The Critical Backup: A Review of BlogBackupOnline Beta

Backing up a blog can be a difficult business. Yet this is one of the most important issues for any blog–professional, amateur, or personal.

Taking care of this necessary business as cleanly as possible is important:

  • Backups should be easy to make, otherwise you’ll be less inclined to spend the effort.
  • Backups should be automated, otherwise you won’t be backing up regularly and might even forget.
  • Backups should be stored somewhere other than where your blog is hosted, otherwise whatever disaster befalls your primary data will also likely happen to your backups. Self-hosting bloggers, this means you.
  • Backups should be easily restorable.

For almost any blog, whether self-hosted or not, setting up your backup procedure is not part and parcel of your blogging software. (It’s worse in the case of non-self-hosted blogs.) And even for someone like me, who’s not inexperienced when it comes to getting nightly archives of a database running and kicked over to Amazon S3 automatically, creating a procedure that follows all of the above is extremely difficult and time-consuming. Gods help you if it breaks and you don’t notice, too.

With these concerns in mind, I spent quite a long time searching for blog backup solutions. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that someone had actually decided to try to make a business of making something as difficult as backups easy:

blogbackuponline.png

Backups with BlogBackupOnline

BlogBackupOnline is still in beta as of this writing, but their software appears to be functional enough. They use a secure login, which is a nice change from most blogging software (Blogger is the only popular choice that uses SSL by default–actually, SSL only.)

BlogBackupOnline supports many kinds of blogs, including Blogger, WordPress, TypePad, LiveJournal, and more. In particular Blogger blogs are difficult to backup, since no Blogger user has access to the underlying datastore that Google keeps.

I easily registered three of my blogs–all Blogger, including Spontaneous Derivation, my main blog with over 200 entries–and BlogBackupOnline immediately offered to start a full backup, which I accepted. After the full backup, which took less than a few minutes for my smaller blogs but somewhere around 20 minutes for my relatively large blog, BlogBackupOnline automatically set up daily runs to backup new posts; I have verified that they do actually run and do actually store new data.

BlogBackupOnline can backup media files (images and such) if you want it to, although this will use up your limited 50 MB of space more quickly. Yes, a mere 50 MB because the site is still in beta, but text entries do not take up much room–my 216 blog entries for Spontaneous Derivation take up but 1 MB.

Restoring

Now the fun starts. One of the banes of backups is the restoration process. Obviously in order for a backup to be useful, you need to actually be able to use it when you need to; otherwise it’s a worthless task. BlogBackupOnline will not only export your blog entries in XML format (which the suitably hacky of us could then use to, for instance, fuel database backfills), but it will also automatically restore your blog for you in the case of Blogger, WordPress, LiveJournal, or Windows Live Spaces.

What you restore to doesn’t have to be what you backed up from. Yes, this means you can go from WordPress to Blogger, or Blogger to LiveJournal, etc. It’s nice. (And redundant in the case of WordPress, since it can import anything. However, WordPress can’t export to other places.)

Big jobs for backup or restore run in the background; you don’t have to wait in front of a circulating O hoping that things finish; there’s a log tab for you to look at for errors or indications of successful runs of backups and restoration.

Limitations

Unfortunately, permalinks are not saved from Blogger to WordPress. Come to think of it, preserving permalinks may not actually be an option at all, which would destroy LiveJournal blogs outright in terms of breaking links.

Annoyingly, tags/categories/etc are not preserved by BlogBackupOnline. This could actually be fatal to information navigation on large blogs after restore.

Comments are supposed to be backed up and restorable, but this doesn’t happen when you’re redirecting through something like FeedBurner.

BlogOnlineBackup incorporates new data from a feed, rather than scraping the original HTML, so extensions like FeedBurner’s will get copied through into the entry instead of left out.

Hopefully they’ll fix these before they move out of Beta. A professional product that does not take care of these issues is not one I would take seriously.

Examples

For fun, I decided to restore some of my backed-up Blogger entries to WordPress.

Here are the results:

Aaah Books, I Could Eat You All Up:
Blogger original, WordPress restore
Note FeedBurner artifacts at bottom of post. Sadness.

Three Bullets: Why I Haven’t Moved to WordPress.com:
Blogger original, WordPress restore
Note lack of comments, even appended as text. Sadness.

WGA Strike: Someone (AMPTP?) Asked Google….:
Blogger original, WordPress restore
Note different permalinks. Sadness.

But hey, this is way better than Absolutely Frigging Nothing.

Looking Forwards to the Future

I hope that BlogBackupOnline becomes a smashing success, quality-wise, reliability-wise, and business-wise. There’s nothing else like it out there right now.

And certainly it’s one of the better backup solutions around for someone with a Blogger, LiveJournal, WordPress.com, or other non-self-hosted blog.

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2 thoughts on “The Critical Backup: A Review of BlogBackupOnline Beta

  1. Dear Arachnejericho,Thanks so much for the plug of my blog. Mom raised me to write thank you notes. I didn’t even know about the gift until today. Found your work on back up blogging very useful –will go do that right now! All the best, hope to see new posts soon!Sherry, CHOCOLATE FOR YOUR BRAIN! author, in case you were wondering who the heck is this?

  2. You’re welcome, Sherry! And I definitely remember you. :)Glad you found this article useful!New posts usually surface daily, so come back soon. ;)

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