Moving Day

Not me. The C3 domain.

Don’t get me wrong, I still like Dreamhost. I still recommend Dreamhost for the average personal/blog website. I’m not moving momathome.com anytime soon.

It’s time to move c-three.org to a new host. Our traffic is starting to pick up. This is colorectal cancer awareness month and reliability is far more attractive to me right now than anything else.

When Dreamhost is working well, they’re great. But their emergency support…to put it simply…sucks royal eggs. There is no phone number to call, and emergency tickets can take hours to get a response. The server that my sites are on has been temperamental of late, and with all that’s going on at C3 (some I can’t talk about yet) I couldn’t take the chance of the site going down at the wrong time with no one to talk to.

After C3 (and all my sites) were down for about 45 minutes yesterday during a really bad time, I had a bit of a heated exchange with Dreamhost support, when they finally got around to replying, which was after the site was back up hours later. It comes down to a matter of expectations. They say that they start working on a problem within minutes of getting an urgent ticket, but they “don’t like” to reply to the ticket until they have an answer. I find that unacceptable. If I’ve got users pinging me, and my phone ringing from folks upset that they can’t get their email, I want to know that a human being at my host is on it. Period. My co-workers don’t want to hear, “I sent in an urgent support ticket. I hope they’re fixing it. I have no idea what happened or when things will be back to normal.” I want to say, “I sent in an urgent ticket. They said the problem is X and they have to do Y to fix it, should take a few minutes/hours/whatever.”

Because I have to move quickly, I decided to go to the host that I know has the best reputation for reliability, has an interface I’m familiar with and has phone support: Pair.com. They’ve been around forever. I’ve set up sites with them before, but none that had as many pieces as C3 does. It’s been quite an adventure getting ready to make the name server switch. So much to consider and reset/move.

I have a ticket in to support regarding MySQL, so while I wait for an answer here’s everything I’ve had to do in the last 24 hours…

I signed up for their Webmaster account at $29.95 per month, plus SSL for a total of $39.95 per month. That’s more than enough for everything we need, plus it gives me phone support. Remember the days when spending $40 a month for a website was considered cheap? Now that feels very expensive for a shared server…but I’m paying for reputation and support.

In the past, moving from one host to another, for me, meant uploading some files, setting some email accounts and that’s about it. This has been a bigger chore.

Uploading Files
Ah, it’s nice to access a site directly from an IP again. At Dreamhost, when you set up a new account and you haven’t yet moved your name server you need to create an alias subdomain on dreamhosters.com in order to view your files in a browser. Going directly to the IP address won’t work. Pair gives you both an IP and a URL to use right off the bat. Makes getting everything set up once files are uploaded much easier without an extra step.

Email
We were accepted into Google for domains beta test a couple of weeks ago. This would be a perfect opportunity to use it, considering everyone has to change their Outlook settings anyway. But after thought, I’ve decided not to do it. With all the upheaval around changing servers, risking everyone’s email in a beta test is not something I’m ready to do. Even if it’s Google.

We have 6 mailboxes, at least 15 addresses that forward externally (people who have @c-three.org email addresses but use their own email address to get it), and 3 or 4 email addresses that forward internally (info@c-three.org goes to me, action@c-three.org goes to our Office Admin & me, etc.)

Setting up the boxes and “recipes” as Pair calls it was very easy. Much better interface than at Dreamhost. And better yet, the usernames make sense, rather than the some arbitrary number that Dreamhost assigns.

Outgoing mail may be an issue. At Dreamhost, everyone was able to use mail.c-three.org for incoming/outgoing servers, with SMTP set to authorize and send through port 587. At Pair, there’s relay.pair.com for SMTP but it asks that we only use that if we can’t use our ISP’s SMTP and we not send large files. This may be an issue and may send us to Google after all. We’ll see how that goes. First of all, we all travel too much to be setting our outgoing mail to our ISPs. Second, most ISPs now require that you use their email address in the from: to use their SMTP. I’m hoping that relay.pair.com is accommodating. We won’t know until the name server switches over and we try it.

As a backup precaution, I set up everyone who didn’t already have one with a gmail.com address and all email from both Dreamhost and Pair forwards to their gmail.com address. That will not only collect their mail in the transition if there’s trouble in Outlook settings, but it will give them another avenue to send large files (or send mail at all) if relay.pair.com balks.

Redirecting domains
In addition to c-three.org, we own 11 additional domains that all lead to the same place: coloncanceradvocacy.com, cololoncanceradvocacy.org, coloncanceradvocate.com, coloncanceradvocate.org, colorectalcanceradvocacy.com, colorectalcanceradvocacy.org, colorectalcancercoalition.com, colorectalcancercoalition.net, colorectalcancercoalition.org, fightcolorectalcancer.com and fightcolorectalcancer.org. The last one we may actually use for something else. Dreamhost allowed unlimited domains that redirect. Pair doesn’t set a limit either but charges $10 for each domain as a set up fee. Thankfully, they offer a 70% discount for having 10 or more parked domains, so it won’t be that expensive. They all point to the same nameserver so it will be an easy bulk change at Godaddy when ready.

SSL certificate
An extra $10 per month, plus $89 for a 2–year basic certificate. Nice that our old Thwate certificate just expired 3 days ago, so no concerns about transferring keys. Just start fresh for the one page we have the requires a secure connection. All our other secure pages go through our GetActive service (which handles our registrations, donations and advocacy campaigns). Comparably, this was easy.

MySQL
This has been the biggest hassle. Dreamhost has a phpMyAdmin interface so I was easily able to export our database to a file that’s sitting on my drive. My choices with Pair appear to be to install phpMyAdmin myself so I can restore the backup files I have, or do it all through the command line. Ack. I have a hard enough time getting around phpMyAdmin. I have Movable Type fully installed at Pair on a fresh new database. That was easy. We have 3 blogs, 4 users and a bunch of plug-ins. I know I can export/import entries easily, but I don’t want to have to reconfigure everything by hand. I’m hoping that once I figure out the right things to type into Terminal, everything will look just like it did at Dreamhost with minimal futzing on my part.

Pair support originally replied with installation instructions for phpMyAdmin that I got halfway through before becoming completely lost. Now I’m asking them to help me restore this database through the command line and I’ll be all set. Anyone know of a good step-by-step tutorial for doing this?

Okay, so Dreamhost has phpMyAdmin already installed and configured. A point in their direction.

Support
Of course, it’s excellent. The tickets I’ve sent in have all been answered quickly. They have a nice knowledgebase, too. But community support is on a newsgroup. A newsgroup? Still?!? What is this, 1997? Not that Dreamhost’s forums were any better, even if they are web-based.

Update
I started this entry in the time it was taking to hear back from support. They responded with exactly the command I needed to enter to restore the database. It worked. All the entries are there, everything’s set the way it should be. Now all I have to do is figure out how to set permissions at Pair so Movable Type can publish to my directories. I’m getting:

Error: Movable Type was not able to create a directory for publishing your weblog. If you create this directory yourself, assign sufficient permissions that allow Movable Type to create files within it.

The directories are there. They have permissions already set at 755 (777 doesn’t work either). Back to support I go.

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