Site Move

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Jan 23, 2018

Filed under: Notices 56 comments

I’ve been with Hosting Matters for almost 12 years. For all that time, they’ve hosted the site you’re looking at right now. It’s been a good run, but the site is moving. I’ve been feeling like I need to migrate for a while now. With the recent security concerns, now seems like a good time to pack up and move.

What you need to know:

Sometime on Tuesday evening on the East coast, I’m going to take a snapshot of the database. (I’ll post an update to this post just before the move.) Any comments left after that point will get left behind. After that, there will be some unknown time before the transition is done. I have to get my current host to change the DNS record to point to my new host, and companies are notoriously slow about helping people leave their service. When you see a new post at the top of this page, it will either be an announcement of a successful migration or a rant about how it all went So Very Wrong.

If you’re curious, I’m moving to Dreamhost. This is mostly due to peer pressure. Everyone I know (that runs a website) uses Dreamhost.

As part of the migration, I’ve been digging around in the old file directories of the site, seeing what’s junk and what’s worth backing up. I found an old database from a work blog I ran back in 2008, and that’s a pretty interesting read. It’s amazing how little of it I remember. I also found a six-page comic from 2007 that I never published. It’s not very good, but it’s an interesting find. I’ll probably put that up on a rainy day.

With any luck, I hope to have the new site working by Wednesday. And I hope it will be faster. And I hope the forums will return. And I hope the whole thing will be fun and not stressful or frustrating. And I hope to ride a magical unicorn to a world of free candy that doesn’t make you fat but tastes like it does.

So yeah. High hopes. I’m sure nothing can go wrong. This is going to be so much fun.

UPDATE 10am:

As I said in the comments below:

The new site is loading OBNOXIOUSLY slow. Like, 6 full seconds to load the front page. And since the site is still private, I'm the only one looking at it. I shudder to think what performance would be like under normal load. At first I thought it was slow because I was doing stuff on the backend. (Like database migration.) But then everything settled down and it was still slow as hell.

After some experimenting, we determined it's their SQL server that's holding things up. A friend put my dB on his server and the site loaded instantly.

Worse still, I opted to go with their VPS SQL hosting. Which means I'm paying for an entire extra VM, just for running SQL. This doubles the monthly cost, but I was willing to pay it if I could have speed and stability. But after spinning up my virtual server, the site ran exactly the same.

This is totally unacceptable. I sent them an email 6 hours ago, asking if they can do anything about it. Still waiting to hear back.

Shame. I've blown two entire days on this migration (ugh, don't ask. It's a comedy of errors) and I'd really hate to start over with another host, but I'm not going to run this site with constant long load times. That's miserable for everyone. (Particularly, me, since moderating comments and editing posts is such a huge part of my workflow.)

UPDATE 11:30am:

I just spotted this in their help center:

“DreamHost does not offer refunds for DreamPress, Dedicated server, or VPS (private server) hosting fees. The 97-day money back guarantee only applies to shared hosting plans. View the ‘Terms of Service' for further details.”

I just purchased a whole year. I saw that big “97 day money-back guarantee!” and figured it was safe to do so. But apparently they only guarantee their cheapest, low-tier plans?

Damn it. That was a lot of money. It's been 8 hours since I issued my ticket and they haven't even replied yet with a lame “We're looking into it”. If this is how they treat a new customer then I can't imagine how they'd treat me once I'd fully migrated.

What a pain in the ass.

UPDATE: NOON

Update: Canceled. Got a refund despite the disclaimer. That really took the edge off.

Now I guess I need to find another prospective host. If you’ve got any suggestions, I’m open to them.

I need all the usual stuff a webhost offers, like power and bandwidth at a reasonable price. I’m looking for direct FTP / MySQL access, not some fancy-pants “site builder” thing like SquareSpace. Also I’d really prefer to go with something established, not some place that just launched last week. And I’d prefer to have SSH access available. I’m rubbish at Linux and almost never use it, but sometimes it really is the best way to solve a problem.

And for reasons of dystopian corporate paranoia, I’d rather not go with a service from giants like Google or Amazon. Although I’d do it if it was the only way to get the features I need.

I was right. This is exactly as much fun as I thought it would be.

 


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56 thoughts on “Site Move

  1. Rick says:

    Good luck with your move!

  2. Pat says:

    Huh, didn’t expect to see a post so quick.
    Good luck, btw.

  3. Asdasd says:

    Huh. After years of podcasting, Big Marketing had successfully convinced me that the only web hosts in the world were SquareSpace :)

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Squarespace!For all your web hosting needs!For a discount on your initial purchase go to wwwdotsquarespacedotcomslashyourfavoritepodcast!

