Backup and Restore: Our easy rewind button
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There are many reasons we refer to Ning as a Playground, but the freedom to experiment is a key one. This is why I jumped for joy when we released our Backup & Restore features last month: they’re giant Undo/Redo buttons for your apps. While we do a lot to make it easy for users to jump into building and customising apps, the idea of tweaking complex code is still a daunting one. If you know that any mistakes can be undone in a couple of clicks, it makes it more tempting to be adventurous with your code (and we like adventurers).

To get to your app’s backups, click the Backup and Restore link in your app’s File Manager. There you’ll find two different kinds of backup:

  • Permanent backups are named backups of your code, and can be made by hitting the link marked Create Permanent Backup. They stick around for good. If you’re planning on making some major changes to your app, it only takes a second to make a backup, and it may save your skin if you accidentally delete something important. It’s also useful for flipping between two different versions of your app if you’re having trouble choosing between them (as often happens with redesigns). Permanent backups are never deleted by the system unless you specifically request it.
  • Even if you forget to make a backup before you start hacking away, you can still revert your changes. Temporary backups are made automatically when the system notices you editing your code (whether in the web interface or over SFTP). While you’re editing, the system will take a backup every half hour. Your app stores a maximum of fifteen temporary backups – when you exceed that number, the oldest will be deleted. Temporary backups are also automatically taken when doing Merge and Reclone operations (of which we’ll explain more soon) so that they’re easy to undo.

If you ever need to retrieve a backup, just click the Restore link next to the backup you want. If you want to see exactly what a particular backup contains, click the Compare link – this contains a particularly nifty feature which shows you the differences between files in the backup and those currently in your app.

A couple more points to note:

  • Backups are stored by us, and only take a moment to create. So you don’t need to download anything to your hard drive.
  • Backups only contain code, not content objects. If you decide to delete all the cat pictures from your Photo Sharing app, we can’t help you get them back. (But we can suggest a source of solace)