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Evan Reiter

Website/ISP Migration

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Our website and forums will be offline from Thursday, February 26 at 6pm ET until the morning of Monday, March 2. The FSX server, including FlightDesk, Live ATIS and TeamSpeak, will not be affected.

 

Our ISP informed us (today!) that they are migrating our server to a new location, and that migration is expected to take most of next weekend. Given the short notice, there is nothing that we as administrators are able to do to maintain service. We will do our best to provide a temporary landing page but most of the features of the website, as well as the forums, will be offline until the migration is complete. We do not have any reason to anticipate any changes to the operation or look of the website once service is restored on Monday.

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Evan Reiter

Community Manager
Administration Team

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No.

The Idiot's Guide to Forum Signatures:

My Name >> Phil ('Ferrari308guy') | [email protected] << Click To Talk To Me

Inspiration for the Uninspired >> “It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you place the blame.”

 

Oh, you're still reading my signature? Then try these amazing time-wasting activities >> You know you want to click these links...

Demotivators

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As long as we can still fly online then it is what it is

Andrew Cofone N421NJ

 

ASUS P8Z77-V Pro, Intel i7 3770k, Nvidia GTX 680, Corsair Vengeance 16GB 1866MHz RAM, Corsair H-90 liquid cooler

 

REX 4 + Soft Clouds, Acive Sky Next, UTX USA,  GTX USA, FsFX Precipitfx, FlyTampa St. Maarten, Aerosoft Manhatten  X

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A little early for the april fools joke, huh evan?

 

Lol, we wish.

 

By the way, Monday should be the 2nd of March

 

Nice catch. The maintenance is scheduled to last until Monday, March 2. The original post has been made to reflect that. Thanks!

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While I agree, as long as people can fly it's not a big deal, at the same time I'm a little blown away that we have a provider that can't manage a low down time migration or move.

 

I'm on the equipment side of the data/telephony business and if we told our customers a migration would cause an outage of more than a few hours we would no longer be their vendor.

 

If our ISP is providing us a sweet price or is donating their services its a different story but, if we are paying the going rate for the service then getting a short notice and an outage that is measured in days and not hours that's unacceptable.

 

Sorry, not trying to cause trouble. It's just my reaction as someone who works in the industry.

Thanks!

Tom G.

 

Arguing with a pilot is like wrestling with a pig in the mud, after a while you begin to think the pig likes it.

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Tom, I couldn't agree more. We are paying the going rate for shared hosting (about $8 a month, I believe) so it's not much but enough that this type of thing isn't acceptable. Giving us just 4 days to do something about it is even worse...that's obviously not enough time to make a move. Perhaps that was their thinking. It's too bad because for the first few years they were an amazing provider with good service and high reliability. For about the past 12 months, it's been nothing but bad surprises and worsening performance.

 

We have a fair amount of specific requirements that make some shared hosting plans difficult (we're trying to squeeze a pretty large website into a low-budget hosting solution to save our members money). That being said, the hunt is on, and I'm hopeful we'll be able to provide members more reliable service moving forward.

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Evan Reiter

Community Manager
Administration Team

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The website is temporarily online. We are continuing to work on various elements of the website, and that work could result in additional outages. We will provide an update by Sunday, March 1 with more information.

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Evan Reiter

Community Manager
Administration Team

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Earlier today, our ISP informed us that as a result of inclement weather, the intended migration would not be practical this weekend. As a result, they have brought our website's server computer back online in its original location. Why it took them almost two full days of down time to make that determination remains a mystery.

 

At some point -- they have yet to decide when -- they will re-attempt the migration (which presumably would mean another several days of outage for us).

 

Clearly all of this is unacceptable and we are taking actions on our end to ensure that any additional work our ISP might do won't have an impact on the services that we as members depend on. The work that we are doing may result in additional outages over the next few days and/or weeks, and we'll certainly keep everyone informed of anything we have planned.

 

For now, we expect our website to be stable and fully accessible. If there is anything on the website that doesn't appear to be working, please let us know.

 

I'd like to again express and re-iterate that this type of service is not something that we as BVA administrators expect or allow, nor is it something we will continue to put up with.

 

It is worth noting that BVA pays for shared hosting. This means that we use a portion of a web server to support our various websites, forums, and other applications. Typically, a web presence of our size would require a Virtual Private Server or even a Dedicated Server. In fact, that's the type of server we use to host FSX. As we are a lean organization that survives on donations, we have decided to use shared hosting despite the reduced performance and reliability of shared hosting providers. In doing so, we save a substantial amount of money over what it would cost for us to run two dedicated servers. Finding our current shared hosting provider required quite a bit of effort and research, as most of the large shared hosting providers (e.g., GoDaddy) wouldn't be able to support our requirements. Considering the expenses, the performance of our current ISP has generally been acceptable until recently.

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Evan Reiter

Community Manager
Administration Team

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We are currently in the process of migrating our website to a new hosting provider. In this way, we will be able to avoid the 4-day outage that was scheduled (and then re-scheduled) by our previous provider, with almost no notice.

 

While we have worked as hard as possible to minimize downtime, there are some issues that can only be addressed after our domains are pointing to the new web hosting provider.

 

Over the next few hours and into tonight, we will be working to resolve a few issues on our website and forums. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we do so. Once we have stabilized the website, forums, and the many applications that run on our website, we'll provide an update here.

 

It is our hope that the new provider is able to provide more reliable service than our previous provider.

