Changes to Updraftplus

In another article on this site I refer to some issues with Updraftplus the backup plugin we use on all sites. One of the things that has happened over the past three months is the settings have been corrupted.  Where this has happened there are a wide range of symptoms, I will not go into them here.

Reset the configuration

I have been advised by Updraftplus to reset the configuration (effectively means erase the settings and set them up again). If your site was backing up to an external dropbox that either I set up for you, or you set up, it is no longer doing so. The settings for your dropbox authentication have been lost as a result of the reset process. I could not avoid it.  Continue reading Changes to Updraftplus


What you don’t know can’t kill you

For many charities they may independently buy hosting and build a website, or someone else builds it for them and they don’t take any more action. There is a flaw in this, not all website hosting works as smoothly as you may think it does, and as you will see in this article, sometimes things happen which will substantially break a site, ….. and you are unaware of it.

Over the past two weeks I have raised around 10 support cases with the hosting provider we are using. They have been brilliant over the past year, I don’t have any regrets moving to them, the sites are generally trouble free. Since we moved to them last year, I have raised 178 support cases on your behalf, you never knew that did you? Continue reading What you don’t know can’t kill you


Checking and Backing up sites

If I am hosting your site, and I built it for you, I revisit your website every three months to make sure everything is OK. If I am actively supporting you on something, it will be more frequently than that.

Each time I visit your site I do the following:

Google Search

Perform a good search for your website by using your organisation name (not your web address).


This will tell me if you are at the top of a google search or not. Most (90%) of the sites I have built, I have got you to page one in a google search, usually in the top three. There are a number of techniques to doing this, one of the most important is backlinks. If you are not near the top of a google search, it is generally because you have not searched for sites listing you that could have backlinks (links back to your site from their site).

If I find you are not listed on page one, I will let you know. There are generally some very simple steps you can take to help yourself.

Login and health check

Continue reading Checking and Backing up sites


Even I get caught out sometimes

Just to show I share the same human traits as everyone else, even though I am fairly IT literate,  I thought I would share the following with you because it demonstrates that being cautious is often not enough.

IOS 11.0.3

My iPhone had been nagging me for some time about upgrading. I usually keep things up to date, and finally had some time and decided to go ahead with the update.  I have a MAC and backed up the iPhone into iTunes before proceeding, because I have been caught out before!

I have the usual range of weird stuff on my iPhone that gets played around with once or twice and then forgotten. But there are a handful of Apps I use all of the time, one of which is a password manager called FireBox.

I have had this for around eight years and it has always served me well. It was pretty basic, simple to use and not particularly glossy or elaborate. I keep or should say now; kept…. most of my critical passwords in there. For some years now I have not used the same password in multiple places unless it is for a simple login which represents no security threat if compromised.

I carried out the upgrade, and was presented with a message that some of the apps needed upgrading and to check in the Apps store, or contact the author. Wow, contact the author, that seemed like an odd request. Well it said contact the author, because the app was no longer supported by the new operating system.

There were only around 4 not supported, but one of them was FireBox. At this point panic starts to set in, but I did carry out a backup before I started, so I am covered…..

I start to research how to roll back the operating system. I find a way of doing it, download the old iOS, and before starting plugged my iPhone back into the computer. Here is where my problems started. On plugging my iPhone back into my computer, it backed it up again, and overwrote my previous backup. Only it is a different operating system now, and we have already established that FireBox is unsupported.

Bottom line, by the time I got the old operating system back on the iPhone I had nothing to restore other than a much older backup.

And the lesson of this sad tale

Don’t assume anything. I should have manually backed it up and stored the backup somewhere else.  The whole process cost me 2.5 days so far going around and restoring passwords from various places. My family tell me I worry too much about things, well this is one example where paying a little more attention would have been hugely beneficial.



Disaster Recovery Process

I have spent quite a long time writing and documenting a process that you can follow which would help you to recover a failed or worse still a hacked site. Contingency planning is something non IT professionals don’t worry a lot about, a particularly in charities. There isn’t time, or it is not a priority. Or in many cases people just do not think about it.

From time to time I get questions about what if I am not available, or I am run over by a bus. All of you can and should have access to the essential information to allow you to move your site should the need arise. You are not tied in any way to me, and I don’t prevent you from leaving. I am not running the Hotel California of web hosting. I have come across a few that make it difficult though.

Disaster Recovery

It would be wise to take a quick look at the following while you do not have a disaster on your hands. Then at least you know the information is there.

You will need the following information if you don’t have it then now is a good time to ask.

  • Control Panel User Name and Password.
  • Your own backup of your website loaded on one of your systems so you can readily access it.

The full article is password protected and accessible from the main menu but can be located here: Disaster Recovery


Backing up Outlook

If you have just joined me you may have had a website with a different hosting company and are moving over to the managed services I provide. You will need to check your email configuration first and at the very least as a precaution back it up to an independent location.

Most organisations should be running a back up process such that the loss of a single computer or device would not mean you lose everything. Many in my experience are not, or do not know how to do this.

