Recent months have been exciting and busy with the commissioning of our new web server system. One of the most important points that differentiates Sydney Web Creations from the pack is the reputation of our hosting platform.
We have always hosted our customers websites using the best solutions available.
As we have a sound background in Internet Technology as well as Design, we have very strong skills in web and database server delivery systems.
Web Server Requirements
As we all know, technology moves quickly.
This is especially true in relation to the technologies associated with web applications, cloud computing and the associated computer systems that they utilise.
Sydney Web Creations continually work and research to wring as much speed, performance and security from our servers as possible. We have now invested in new servers that are:
- even more reliable
- tightly integrated with our external management systems
- offsite backup systems
- website monitoring and management system
- server management systems
We also wanted to be able to be upgrade memory, cpu or disk space in the future with a minimum of disruption.
As well as server hardware, we decided take advantage of some newer techniques in the application of server technologies designed to
- improve performance
- improve security
- reduce administration costs and time.
To accomplish this, it was easier to set up new servers than retrofit the old ones.
Research started in November 2015, by setting up a test system and worked through operating system and server management system combinations. I experimented with different ways to install and configure web server software that would give the best performance and security.
I sought to fix along the way some of the issues that we had with our current system, such as email from WordPress being bounced by email systems and less complicated way for customers to transfer and manage websites.
One thing I did not want to do was to go down the Plesk, CPanel route. Our customers get a management service and direct access to Sydney Web Creations for consultation, so there is not much need for these types of portals. On the whole we find them bloated, complicated and make the server far less secure. To achieve the best performance from my servers I wanted to avoid the server overhead that Cpanel or Plesk would create.
The combination I ended up with was:
Nginx as the public facing web server with apache behind. php-fpm, http/2, mysql, and php version control down to the application level.
We can run php 7.0 for newer applications but for those customers who cannot support it, php 5.4 5.5 or 5.6 is available. During this process we have revised all of the server security practices.
After a lot of research, I decided to balance speed and reliability and moved to AWS Route 53 . In retrospect I am very glad we made the switch as it is reliable, extremely fast and also makes management of Customer domain records really easy.
With our new systems, we offer all our customers free SSL certificates, giving them better overall security and according to Google , a bump up in the rankings.
If you are a customer and are reading this and you want SSL , feel free to send us a request.
We started building the new systems ( Northern USA and Sydney Australia) in the second week of March . The migration of customer data was completed by 19th of April and the shutdown of our old systems occurred soon after our final testing was completed.
The migration of the WordPress websites to the new web server system, on the whole went very well as they were maintained well to begin with and a good backup and restore strategy was in place.
The migration process consisted of
- create new customer records / app repositories and databases required
- backup and upgrade the site core, and plugins
- full backup of the site and database
- copy to new server and unpack
- restore database
- set up ip of new server in my local /etc/hosts file and test to make sure that the website is working correctly.
- check new server apache / php logs for any issues and correct if needed.
- set up new DNS record
- re-delegate domain at Domain Registrar or give customer instructions on how to do it
- rinse and repeat
The process took a long time but I wanted to make sure it all worked properly. The absolute best result is when the only change a customer notices is a speed increase. A week has gone by now since the migration was completed, not a single issue has cropped up.
Another side benefit to the project was that the process facilitated a full audit of the systems under our maintenance. We took advantage of this process to more fully document our customers web assets.
If you are reading this and you are looking at a similar deployment, the best advice I can give is:
- Research Thoroughly
- Plan Carefully
- Deploy patiently.
Better still – You can always hire me to do it for you .