      1. MichaelG says:

        You know, if I’m going to pay for all my free internet goodies by sitting through advertising, could they at least get more than a handful of advertisers, so I don’t see the same damn ad over and over and over…

        1. Xeorm says:

          No. There’s really not many sites that’ll do the legwork for smaller channels. Internet advertising in general isn’t seen as terribly lucrative, and recent scandals have done a good job at scaring more big companies away. Doesn’t help either that they’ll base their metrics of how a good an ad is on terrible statistics. Like click-rate. Never click an ad, because it’s bad internet security to do so. Or on target demographics being both too broad and too narrow.

          1. Echo Tango says:

            Personally, I’d rather just have less advertising. For things that are brand new, advertising makes sense. (Try Tom’s craft beer! It’s new! Try Coke Refresh – twice the caffeine!) For everything else, I feel like customers and companies would both be better served with customer review websites, and good search engines.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Everything is new for someone.

              1. Echo Tango says:

                If it’s new for a customer, the should be able to search for a product or service, without needing advertisements spammed at them. For example, googling for “office supplies Toronto” should be able to point them to reputable businesses with good reviews and good prices. Why should they need to hear an ad for Joe’s local office shop? Or the big name store? Furthermore, remember that ads don’t actually tell you how good or bad a business is, just who’s paid for advertisements.

                1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  That presupposes that everyone knows precisely what they need and want all the time.

                2. Sleeping Dragon says:

                  Ads nowadays are still about brand awareness, and there’s certainly something to be said for being recognizable as *the* product, but they’re also as much, if not more, about attempts to manipulate customer behaviour. Just how succesful they are in that is a matter of some debate.

                  (Personally I fail to see how having my stream watching interrupted several times by a laptop commercial that blasts a sound reminiscent of the “Reaper horn” way louder than the stream itself several times during each ad run, including at the very start, is meant to create association with anything but annoyance but maybe I’m weird…)

  4. Zekiel says:

    Best of luck!

    My big hope for Dreamhost is that you’ll get page urls that contain (something like) the title of the post… I always find it annoying when there’s a link to a previous post on TwentySided and you can’t tell what its about by mousing over it. Any chance of that?

    1. Yummychickenblue says:

      That seems like it would depend more on the WordPress configuration.

    2. Shamus says:

      I could do that now. It’s actually a setting in wordpress. The problem is that it it would break a lot of links in the archives. :(

      EDIT: I just tried it on my test site. It doesn’t break archive links. I DOES break ALL IMAGES. Each post gets shoved down into a sub-directory. By design, the site looks for an /images directory one level below the current directory. Moving to this permalink structure would require… heck, I’m not even sure if I COULD fix it.

      Yes, it would be nice, but it’s infeasible here. Sorry. :(

      1. Zekiel says:

        Ah thanks for trying!

      2. FluffySquirrel says:

        Depending on how it actually sets up the image, you might be able to just run a little .htaccess redirect script to just check for any subfolders called images and just redirect them back to the root /images.

        The only issue is whether it’s running any PHP code on them that is also getting confused by that.. it shouldn’t be, but shouldn’t and isn’t are very different things

        But yeah, something as simple as this would possibly do the trick.

        RewriteRule ^(.*)/images/(.*)$ /images/$1 [QSA,L]

        That’s a pretty greedy check though, if there were any legitimate /images/ folders that you needed to keep (in the theme or admin or blah) you’d need to either add in conditions to tell it to skip those folders (sometimes complicated), or pop in a .htaccess file into those folders telling it to not use rewrite rules (easier but less neat way)

        1. FluffySquirrel says:

          Hmm, the edit bit has gone, oh well, I forgot that you’re running it in a directory possibly.. you’d want the final path to be /twentysidedtale/images/$1 possibly

      3. Usually with this kind of setup you just add the element to reset the whole thing to think that it’s actually hosted under /twentysidedtale

        any relative or absolute links should continue to assume they are there.

        (unless your php code is causing this in which case ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)

        Also if you are actually still looking for hosting, siteground has been good to me, but my site is MUCH lower profile so ymmv.

        1. <base> element.. (I guess post editing is still not working?)

  5. Jeff says:

    FWIW, and recognizing it is probably too late for a course change, I have two clients that use Dreamhost for large WordPress sites, and neither has had a great experience.

    Both have experienced random “your processes are taking too long so we killed them” issues, but we’ve never been able to identify what the processes that are supposedly taking too long are (nor have I ever run into this with similar sites on other hosts), and the other has just generally had slow and janky performance with their VPS account. (As in, when we clone their site to my cheap crappy Hostgator shared hosting dev server it is immediately noticeably faster than the live site, even at low-traffic times.)

