File server “f1” replacement

Our venerable old file server “f1” had some problems last month that left us with some doubt as to the viability of its redundant power supplies over the long term. Since then, we’ve been planning and preparing to migrate all the sites it handles to other, newer file servers.

That’s all been prepped now, and what we’re going to do is automatically migrate everyone during the month of April. If you have affected sites, you can get a specific time for each site from our member interface, and the main sites page will star any site scheduled for an upgrade on your list of sites so you can see at a glance which sites are affected.

There are two drawbacks to this upgrade.

The first is that the upgrade involves minor downtime since the files need to be transferred from one file server to the other, which requires log files and any dynamic data files be closed and held inactive while they’re moved. The downtime will be roughly proportional to the size of the site, so this is a great time to peek in and check for any files you’re not using or log files you want to trim; it’ll make the upgrade go faster and you’ll save money on storage.

In addition, while most sites will be moved transparently, sites that use absolute paths in .htaccess files (or in PHP scripts, although we don’t advise that) will need to be updated to work properly after the move. If this is applicable at all (I personally moved all my sites without needing to change anything), it should just take a few minutes to update.

For those two reasons, we understand that you may want some control over upgrade schedule. To that end, you can log in and upgrade any of your eligible sites at any time between now and its scheduled date. You can also postpone a site’s upgrade if the scheduled time doesn’t work for you, within reason. You can’t postpone an upgrade past April 20, and postponements are for random intervals just so we don’t end up with an unmanageable number of sites to move on April 30th at 11pm.

The target file servers for this upgrade, f2 and f5, are a lot faster, have SSD-based L2 caches for busy files, superior network performance, and never require painfully long filesystem checks after an unclean shutdown, so we think people will be really happy with the change. Oh, and they have much newer and better redundant power supply setups!

We hope that the preparations we’ve made will make the transition as easy and painless as possible, and that everyone affected will agree that the end results are well worth having.


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  1. Worked great. You guys are awesome.

    Comment by Braden — March 15, 2010 #

  2. Just transferred over to /f2/. Works perfectly. Thankyouverymuch.

    Comment by Leslie Owusu-Appiah — March 15, 2010 #

  3. Transfer worked fine for most websites, but one of them didn’t work. I tried to ftp to it to see what needs to be done only to discover my password is being rejected. I checked with my other websites, and I can’t FTP to any of them.

    There was an issue where you couldn’t log into sites for a few minutes after migration under some circumstances. That’s now been cut to less than one minute. Thanks for letting us know. -jdw

    Comment by Sergey — March 15, 2010 #

  4. Thanks for the head’s up! You guys have handled this better than any host I’ve ever dealt with before.

    Comment by WC — March 15, 2010 #

  5. All went well here as well.

    WordPress users check Settings > Miscellaneous > ‘Store uploads in this folder’. Mine was set to a hard coded path. (I must have done that in a moment of madness)

    Comment by ChuckMcB — March 16, 2010 #

  6. Woot! 1% of the affected sites have already been moved. 🙂 -jdw

    Comment by jdw — March 16, 2010 #

  7. Manual upgrade was quick and flawless. Thanks for the great work and your always great prices!

    Comment by Jeff — March 17, 2010 #

  8. All I can say is this is brilliant.

    You guys took a problem (server replacement) that would have taken you all a bunch of work (to move the user sites) and generated a bunch of complaints (from the sites that broke and went offline) and turned it into a customer service benefit that let the users a) do the work and b) be in charge of their own upgrades and scheduling while c) still leaving the option for the lazy ones to let you do the work.

    Terrific way to handle it! I upgraded all 20+ of my sites today and each was quick, painless, and easy. The best.

    Comment by Michael S — March 18, 2010 #

  9. Really great news. Thank you guys for providing controls to do it right away, very respectable.

    Comment by Stefan — March 18, 2010 #

  10. Migrated affected sites early – was flawless. 🙂

    Comment by Arlen — March 18, 2010 #

  11. The process was very professionally handled, with clear instructions and good feedback all the way. Thanks!

    Comment by Roger Browne — March 18, 2010 #

  12. Worked great. I’m on f2 now.

    Comment by dch24 — March 19, 2010 #

  13. Manually transferred one of two sites to /f2 in less than a minute. That was easy.

    Is it possible to see what each site’s root will be *before* upgrading, though? In this case I just waited until it was done, and then updated my .htaccess files based on what the site information page told me. Not a problem, but it would be even smoother if we had that information beforehand. (Maybe we do, and I just missed it 🙂

    The destination server is the “best available” at the time of the migration, so it’s not possible to predict in advance with certainty. However, f2 is brand new (the old f2 kinda sucked) so up front most of the sites are going there. Sooner or later it will balance out, but for the time being, if you want to bet, bet on f2. -jdw

    Comment by Jesse — March 29, 2010 #

  14. Drupal users, you’ll have to change one setting by hand after moving: In Administer -> Site Configuration -> File System, change the path of the temp directory to reflect the new server. Instructions on finding the path are already in the Drupal entry on the Support Wiki. And of course, backups are prudent.

    One down, one to go later, so far so good.

    Comment by Jamie Brewer — April 3, 2010 #

  15. […] our host has announced that we will have to undergo a short period of downtime to enable them to migrate us to a new server. We can choose when this happens (How cool is that?) and it makes sense to me to trigger the […]

    Pingback by Upgrade plus Downtime | Feminist Critics — April 3, 2010 #

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