. Glad you were able to get it resolved, but I can imagine the sheer distress you experienced for 28 hours. 🙁

Something peculiar is going on with our writing service site, too, on the heels of our hosting service doing an upgrade. Ugggh, but you give me hope!

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 16, 2011 at 11:59 am

Thanks. If this was an eCommerce site, I would have probably pulled an all-nighter and solved it in less time but since it was the weekend and I don’t get that much traffic on a Sunday, I did take breaks. 🙂

Good luck with your site. If your issues are due to an upgrade by your hosting vendor, hopefully they will be able to solve your problem.
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Dennis Salvatier
Twitter:
November 16, 2011 at 12:25 am

I don’t run a wordpress blog but this is invaluable information. As with anything computer related, we should always have back ups, because you never know. But my question is doesn’t wordpress allow you to save a template of your blog with everything intact? I have an actual dreamweaver file stored away in case this happens.
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Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 16, 2011 at 11:50 am

Dennis,
My backups included the Thesis theme which is the template. I had assumed that the design option settings were being included in one of these backups (either the SQL database or the complete site backup). Apparently the design option settings (number and widths of columns, background colors, font sizes and colors of headings, titles, navigation etc) are not maintained in the css file or some sort of setting file. This may be specific to Thesis and it may work differently with other themes. I honestly don’t know.
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Julie Weishaar
Twitter:
November 15, 2011 at 10:46 pm

Hi Sherryl, my first response after reading your title is “Call Sherryl” 🙂 I feel like I am re-reading what happened to me – almost. And of course, you were there the entire time trying to help me out as always! I am so glad your great blog is back up and running so you can continue to share your knowledge with the rest of us who really need it – like me!
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Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 16, 2011 at 11:43 am

Thanks Julie. I think I would have been more frustrated by your situation than mine because you were depending on someone else. At least I had control of my own situation. Of course, if it reached a point where it was beyond me, I would have asked for more help. Fortunately, by researching the support forums, (which is seeking help) and finding the solution, I was able to solve this myself. Thanks for checking out my blog when I asked.
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Audrey November 15, 2011 at 2:53 pm

It’s very alarming to lose even just a single part of your website because you actually put lots of work on that then a sudden changes will happen. Things that can make you feel that you’re finally back again to zero can be very alarming indeed. I do hope everything will went well.

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 15, 2011 at 3:20 pm

Thanks Audrey. All did end well I believe but I couldn’t help but think that in that short period while my site was down that someone new may have visited my blog and left – never to be seen again. Of course, I tend to look for things to worry about. 🙂
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Audrey November 16, 2011 at 8:54 pm

You have a point there. I must admit that I won’t no longer revisit a blog once I saw that isn’t working. Unless of course I personally know that its really a working blog. But I think there’s a way for you to notify your visitors if you’re down within couple of hours.

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 17, 2011 at 12:45 pm

I did tweet and post on Facebook that my blog was down. Even so, several people didn’t see either and they let me know (which I greatly apprciated). If anyone has any other suggestions on how to get the work out, I’m sure everyone would appreciate them. The other issue that I had was that after my blog was back, some people still saw the cached version of the corrupted design and they had to clear their cache too.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..3 Steps to Protect Your WordPress Blog from HackersMy Profile

Claire November 15, 2011 at 1:23 am

The webhost company should do daily backups, but some only make them weekly and some only to the database. If some files on your server gets corrupted, tough luck. That’s why i do them personally as often as i can, no problems yet with this method.

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 15, 2011 at 10:09 am

Hi Claire,
I do the same thing that you do. My webhost company backs up both my SQL database and my entire site daily. Additionally, I backup my SQL and entire site. Unfortunately, until I ran into this problem, I had never heard that the design option settings for Thesis could be corrupted. My assumption had always been that my design was being backed up. Hopefully, by sharing my experience other bloggers will document their design settings just in case something similar to this happens to them.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..3 Steps to Protect Your WordPress Blog from HackersMy Profile

Doc Sheldon
Twitter:
November 14, 2011 at 11:02 pm

Sherryl, I’ve been using http://ManageWP.com for some time, and it will automatically pull a backup daily, weekly, monthly, as you prefer. A caution though… I’ve heard that there are many “backup” plugins, programs and services, that will deliver a back up file, but that some of them can’t be used to restore from. Not much good to anyone, if that’s the case. I have never tried to restore from my ManageWP backup file, so I have no idea if it works as it should. I’d suggest you find someone that has first-hand experience in such a restoration, before hanging your hat on it.
One that I DO know is fully functional, and quite affordable ($10) is Codeguard. They’ll alert you to any suspicious activity, and always keep up-to-date backups, from which they’ll restore you in minutes, should something happen. Worth checking out.