    To top it off, their support is pathetic compared to other hosts (they CHARGE for phone calls) and their control panel tools are primitive, so I hope you are either going on a different plan than my clients (they’re on longstanding generic hosting plans), or are comfortable with SSH. (Another instance of primitive tools – alone among web hosts I deal with, I have to use specific database user credentials every time I need phpMyAdmin, instead of logging in automatically from the hosting control panel.)

    If I were in your shoes, I would seriously consider MDD Hosting as an alternative. They have fast servers, a non-homebrew control panel setup, and their support team is big enough to be always available, and small enough that you can literally get to know the individual reps a little bit if you talk to them enough over time – and their “tier 1” support folks are better than the “tier 2” folks at any other host I have dealt with. (Disclosure: I do resell MDD hosting services to my clients, because they’re the best host I have found for doing that, but have no financial incentive to pitch them to you here.)

    1. Shamus says:

      I just discovered this last night. The new site is loading OBNOXIOUSLY slow. Like, 6 full seconds to load the front page. And since the site is still private, I’m the only one looking at it. I shudder to think what performance would be like under normal load. At first I thought it was slow because I was doing stuff on the backend. (Like database migration.) But then everything settled down and it was still slow as hell.

      After some experimenting, we determined it’s their SQL server that’s holding things up. A friend put my dB on his server and the site loaded instantly.

      Worse still, I opted to go with their VPS SQL hosting. Which means I’m paying for an entire extra VM, just for running SQL. This doubles the monthly cost, but I was willing to pay it if I could have speed and stability. But after spinning up my virtual server, the site ran exactly the same.

      This is totally unacceptable. I sent them an email 6 hours ago, asking if they can do anything about it. Still waiting to hear back.

      Shame. I’ve blown two entire days on this migration (ugh, don’t ask. It’s a comedy of errors) and I’d really hate to start over with another host, but I’m not going to run this site with constant long load times. That’s miserable for everyone. (Particularly, me, since moderating comments and editing posts is such a huge part of my workflow.)

      1. Shamus says:

        And I just spotted this in their help center:

        “DreamHost does not offer refunds for DreamPress, Dedicated server, or VPS (private server) hosting fees. The 97-day money back guarantee only applies to shared hosting plans. View the ‘Terms of Service’ for further details.”

        I just purchased a whole year. I saw that big “97 day money-back guarantee!” and figured it was safe to do so. But apparently they only guarantee their cheapest, low-tier plans?

        Damn it. That was a lot of money. It’s been 8 hours since I issued my ticket and they haven’t even replied yet with a lame “We’re looking into it”. If this is how they treat a new customer then I can’t imagine how they’d treat me once I’d fully migrated.

        What a pain in the ass.

        1. Steve C says:

          Note that just because a TOS says something in legalize, it does not necessarily mean that it is legal or enforceable. If you paid by credit card then you also have the protections of your credit card. Of course fighting back is a hassle. I’m just saying it is an option.

          It just frustrates me when companies put clauses into contracts and assumption is that it must be valid. A clause in a clickthrough agreement that a company does not have to provide service and they don’t have to give the money back when they fail to do so– just isn’t valid in almost all circumstances. “Lemon laws” are specifically for cars, but it’s more for how to resolve it when it happens. The legal concepts that make these kinds of contracts unenforceable are more general and far reaching.

        2. Sleeping Dragon says:

          Well I’m happy you got the refund in the end. Too bad the move didn’t go smoothly. Hopefully you’ll find an alternative and it can all be back to business as usual (I really hope for the forums return, I have nowhere to rant about my Witcher 3 experiences). Regarding the comedy of errors, any chance it’ll warrant its own post about the absurdities involved?

  6. Jeff says:

    To clarify a few drafting issues above, because we can’t edit comments at the moment:

    Dreamhost Client A is on a generic hosting plan. Client B is on a VPS.

    Both have experienced the random “your stuff took too long so we killed it” issues with the former getting pitched a VPS as away to resolve them (hah!). The control panel tools and support services are identical and mediocre for both.

    Client A’s site is about 688 MB as a compressed backup, and got about 45k page views in 2017 (so probably considerably lower than you). Client B’s site is about 1 GB as a compressed backup, and got about 495k views.

  7. Not actually my name says:

    I’m a member/volunteer of a long-running fannish non-profit (not going to be specific because I’m not a public-facing person for them), and we just moved our website AWAY from Dreamhost, because in our perception they’ve been really obnoxious to deal with.

