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Switching Webhosts

5

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Changing web hosts can be a real pain. The logistics alone are enough to stop someone from making the switch. In this weeks episode we walk though changing web hosts. We start with how you know there is better out there and when you should change. It turns out, when you look at the market, there are a lot of opportunities for churches and ministries to be on more cost effective solution.

Then move on to walk through a fast way to make the switch keeping your downtime as small as possible. This is our 8 step method.

Before we dive into changing web hosts we talk about using a CSS framework and the new drupal starter module called blueprint. Come join us for another roaring episode of Geeks and God.

not on iTunes

this one doesnt seem to be on iTunes yet..
maybe i'm being impatient.

Paul Vaartjes
www.paulvaartjes.com
www.cursoryglance.wordpress.com

Paul Vaartjes

shoulda been more patient

it's here now!

Paul Vaartjes
www.paulvaartjes.com
www.cursoryglance.wordpress.com

Paul Vaartjes

Well, sort of...

Well, sort of. It's there for the standard version, but not the enhanced version.

Hosting

I have our church on my personal Dreamhost account. I've heard of a lot of people complaining about Dreamhost. For the last 2 years I've had little to no problems. Personally I think people expect $50/month hosting performance for $6/month. Their tech support is amazing, worth $50/month easily.

The other hosts M&R forgot to mention was that "cheapy" solution that a lot of ISPs offer when you subscribe to their DSL services.

Thanks for all the great detail M&R, You guys make Mondays great!

Peter

Site 5

I host most of my sites on site5.com - database speed is decent. I did try 1 and 1 before and found the database speed to be pretty bad - not sure how far separated it is from the actual hosting but the speed just wasn't there.

Keith

Dreamhost

The Dreamhost resources was a wonderful one for providing nice hosting for non-profits a while back. Does anybody know what they offer for storage space and bandwith in this package?

Switching Hosts - More Tips

Another time to switch: when your shared host gets hacked and is being mass-defaced and provider won't acknowledge or fix it. (Stay AWAY from Pegasus Web Technology hosting!!!)

Switching email from old provider? That's a good time to switch to Google Apps for Domains. As discussed here before, it's a sweet deal if you're 501c3. In addition, their free "standard" service is suitable for most small businesses, unless you need LDAP or AD integration for password management. This also means you'll never need to switch email when switching providers again.

Here' more about DNS name server cutovers. A lot of this ties to your time-to-live (TTL) values on your DNS records. You guys mentioned it takes minutes or hours for the changes to propagate. In some cases, it can be a full day!

Here's how it works: When you make the switch, anyone coming to your site or sending you email for the first time will get get the new address in DNS right away. However, anyone who has looked up your address recently (including Windows workstations) will have already cached your IP address in memory. That address will live in memory until the TTL expires. A lot of stuff gets set to four hours, but older configurations may be set to 86400 seconds - a full day! That means if someone sent you an email a few minutes before the switch, their mail server will keep sending email to your old server for that long.

If you've planned things well, go into DNS the day before the switch and set TTL on everything to something very low, like 600 or 900 seconds. That way, when you actually make the change, the old DNS records will expire from caches in just a few minutes after you make the change. This will give you the smoothest switch possible.

(This assumes that you're already on the new DNS server when you do the cut-over. If you're not sure about that, just change records on both servers until you're sure.)

One final thought. POP3 is ancient history. It really doesn't work well in a world where most people now want to manage their email from multiple locations. Since everything else is changing, this would be a good time to switch to IMAP.

Micah

Micah, Excellent DNS tips.

Micah,

Excellent DNS tips. Thanks!

Shrop

Mark Shropshire "shrop"
Geeks & God Forums Moderator
http://geeksandgod.com/users/shrop

Great Post. Thanks Micah

Great Post. Thanks Micah

Great post

I agree Google Apps (google.com/a) makes email easy.

For DNS I point my name servers to zoneedit.com or now days many domain registers provide this service for free. If you ever need to change hosts / servers you don't need to change name servers and the switch can take minutes instead of 24-48 hrs.

For backups I run Plesk backups. This backs up your entire site (email, email settings and accounts, databases, files). This file can then be downloaded and restored on another server running the same version of Plesk in just a few minutes depending on site size. It makes it easier to move to another host if you ever need to.

A few thoughts: I also

A few thoughts:

I also recommend www.powervps.com for VPS hosting. As Rob and MF mentioned, VPS's require more sysadmin skills. A VPS does give you a nice middle ground betwen shared and dedicated hosting. Our church's web site is on a VPS and it has great performance. If you go with a VPS host, I recommend a host that provides semi-managed VPS. This means that you are still responsible for day to day admin of the server, but you are not on your own if there are problems. PowerVPS has a good mix for me. They are good about answering questions and providing guidance as needed.

