Three Lessons I Learned From Almost Crashing My Website

Did I ever tell about the time I almost crashed my website?

Crashing Website

I woke up before sunrise one morning and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I started fiddling with my webhosting service, Bluehost.  If you don’t know much about running a blog or a website, a webhosting service basically allows you to store your site’s data on a server so that it’s accessible to to everyone via the Internet.  Even though there are lots of easy-to-use programs out there (I use WordPress), webhosting settings are not something you want to mess with unless you know what you’re doing.

I do not know what I’m doing.

The Disaster

I was trying to switch my personal blog from WordPress.com to WordPress.org.  A move that would let me add more features to my site.  In the process I had to install a new program.  While I thought I was only tampering with http://jemartisby.com, I was actually working with http://www.raanetwork.org.

The Reformed African American Network (RAAN) is a ministry I co-founded with a fellow seminary student.  RAAN provides biblically faithful resources, a network of people, and a platform for Christian dialogue to African Americans and believers of any race.  We launched the website in November 2012 and have been growing steadily ever since.

As I went to install this new program I absentmindedly clicked on a prompt that said “overwrite files.”  Too late I realized that I was overwriting the files for the wrong website.  I quickly typed in the RAAN web address to see if the site was affected.  It was.  Where there used to be a vibrant attractive website, now there was nothing left but a blank template.

I was stupefied.  I literally could not speak or think for several seconds as the implications descended on me.

In our brief time online, RAAN had generated several months worth of content: custom videos, podcast interviews, dozens of resource links, and many, many blog articles. The majority of this content is stored on the web and cannot be reproduced.

“I just destroyed our ministry,” I thought.  “I have singlehandedly halted a movement.”

This story has a happy ending, though.  I had already been chatting online with the Bluehost 24-hour help desk. Doing my best to express the direness of the situation in ALL CAPS and !!!EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!, I told the faceless person typing responses at me what happened.

Thankfully, any webhosting service automatically backs-up website info frequently.  The tech was able to fully restore my website–even the Facebook likes, Tweets, and comments for individual posts.  No one would be able to tell what happened (unless they read this post). Disaster averted!

3 Life Lessons

In the hours after the near fatality of my website, I reflected on the event and came up with the following life lessons:

1) Know the Extent and Limit of Your Skills

It’s important to know both what you can do and what you can’t do.  I encourage you to explore and push your skills.  It’s very possible that you can learn to do a lot more than you think.  At the same time, know your limitations.

I knew I was out of my league with this webhosting stuff because I had already watched half a dozen videos, read a score of articles, and went to a friend for help.  All to no avail.  But I kept thinking, “Well, let me just try this one last thing…”  When attempt after attempt failed, I tried more aggressive techniques which is what finally led to overwriting precious files.  I should have stopped sooner.

2) Sometimes It’s Better Just to Spend the Money

I know there are a lot of “do-it-yourselfers” out there.  My dad is one of them.   When I was growing up, he built a 30-foot deck on the back of our house just by reading books and experimenting.  The deck still stands today and his grandkids are now enjoying it.  If you’re like my dad, then more power to you.

If you’re like me, it’s probably better if you leave the difficult jobs to the experts.  Almost crashing my website taught me that I’d rather sacrifice money to pay someone than sacrifice time or irreplaceable content doing it myself.  I’m a grad student.  I know money is tight.  But if the project is that important to you, it’s probably a good idea to save up the money so someone else can do it.  You’ll preserve your own time, energy, and sanity.  Plus, if you hire someone good, that person will usually do the job better than you could.

3) God is in Control

It took about 30 minutes to resolve my website crashing issue.  In that time I did a lot of things.  I brushed my teeth, got dressed, made coffee…I just had to keep moving.  I couldn’t wait endless seconds and minutes for the techie to type his response.  But one of the first and best things I did was pray.

I said, “God, this stinks.  I really blew it.  I pray that if there’s any way to get these files back and save what so many people have worked hard on and what so many people are benefiting from, please do it.  But if not, Lord, I know there’s something you want me to learn in this.  It may even be an opportunity to make a better website and generate new content.  God, I trust you.  But it’s really hard right now, so help my faith.”

The Best Part

Maybe you’ve had a technology disaster like me.  Perhaps it’s something far more serious like a broken relationship or a health tragedy.  When all seems lost.  When you’ve really messed up.  Pray.

God made the world and everything in it.  He can redeem and bring good out of any situation, if you believe in Him (Rom. 8:28).  I know that not every story of mine will have a happy ending. But the most important story, the story of my life, won’t just  have a happy ending, it will have a happy never-ending.

After this life I’ll be with my loving God for eternity.  I’ll be able to look back on heart-stopping moments and see that it all makes sense because God had a plan the whole time.  He might even tell me how to run a website.

Comment: Have you had any near-disasters? What did you learn?

8 thoughts on “Three Lessons I Learned From Almost Crashing My Website

  1. Dude, I love this post. I’m definitely learning what I can and cannot do well, especially when I look at how gifted my wife is! Thanks for the encouragement. Looking forward to meeting you at Bradley/Rhodes!

    1. I feel you about the wife. I have a very specific set of skills, and I’ve learned to rely on my spouse’s broad and varied range of talents. Grateful that we’ll get the chance to meet in person at the Bradley/Rhodes conversation, too. Thanks for reading!

    1. Mike,
      Although the situation turned out well, trust me, I was terrified. But I thank God the Holy Spirit for doing in me what I could not do in my own strength. Thanks for reading. Go Irish!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s