With all the recent difficulty bloggers who use Blogger have had with comments (note: if you aren’t aware of the solution, be sure to check out Leanne from Devoted Quilter’s Comment Problem Fix), I have to admit that I was feeling a bit lucky to be using a self-hosted WordPress site. You know, until karma fixed that and my website was unavailable for about 6 hours on Saturday.
So, I figured it was a good time to have a chat about the realities, ups and downs, and the behind the scenes website maintenance that it takes to be a blogger and keep things running smoothly.
If you were not aware of the Blogger comment issue, I can summarize it by saying that users who blog using Blogger as their platform were not receiving email notifications when someone left a comment on their websites. There were workarounds to help receive notifications, but the workarounds did not allow for the website owner to know the email address of the person leaving a comment, which in turn made it difficult to have a conversation which is really the best part about being a blogger!
One of my very favorite aspects about blogging are the connections that are made, and the best way to connect is through leaving a comment. I really find joy in receiving emails letting me know that someone has taken the time to leave a comment on my website and it is always a pleasure to reply to that email. I never know when a comment or my response might spark a new idea, friendship, or conversation that I will treasure.
I am so thankful to hear that my blogging friends who use Blogger have a solution and can get back into their normal blogging, commenting, and emailing rhythms. I also have a few other discussion posts dedicated to Blog Comment Etiquette and Cultivating Community if you want further exploration into this topic.
Which brings me around to the issue that caused my website to be unavailable for about 6 hours on Saturday: my SSL certificate for quiltingjetgirl.com expired. Having an SSL certificate is what it takes to create a secure website (https:// instead of http://) and many browsers will block websites that are not secure. If you want to know more, the article What is SSL? was helpful for me.
As I mentioned earlier, I have a self-hosted WordPress site. My website is hosted by SiteGround [affiliate link], and I have always had really great technical support from them. After taking about 15 minutes to figure out what was causing my problem, I was able to quickly renew my SSL certificate and then I tried to figure out why this hadn’t happened to me before and what I could do to prevent it from happening again.
SiteGround (and many/most website hosting companies) use Let’s Encrypt to create SSL certificates, and Let’s Encrypt automatically renews SSL certificates… until recently when there was a bug that kept the auto-renew feature from working. Oops! So, if you have a self-hosted website, you might want to double check who provides your SSL certificate. If, like me, you get your SSL certificate through Let’s Encrypt, you might need to auto update manually once while the issue is being resolved.
Occasionally big behind the scenes things come up, like email notifications stopping or your website becoming “unsecure”, that can be frustrating and scary. Thankfully those moments are few and far between, and when I have had problems with my website, I have been fortunate to be able to find help and answers by searching the internet. On Saturday, after a bit of research and reading about why websites are labeled “unsecure”, I knew to go look for Let’s Encrypt in my Control Panel on SiteGround.
Here are a few really good habits that you can create to help in the event that something goes wrong with your website:
- Back up your website. Each hosting provider does it differently, but regularly backing up your website is a really good idea. Whether your site gets hacked (which happened to Quilt Theory earlier this year!) or you get locked out because you cannot remember your password or your hosting provider has big problems, knowing that you have your content safely backed up can create a lot of peace of mind.
- Back up your computer. This really goes hand in hand with backing up your website.
- Take a deep breath and look it up! It used to be that the library was where I would go do look for answers, but now all I have to do is open a new tab in my browser and start searching the internet.
- Phone/email/text/message a friend. Posting for help in social media circles with your blogging friends can usually turn up help or at least get you on a path toward getting the help you need.
- Utilize the help channels of your blogging platform. Whether that is searching the knowledge base articles or chatting with a support team, most blogging platforms have quite a bit of information available. I like to keep in mind that the person I am chatting with did not cause my problem, and if I can remain calm and friendly with them it always helps me resolve my issue in a more timely manner. I say this as someone who used to work in technical support and as someone who has seen how my frustration does not help me get things resolved. That means sometimes it will take longer before I ask for help because I need to get up and go for a walk and calm down a bit first.
- Pay a professional. Occasionally getting the help of a web developer is what it takes to get everything back on the straight and narrow. As much as I like to do it all myself, there are some topics that I don’t really fully understand and paying someone who has the expertise to quickly resolve my issue is definitely worth the alleviation of my time and frustration.
Do you have any website maintenance tips to share? What are the best practices that you like to use to keep everything running smoothly?