Pardon Our Dust

Birdhouse is in the middle of an ongoing transition to a new server. As of tonight, I’ve moved about half of our customer domains over, and all is well. Tonight I moved birdhouse.org (and hosting.birdhouse.org) to the new box (pardon our dust if you stopped by during the transition; had to fix a few paths in the blog).

Multiple reasons for the transition:

One is speed; the new server is beefier, studlier, mas macho. Just moving from a 1.7GHz Celeron to a 2.4GHz P4 doesn’t sound that dramatic, but try commenting — we’ve gained about 5x performance in some operations. Still 1 GB RAM, still redundant 80 GB drives.

Another is ease of use (both for me and for customers). Control panels are becoming the norm for consumer hosting, and we didn’t have one. By moving into a truly massive datacenter (20,000 servers, anyone?), we’re able to piggy back on economies of scale – we’re now using cPanel/WHM for most account management tasks (sadly replacing all of the blood sweat and tears, home-brew shell and PHP scripts I had built to manage the old server). Same goes for Urchin stats to augment awstats, which we provide now (awstats will remain the main stats package). Same goes for the Fantastico über-installer (customers can now set up their own galleries, guest books, and weblogs rather than relying on me…)

Another is email. I’ve grown to truly love CommuniGate Pro. It’s fast, it’s solid, it’s supported, it’s used by some of the biggest ISPs in the industry. But I pay per-seat for the CGP license, and Stalker recently doubled their fees (“focusing on the enterprise, blah blah blah”). If you’ve ever wondered why some hosts offer 30 email addresses where Birdhouse offers 3, now you now. As a small host, I can’t afford to compete without doing everything open source. cPanel will allow me to offer a butt-load more addresses per customer, and provides integrated mail management for customers so I don’t have to provision and customize accounts for them. That’s groovy, but not without a downside — I’m spoiled by the completeness of CGP by now, and have been less-than-impressed at the comparative absence of controls in cPanel that Stalker builds in, and annoyed by certain assumptions cPanel makes. But overall, this move is a big win for Birdhouse mail users — more accounts, more user-level control, better customer interfaces. Sometimes you eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats you.

The cPanel system works so differently than from a vanilla server that it’s been impossible to move everyone over en masse, so I’m transitioning one account at at time. We’ll get there soon, and I’ll be able to breathe again. Famous last words.

Music: Tom Verlaine :: Harley Quinn

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