In this tutorial and the accompanying document below I show you how to check your mail configuration and run a backup for most of the recent versions of Outlook. The steps are outlined below, these need to be taken by you before the hosting is switched over because there is a risk you may lose your email if it is actually located on the server and not locally. This is called an IMAP account. You need to be using POP3 if I am providing your mail. Continue reading Backing up Outlook


Security Update 6th Jan 2016 – All sites

I have spent the last week going through all websites and making sure they are updated and stable. Each has also been independently backed up.

With immediate effect I am going to set up a location on this site to describe the security set up for all sites I am hosting, and keep this up to date to reflect the current set up. You will need your password to access this space. Click on the button below.

Security Configuration


Modern Tribe Events Calendar

How to resolve a failed plugin

On some websites I have used the Events Calendar from Modern Tribe. Some of you have the professional version installed. On or around the 21st of October 2016 a problem occurred where the authors released a new version of the plugin which caused several sites to crash. This is a very rare event, however it can be frustrating when it happens, and worse still what do you do about it?

With this particular problem the sites were critically affected meaning you could not login or do anything. When accessing the site; all you would see is a white screen with a message on it saying a script had failed.

In this case the message looked similar to this:

Fatal error: Class ‘Tribe__PUE__Package_Handler’ not found in /home/risu3a12/public_html/wp-content/plugins/the-events-calendar/common/src/Tribe/PUE/Checker.php on line 200

I would not normally expect my client base to know what to do other than see there is a problem. However there is something you can do which will get your site back online quickly albeit with some reduced functionality, this should work in most cases where a plugin fails.

What to check

If you see a message appear where your website was, the first thing to do is copy it and send it to me. I will get to it as soon as I can. For those of you that reported it back to me when it occurred you will know that my response time was within a few hours of you telling me about it.

Here is something you can do for Plugin related problems. Look at the message, and note that the path to the problem script includes the text


This tells me it is a plugin problem, so it automatically isolates the problem to a specific area of your website. Looking a little further, the plugin is called The Events Calendar


With that knowledge you can locate the folder which contains the code for that plugin and rename it. If you rename it the website will not be able to run the code (because it is has moved to a new location), and if it was the code in the plugin that was causing the problem then it has been bypassed. You will find the website is back up and running, but without the calendar plugin working in this case.

How do I do this?

Depending on your skill level you may wish to pass the problem to me and I will handle it. If you want to have a go, then you need access to the  control panel for your website. You may already have this, if you haven’t then request it and I will provide it to you.

You log into your control panel (a different location to the admin address for your website) by going to http://(my website homepage address)/cpanel Substitute “my website homepage address” with your home page address. You will see a user name and password is requested. Enter that.

On the next page is a set of icons. Look for the  File Manager icon and click on it. Then navigate to the folder /public_html.

This is generally the root directory of your website. In some cases it isn’t so if you cannot locate this folder do not take any further action in case you break something.

Once in /public_html/ look for wp-content, then plugins. This will place you in the directory where all of the plugins are located.

Next you look carefully at the error code produced by your website. In this case it showed the-events-calendar.

Locate the folder with that name and rename it to the-events-calendar-broken and save the change.  The code is still on your site, however your website cannot access it anymore because the path to it is no longer valid. So it will simply skip over it.

If you return to the users view of the website, you will see it is now running. However the plugin you have effectively disabled is not running, so you have lost some functionality.

Right now is a good time to back up the entire website. Login and go to Settings, UpdraftPlus and backup the site and download the backup before you do anything else.


What happens next depends on the plugin. So I will comment on this particular case, bearing in mind that several days have elapsed, generally it may take +24hrs or more before a patch or fix is available from the author.

Log into the website as an administrator and check to see if there are any outstanding upgrades pending. Your site generally updates these once a day. If the plugin that you just disabled has an upgrade pending. Run the update. In this case new code was installed and the problem was resolved.

Don’t forget to go back to the File Manager and delete the directory you renamed. You will see that the original directory has been created again as a result of updating the plugin. It may have cleaned it up for you, but it is best to check and verify.

Things to note in this process

Taking these actions retained any data associated with the plugin in the database. So all of the calendar entries were ok and unaffected. It may have been possible to delete and restore the plugin, however that may have deleted the data in the data base as well. It usually does not, however you cannot be sure. So it is best to take care if you find yourself in this situation.


Crunch those images!

Those of you that have worked through my tutorials will know that one of the points I continuously raise is the importance of scaling images down to a size at or near the resolution of the image in the browser screen.

There is no point downloading a 5MB file where a 50kB file would have done the same job, I am not exaggerating here, it does happen frequently.

I go around and back the sites up 4 times a year and some are getting inexplicably large, so I go in and check and find out there are lots of very large images which have been uploaded to the site. Of course the images all look ok. However if you are out and about and using a mobile connection as many people do these days they are downloading 5MB vs 50kB;  100 x more data than they need to download with no additional benefits. However they are paying per MB for their connection!

In addition to costing your mobile users their data allowance for the privilege of visiting your site, your backups are also growing in size.

But I have found a solution!

Go to your Plugins option on the menu of your site and put into the search box WP Smush. This plugin will go through your images and reduce them in size to something that is more appropriate for a website. It can also be set up to resize anything you upload, just in case you forget.

I have used this on a couple of sites this month to work through lots of images which were too big and taking up too much space in the hosting.

Use something like this and your sites will load more quickly.