By August 31, 2011

Migration to New Web Host Is Complete

On August 27th I started the process of moving Gibberish away from DreamHost and to KnownHost. I had been having increasing performance issues with DreamHost for reasons no one could explain. I had a small upswing in traffic — about 100 – 200 new readers a day — but otherwise everything has been the same it has been for the last year or so.

Except for the server downtime.

According to DreamHost, my server was using up too many resources and being killed 20 times a day. That meant that everything from my blog to my image gallery to the other Web-based applications I run for other sites and businesses were shut down for five minutes. 20 x 5 = over an hour and a half of downtime a day.

DreamHost suggested I increase my server’s resources, at an increased expense. I was willing to do so if it would mean my server would stop being killed, but I wanted to know why. I increased my resources while I researched what could be wrong. Here’s what I found out, and Gibberish’s story of moving from one host to another.

Troubleshooting DreamHost

I tried everything I could think of and learned a lot during this process. This is the short list of what I tried — and none of it had any effect on actually stopping whatever was wrong:

  • Disable image hotlinking
  • De-activate and delete WordPress plugins I didn’t use much / anymore
  • Stopped using wp-cache and started using SuperCache to cache WordPress pages
  • Disable key plugins I used frequently but recently updated, including SimpleTags and All In One SEO pack
  • Monitored my access logs via WordPress’s built-in metrics system, Google Analytics, Quantcast, and DreamHost’s own resource monitors and log files. I couldn’t find anything out of the ordinary such as an upswing in visits.
  • Very few sites were hotlinking images from me; Gibberish was far and away the #1 site for image requests. I had under 300 requests for an image from a gun forum and a similar amount from various posts at Ars Technica. Certainly nothing that should have brought a server down to its knees.
  • I increased my virtual private server’s resources from 300MB — where it had been happy for quite some time — to up to 512MB of RAM by the end of my troubleshooting. I was able to watch the server for almost an entire day, and my Apache processes would start out just fine and then eventually burst for just a few seconds to whatever my resource limit was. Out came the kill process to beat the server into submission — and I never found out why.

By the end of my fiddling I decreased my server reboots from 20 down to 5. But it still wasn’t good enough for me because I didn’t know why these things were happening.

DreamHost Support

For the most part, DreamHost’s VPS chat support was very patient and polite. Unfortunately they were unable to really help me figure out what was going on, but suggested common things that have helped others in the past. I tried all of those things and more. By the end of my trouble shooting the only suggestion they had left was “increase resources.” The second to last representative I spoke with took pity on me and gave me a $10/month credit for increased resources until I could figure things out.

The last agent I communicated with was a jerk and asserted that I was on my own to figure everything out. So I took his advice and decided to do everything on my own … somewhere else.

In the end, increasing the amount of resources for my DreamHost VPS was going to cost about $30 a month on top of the $10 a month I was already paying plus $8 a month for two dedicated IP addresses. Over $50 a month for a server that still wasn’t stable? After over seven years of being a DreamHost customer, it was time to look somewhere else.

KnownHost Migration

After doing some research and comparing KnownHost to MediaTemple, GatorHost, BlueHost and VPS.net I chose KnownHost. They had a long history, including a blog of someone who’d been with them for four years after migrating away from DreamHost. They had a good price-to-performance ratio, and I was able to secure a Virtual Private Server for about $40 a month with 33% more resources than my final DreamHost guess.

Migration was a big headache. The first obstacle to overcome was exporting my WordPress and Gallery content off of DreamHost. My server kept going up and down, and eventually I saved myself some money and just reverted back to cheaper “shared” hosting, at which point my stability went up. Even then I had a hard time backing up my databases and downloading my files. I spent the better part of the weekend watching Major League Gaming: Raleigh and migrating data.

At one point I had to download one folder of images from DreamHost at a time because the server would crash mid-download and it was hard to keep track of what was already saved and what wasn’t. I also had to reduce the number of FTP connections to 3 — so many were failing and “hanging” on the DreamHost server that I couldn’t connect at all they expired. This meant I could only move three files at a time, further increasing the migration time.

I tried various schemes to backup my WordPress content, including my comments. The official WordPress Import/Export function only saved posts and comments but not server, blog, and visual settings. It also wouldn’t save my plugins or plugin configurations, and I was running about a dozen different plugins that handled everything from fighting spam to suggesting related posts.

