"I accidentally deleted my blog"

"I accidentally deleted my blog - do you have it?"

Every so often - maybe once every six months or so - I get a query like that. An entirely deleted blog, a corrupted database, or a single page that's somehow been overwritten during editing.

Now, I'm not a data storage or archiving service - in fact, for many of my clients, I'm not a long-term service at all, but a one-off supplier of content - but I'll generally do what I can to help.

That means trawling through my old Word documents and Sent Items trying to find the one file or attachment that contains the page you've lost.

And while I wouldn't say that I really mind doing it, it's literally an inconvenience - so here are some proactive and reactive ways to try and rescue your content, without taking up too much of my time.

Proactive

If you're reading this page, it's probably because you've already deleted your blog, and want it back.

On the off chance that you're in the happy position of still having your blog, and simply want a way to protect it, here are the options:

Archiving

Most commonly used blog platforms offer an archiving option - even Twitter are reportedly introducing the option to download an archive of every tweet you've ever sent.

Find this option on your chosen blogging platform and make sure you understand how it works, what's included in the archive, and the restore process if your blog ever goes awry.

The downside? Archiving in this way is usually a manual process - which means you'll need to remember to do it regularly if you want to make sure your newest content is safe.

RSS

Many RSS readers store a local copy of each item, so if you subscribe to your own RSS feed and something goes wrong, you may be able to get your content back from your RSS reader's local version of your feed.

It's not a perfect solution - graphics usually won't be included, and there's the disastrous option that your reader might 'refresh' its local copy to reflect the fact that your feed is now empty, and delete everything before you have a chance to save it.

Your best bet is to either test your preferred RSS reader beforehand to make sure it will work as an archiving option, or - if it's a desktop application rather than a web-based service - just make sure you're disconnected from the Internet before starting it up if you're trying to do a restore process.

Email

Email copies of each post to your own account - especially if you have a reliable web-based email account like Hotmail or Gmail - and you can always copy the content back over if something goes wrong.

You can do this by 'burning' your blog's RSS feed using the Google-owned free service Feedburner, and then following the on-screen instructions to add email alerts.

The advantages are that, once you've set this up, it doesn't need any ongoing maintenance - each new page or post that appears on your RSS feed will simply be sent directly to your email account.

You can also use Feedburner to offer email alerts to your readers, although there's no reason why you shouldn't keep it to yourself purely for archiving purposes.

Again, the downsides include the fact that images usually will not be archived in this way - so keep local copies of any of your own graphics, or references to where you found any web-based images.

Reactive

Now for those of you who have already accidentally deleted your blog, and are in the awkward situation of trying to recover content that's already vanished from the web...

Google

Does Google have your content cached? If you've only just deleted your pages, and your website or blog is crawled particularly often, it's best to try this as soon as possible.

Use Google's site: operator to search for all of the pages it has crawled on your site - so for my blog, for instance, I would search for site:phronesisseo.blogspot.com.

Next to each result that corresponds to an accidentally deleted page, click the right-hand arrow for Google's snapshot of the page, and then click to view its cached version.

If (and only if) there is a cached version, I'd recommend immediately copying and pasting your content from the cached version in your browser, into Word (or even Notepad), or your preferred word processor, and saving a local copy.

Do not assume that, because a cached version exists now, it will still exist later.

The Wayback Archive

Some websites make it into The Wayback Archive at http://archive.org/ and if you're lucky enough to have your site among them, this gives you a last-resort way to get your pages back.

Simply search for your own URL in the archive, and view its most recent snapshot of your site.

Again, you're relying on a third-party cache of your site, so be grateful for whatever you can get through this method.

The advantages of this include the fact that the full page HTML is typically stored by Wayback, rather than simply the plain text; however, images and external CSS files again are not archived.

Google Reader

I confess that this is not a tried and tested method as such, but sometimes when you subscribe to an RSS feed in Google Reader, it populates with past posts as well as those currently on the feed.

Personally, I have long suspected that this is because Google Reader is a cloud service, and if somebody else has subscribed to the same feed, its past posts will have been cached already.

Although I have never tested that supposition in terms of retrieving lost items from a feed, I would, in a pinch, give it a go if all else failed - if you ever come across this article and this method works for you, please let me know in the comments below!

Inactive

Finally, the method that requires basically no effort on your part - just ask me (presuming I wrote your content in the first place).

But, although I will do what I can to help, please be aware that if I wrote for you only once, on a relatively small project, a year and a half ago, there's no guarantee that I'll still have the files here.

Just as I transfer copyright and ownership of the content to you when you pay me for it, I also transfer the long-term responsibility to you to maintain it in any way you see fit - and that includes any responsibility for deleting it, either deliberately or by accident.

Faithful readers, have I missed any more reliable methods than those listed above? If so - or if any of the above helps you out of a tight spot - let me know in the comments below.

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