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 15, 2011 at 10:02 am

Doc, It’s always good to hear about new plugins. I’ll check both of these out (when i get a chance). I like to use plugins with scheduled backups on client sites. Personally, I wouldn’t want to schedule backups on my own site because I might get lax. 🙂 Then again, I know that Rochen is backing up my site too.

I have restored using WP-DBManager and it works like a charm. The problem was that I assumed that the design settings for my Thesis theme would have been in the SQL database or at the very least in my full site backup. I love the Thesis theme and I will continue using it to build WP sites but I will be creating a spreadsheet with the Thesis design options for each site. This is probably something I should have been doing from the beginning but in the sake of saving time, I try not to track too much information. (Maybe you can never track too much.)
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Susan Oakes
Twitter:
November 14, 2011 at 6:27 pm

I never would have though of documenting the changes I make so thanks Sherryl for that sound advice. I am glad you were finally able to get it to work and there are many lessons in this for us non tech people.
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Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 14, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Susan, I didn’t expect to ever need to recreate my theme. If I had, I would have created a separate spreadsheet which would have made the process much easier. I maintain lots of spreadsheets by topics but this info was in one big spreadsheet that I update on a daily basis.

Honestly, part of my incentive for maintaining this particular spreadsheet is that if I ever have one of those days (or weeks) when I ask myself what exactly is it that I accomplished – I can at least look back and see where I spent my time. (That doesn’t always translate to accomplishments but at least it jogs my memory.) This spreadsheet has proven to be valuable on many occasions.
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Anna November 14, 2011 at 9:15 am

This is a serious and very annoying stuff! therefore I always keep a copy. Of course I forgot only one time not to do so – and guess what happened????

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 14, 2011 at 11:50 am

Hi Anna,
What made this experience so challenging is that restoring my backups didn’t solve the problem.
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George
Twitter:
November 13, 2011 at 7:41 pm

I find it always good to have a copy of the file that needs a change. If something goes wrong the old file can be replaced. Also you can rename the original file through FTP before the changes are uploaded so that if anything goes wrong you can delete the uploaded file and rename the old file to the original file name. For design related changes, I find this method is good instead of full backup.

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 13, 2011 at 8:41 pm

George, No one has been able to tell me the name of the “settings” file for the Thesis theme. At this point, I’m not sure if the design settings are even kept in one place. I’m quickly reaching the point where my curiosity is going to force me to do some research on this. On the other hand, common sense is telling me the ROI for educating myself on this doesn’t justify the time I’d spend doing it. 🙂
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Rob Benwell
Twitter:
November 13, 2011 at 5:53 pm

Thanks to you and all of the developers working with wordpress.org I’ve just started my site and you’ve made it possible to progress with such ease. Thank you!

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 13, 2011 at 8:39 pm

Hi Rob,
Good luck with your new blog. I’m sure you can tell from both my articles and the comments that a good backup plugin is one of the first programs you should be using. I also advocate tracking the highlights of what you’ve done. This information can prove to be both valuable and insightful in the future.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..Community Building and Having an Online Support SystemMy Profile

Joseph November 13, 2011 at 2:45 pm

If ever I encounter an issue like what you experience I get back to you…
your great!

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 13, 2011 at 8:37 pm

Thanks Joseph. I’d be glad to try to help.
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Catarina Alexon
Twitter:
November 13, 2011 at 6:29 am

Glad you managed to sort out the problem Sherryl! However, not being technical I would probably ruin my whole site if I tried to do what you did. If I ever end up with such problems I will consult you.

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 13, 2011 at 8:36 pm

Absolutely Catarina. I’d be glad to try to help you. I’m sure you wouldn’t ruin your site but it can be challenging to track down the solution to something like this. The first thing I do when I encounter something like this is start documenting it. I also immediately create a backup even though at the time I know it’s backing up the issue. At least, at this point, you know that if you attempt something that makes it worse, you can always at least return to this point if you need to.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..3 Steps to Protect Your WordPress Blog from HackersMy Profile

Jackie
Twitter:
November 12, 2011 at 8:15 am

Sherryl,

I can only imagine that sinking feeling you got when you found your site in trouble. Its the stuff online nightmares are made of.

