Charles Engelke’s Blog

April 30, 2008

Outsourcing My Servers

Filed under: Notes — Charles Engelke @ 10:26 pm

I registered engelke.com in 1998, and have been running all my own infrastructure for it since then. It was a good learning experience to set up my own servers and provide DNS, web and e-mail, but I no longer feel like dealing with all that. And thanks to all the services now available I no longer have to. I just completed moving most of my domain’s infrastructure to free hosted services. I migrated my wife’s domain (lauriewhite.org) at the same time.

First up was DNS. Registrars now host name services for domains registered with them, and have pretty easy web interfaces to configure them. My domain is at Network Solutions, and it took no time at all to change my registration to point to their servers instead of mine, and to configure all the entries. Laurie’s domain
was registered with Nameboy, and their DNS control panel wasn’t as easy to use, but it still didn’t take much work.

Next, e-mail. This was my main motivation for the changeover. I was tired of worrying that my servers would crash when both of us were out of town, causing e-mail to be lost. Google Apps to the rescue. I registered each domain with them for free, and set them to handle all the e-mail for the domains. I then went back to the DNS servers and changed the MX (mail exchange) records according to the directions on Google Apps. I kept my old servers running for a few days, but in almost no time e-mail stopped being delivered to them and went to the Google accounts.

The only dynamic content on the sites was our blogs. They were run on Movable Type, and could be exported to a text file for loading on another host. My first thought was to host them on TypePad, which is owned by Movable Type and runs on essentially the same software. That would have been easy and free, but the blogs wouldn’t show up as being on our domains. Not a huge problem, and it could be solved by upgrading to a paid account for $90 per year (total for both blogs).

But I’d heard a lot about WordPress; mostly raves, and comments about how easy it was to migrated a blog over from Movable Type. And it was free to host, after which I could pay $10 per year per blog to have them showing as being on our own domains. Since it was free, I gave it a try. It loaded my exported blog perfectly, but the post addresses were different, as were the image addresses. So I edited the exported file, deleted the entries, and re-imported them. It looked perfect, so I paid the $10 to host it at blog.engelke.com (requiring another trip to the DNS control panel to point that address at the right place), and then did the same for Laurie’s blog.

The moves are all done, and I’m pleased with the results, and the fact that the whole thing only costs $20 per year. I’m also not locked in to any provider. I can move any component to any other host pretty easily; certainly as easily as this move from my own infrastructure.

We’re not totally off our own infrastructure. We each have regular web sites at engelke.com and lauriewhite.org. I’m looking at migrating them to other hosts (perhaps Amazon’s S3) but right now I’m using Apache and rewrite rules to redirect requests to the old blog address to the new ones. I’ll move the web sites sooner or later, but I’ll keep running my own web server for experiments and short-term solutions anyway. They just won’t be critical, so I don’t have to worry about them crashing.

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