Update: An up to date version of this article has been published here
One of the ongoing issues that we deal with in the Developer Program is the continuity of the free developer instances. No matter how well intentioned you are, it is always possible to have a time period where you are out of the office and miss the email about your Developer Instance expiring. I don’t like the idea of anyone losing their work but there is only so much we can do to prevent it. There aren’t enough resources to give developers free instances that last forever, so we do the best we can.
However, you as the developer have the ability to mitigate this. I’ve been advocating for developers to periodically take update set backups to prevent data loss. If you have a backup of everything important to you, then losing your instance is a trivial operation. You request another, reinstall from backup and proceed ahead. Now that we are in the Helsinki era, you don’t even need to deal with the update sets anymore. You can set yourself up a Git repository, save any of your work to it, and away you go. Not only does this keep you from losing your work, it gives you the ability to revert your code if you ever find yourself in a position where you have broken something that previously worked. You can tag commits and then later use those as branch points, all the great functionality of source control. Nowadays, a free GitLab account will allow you to have private repositories so there is no reason to not do it.
Below is a video we put together to show you the very simple steps it takes to get your app committed to source control. In the video where it says “Install on another instance”, think in your head “Another developer instance after I some day lose mine.” That’s where the real power comes in. Rather than it being a devastating loss, it should be a 5 minute hiccup if your developer instance is reclaimed. If you do any work on there that is important to you, treat it as important and save a backup.
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