I had looked at caching plugins in the past…but have never got around to installing…mainly for the reason that I wasn’t sure if it was “necessary” for me at this point in the game.

Given your recent experience, I think I may fence sit a little longer.

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 12, 2011 at 10:39 am

Jackie,
I am usually so careful with plug-ins. I had read so many glowing reviews about W3TC that I decided to go ahead and install it. I know for a fact that some of those bloggers are using it with Thesis. It was just my luck that this happened with me. Thankfully, it happened over a weekend when traffic to my blog tends to slow down and I was able to find and implement the solution. It was mind-racking while I was going through it but at least everything worked out in the end.

Pete Goumas November 11, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Hi Sherryl Perry,
I am also interested in finding out the right solution if wordpress backup doesnot work because it is really horrible if wordpress backup doesnot work.

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 11, 2011 at 6:19 pm

Hi Pete,
Backups normally work. This was just something really quirky involving caching and the settings for Thesis. Restoring my SQL database was futile. However, when I restored my entire site, my theme looked fine for approximately five to ten minutes before it went back to being illegible.

Before I did a complete site restore (for the second time), I had deleted all of the cache on my computer and even rebooted my firewall. I also had deleted the W3TC cache and then deactivated and deleted the plugin. According to the moderator on the DIY support forum for Thesis, the only solution was to re-key the settings into the Thesis design option screen. I suspect that there are similar situations involving other themes and probably other caching plugins as well. I felt that I had researched W3TC well prior to installing it and I know there are many bloggers successfully running it along with Thesis. It’s just one of those things that happens sometimes. Thankfully, I was able to find a solution.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..Could Your Business Survive if Something Happened to You?My Profile

bbrian017
Twitter:
November 11, 2011 at 9:19 am

Hi Sherryl, man let me tell you a little story. It was early 2008 and I was hosting a 1000 USD contest on Blog Engage. This was most likely one of the most stressful times in my life with regards to online websites. I went and found this new software, I installed it and little did I know but when it installed it also removed everything I had in that database, including the blog engage main site and our word press blog. I had to go back into Google Cache and re do all the comments on our contestant’s articles manually. It was the largest mistake I’ve made online to this day.

The lesson I learned was to always make a full FTP and MYSQL backup prior to doing any changes on your website no matter how easy it “Should be”. Man I still remember pacing back and forth in my computer room so worried about losing all our contestants hard work… It took me two days to get everything back and I think I still missed a few comments to this day.

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 11, 2011 at 10:43 am

Wow! That was quite a story Brian. My recent scenario pales in comparison.

I use (and recommend) RochenHost for hosting because they perform daily backups for their clients. However, (in this scenario), having both full site backups and MYSQL backups didn’t help. The problem was related to caching and the only solution was to recreate the Thesis design options. Honestly, I don’t understand how Thesis works well enough to even venture a guess as to why my original settings weren’t in the backups. Maybe another reader could cast some light on that mystery.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..Could Your Business Survive if Something Happened to You?My Profile

bbrian017
Twitter:
November 11, 2011 at 10:47 am

Yeah I don’t have a clue either but again I’ve never used the theme. From what I here on the internet many people are happy with it. Sorry to hear you had to go through all that. I know how it feels when you finally get a theme how you want it only to have to try and get it back there from starting over.

Doc Sheldon
Twitter:
November 11, 2011 at 12:28 pm

I remember that, Brian! LOL I really felt for ya! You did a heck of a job of salvaging everything, though.

bbrian017
Twitter:
November 11, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Hi Doc, that was obviously the worst time for something like that to happen as well because all our contestants worked so hard on getting comments only to lose them. I was extremely stressed and needless to say the nights were very long re doing all the comments and I’m very thankful for Google cache or I would have been done! I haven’t seen you using blog engage is ages would love to see you submitting articles again.

Doc Sheldon
Twitter:
November 11, 2011 at 1:51 pm

It’s not ’cause I don’t luv ya, man! I’ve just been unbelievably busy for months, now. 16 hr days, x 7… my wife is threatening to sell all my computers! Business is good, so I’m not complaining. I just had to sort my priorities.

