Jumping off the Cloudflare bandwagon

Since I’ve recommended CloudFlare on this blog quite a few times, I thought it would be fair to let you guys know that I’ve removed my site from CloudFlare yesterday.  The domain management is back to GoDaddy.

Why?  Well, now that CloudFlare is getting bigger by the day, it seems to be getting more and more attacks and partial downtimes globally.  There are also a few temporary quirks happening every now and then, where connections would get reset and such.  Not that these are too annoying to have, but not knowing whether an issue with the site is a CloudFlare one or not – that’s annoying to me.  I can live with my site not working right, as long as I know what exactly the problem is.  Because if I know where the problem is, I usually know how to fix it and how much time it will take.  When its a CloudFlare issue, I am out of the loop and I am out of control.  And that I can’t have.  Even if that happens rarely.

Regarding my recommendation to use CloudFlare, I still stand behind it.  I think that if you haven’t tried the service, you definitely should.  And, you especially should if your site has global audience and you don’t have technical team in place.

Good news from CheapVPS.co.uk

Through the years of hosting this blog as well as many other websites, I’ve received plenty of bad news from hosting companies. “We’ve been hacked”, “we lost your data”, “the company is shutting down”, “we are increasing the hosting fees for your plan”, and so on and so forth. In fact, now that I see an email from my hosting company I automatically assume that it’s bad news.

Gladly, my current hosting company – CheapVPS.co.uk – is better than most that I had experiences with, and it’s working hard to change my perspective. Their efforts seem to be paying off. Here is an email from them I found in my mailbox this morning.

Dear Customer,

We have some good news regarding your OpenVZ VPS!

Over the next 4 weeks we’ll be migrating all of our OpenVZ customers over to brand new, much higher specification servers.

There will be no changes to your account or your billing and the only downtime we anticipate should be for around 10 minutes while IP routes are updated to point to the new servers. Your IP address will not change.

Whilst every effort is taken on our part to keep things backed up, we recommend that you ensure you have adequate backups in place, prior to this planned migration.

We will be starting with hardware node vz1uk on Tuesday 29th November and working our way through to vz43uk. You will be able to check the node you are on, from your SolusVM control panel, we will also email you the night before we move your VPS over.

So to sum up:

  • No changes to billing
  • No changes to your account or IP address
  • Upgraded server hardware for no charge

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to submit a support ticket at :
https://secure.cheapvps.co.uk/

Kind Regards

CheapVPS

Thank you guys, you are awesome!

Site speed improvements

Here is a partial screenshot from Google Analytics that shows how much improvement in site speed the recent move to the new server brought.  We are back at the previous “normal” levels – 10 seconds per page load on average versus 45 seconds, and that’s before any kind of server tuning or optimization.  In the next few days, when the dust settles a bit, I’ll optimize the server configuration a bit and everything will be even faster.

 

New day, new server

As you might have noticed, all sites that I was hosting had a bunch of problems recently.  Mostly, they were very slow.  I’ve spent some time tracing the issue with the technical support of my hosting company, but we were unable to pinpoint what was the exact issue.  The slow downs were coming and leaving randomly, they were not limited to any specific website or browser or network or time of the day.

Finally, I decided that enough was enough and that something has to be done.  So I arranged for another hosting.  For the last couple of days I’ve been moving the websites to the new home and now I am almost done.  As you can, hopefully, see, the new place is quite a difference.   Everything is flying fast and I have plenty resources still.

The works aren’t completely finished yet, but most of the stuff is moved and the dust should be settling now.  If you notice something that still misbehaves, please let me know and I’ll jump on it.

Happy birthday, CloudFlare! Thank you for IPv6

Yesterday I received some very good news from the service that makes this website faster for people all around the world – CloudFlare.  In summary: it is CloudFlare’s first birthday since they went public, and to celebrate this they implemented an extremely easy to setup IPv6 gateway service.  Anyone using CloudFlare can enable the IPv6 gateway either for the whole domain or for specific hosts, and it only takes a couple of clicks.  Of course, I’ve done so and used a few testing tools around the web to confirm that my website is now accessible via IPv6 also.

Thank you, CloudFlare!  Happy birthday!  And please, by all means, keep doing what you are doing.

Continue reading “Happy birthday, CloudFlare! Thank you for IPv6”

Incapsula – fast, secure and reasonably priced CDN

A month and a half ago I blogged about CloudFlare – a Content Delivery Network with security concerns and simple users in mind.   CloudFlare is flexible for webmasters and they make it easy for us to take advantage of all the benefits they offer. I have moved several of my sites to CloudFlare and I am pretty happy with the service they provide.  One of the things that I didn’t do at the time (or every since) though is a review or research for some alternatives.  I mean, of course, we all know about Akamai and that big guns use it.  We also know that Akamai is one of the most expensive services on the Web.  But who else is out there?

