Technology is Wonderful (Except When It Isn’t)

Set it and forget it marketing is the ultimate dream for many marketers. The idea of being able to create a strategy that continuously delivers results without additional investments of time and resources is alluring. Turning that concept into reality is virtually impossible. Technology helps us get very close to fully automated marketing but there will always be maintenance involved to maximize the return.

Sometimes the maintenance is overwhelming. Recently, we experienced the technology nightmare of having things go haywire with little recourse. Our website and blog were automated as much as possible. They consistently shared our information with clients and prospects with very little maintenance required. Our website was built from scratch with a link to the blog. We use WordPress with a Thesis theme for our blog. Both blog and website were hosted by the same company. We had been considering making a change to our hosting company but it was one of those “we’ll get to this one day” projects. Fate intervened and “one day” came sooner than expected.

The trouble began with a simple update to our blog. The site, blog, and database were backed up prior to the update. Something went terribly wrong while the update was processing. There was very little concern when this happened because there was a backup. A simple restore should resolve all issues. It didn’t. The SQL backup was corrupt. There was still no need to panic because our blog was configured to create two backups every day. Redundancy was part of the plan. One backup was managed by the host company. The other was generated by a plugin. There were two copies of the plugin backup. One was emailed to me. The other was saved on the server.

Unbelievably, all of the backups were corrupt. If that wasn’t bad enough, when the host company representative tried to restore the blog, he corrupted the website. There was a reason that we maintained a separate website and blog. We didn’t want a situation where both were down at the same time. It took us a while to realize that the website integrity had been compromised. The homepage and second-level pages were fine. Once you got past the second level tier, the pages loaded the header and footer with a lot of white space in between.

A decision had to be made. Did we want to invest the time and resources in repairing the broken website and blog or did we want to start from scratch and build something new and better? Since most of our business comes from word-of-mouth, we decided to start from scratch. Thesis had been completely rebuilt and promised an unprecedented level of flexibility. The concept was very appealing because it meant that management would be much easier once everything was configured properly. There was one big challenge: The Thesis team had invested their resources in creating functionality but there was little documentation for using the theme. The learning curve was sharp and at times overwhelming. Fortunately, they have a great support forum filled with helpful people that made the effort worthwhile.

The first thing we did was find a new host company. We decided to use multichannelmagic. com for our blog. We have owned this URL for long time but it was used as a redirect. Searching through volumes of data found an old WordPress export file that had about three years of posts in it. They were uploaded and we had a starting point for recreating our online presence.

This project is still very much a work in progress. All of the images in the restored posts were lost. This will be a project for one of our interns next summer. There are popular posts that didn’t get restored. We will repost them over time. Our website still needs to be rebuilt. It was designed before CSS became standard protocol. The design was heavy with unnecessary code slowing response times. Thesis provides the option of customizing individual pages within the blog. We can use this functionality to create Wilson & Ellis pages that will serve until we rebuild the website.

This process has been painful but it started moving us in the direction we need to go. We hope that this is a one-time experience. If not, we’ll be better prepared because of the lessons we have learned. As always, we are glad to share the lessons with you. Hopefully you will learn from our experience so you don’t have to go through it yourself.

Lessons learned:

Don’t trust your backups – We set everything up to create backups with redundancy. For a while we verified the accuracy of the backups. Sometime after we stopped verifying, the process became corrupted creating backups that were not restorable. If we had continued verifying the backup content, we wouldn’t have to manually repost several years of blog posts.

Don’t expect your service provider to save you – When we couldn’t restore the SQL files, we asked support for help. Instead of resolving the issue, the representative created a bigger problem. One of our clients had a similar experience. They wanted to make a change to their blog and asked support for guidance. After following the instructions, their blog was generating internal server errors and their emails were going into the black hole. The problem was caused by the representative omitting a critical step. When they asked for it to be fixed, they were told it wasn’t possible.

Don’t panic – In our case the challenge wasn’t life-threatening to our business. Even if it had been, panicking creates drama. It doesn’t solve problems. When faced with a similar crisis, assess the situation, identify solutions, make decisions, and execute the plan. This is the only way to quickly resolve issues.

Look for the opportunity – Making the shift to the new version of Thesis would have been delayed without the crash and burn. Now that we’re seeing in the light at the end of the tunnel, I’m very grateful that we made the switch. Thesis 2 has the flexibility we need to do everything we want to do. Some of the blog posts that were deleted are worth re-creating. Others aren’t. We can pick and choose what we decide to repost.

In the coming weeks and months, our regular readers may have a sense of déjà vu when we repost content. If you have a post that you liked and would like it reposted please let us know. Without your feedback, we’ll be posting new and old alike and may miss something that you want to see. As always, thank you for reading and may your days be blessed.

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