Odds are, like a bad penny, I’ll be back! 😉

bbrian017
Twitter:
November 11, 2011 at 1:54 pm

I hear ya Doc you don’t have to tell me twice. I’m in the same boat as you…busy as heck and trying to just stay a float. I work full time 5 days a week and try to keep up with all this. FYI I’m also on a sales call right now!

Jeannette Paladino
Twitter:
November 11, 2011 at 12:10 am

Sherryl — all I can say is ugh! Horrible what happened. I use WordPress’s Backup Buddy which backs up my blog every day. It is stored in Amazon S3. Do you schedule an automatic daily backup of your blog? You might want to if you don’t already. I couldn’t do the technical fixes you described. I have an IT consultant and let him fix things. Much less angst for me. Glad you’re back up and running.
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Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 11, 2011 at 10:36 am

Thanks for the tip Jeannette. I’ll check out Backup Buddy as an alternative for some of my clients. As for me, I’m very happy with WP-DBManager. My hosting vendor, RochenHost backups my site daily for me. (One of the many reasons I highly recommend them.) When I am working on my site, I’ve been known to backup several times within the span of a few hours. (Tracking each step on the way of course. 🙂 )
Sherryl Perry recently posted..3 Steps to Protect Your WordPress Blog from HackersMy Profile

Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
November 10, 2011 at 8:45 pm

I’m not sure how much of this I understood, except maybe the “oh no” part! Obviously if this happens I’ll be writing you an ASAP message! But I’m picking up bits and pieces here and there, so thanks for the warning and guidance.

In fact, I had my first website on a Mac template, and I had no backup even though I (incorrectly) thought it was all backed up on i-Disc. When my computer crashed, I lost the site except for what had already been published and appeared on-line–except I could no longer do anything with it. Fortunately, I had already moved to my current site and wasn’t sure what to even do with the old one. However, that’s not the way I would have liked to have ended things.

Judy Stone-Goldman
The Reflective Writer
Personal-Professional Balance Through Writing

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 11, 2011 at 10:26 am

Hi Judy,
It’s fine that you don’t follow all of this. Part of my motivation for writing this article was to share insight into the process of troubleshooting an issue and on the other hand to reinforce the importance of maintaining documentation. The chances are good that this will never happen to you. Having gone through this, I will never install the W3TC plugin on another Thesis themed website.

Thanks for sharing your experiecnce about your first website. You were very lucky to have had moved your site. I’m sure that’s a lesson you’ll never forget.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..Community Building and Having an Online Support SystemMy Profile

Ray November 10, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Things are great when they are running smooth. It can be a nightmare when something breaks or doesn’t do what it is supposed to. Like you mentioned something small and simple can cause all kinds of problems you wouldn’t even expect. I recently changed my theme. The old one used Image and the new one image. It took me a while to figure out I needed to go through the database and change the capital I to lower case i. Any way looks like you got it figured out and fixed now and it looks great. I don’t like the w3 total cache plugin that much. There is just too many settings to it. Although I don’t know if any cache plugin is perfect I have been fairly happy with super cache so far anyway. I don’t notice any speed or performance difference with your site.
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Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 10, 2011 at 8:26 pm

Thanks for letting me know what plugin you’re using for caching Ray. Maybe after the weekend, I’ll muster up enough courage to install super cache.
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Doc Sheldon
Twitter:
November 10, 2011 at 8:02 pm

Excellent share, Sherryl!

I couldn’t help but chuckle a little as I read through the sequence of steps, with several references to W3TC followed by (didn’t work). I’ve been through three such exercises, all three of which were caused by W3TC. I’ve finally come to the conclusion that W3TC works just great…

provided you’re not using ANY other plugins!

You’re obviously a brighter bulb than I, though… I didn’t start keeping detailed records until after the third catastrophe.

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 10, 2011 at 8:25 pm

I’m glad you liked my post Doc. You must either have more patience than I do or you’re braver. The whole experience wore me out. What continues to baffle me is why a complete restore of my site wouldn’t rectify the problem. I’d really like to know the answer to that.

As for W3TC not working with plugins, I left out the step where I painstakingly deactivated one plugin at a time to see if there was a conflict. After I had no active plugins left, I gave up, restored my SQL database back and then continued on.
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