A lot of bloggers got a harsh lesson on not relying on free hosting this weekend. More than 73,000 blogs were shut down with no warning by law enforcement officials. It’s not clear what happened to cause them to shut down Blogtery, but it’s a good lesson on not trusting free hosting… or any hosting, really. You have to protect your business yourself.

If you want what details are available, try the discussion on WebHostingTalk, this story on CNet, and this one on Read Write Web.

What’s the Lesson?

The big lesson here is to always, always have backups of your site. Shut downs can happen for much less reason than law enforcement ordering them down. Free hosts can take your site down just because, if that’s what they want to do.

Sites get taken down from Blogger for spamming, DMCA violations and sometimes for reasons that are hard to understand. Sites get shut down on WordPress.com because the owner was caught using affiliate links, even when they almost never did it. These are things that can happen to you on any free host at any time.

But even with paid hosting you should be taking regular backups of your data. After all, the owners of Blogtery were paying for their hosting, then suddenly lost it, and they’re saying they don’t have it all backed up.

There’s a simple WordPress plugin that will do it for you on whatever schedule you set. You don’t have to do a thing, just tell it where to email the backup.

When your site disappears, for whatever the reason, and you don’t have backups, your work is gone. You can try to use Google’s cache to retrieve some of it, or Archive.org, but you can’t be certain of getting it all back.

Your backups are your one defense from complete disaster if something happens with your hosting.

Don’t Just Backup Your Site

So long as we’re on the subject, don’t just backup your site. Backup your computer, more than one way.

I keep an external hard drive on my desk that backs up my computer regularly. But in case of a natural disaster that really isn’t enough.

Look into offsite backup options. There are a lot out there. Find one that fits your budget. Some, such as SafeCopy Backup offer a limited amount of space for free. You can also use Amazon’s S3 service to backup your computer. MozyPro is another alternative for businesses.

Another option is to store a backup at a trusted friend or relative’s home, and update it periodically. This isn’t easy, but it’s a good option if you don’t want to trust an online company with your data.

However you do it, protect all of your data, both the online parts of your business and the data you keep at home. Minimizing the chances for trouble always makes sense.