I attempted to use myEasyBackup but I couldn’t get it to work on KnownHost. I had to run the plugin several times to squeeze out a backup from DreamHost, as the server kept going down during the process.

Eventually I gave up and used the WordPress Import/Export functionality. That meant I had to reinstall and reconfigure my blog manually, adding to the time and troubleshooting.

By the end of Monday morning I had moved everything and things looked good on KnownHost. I published my new domain name server (DNS) information, which would route visitors to my new KnownHost site and not my old DreamHost site.

Except I kind of forgot something ….

Problems

When you move DNS records you accept a certain level of screwiness until the changes cascade throughout the Web. Known as “propagation,” different domain name servers look for changes at different intervals, and everyone has different settings on how long they cache old information. This meant that some people would see the new site before others.

Early yesterday morning my readers started alerting me that images were broken. I checked from my side, and everything seemed to be fine. I could see the images as well as my blog post. I cleared my browser cache and used two “fresh” browsers to make sure, and things were fine.

I figured it was a propagation issue and casually dug around for another two hours before realizing that I didn’t change the redirect for my Gallery2 subdomain. I was still referencing my “test” path on the KnownHost server. Whoops!

I also received another dedicated IP address from KnownHost so I could enable secure logins, and that threw another set of monkeywrenches into the propagation process.

To top it off, my connection at home was screwed up. My Internet service provider Charter had three different versions of my site’s addressed cached in a round-robin scheme: the original DreamHost address, the first KnownHost address, and the final “correct” one with the dedicated IP address. I tried to hardcode the final address in my Windows 7 hosts file, but that didn’t work and no amount of ipconfig /flushdns would keep the right information.

I knew that sometimes the best thing to fix a DNS issue is time, so I left the house to go to the State Fair with Sedagive?. We came back about five hours later and I started again. Some of my friends on other ISPs were making progress, but Charter’s nameservers were still screwing me with the three addresses. I used Google’s DNS servers and of course they were correct right out of the box. Charter, you suck.

However, I was still having problems. Apache’s mod_rewrite wasn’t installed on my VPS by default, and I was using PathInfo to make my blog page addresses easier to read. Using PathInfo caused some problems with how I referenced images in my blog posts. KnownHost set up mod_rewrite for me and things were (mostly) better. Gallery2 has a known issue where fiddling with mod_rewrite can sometimes break image references. I disabled, uninstalled, and reinstalled the mod_rewrite plugin and it finally looked like things were back to normal.

Except that Gallery2 was redirecting me from my gallery’s domain name to the server’s IP address whenever I logged in. This was not only annoying but caused a problem when trying to reference new images — I was seeing the IP address and not the gallery.drfaulken.com domain name. IPs change sometimes, and I wanted to make sure I was using my domain name. It turns out that there was a single reference to my IP in the Gallery2 config.php file that doesn’t get set anywhere by the Gallery user interface. I had to edit this line by hand:

$gallery->setConfig(‘baseUri’, ‘http://gallery.drfaulken.com/main.php’);

and then I was good. At last. Gibberish was back up on a better service and missing a DreamHost donation button.

Hey, speaking of donations ….

About a month and a half ago I wrote a post about how people can help Gibberish, including donating money to cover some of my DreamHost costs. What’s going to happen to those donations now that I’m on KnownHost?

A lot of my other sites and Web-based applications are still on DreamHost. Donations made for my hosting will continue to pay those expenses. That helps me because the money to cover those things is going to products and services to review.

However, if you feel like you made a donation to cover just my DreamHost expenses for Gibberish and nothing else, please contact me and I will get the appropriate amount refunded to you. I appreciate everyone’s help, and if you want to know exactly where your money is going I understand. Let me know.

All good here?

I have some tweaks planned in the next month or so. There may be a slight or drastic redesign depending on what else I have going on, and if I decide to address some things that have been in the back of my mind for awhile. In general, I was glad to expend the time and effort getting Gibberish up on a new host, and I hope that performance is much greater than what it used to be.

Related posts:

No tags for this post.
Posted in: gibberish, site news

Comments are closed.

7ads6x98y