The Internet Never Forgets

I had someone call me about their web site ‘disappearing’. All that was there was a ‘Parked” page from the hosting place. It wasn’t a very important site, just a few pages with some pictures, and a few custom products that he sold. No blog, no custom programs, no databases, etc. And he didn’t have a backup of the pages. But he still wanted the site back. So I took a look at things.

I looked at the domain registration, and the domain name was still registered to you, with an expiration date that had not passed. The nameservers pointed to the web hosting place, which was as expected.

With the credentials for the hosting place in hand, I took a look at his hosting account. He had apparently used the hosting place’s ‘web creator’ to create his web pages. I couldn’t find any files anywhere. Apparently, the ‘web creator’ program stored them in a place I couldn’t get to. And it looked like he let the site hosting service expire. So since there was no content, the ‘parked’ page is now seen at the site.

The site would need to be rebuilt. And he didn’t have the source files for the site; but he wanted the site back up quickly.

So I turned to the Internet’s “WayBack Machine” (www.archive.org) to see if they had a cached copy of the site. They did, so I looked at the latest version they had (March 29, 2014). I opened up the main site page, grabbed the source code for each page (with a View Source), and plugged it into my HTML editor (I use Adobe Dreamweaver, but any HTML editor would have worked). I also copied the graphic images to my local computer. I did this for all of the pages that the WayBack Machine had (the entire site). Luckily, the site was not that complex (about 10 pages plus the graphics files) and a simple order form.

Then, I went into the Dreamweaver editor, adjusted the images links, rearranged the image files into a separate folder (the CF editor adjusted the HTML code for those links automatically). I then used the Dreamweaver ‘link checker’ to ensure that all links/images/etc were valid. All was well with my local copy of the site.

He wasn’t too happy with the hosting place (a small operation), so we set up an account at JustHost (disclosure: it’s what I use, and I‘ve been happy with it; that link gives me a small commission on new accounts at the same price as their main link). Since the domain name was registered somewhere else, I went through the somewhat convoluted process of transferring the domain name to the new JustHost account. I also set up the ‘nameservers’ for the domain to point to the new JustHost account. Then I transferred the files there. I then checked the pages and links at the remote (JustHost location), and the site pages worked properly.

After a short propagation delay (while all the nameservers in the world get the updated information), the site was active and visible.

The lesson here? A few points to consider:

  •  Don’t Panic
  •  If you have a web site hosted somewhere, pay attention to any notices about renewing services there (I am assuming that a notice from the hosting place may have gotten lost in his emails)
  • If the site is truly ‘gone’ from where it should be, Don’t Panic (again)
  • Use the “WayBack Machine” to find your site. It will probably be there. Perhaps not the latest version, but a place to start.
  • Use the techniques described above to rebuild your site and place it on your hosting location.
  • Backups of your site to an alternate location are always a good idea. That includes any databases used and any custom programs. For instance, I use a popular plugin to email me a daily backup this WordPress site’s database.
  • Don’t Panic

The recovery technique worked, as evidenced by the reappearance of his web site. There may be some minor adjustments needed, and perhaps some content updated, and I set up a procedure for him to store site backups at an alternate location. But the technique will work.

The Internet Never Forgets.

 

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