Moving Web Sites

I begin my server project by finding temporary homes for the 18 domains I host.

Rather than try to rush through the server configuration and get it done in a day, I decided to take my time about it. As a result, my Web server is likely to be down for several weeks.

Of course, I can’t keep my Web sites down for several weeks. Although most of the 18 domains I own are mine and support my own personal business endeavors, more than a few are for other people’s businesses. These are businesses I’ve created Web sites for as favors or in return for other goods or services. Although I’m not being paid to maintain the sites, I don’t feel that I have the right to cut them off for a few weeks. And for the few sites I do receive income for, I obviously owe my clients uninterrupted service.

The solution, of course, was to move the sites onto another server for a month or so. I chose GoDaddy.com, which offers inexpensive, feature-rich Web hosting that includes lots of bandwidth and disk space for a very reasonable monthly fee. GoDaddy also has very good customer service by phone (the e-mail based customer service stinks and is not worth the effort). Best of all, I had already registered most of the domain names on GoDaddy.com, so setting up the sites to be hosted there would be quick and easy.

Easy, yes; quick, well, not really. For each domain, I had to set up and pay for a hosting account. GoDaddy no longer allows just one-month hosting contracts; there’s a minimum of two months. That’ll give me more time but cost me about twice what I thought I’d pay. Not a huge deal, because the prices are very affordable. Then I had to tell GoDaddy what domain was being hosted at the new site, thus setting up a new FTP account on the server. I had to go to my domain list and change the DNS settings for that domain so they’d point to GoDaddy’s DNS server.

The big trick was to get the site files to the new server before anyone would be visiting. Normally, I’d use ftp with the domain name (for example, ftp.aneclecticmind.com) with the login settings to connect. But since I’d just changed the DNS server settings, using ftp with the domain name would have pointed me to the server in my office. I had to wait for the domain to be fully propagated through the DNS system to find it using the domain name. So instead, I figured out how to track down the IP address of the new server and I used that for FTP. It worked like a charm. I was able to upload all the site files to the new server so they’d be there when the first visitors arrived.

I had to go through this process for most of my domain names. I say most because a few domain names are for the same site. For those, I tweaked the DNS settings on GoDaddy.com to set up domain forwarding. For example, wickenburgaz.com and wickenburg-az.us point to wickenburg-az.com. This saves me money, of course, because I don’t have to set up a separate hosting account for each of the wickenburg-az.com domain names. To save time, effort, and money, I had a few other domains point to existing domains. For example, I also pointed flyingmproperties.com and wickenburgairport.com to wickenburg-az.com. Although these are separate sites, they’re small and don’t really need to be separate for the next few months.

I was doing fine until I got to langerbooks.com. During the hosting account setup process, GoDaddy’s server had some kind of hiccup and gave me an error message. As a result, the hosting account is set up, but the domain manager there doesn’t recognize the domain as being hosted on GoDaddy. That means I can’t change the DNS settings to GoDaddy’s DNS server. Which means that although the langerbooks.com site is all ready to be visited on GoDaddy’s server, no one will ever find it there because the DNS still points to my server. This is a royal pain in the butt that I’ve been tackling with GoDaddy tech support for the past four days. They say the problem effected several users, and is being worked on, but nothing seems to be getting done. If it isn’t fixed by tonight, I’ll have them delete the hosting account and I’ll start all over.

The only other challenge was for the one site I host that I don’t control the domain name for so I couldn’t easily access the DNS settings. Actually, there are two of those. One of the domains is registered on GoDaddy.com, so it was just a matter of setting myself up as an administrator (or “exec” for the account) and making the DNS change. The other is registered with Network Solutions, which I definitely do not recommend (despite what I wrote in a book several years ago). Network Solutions overcharges for domain name registration — they cost roughly 4 times what GoDaddy does — and they don’t offer nearly as many features, options, or services. But they’re also very difficult to get your domain name away from and my client, who owns the domain, would rather overpay for domain registration than try to tackle the change process. It’s his money. I’ll try again later this month to show him the light.

Anyway, I had to go to his office, where his office manager logged into his account on Network Solutions so I could make the change. It only took a few minutes. I expect the DNS to be fully propagated by the weekend.

The next task was to change where the ssi ini files were being copied to. These files are generated each morning by FileMaker Pro. There are four of them. almanac.ini displays information about the sunrise, sunset, moonrise, moonset, and length of day for the current day and the next day. This information is used by wickenburg-az.com and wickenburgairport.com. sunrise.ini displays sunrise information for the next seven days. sunset.ini displays sunset information for the next seven days. These two files are used by flyingmair.com to display current information for its Sunrise and Sunset tours. calendar.ini displays information about the next event on the wickenburg-az.com event calendar and is used on the wickenburg-az.com home page.

These files are created on my Web server computer and just saved in the appropriate Web folder. But now the files needed to be sent via FTP to the servers where the sites resided. I used an AppleScript to give the instructions to Fetch. FileMaker Pro would trigger the script when it finished generating the files. I just checked it and it doesn’t seem to be working quite right. I’ll have to check it again when I go into the office later today.

The only other change was to set where the webcam images would be saved and make sure the sites would point to the right place. I decided to send all the Webcam images to theflyingm.com, which will continue to be hosted on GoDaddy.com’s servers. I use that domain name for all my podcasts, book sample files, and other large files I don’t want to host locally. The connection is faster and there’s tons of bandwidth and disk space available. It’s a great deal.

So that’s where the project stands so far. The only thing holding me up from taking the next step is the problem I mentioned with langerbooks.com, which will be resolved, one way or another, this weekend.

I’ve done a few other things with the server. I added 512 MB of RAM the other day. I’d tried this two weeks ago, but the RAM I bought was bad. This was the replacement RAM, sent for free from the dealer, All4Memory. I recommend them.

Since I had all that RAM on board, I set up another program to work for me. Audio Hijack Pro is now set up to record the incoming streaming audio from KBSZ. It’ll record the 8 AM news (for immediate and automatic distribution at 8:20 AM), the 9 AM Around the Town show (which will require some tweaking to convert into a podcast), and the first hour of Miss Holley King’s Rock-a-Billy & Beyond show on Saturday mornings (which will also be converted into a podcast). This will save me a ton of time; I won’t have to transfer Around the Town episodes from cassette tape to my computer.

I’m having a lot of fun thinking up things for my server to do for me. I hope to have only one day of server down time — probably Monday of next week — before I start rebuilding the server from the bottom up.

Got ideas, comments, suggestions? Use the comments link or form.

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