Moving is tough.

The Fryers, ready to leave Lubbock

Just as physically moving from Lubbock, Texas, to Edmond, Oklahoma was tough on our family for many reasons a year and a half ago, migrating my blog from my ISP since 2003 (POWWEB) to my new ISP (SiteGround) this week has been challenging, frustrating, and at times rather agonizing.

I have been frustrated with POWWEB for many months, largely because of MySQL database problems which have rendered my WordPress blog slow at times, and temporarily inaccessible for brief periods of time on multiple occasions. My August 23, 2007 post “Strange WordPress, mySQL and other errors” and November 18, 2007 post “My blog’s slow response times and POWWEB mySQL issues” reflect both my past frustrations and their technical sources.

Lesson #1: Don’t host your blog with POWWEB.

The problems I have encountered with POWWEB reportedly date back to their acquisition by another company. Whatever the reasons, I am VERY pleased to have my primary and, as of tonight, one of my secondary blogs moved off POWWEB and onto another server recommend by folks I trust to be more reliable, speedier, and better supported.

Lesson #2: Back up your blog database (and other computer files) regularly

I haven’t lost any data in the process of migrating my blogs to a new ISP, and never really thought that I would, but having to do a complete restoration of two blogs (with two more remaining to do) has driven home the importance of regular backups. Someone told me once, “There are two types of people, those have lost data and those who will lose data.” I’ve lost hard drives before, and it’s not a fun process. Backups are great insurance for future mental health.

Lesson #3: Problem solving skills are key

Unfortunately, the process of importing the MySQL database backups I had created onto my new ISP’s server was not straightforward. I’m not sure why, but I couldn’t import any of the backup versions I had created previously or tried to create subsequently in their entirety.

Error importing mySQL database

Cryptic errors are frustrating, but Google has granted everyone amazing abilities and powers for troubleshooting, especially when it comes to computer-related problems. In my years as the “IT Guy” for Technology and Learning magazine (January 2003 through September 2006) I discovered over and over again that if one person is having a technical problem– in virtually every case other people had not only experienced the same issue but also WRITTEN about it in forums, in blogs, and in other webspaces. The WordPress Codex articles “Backing Up Your Database” and “Restoring Your Database From Backup” were helpful to me, but other “unofficial” user posts and forum responses were as well. My Google query “mysql error 1044 wordpress import database” didn’t yield a post which ultimately solved my MySQL importing problems, but it did help me realize I was not alone and gave me additional ideas for troubleshooting.

Ultimately, I discovered by accident a workaround for my importing blues. I started to create backups of my WordPress MySQL blog with different settings, and one time I neglected to select all the “tables” included in the database, and just selected one. That file downloaded VERY fast, and I was able to import it into an empty database without a problem. Miguel Guhlin had counseled me earlier in the day to import my tables into a new, existing database on my new server, and that was confirmed on multiple webpages I read also. The BIG A-HA moment, however, came as an accident– Rather than trying to import all 10 to 17 tables at once into my database, I could import them successfully one at a time. Certainly this was a more time consuming process, but it could yield success where my other attempts had only ended in failure.

All of this involved hours and hours of troubleshooting, last night into the early morning, and many hours tonight as well. I am OVERJOYED to have my blog back online. The experience of getting it back online, however, reinforces my pre-existing perception that PROBLEM SOLVING SKILLS are essential in the 21st century infoverse. Sometimes as teachers, I think we are hesitant to provide students with a challenge or learning opportunity that is open-ended, one in which the outcome is not pre-defined and assured. Life, as it happens to us, is open-ended. As Miguel will share in his keynote at the Oklahoma Technology Association’s annual conference here in Oklahoma City in a few weeks, “The Future is Unwritten.” Those who will write it will have to be problem solvers, because only the effective problem solvers and collaborators can thrive in a dynamic environment full of unexpected and novel challenges.

Lesson #4: The support of a learning community is essential

Many thanks to those of you who reached out to me via Twitter during my ISP transition! Those suggestions, along with Miguel’s tips and the documentation I found online, were essential in bringing this story to a happy ending.

Lesson #5: Persistence is key

When I was in an instructional technology support role at a college, I discussed with peers the need to establish some sort of “time threshold” for wrangling with a technical problem or issue. Without a boundary on time, a relatively minor or small issue could end up consuming hours and hours of time. Stubborn tendencies to keep working on a problem can be undesirable in some contexts, but persistence and tenacity can also be essential qualities needed for success and achievement. Truly worthwhile things are rarely easy to achieve. A poster I used to have in my office read, “The man on the mountain didn’t fall there.” That idea certainly seemed true last night and tonight wrestling with MySQL and a new website management interface.

Lesson #6: The recommendations of trusted friends are essential

When we moved to Oklahoma, there were a TON of different things we needed help and recommendations with. Babysitters, doctors, dentists, pediatricians… the list went on and on. In most cases, we went with someone who was recommended by a friend we trusted. When it came to choosing a new ISP, the same idea applied.

I didn’t just want to go with an ISP one person said they liked– Maybe that person hadn’t utilized different ISPs in the past and had a rather limited perspective. I wanted to go with a company that had multiple positive references, not just from websites authored by strangers, but by people in my professional learning community whose expertise and opinions I value and respect. Several people meeting those requirements recommended SiteGround, so that’s why I chose them. Personal recommendations which come from those in a trusted learning community are very important.