Today I received an email from Incapsula. In essence, they offer a service which is similar to CloudFlare.  They do caching, global delivery, and security.  They do also offer a free plan for small, personal websites.  They also have a few packages of varying prices and features.

As I mentioned earlier, I do run all of my important sites now through CloudFlare.  And I don’t feel like moving to Incapsula just yet.  However, I do want to try them out.  I have a couple of new projects coming up, and I think I will use Incapsula for them just to see all the features they are offering and to compare with other alternatives out there.  I’d be interested to hear the reviews, if you’ve tried the service.  Especially, how they compare to the others and if they offer anything cool that nobody else does.

As a side note, website performance is becoming more and more important – with increased competition, impatient users and more weight to search results metrics in Google.  Also, web application security is becoming increasing complex – it takes so much time and effort even for trained technical people such as myself, that I can’t imagine how huge of a task it is for “normal” people to maintain common sense security levels for their websites.  It’s nice to see that there are more and more services and applications that take care of all the infrastructure problems, leaving more time to do the cool stuff – blogging, sharing, communicating, etc.

P.S.: Reading about Six Great Human and Computer Collaborations will expose you to new technology developments.

Trying out CloudFlare

I’ve heard a few mentions of CloudFlare before, but I never gave it much attention. Today, after reading this blog post, I decided to give it a try.

What’s more, that 30-40% increase that people used to see is now in the range of at least 50-60% as the team continues to find ways to make CloudFlare faster, while still offering security at the forefront.

What is CloudFlare, you ask?  As per their own website:

CloudFlare protects and accelerates any website online. Once your website is a part of the CloudFlare community, its web traffic is routed through our intelligent global network. We automatically optimize the delivery of your web pages so your visitors get the fastest page load times and best performance. We also block threats and limit abusive bots and crawlers from wasting your bandwidth and server resources. The result: CloudFlare-powered websites see a significant improvement in performance and a decrease in spam and other attacks.

In simple terms: CloudFlare is very cheap (even free) content delivery network (CDN).  It provides speed and security improvements, and it is extremely easy to configure.  I know so, because I’ve already registered for the free account and configured this site to benefit from the service.  Whether it actually lives up to all the hype – I don’t know yet, but I’ll see in the next few days.  I suspect it does, since there are numerous positive reviews around the web.  I will of course let you know.  Especially if you remind me.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AaMWqyg_xMo]

 

Pagoda Box – scalable platform for your PHP application

I got my hands on a private beta of Pagoda Box.  It is a platform that you can deploy your PHP applications to.   I gave it a brief look around and I have to say it’s pretty sweet.

Right after you register and get access to your dashboard, you can add applications.  Applications are cloned from GitHub repositories.  Both public and private repositories are supported.  Once you add an application, you can access it at http://your-app-name.pagodabox.com. If you’d rather have your own domain – you can assign it to your application from the dashboard and all that will remain to be done is adding an A-record in your DNS zone.  Super easy!

There is more to it, even at this beta stage.  Pagoda Box supports a number of PHP frameworks, including all major ones – CakePHP, CodeIgniter, Lithium, Symfony, Zend, and more.  You can also optionally have a MySQL database for your application.  They even help you out with outgoing email.

On top of that, you have control as to how many instances of the application you want (the more you have, the more requests you can serve at the same time, and the more you’ll have to pay).  There are statistics of your application performance, requests, and a few other parameters (I’m sure those will grow together with the project).

I’ll admit, I am too used to hosting my projects on my own servers to take immediate advantage of Pagoda Box.  But I am now seriously considering which projects I can move out of my server and into this platform.  It just makes things so much easier.  Deploying and re-deploying works wonders for any GitHub commit of your project.  Initial resources that one usually needs to try an idea out are free of charge.  If the idea picks up, the prices are more than reasonable (and comparable to other hosting solutions).

Out of those things that I consider necessary, I haven’t see any mentioning of files (uploaded via application, for example), support for build systems (such as Phing), and some sort of common library of frequently used code (PEAR modules, for example).  But I’m sure that either I simply didn’t look for these hard enough, or they will be added in the future.

If you are a PHP developer or involved with PHP source on GitHub in any other way, I suggest you try it out.  You can request a private beta invite directly from Pagoda Box website.  Or, if you prefer, I can send you one (I have about 10 of them left for now).  Also watch the demonstration screencasts,  and read through other platform features.

Upgrading to PHP 5.2.x on CentOS

Today while setting up yet another project on my hosting server.  The server runs CentOS 5.6, which means PHP 5.1.6 is used.  However the new project required PHP 5.2.0+.  It turned out upgrading PHP is trivial.  There is even a Howto Guide in CentOS wiki.  The steps are:

  1. Add CentOS Testing repository to yum.
  2. yum update PHP packages.

That’s all folks!