    Most key for us was that they don’t do a good job of chasing away spammers, so when we sent out our own mailings they’d tend to get lost in spam blacklists due to being on the same host as a spammer. We run a yearly convention and send out invitations to pros (such as writers and artists) to come speak at it. Based on how many of them pay their own money to travel to our state and come to the event (we just provide them free entry, not travel), they don’t see our email as spam, but because we were on Dreamhost, we’d end up having toe re-contact them individually because the mass invite sent out by our system to our 400-ish pros would get eaten by many of their spam filters.

    I’m not sure there are any good hosts out there anymore. I’m starting to suspect my personal site’s webhost is now run by one guy who also has a day job, down from a real company when I started hosting with them in 2003. All the “cool kids” seem to be using AWS, but I don’t actually want Amazon (or Google) involved in my internet presence that deeply.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      My website is literally hosted out of one guy’s bedroom closet, and he has a day job.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      Depending on how you’re hosting your stuff with Amazon or Google, it can be very portable to another hosting company. Namely, don’t host it with whatever home-grown tech they offer, but put all your stuff in a container[1], which you can then ship around if you want to switch companies. Containers are the new hotness in web servers – like VMs, but small enough to be built from a spec file! :)

      [1] See this basic description, Amazon’s hosting service, and Google’s

    3. Matt van Riel says:

      If you want any sort of security or privacy, AWS and their ilk are the LAST thing you want to be using.

      DigitalOcean are excellent… but you’ll have to install your own server droplet and site and run security and… yeah, not the best solution unless you happen to be a network engineer or can afford to hire one.

      1. Michael Guerin says:

        I have to say that’s absolutely not true. AWS and Google’s cloud solutions are as secure as anything you’ll possibly find on the internet.

        I can understand not wanting to assist in their monopoly of the internet- but claiming that there are privacy or security concerns when it comes to their cloud offerings is just FUD.

        That said, I work for DigitalOcean, so I have my own biases- but they’re definitely not predicated on AWS or Google being inherently insecure, or otherwise not trustworthy in terms of safeguarding data on their Cloud services.

  8. TMC_Sherpa says:

    Hostmonster has treated me pretty well over the years for whatever that’s worth.

  9. ElementalAlchemist says:

    Why are you playing around with stuff like Dreamhost? I thought you had a tame IT monkey? Just roll your own server and you’ll have complete control over everything.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      That’s a fascinating idea. Depends on if you can get commercial internet at your house, which not everyone can. Could rent a commercial office, but that gets expensive.

      1. ElementalAlchemist says:

        No, you don’t use your own hardware (and even in the days when people still commonly did, you’d co-locate it, not run it out of your house). There’s an entire industry built on supplying virtual servers, from AWS on down.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          But that brings us back to square one:Which service to use?How reliant are they?Etc,etc,etc.

          1. Echo Tango says:

            Amazon and Google both have pretty solid container hosting services. (And if your stuff’s in a container, it’s fairly easy to just host somewhere else.)

            1. Peter says:

              This doesn’t address the issues of keeping the virtual hosting box up to date. Keeping on top of security and other updates is still a large commitment, even if the machine is virtual. When you don’t need a custom software stack you shouldn’t be running the machine from the ground up. Ideally you find somewhere that can host your php code and database in their maintained environment.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      The only snag with that is that he would then have to significantly upgrade his internet speed,and isps in america are notorious for being expensive assholes when it comes to that.

      1. Ciennas says:

        Which is so wildly irritating. And I’m not sure if my internet provider is even telling the truth about the web speeds I supposedly get.

        1. Viktor says:

          https://fast.com/en/

          Use that to check your speed. Yes, there’s other speed checkers out there, but some ISPs prioritize service to most speed checkers for obvious reasons, rendering the test inaccurate. Fast.com is hosted by Netflix, meaning the speed is shows is the speed Netflix gets. Unless an ISP prioritizes service to Netflix, that test will remain accurate to what speeds you actually get.

    3. Peter says:

      Hosting your own server is a *lot* of additional overhead, and to be doing security properly is a full-time job. Shamus isn’t running his own custom software stack, he just needs a place that can host SQL and PHP in a fast and reasonable way. Trying to run your own server from the ground up for this is borrowing a lot of trouble when it is already a common service provided many places. Yes I have a couple of servers that could host this, but I can’t provide the uptime or security guarantees that a site of this size should have.