Hosting has becoming a commodity. The only thing that really seperates hosts is support. I have been burned in the past by poorly managed support models with various hosting companies. It is up to you to determine what your support experctations are and then find out what it will cost to obtain the support level you desire.

Move to Google Apps. I moved our church's email hosting to Google Apps after the listening to http://geeksandgod.com/episode74. This has been great because our church staff now have a lot of great tools and our web server can just serve web pages.. no email, spam, etc. yeah!!! BTW, the church staff love it. Thanks Rob and MF for introducing me to Google Apps for NP.

Lastly, church web sites are a major part of ministry and ministry communications. The church web site is the first impression of the church for many. Give it the time and attention that it deserves.

Great topic.. thanks!
Shrop

Mark Shropshire "shrop"
Geeks & God Forums Moderator
http://geeksandgod.com/users/shrop

One of the things you

One of the things you pointed out is what I was worried about when switching to a VPS. Am I on my own if something goes wrong?
This is what I wasnt to sure about.
Seems like MediaTemple has pretty good support so my worries are gone now.
I wanted the extra flexibility by going to a VPS but still didn't want to be a full time server guy just to get that flexibility.
I did a lot of searching at Webhosting Talk. Just give yourself some time and start reading peoples issues with different companies. It can be quite helpful.

ha! good mention

I completely meant to mention www.webhostingtalk.com for a great resource for reviews and news on web hosting. I second techmte's mention. If you are shopping for hosting, check this site out.

Thanks!
Shrop

Mark Shropshire "shrop"
Geeks & God Forums Moderator
http://geeksandgod.com/users/shrop

Consultant

You can always hire a consultant when something goes terribly wrong.

One of the tricks I do is to always have a test server on my own and I test it out there first. That's how I don't break too much on live servers. I've broken a lot of test servers. :)

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.innovatingtomorrow.net
www.mattfarina.com

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Joyent

Earlier this week someone recommended Joyent. I immediately started dreaming of all the ways to use the 10TB of bandwidth listed in their plans.

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.innovatingtomorrow.net
www.mattfarina.com

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Drupal Value Hosting

First Post!

I've used a dozen or so hosts in the past. Since 2004, most of my sites are Drupal-based and I recently discovered DrupalValueHosting ( http://www.drupalvaluehosting.com ). Amit sponsors a lot of Drupal conferences and tweaks his servers for Drupal.

I have three sites on them and have nothing but raves. Here's one: http://www.kingwoodfirst.org

Jeff

I second this one too. I

I second this one too. I consulted with a project that was hosted on drupal value hosting. It seemed very fast, stable, etc..

Shrop

Mark Shropshire "shrop"
Geeks & God Forums Moderator
http://geeksandgod.com/users/shrop

Unfortunately the service at

Unfortunately the service at DVH has evaporated. Many people have support tickets that have not been answered for over a month.
The performance of the servers is great, but without the commitment to service it is a bit hit or miss. I would hold off opening a new account with them until this is resolved.

Thanks for letting us know.

Thanks for letting us know. I never had to put in a ticket so I wouldn't know about this issue. One thing is fairly true with hosting. You get what you pay for...

Mark Shropshire "shrop"
Geeks & God Forums Moderator
http://geeksandgod.com/users/shrop

Drupal blueprint missing piece

When I downloaded the Drupal blueprint theme and started looking through the css, I noticed there were some things missing like meyers' reset. I then realized (reading the readme file) that you still have to download the blueprint code from google, and do the following:

Download Blueprint 0.7.1+ http://code.google.com/p/blueprintcss/
a. Extract folder, creating something like Blueprint 0.7.1
b. Rename to "blueprint"
c. Ensure your path looks like themes/blueprint/blueprint/blueprint/screen.css

I'm good with that, but I wonder why that code wasn't just incorporated in the "blueprint.css."? having too many css files is a bit messy.

Nevertheless, I'm looking to use blueprint on a drupal site I'm starting next week, so I'll let you know if I find any other weird tweaks.

Aggregation

The key with all of these CSS files is Drupals css aggregation. You may deal with a bunch during development. When you turn on aggregation it moves all the css to one file. I don't run production sites without aggregation.

The blueprint css framework isn't in the module because it doesn't have a GPL license and drupal has a general rule to not have outsides libraries in it's versioning system. It's not safe or secure to have multiple copies of libraries all over the internet being managed in different places. And, it's not efficient on time.

A general rule when installing a new module is to read it's readme and install files. Or, like me, you can learn the hard way when it doesn't work out of the box. :)

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.innovatingtomorrow.net
www.mattfarina.com

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

css aggregation

it's interesting that the default css aggregation is set to disabled in admin/performance. thanks for that.

