Summer, vacation time, the beach, etc. … If you’re on vacation right now, or planning to go on vacation soon, I’m sure “working” or developing stuff is the last thing on your mind.
However, a WordPress developer, or better yet a freelance WordPress developer should still be on top of things, so to speak, at least to some extent. Just in case anything goes bad so you can still be able to take control of the situation.
And it’s a well-known fact that if something bad is going to happen with your sites, it will happen during the most unfortunate time possible, like your vacation time, for example.
Just to give you a personal story of mine, I remember when I first started blogging and managing sites some years ago. One day, my first web host decided to discontinue their services, which forced me to get my sites backed up and moved somewhere else. Now, being that it’s Poland in the early 2000s, the hosting company didn’t bother to do any backups themselves or help me move my sites in any way. The only thing they did was send me an email saying, basically: “Hey, we’re closing operations. What you gonna do about it?”
Guess when it happened? Yes, during an event called “me on vacation.” The only reason I didn’t lose any data (it was a pre-backup era for me) was because the FTP was still available when I got back, so I managed to download everything.
What’s the point of vacation if there’s work on your mind?
I should probably explain this before discussing the topic any further. Personally, I am the first man who will tell you to forget work when you’re on vacation. So the approach and the tools I’m about to explain are not meant to help you work when on vacation (which is nonsense). Rather, they will only help you put out a fire, or fix an extreme situation should it happen. That’s all.
So, without further delay, here’s my set of techniques and tools that I like to have at my disposal, just in case.
Let’s start with the basic set of apps. First up, for any WordPress developer, the official WordPress app is a must have (iOS, Android). Also remember to connect it to every blog you’re managing so you can act fast if needed.
Next, email. Gmail comes to mind as the obvious choice. But lately, the Mailbox app is taking the mobile world by storm (iOS). Its design and the way it organizes messages makes it great for on-vacation usage. (I still prefer the original Gmail for everyday work, though.)
And finally, to close the basic package, an app for Google Analytics or any other tracking/stats solution you’ve chosen to use. Most of the time, the first indication that there’s something wrong with a website is when the traffic goes down dramatically over a short period of time (this can mean that the site is down in just some locations even though you might still see it being perfectly okay).
We’re staying on the topic of mobile apps, but this time we’re getting a bit more in depth on this.
The app I want to recommend to you is called LogMeIn (iOS, Android), along with a corresponding desktop app by the same name. This pair of apps allows you to get remote access to your main computer from any location with internet access.
The best thing is that you can actually use the computer in a way like you’re sitting next to it – you get access to the desktop and can navigate around it normally (no simplified, crappy interface here). On top of that, you can even wake up a computer that’s in the sleep mode (the computer still needs to be on for these apps to work, though).
Since you can do ANYTHING with your main computer, I advise treating these apps as your last resort. When something is seriously not right with your WordPress sites, you can fire up LogMeIn and attend to the situation.
Also, remember about SugarSync – my online data synchronization tool of choice. It’s very similar to Dropbox, but offers more space for free and you can use it to synchronize any folder on your computer. There are mobile apps for every major platform, so if needed, you can access your most important data with ease.
Managing your passwords is actually a highly recommended practice regardless if you’re on vacation or not. These days, we have to deal with tens of services every day and most of them ask for a password. Remembering them all is just impossible, and using a single password for everything is a really bad idea.
There’s a service called LastPass. You’ve probably heard about it already. It’s an online password manager, which means that it stores your passwords securely in the cloud. And whenever you need any of them, you can get it quickly through a secure connection.
LastPass offers mobile apps for every platform I know of…there are solutions for: iPhone, iPad, Android, Dolphin Browser (whatever that is), BlackBerry, Windows Phone, HP webOS, Symbian, and some other ones.
In short, what this means is that if you have LastPass, you will be able to access any service you might need to access while fixing an extreme situation during vacation time.
Advanced backing up and security
A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to test CodeGuard – a cloud-based website backup solution (premium; free trial available).
What separates it from most backup plugins is that it works independently of your site; handling backups regardless of what’s going on with your files or database.
Basically, every day CodeGuard connects to your site, backs up every file, the database, then it analyzes the changes and reports them back to you. For example, as a result, if your sites gets hacked, you will be the first to know.
Now the best part, CodeGuard offers a time machine (their own naming) that lets you revert back to the previous, working version of your site. This is by far the most useful feature when you’re on vacation. Think about it, when a tragedy strikes and one of your sites goes down, you can restore the last working version just to get the site up and then take a closer look at the situation once you’re back at work.
If you don’t want to spend money on this then at least use a quality backup plugin on your sites (like Online Backup for WordPress). Backing up is something I will never get tired of preaching, so sorry if you’re reading this for the tenth time or so.
Okay, this closes my advice on having your finger on the pulse while being on vacation. I guess listing any more ideas would be an overkill since we’re still talking about being on vacation here. But what’s your opinion? Should a WordPress developer be on top of their game even during vacation time?