  10. Mike C says:

    If you’re looking at moving off the WordPress platform, Ghost(Pro) has been around for some time, comes highly recommended from other respected bloggers (such as Troy Hunt), and there’s a migration path available.

    https://ghost.org/vs/wordpress/
    https://www.ghostforbeginners.com/migrating-your-wordpress-blog-to-ghost/
    https://www.troyhunt.com/its-a-new-blog/

  11. Matt van Riel says:

    I’ve been using FastComet for around half a year now, using their RocketBooster business level plan (~£10 a month). It’s fast and stable, haven’t had any problems. They also do VPS and dediboxes if those are more your jam, which I would expect since you have way higher traffic than my author site.

  12. Chris Robertson says:

    https://www.digitalocean.com/ provides VPS (Virtual Private Servers) with really reasonable rates. $20/month nets you 2 vCPUs, 4GB of memory, 80GB of storage and 2TB of network bandwidth. See https://www.digitalocean.com/pricing/ for more. They have pre-canned “droplets” at no extra cost, so you wouldn’t have to set up your own machine (though I am certain you could find help if you needed).

    1. Joshua D Rowlison says:

      I’d suggest something like this as well. If you’re committed to avoiding AWS/Google/Azure then I’d grab DO or Linode. Both are reasonably affordable, reasonably active in supporting community podcasts in the tech sector and both mostly just hand you a naked VPS to do with as you wish.

      If you’re willing work with Docker you could probably use stuff like cycle.io that host containers for you. I’ve had fun working on the software product at my company, we run an API and serve static frontend content from containers/cloudfront and then back that with a DB. If you’re on PHP for the forums you’ll likely work the API end harder than we do but it’s not impossible and it makes local development easier(since you can run the containers locally).

    2. Edward Lu says:

      Seconding Digital Ocean. I just logged in and took a look at their “one-click app” products, and it looks like they offer WordPress and MySQL.

      My website’s been running flawlessly for me the past four years. Plus, since it’s just a networked Linux box, you can do a lot with it. Previously I’ve hosted some game servers on there, including servers for my own dumb little networked games.

    3. Matt van Riel says:

      Having used DigitalOcean, yeah, I’d recommend as well, but you really need to know what you’re doing before going in.

    4. Erik says:

      Asked folks in my network, and got back another recommendation for Digital Ocean.

  13. Chase Hasbrouck says:

    Three options, IMO:

    1. Self-hosting: As Chris Robertson said above, get a cheap self-hosted VPS through Digital Ocean or Vultr. (I currently have a personal website on a $6/month VPS on Vultr.) PROS: Very scalable, cheap. CONS: No support – YOU are the support. :)

    2. Consumer-grade managed hosting, aka Dreamhost/etc: VERY hit or miss, depending on a lot of back-end stuff that you’ll never see. I’ve heard good things about SIteground, but also some bad things. PROS: Cheap. CONS: Support is frequently theoretical, not actual.

    3. Professional-grade managed hosting: WPEngine is very common in my experience for businesses. PROS: Amazing support. CONS: Probably too pricey for your budget.

  14. Josh Hartman says:

    My general recommendation would be to choose hosting where the OS, files, and database are all on fast SSD storage. Free Let’s Encrypt SSL is a plus. Also cPanel hosting over any other hosting control panel. If you want a specific recommendation I’d say A2 Hosting. Hope your next migration goes smoothly.

  15. I agree with the last person. A2hosting.com is amazing. I am a web designer and I now host all of my clients on A2hosting. Once you look into the specifics of what they offer you will wish you had found them sooner.

  16. Erik says:

    I thought I posted something from work, but can’t find it. Sigh. I really need to remember to actually hit the Post button.

    So I passed the question to my network, and got back two quick responses: one more suggestion for Digital Ocean, and one suggestion to try WordPress.com, on the grounds that if your business is WordPress, you probably do a better job of supporting it than any third party could.

    Don’t know the rates for either, but take ’em for what they’re worth.

  17. I have been with In Motion hosting for 9 years. I have accounts with shared access and some with VPS service. I have never had issues, they are great!!!! Response time is typically about an hour or so. Check them out!

  18. kikito says:

    Another vote for Digital Ocean here.

  19. Michael Guerin says:

    Hey- I see a few people recommending DigitalOcean. As much as I’d love to have the blog I’ve been following for so, so many years be hosted on my employer, based on your dislike of Linux, I’m not sure it’s what you’re looking for.

    If you want to try it out- happy to give you some credit, but we’re very much an unmanaged host and aren’t really able to help troubleshoot anything outside of a platform problem. We’re definitely not a normal webhost, which I think you’re looking for.

    You could consider a managed provider like Cloudways (Cloudways.com) which gives you the advantages of a ‘real’ cloud provider like DigitalOcean with some of the bits and bobs you’d expect from a more traditional web host.

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