Running a website requires numerous 3rd parties that provide a wide variety of services. From a domain name, to hosting, to DNS hosting, to SSL certificates, to email servers, there are a lot of pieces that one can easily forget about once they are set up properly. This is a good thing because if the technology works as originally intended, there should be no maintenance time or cost. Aside from just maintainability, you should take time every few years to re-evaluate the providers you rely on. Are there better, or cheaper alternatives? Do you need the services you are paying for, or do you possibly need additional services that you didn't need when you were smaller? I recently took a look at several of my providers and have decided to make some changes.
Hosting and DNS, From Slicehost to Linode
I used slicehost for a long time. 3 years ago, they were competitively priced, offered a great set of tools for the creation and management of virtual servers. About a year ago, they were puchased by Rackspace. This purchase started a long downhill climb for them. The first issues that I had with them was several repeated bouts of downtime. Second, we started having issues where our servers would suddenly become completely unresponsive. With their purchase by Rackspace, it became clear that they were going to move me to the Rackspace Cloud, which had a worse interface with fewer features compared to the original Slicehost. Lastly, despite having signed up 3 years ago, their prices are the same today as they were back then. I evaluated a few alternatives, such as Prgmr, a fully command-line based bottom-of-the-line VPS service. Although the prices were good, I decided that the lack of DNS hosting, and the need to learn Xen commands was unappealing to me. I also evaluated Linode, and determined that they have full feature-parity with Slicehost, and double the server capabilities for the same price.
Moving to Linode
To move my systems, I created a Linode account started up the smallest available node size. While my node was constructing, I logged into the DNS managers of both Slicehost and Linode side by side, and spent 5 minutes copying all of the records from one to the next. I left the IPs the same until I could get the new server setup. Then, I methodically rsynced several folders between the old server and the new.
Once I had copied the files, I needed to re-enable the PHP mods I was using, install all of the necessary packages, and transfer the database. From there, I started up apache, checked that everything was good to go, and updated my DNS settings to point to the new server.
Domain Names and SSL - Godaddy to Namecheap
With Godaddy's SOPA support, and a clear profit-centric website, I decided to evaluate other domain name providers. For me, a domain name registrar needs to be as cheap as ICANN allows, provide WHOIS, and preferably just get out of the way of me using their services. I also prefer to have my SSL certificates come from the same provider to save me time.
Moving to Namecheap
Transferring domain names isn't the easiest thing in the world, but it's definitely doable. It will require that you extend any of the domain name purchases for an extra year. In order to minimize the cost of transferring all of my domain names, I settled on a 4 stage plan. Once per quarter, I would transfer the next 1/4th of my domain names based on expiration date. As of February, I have transferred half of my domain names. There are several great articles about how to do this, but the general steps are:
- Generate Authorization Code - See http://help.godaddy.com/article/1685#active
- Unlock the domain names you wish to transfer
- Purchase the transfers on NameCheap
- Enter the Authorization Code
- Make sure to setup the nameservers correctly. These can take up to 72 hours to propagate (more often 5-6 hours).
- Approve the transfer request you receive in email