Lesson #7: A good, long movie is always nice during multi-hour troubleshooting sessions

My big Christmas present this year from my wife was a copy of Ken Burns’ new documentary, “The War.” Although I couldn’t give all the episodes I watched during this recent evening troubleshooting journey my full attention, it was wonderful to have such amazing stories to listen to as I multi-tasked. (I’ll be posting more about this documentary in the weeks ahead.)

Let the fireworks begin! My blog is back online, and I learned a bunch of things as a result of the troubleshooting which was required to get it to work on a new server. 🙂

fireworks in China

Now, it’s time for bed! 🙂

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On this day..

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  • Welcome back to the land of the living, Wes! It was painful watching you thrash about on Twitter! 🙁

    I thought SiteGround came with a free blog transfer service. Did they not offer to help with the process?

    Having learned the hard way, I now do full monthly backups (MySQL databases AND files) and weekly MySQL db’s only. It’s easy with cPanel, which I’m sure SiteGround is using.

    One thing I did learn is that you have to be careful about backup tools. I found a neat plugin that purported to be a one-click backup solution. My host actually shut my site down because of a vulnerability within it (which the author has since corrected). That was enough to convince me to do my backups manually!

    Again, welcome back!

    -kj-

  • Thanks Kevin! Yes, I was going to take Siteground up on their offer for a free transfer. Initially it appeared I wouldn’t be eligible because I had over 1 GB of data on my site, but I moved my podcasts (2.2 GB of 2.8 total) on my own and they were going to move the rest. I have 4 blogs to move, but their promotion only includes moving one… I was going to have them move my main blog, but I’m not sure what happened… I couldn’t wait any longer so I went ahead and figured out how to get things moved over.

    POWWEB did do periodic blog backups too, I think with CPANEL as well… which was good from a peace of mind standpoint. I like to periodically have my own offline backups as well… I hadn’t heard about that security vulnerability from a backup plugin before. It’s good to know both it was fixed, and your host was on top of things to keep you safe!

    I neglected to mention in the original post that a Jan 9th “upgrade” that POWWEB did to its servers which affected UNIX permissions apparently took my main site offline. That was really the final straw for me in terms of switching blog hosts. I noticed late Wed night that my 3 blogs which were still working were using an older MySQL hostname, rather than the newer MySQL alias which POWWEB had instituted sometime back. The behavior of the MySQL server continued to be erratic at that point too, however, I could reset my password and temporarily get the blog back up for a few clicks, then it would lose the connection again. Very strange and frustrating.

    I also should note I had to update my WordPress permalinks (Options – Permalinks) to get my old posts to again resolve and show up. Not sure why that was needed but it was.

    Yes, it was painful to thrash about on Twitter as well– but it was good to receive some suggestions and ideas from others amidst the thrashing! I’m glad to be back as well… it quite literally felt like I had “lost my voice” or something when my blog was offline. Not a good feeling at all. I’m glad my blog muteness was shortlived. 🙂

  • I’ve moved CogDogBlog at least twice and a few other WP blogs without too many headaches, but there are usually little gotchas– sorry yours were larger.

    The wp-backup plugin makes it easy to do your periodic backups.

    The “backup” is really a long, long series of database commands to recreate your database, including inserting all of the data from your posts. So for an “old” blog, its quite a large file.

    One thing that happens is that phpMyAdmin usually has a file size limit for the file it can import. This means if you wish to do it via the web, you may have to split that big *.sql file into smaller pieces. The quicker, but geekier, method is to load that file on your web server, log in via a terminal app, and run a command like:

    # mysql u=username -p wp_database_name < wp_dump_file.sql

    Also, on a Mac, (I dont think it happens in newer systems), sometimes the *.mysql file ends up with Mac style carriage returns where it needs unix style. LineBreak is a handy app for dealing with this http://www.versiontracker.com/dyn/moreinfo/macosx/13491

    Happy blogging!

  • Wes,
    Sorry to hear your pain. I am also in the process of moving my web site and blog. Thanks to my great Twitter friends I also moved to siteground. I was so impressed I also moved my husband’s site over.
    I totally agree with you the about how much you learned in the process. I have so much more work to do to control the beast that has become http://www.techteachers.com I need to roll up my sleeves and send my family packing for the weekend. Just kidding, but need a block of time!
    Your comments about the need for problem solving is so key! Everyone needs a new set of skills for the 21st Century!

  • Wes,

    I feel (or felt) your pain just a few months ago. I moved from FatCow hosting to Dreamhost. So far, everything is running great. FatCow has really gone downhill in the last year or two, so I would say stay away from them. Dreamhost has been great so far.

    Good luck, and happy blogging!

  • Glad your experiences with Dreamhost have been positive so far, Dave. Let’s hope it continues! I told someone yesterday I hoped my new ISP would work out great forever. That’s probably unrealistic… but change is so hard! It is certainly possible to learn a lot during a change like this, but that doesn’t necessarily make it easier or desirable.

  • Eric M.

    Another method of backing up is the WordPress Export features (“Manage” > “Export”), which creates a .xml file with the content of all of the posts. This is a good option for people who are not comfortable with with dealing with mysql.

    I’m a huge fan of the command line method Alan Levine describes above;
    >> # mysql u=username -p wp_database_name < wp_dump_file.sql
    You can run this command as a cron job to create backups on a regular schedule.

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