Turned off because....

You'll find the performance enhancements are turned off because you don't want them on when you first install. If you are creating a theme or doing all kinds of things you don't want them on. The 99% use case is you want it on later when your site is ready to go into production use.

The same goes for javascript, etc.

Each new version of drupal brings new performance enhancements to turn on. Turning some on can have adverse reactions if things like your css aren't well formed.

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.innovatingtomorrow.net
www.mattfarina.com

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

This was a great podcast. A

This was a great podcast. A bunch of valuable information in it.
We just recently moved our church over to google apps. Its nice to know now if we ever have to change hosting services, the email wont be an issue.

An easier way...

Another great broadcast! Please keep it up.

Here are a few links that may be relevant:

Moving your web site--an easier way

  • www.EZSiteMove.com makes it really easy to move from one web host to another because they do it all for you. You fill in some basic information. They give you a quote instantly and you decide if you want to go with it. They'll even send you a backup CD for a small fee. In my opinion, the cost is minimal compared to the pain and and time-loss of doing it yourself.

Transcribing the sessions

  • www.iDictate.com does transcriptions for a fee. I know that's not in your budget but if someone wants to make a contribution...
  • Amazon.com's Mechanical Turk (mturk.amazon.com) has people who will do transcriptions for low prices.
  • www.Jott.com does short transcriptions for free.
  • I've heard that there are other sites that do transcriptions for free or low cost. Perhaps other listeners could add to the list.

Webhosts

Enjoyed this episode.

I have used 1&1 as my webhost for the past several years or so. I first started with them when they were starting to promote to individuals for webhosting. I got free hosting for about a year and had good service, so I decided to stay with them. Since I was one of the early subscribers, I get the "Developer Package" for $9 a month. I currently have three of my personal sites, one of my friend's site, and our church site hosted in my package.

I can only think of two occasions where I had service issues with them, with one of them being my fault (unpatched script that was attacked). Both times I have contacted support, they have been helpful and fixed the problems quickly.

Someone earlier mentioned database performance issues. I have not noticed any performance issues at all with any of these sites - 1 Joomla, 1 Drupal, 2 Wordpress, and 1 PHPGEDView.

I've recommended 1&1 to several people that ended up signing up with them, and they have all had good experiences.

Just my $.02. Keep up the great podcast!

Testing on a new host prior to launch

1. Totally agree with everyone on switching to Google Apps. That's the very first item I do when acquiring a domain name for anyone. It doesn't matter if it's a person or a business. Let the web server be a web server and an email host an email host.

2. If you have the luxury of developing on the new hosting server, instead of going to http://1.2.3.4/~supersweetsite, put an entry in your local HOSTS file with the new IP and the real domain name. Depending on which operating system that you are on:

Windows: C:\Windows\system32\drivers\etc\hosts
Mac/Linux: /etc/hosts

you would enter the same into the HOSTS file:

1.2.3.4 www.supersweetsite.com

Then, you would just open the site in your browser at http://www.supersweetsite.com/. In this setup, only the www would work. If you wanted the non-www:

1.2.3.4 www.supersweetsite.com supersweetsite.com

or

1.2.3.4 www.supersweetsite.com
1.2.3.4 supersweetsite.com

Just remember to remove the entries from HOSTS after you go live to keep everything clean.

Darin Pope
Principal Consultant
PlanetPope, Inc.

Darin Pope
Principal Consultant
PlanetPope, Inc.

Great Host

I want to recommend a really good web hosting site www.bluehost.com it is hosting most of the churches sites. Right now we are hosting the Young Adults, Worship Team Site, and The Main Church site. All departments are free to host where they want and what ever domain extention they want..

I was pushing as a Canadian Church to choose the .ca domain name for all of the sites at the church but some went with .com, .ca and one .org Personally no matter what the department hosting plan we should as a church pick one domain type .ca, .com, .us etc.. and make sure that all sites do the same.. What are other thoughts on that.. I am only saying constancy. We still have many in our church who are not that good with computers and this would not confuse any of them.

Be Blessed!

Visit These Great Websites
www.embassyonline.ca (Young Adults)
www.theembassyofgod.com (Main Site)
www.embassyworship.com (Worship Teams)
www.durhamhop.com (Durham House of Prayer)
www.geeks4god.web44.net (My Site)

Visit These Great Websites
www.embassyonline.ca (Young Adults)
www.embassystudents.ca (JR & SR High)
www.theembassyofgod.com (Main Site)
www.embassyworship.com (Worship Teams)
www.durhamhop.com (Durham House of Prayer)
www.matthewdykstra.site90.com