starting over like this person jumping from 2022 to 2023

Website woes

I didn’t really want to start this year by starting over, but it had to happen.

For the last year, this website has had all kinds of trouble that only I could see. There was malware lurking in the darkest corners of the many files on the back end of the site. Because of this, I was not able to edit anything or add any blogs. 

It would work for a day or two and then I wasn’t able to log into the site. It was frustrating. I tried really hard to be patient. The customer service for my (now former) web host was in the Ukraine. At the beginning of the war, which coincided with the beginning of my troubles, customer service was down for a few days.

They didn’t have a phone number, only online chat services available. While it was down, my site was stuck.

I had just paid for a year’s hosting for this site and four others I manage. None of them were working correctly.

I got help

I called a friend who understands a lot more than I do about the technical side of things. We were on the phone for literally six hours trying to remove anything suspicious. We ended up ditching one site completely.

Have you ever downloaded a backup copy of your website? You should regularly do that. There are a lot of folders and files. It’s very complicated because the WordPress theme you use has a ton of its own files and then there are the files for the plugins (pieces of software that do tasks make a contact form or help with your SEO). And there are your data files.

There is a plugin called WordFence that I highly recommend. It helps keep out any bad guys from your files. I didn’t have that, but I do now.

Site locked me out

Every time the sites would go down, I would set up a help desk ticket and go through the lengthy process of getting a list of suspicious files, going through my cPanel file manager (if you don’t know what that is, it’s okay) and deleting files one by one because I had to go inside a folder that was inside a folder that was inside a folder that was inside a folder to get to each file. Then I would delete them one by one.

I would have about a 24-72 hour window before the site was attacked again. My friend had helped me set up an elaborate two-step verification that involved me downloading software that had two-step verification on its own and then using that to verify the site. Nope. That didn’t work. The malware was back in a day or two. He thought there were some kind of malware bombs that were hidden within harmless-looking files that would go off after everything we thought was bad was deleted.

New year, new web host

Finally, after about 10-11 months of doing this every week, I decided to jump ship and found a different web host. Before I did it, I took the two most important sites and saved a PDF of every single page on the sites (I had a ton of blog entries). 

The new site could not upload my backup because there was malware on it. I tried a bunch of different suggestions and nothing worked. I didn’t sleep for several nights. My website was gone. It had been turned off by the old host and I couldn’t upload my files on the new site. 

Social Squids was down for eight days. I was distraught and sick (I also had Covid at the time! But that’s a story for another day.). I tossed and turned all night trying to think of how to get the sites set up without redoing everything.

Then I had an epiphany. Just redo everything. Give up. Give in. Get real. And get it done!

While I have those PDFs of every page saved (for two of the five sites), the text and line breaks are not correct and everything has to be checked line by line.

Starting over

I set up the first website, which is a site I maintain for a family member. For some reason, I was more worried about his site than mine. It was fairly easy. It’s just informational about his business and doesn’t have a blog. I was able to copy from the PDF files and fix the line breaks and basically put up exactly what he had before. A couple of the photos were different, but it was almost the same site. In fact, I don’t think he even noticed his site was down for a week. Let’s keep that to ourselves, okay?

My site is a different story. I finally have the main pages done. I have some samples of my work. It’s not arranged the way it was before and I changed, updated and added some information. It’s like a complete refresh of what I had before. I’m using the old site information as a base and changing some of it.

Now I have to go back and post all of the old blogs. I think I have the dates saved so I can backdate them. Some are no longer relevant like a blog I wrote years ago about Vine. That site no longer exists. 

I can get rid of any duplication, although I don’t think there is much.

The images may or may not be the same, but I’m not going to rewrite any of the old blogs. I’ll just post the ones with relevant information. 

Lessons learned

This is a lesson in not giving up. It’s also a lesson about maintaining a safe website and doing regular backups. It’s a new year and I’m starting over, but also looking forward to a new, updated website.

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