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Evan Reiter

Community Manager
Administration Team

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Guest John Girard

Evan, do we have some angel with deep pockets to pay for this? Or do we depend upon member donations? I can recall few requests for $ support.

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Thanks Lou.

 

John, to answer your question, BVA is a non-profit organization and all of our expenses get paid off using donations by members like you. We actually migrated the website to a new provider that will cost us less each month -- so all-in-all, it will benefit us both on the financial and customer support side.

 

You can view a .pdf of our yearly budget at all times. Member donations are always welcomed and we are always appreciative of any amount received.

 

Thank you all for the support and understanding during this migration.

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As of this morning, the website migration should be completed for most users. There may be a few people for whom the DNS needs to still update, but based on feedback most users are now on the new website. All known issues have been resolved, so please let us know (either via this thread or email) if you notice anything that doesn't look or work correctly.

 

---

 

In the interest of transparency, and for those who are interested, I'd like to share a bit more information about what has been happening over the past few weeks.

 

As I mentioned in a previous post, BVA uses 'shared hosting' rather than a dedicated machine for our website and forums. We do this in order to reduce costs for the community's donors. Shared hosting means that we are paying for a portion of a server computer. To help maintain the efficiency of shared computers, most hosts apply various restrictions to what shared hosting customers can have. For example, GoDaddy restricts shared hosting customers to an MSSQL database size of 200 MB, which isn't enough for us. Our former ISP allowed us only 1 each of MySQL and MSSQL databases, which was a manageable challenge.

 

Given the size of our website, forums, and the applications that run on them, shared hosting is really not the right solution. However, we are creative in the way we design our website and applications to make the solution work for us. As a result, we pay less than $10 per month in web hosting costs. There are alternatives (e.g., hosting the website on someone's personal computer or on our FSX host). However, in the interest of redundancy, stability, and security, our administration believes that the shared hosting approach offers the best balance of cost and quality.

 

We have been with our current provider since February 2011, and have generally been very satisfied with the service and support received. However, for the past year, we've noticed that service and support has declined. Website and forum outages weren't uncommon, and we would receive no notification of an outage; in most cases, I would find out about a website outage from a member. I would then have to speak with the ISP, who would find out about the outage from me. There were several other issues we had with them, including recently when they delayed the launch of the FSXMultiplayer.com website for a month because of their own ineptitude.

 

The last straw for us was the migration that I first posted about on February 23. We found out on February 23 that a 4-day outage was to occur beginning on February 26. As you know, we scrambled to find an alternative solution and continue to host the files needed for our Getaway event. Almost three days later, they decided to cancel the migration due to inclement weather, and returned the servers to the original location. Once again, we were given no notification the servers were back online (I happened to notice the website working again). Furthermore, they STILL have not communicated when they plan to reschedule the migration. There's no doubt that will still be happening, and based on our past experiences, customers will get almost no notice.

 

Before the end of the migration, we began a search for a new provider that would meet our requirements. Personally, this was a tough time for our administrators to be involved in a migration. However, we didn't feel we could afford to wait for another outage. Over the course of several phone calls and quite a bit of online research, we found the provider to which we've just switched our services. It's early, but thus far we've been happy with the support and service received.

 

I want to clarify the extent of effort required to migrate a website as it's something I wasn't aware of before I was involved with the first one we did back in 2011. At a very high level, migrating a website means:

  • Moving all of the files from one provider to another; in our case, this is over 20GB of data.
  • Backing up, transferring, and restoring databases.
  • Configuring specific settings and permissions; every ISP has a different panel, so there's a learning curve associated with this.
  • Setting up things like FTP accounts, subdomains (e.g., informer.bostonvirtualatc.com), etc.
  • Doing as much testing as possible, and fixing as many issues as possible, before any domain names are transferred.
  • Transferring the domain nameservers from our old provider to the new one, which takes between 1-24 hours for everyone.
  • Testing and correcting any final issues.

 

Remembering that this had to be done for both Boston Virtual ATC and FSX Multiplayer, I'm estimating the total effort of about 40 hours, spread between about 10 volunteer administrators. Website migrations are one of the most frustrating things to be spending time on as volunteers because at the end of the day you get a product that looks exactly like what you had, and if we've done it right, end users won't notice the difference! Because we're still on a shared hosting plan at our new provider, outages and issues are inevitable. However, we believe we'll have much more stability and reliability than we have experienced recently, and particularly than we have experienced in the past year.

 

Prices at the new provider are comparable to what we have been paying (actually, a bit lower).

 

As always, none of this would be possible without an exceptional team of volunteers. The A-Team as a whole has been closely involved with the migration by helping in the decision-making process and testing. Not surprisingly, this project was led by our website administrator Phil ('Ferrari308guy'), who did all of the heavy lifting despite a busy schedule. However, I also want to highlight the involvement of Zac ('zploch'), who spent several hours yesterday testing and checking every single website page to ensure that it loaded and to try to find as many glitches and bugs as possible. Luke ('shyflyguy') donated a server computer to us that was vital to us as a testing platform. Finally, I'd like to highlight the efforts of Bostjan ('bostjanlaba'), who helped us set up his donated server to be used as a temporary website during the first outage. Without that, we wouldn't have been able to run our Getaway.

 

We have done our best to complete the migration with minimal interruption to our services, and we're especially happy to say that our FSX server hasn't been down for a single second throughout the entire migration.

 

As always, thank you -- our members -- for the patience and understanding you show. It's what motivates us as administrators to do what we do. Hopefully this is the last post about website outages/issues that we have to write for a while!

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Evan Reiter

Community Manager
Administration Team

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