Why I switched
Back when I started this site, I didn’t really know much about hosting or about what kind of traffic I expected at this site. Overall, I think my expectations were pretty low. I’d been blogging over at LiveJournal since 2005 and it seemed adequate. Indeed, I have a permanent LJ account. But I decided to start my own self-maintained WordPress blog because there were changes taking place on LiveJournal that made it seem less reliable over time1 I had a domain already, jamierubin.net, through a domain service company called DirectNIC. I figured since I already had the domain with them, why not use them for hosting, too.
DirectNIC had everything I needed. MySQL servers, PHP access, email forwarding and domain parking. Indeed, I added several more domains over the years (all of which get redirected to jamierubin.net) and their service was generally pretty good.
In the last year, the traffic on this site has increased. Whereas a year ago, I was averaging 45 hits/day, today I am averaging well over 500 hits/day (and so far this month, well over 1,000 hits/day). Two problems started to arise:
- I felt that with the increased traffic, it was more important that my site be available as much as possible for visitors. Good customer service practices. It’s a negative moment of truth to come to a site and find it down.
- There was a steady increase in the number of outages of my site, due to problems with the DirectNIC servers it was hosted on.
Since February 2011, I’ve opened 11 trouble tickets with DirectNIC, almost all of them regarding problems accessing my site. Usually they were very good at getting the service restored pretty quickly. Once, in June, they had problems with database servers and some of my data was lost. Fortunately, I have backups and I was able to restore it all myself, but I wasn’t impressed by DirectNIC’s efforts.
And then, recently, when I reported downtime, I was told that premium hosting service members were going to be asked to migrate to a new service they were offering powered by cPanel. This was because their premium servers were too overloaded. The problem for me was that there was no migration plan from DirectNIC. Or rather, the migration plan was a do-it-yourself effort. I gave it some thought and decided that if I was going to have to go through the process of migrating both hosting and domains, I should look into alternative.
Ultimately, I chose to use GoDaddy because they offer everything I need, had some nice deals on additional services, and perhaps most importantly, they offer a 99.9% uptime guarantee. For those who aren’t sure what that actually means, it means for a server running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, they guarantee less than 9 total hours of down time. That is something I can live with.
The process of switching
I was nervous going into this because I knew it would mean some downtime and I knew that I wanted to minimize that downtime. It also meant I’ve have to move over my self-maintained WordPress installation and I didn’t know how easy this would be. Turns out, the whole process was fairly straight forward and the biggest issue was the waiting.
I started by transferring all of my domains from DirectNIC to GoDaddy. Transferring the domains is easy, but takes 5 days (most of it just waiting). While that was being done, I added GoDaddy’s hosting service. I FTP’d by existing WordPress site from DirectNIC to GoDaddy. I then backed up the MySQL database and restored it to GoDaddy. GoDaddy provides a link for previewing your site for testing. This was crucial as I was able to verify that the site worked before I took the final plunge.
That final plunge is cutting over the DNS nameservers. This is what tells the Internet what server your site is hosted on. All through this process, DNS was telling the internet my site was hosted on a server at DirectNIC. Last night, when the transfers came through, I updated the nameserver setting to poing to GoDaddy. During this time is when there is downtime as sometimes it takes longer for DNS entries to be updated on some servers than others. For instance, I was able to access the new site through AT&T’s 3G network around 4am. But I wasn’t able to access it through Cox cable until about 12:30pm.
In a way, I lucked out. The final transfer notices came through just after midnight last night when I was suffering from a pretty bad ear ache and unable to sleep. I decided that now was as good a time as any to do the name server change. It was the middle of the night and the activity on the site should be at its lowest. So that’s what I did. I did a final backup of the WordPress database on the old server, restored that to the new server and then cut over the name servers.
There’s a chance that not every server out there has been updated with the new DNS information but it will get there. In the meantime, there is only one new thing you should expect on the site at its new host–less downtime. Everything else should be the same as it was before. There are some new features that I have to play around with at the new provider, but I don’t have the time for that and my biggest concern was for a smooth transition between domain and hosting providers. That seems to have been the case.
- As of this moment, for instance, LJ is up but is still under a second multi-day DDoS attack. ↩