Websites Gather Cobwebs Too
Unlike moving to a new house in the last days of January, this move didn’t require being in the cold air or wet snow. Opposed to handling furniture and boxed contents of a home, such a move for a website is a virtual experience, sitting back at a desk watching bytes travel over the Internet. Just like moving to a new house though, there is preperation before and tidying up after the move. And when moving, whether physical or virtual, it’s not unusual to experience breakage.
Our long time web host provider, ValueWeb was bought by Hostway and we were told to expect our account to be moved to a new server. Instead of waiting for the transfer, we initiated the move on our own schedule. Our own time table offered some benefits. Being at the beginning of the month, our monthly statistics would be less interrupted. We could also propagate our domain name change over a weekend when traffic is lowest.
Best of all, I found out the new server runs the latest version of PHP. The Scott County website is scripted in PHP and the version 5 platform offers tools that I’m anxious to put to use. PHP5 includes easier support for XML and a host of improved functions. The round about ways I had previously arranged to incorporate XML sourced content into our website is now much simplified.
We started the move on Thursday, January 29th – downloading from the old and uploading the the new server. Most of the files were on the new server by the following day. Since the website is always being updated by staff, careful attention is paid to preserving and copying the latest documents and data. The move amounted to 6,222 files stored within 837 folders representing 1.08 GB of data.
Once the new site was fully loaded, I began the domain name change. Our .com, .org, .net and .gov domains need to point to the new server. Our main domain, www.scottcountyiowa.com was the most important to follow. The request was made Friday morning and it appeared to be pointing to the new web server by Saturday afternoon – a transition that went smoother than expected.
There were some challenges along the way. Some of the web pages require a PHP function called include. On the new server, a security measure is set to not allow an include request to another domain - a function we were previously employing. While this change was initially a concern, I found and implemented a solution that allows us to maintain the stricter security setting of the new server after all.
Our calendar script application is also a victim of the move. While a temporary solution was found to give the calendar several more weeks of life, it is my plan to retire this legacy PERL application replacing it with a custom built PHP application with tighter integration to our website.
The move required many behind-the-scenes updates large and small. FTP directory paths, username and passwords were updated for automated uploads including the county’s three webcams. Little changes were discovered and fixed. Since our web hosting moved from the eastern to central time zone, the time stamp of the webcam pages had to be corrected. Finally, I couldn’t let this opportunity go by without cleaning up some files – deleting unused pages, test scripts and images. Websites gather cobwebs too.
I look forward to the new web server and the opportunities to provide improved features and services for those that rely on our county website.