Maintenance & Outages

Eric Tompkins
Jan 18, 2013

We're Moving to Chicago... Well, at Least Your Website Is... We're Moving Datacenters

This is a very important update so please read carefully.

What we are doing

We are moving to a new datacenter within Rackspace's network. Our servers are currently located in their Virginia database. We're going to be moving to their Chicago datacenter.

When we are doing it

We will be doing the migration the beginning of February, 2013. We don't have exact dates yet, but it'll most likely be between February 5 and February 20.

Because of the large number of websites that we have to move we're not scheduling the migrations for each individual website. If, however, you have a good reason to schedule it please contact us and we'll do our best to accomodate.

Why we are doing this

The reason for the move is that there are certain Rackspace services that we can't take advantage of in our current datacenter. Those services are critical to future features that we want to add to our CMS (like built-in analytics). 

The new environment that we're moving to will also be a more scalable and redundant architecture. We've been talking about that for a while and it's finally happening. 

How this affects your website

We will handle migrating your website's content to the new location. Because we're having to move the database for your website, which is where a majority of your content is located, their could be a brief downtime of less than 5 or 10 minutes while we do the move. Because the website is going down we're going to try and do migrations during the off hours. 

Here are the steps that we're going to take to move each site. 

  1. Create the new hosting environment in Chicago.
  2. Disable the administration for the website (so that you can't add any new content).
  3. Copy the website files (CSS, images, etc) from Virginia to Chicago.
  4. Disable the website.
  5. Copy the database.
  6. Point the website to Chicago (more on this later).
  7. Re-enable the website.

Pointing the website to Chicago

A couple of things will happen to point the website to Chicago.

As soon as we've moved the website we'll setup a reverse proxy on the current server to forward all traffic to the servers in Chicago.  The only impact to your website is that it could run a little slower. This would be temporary until the DNS is pointed to the Chicago IP address.

After that one of two things will happen.

  1. If we're managing the DNS for your website then we'll make the appropriate DNS change for you and within 5 minutes all traffic will be going to the Chicago datacenter.
  2. If you or your client is managing the DNS for the website then we will email you the IP address you're website will have to be pointed to. We'll expect that you'll make the appropriate DNS change as soon as possible.

Once we've confirmed that the traffic for your website is coming out of the Chicago datacenter then we'll completely disable the site from the Virginia datacenter. At that point it's no longer in use and not necessary to keep any more.

What do you need to do

If we are managing the DNS for your website or for your client's website then you don't need to do anything. If you don't know if we're managing your DNS please contact us and we can let you know. You could also check your DNS yourself. Enter your domain name in the box in the middle of the screen (not at the top). After clicking the button if you see NS.RACKSPACE.COM and NS2.RACKSPACE.COM under Name Servers then you know that we are managing your DNS.

If we are not managing the DNS for your website then there is some stuff to do. We need you to do one of 3 things.

  1. Have us manage your DNS. It's not that hard to do. We can walk you through it and we do most of the work.
  2. Provide us with the log in to where your DNS is currently being managed. It's often with your domain registrar (like GoDaddy or Network Solutions).
  3. Make sure that you (or your client) has access to make DNS updates and are standing by to make changes when we're ready.

If you're going to make the DNS change then once we move your website we'll provide you with the new IP address for you to make the change. You will be updating the A record for your domain name. We recommend that in the beginning of February you set the TTL (Time To Live) for your DNS records to 5 minutes or as low as possible. This will make the propagation for the DNS change happen much much faster.

Very important - read this

If you or your client is managing their own DNS then you are fully and solely responsible for making the appropriate DNS update. We cannot afford to keep two sets of hosting environments running. A few days after the migration is complete (we're planning on no more than 15 days) we will be turning off the servers in the Virginia datacenter. If you have not updated the DNS for your website by the time we turn off the Virginia servers then your website will go down until you make the appropriate DNS change. We will do everything in our power to communicate what DNS change you need to make and when. However, we are not responsible if you ignore those requests and your website goes down after we turn the servers off.

A few questions you might have

Q: Is this migration optional?
A: No, the migration is mandatory. It might be a little painful to do, but the rewards afterwards will be worth it.

Q: What benefits will come out of the migration?
A: There will be a few benefits. The most immediate benefit will be that the hosting infrastructure for your website will be more redundant and scalable. It will be a load balanced environment. That means that instead of a single web server handling your website there will be multiple web servers in a pool to handle traffic to your website. This will allow more traffic on our infrastructure and it'll also provide protection against any server outages. Because there will be multiple web servers available to handle your website, if one of them goes down then the others will still be there to handle traffic so your website won't go down. 

Another benefit is that we can take advantage of some of Rackspace's other services (like their cloud servers) that will enable us to develop features like built-in website analytics. We can also use these servers to offload some utility tasks (like sending email campaigns) to further reduce load on the web servers. 

Q: I don't know how to update the DNS for my website. What can I do?
A: We would recommend that you have us manage the DNS for your website. You can do that by either providing us the logins to where your DNS is managed or we could work with you to point the nameservers for your website to us so that we completely manage the DNS.

Have any other questions?

This is a fairly major, but important update to your website. If you have any questions at all please contact us as soon as possible. We would prefer to answer any questions and calm any concerns before we start the migrations in February.

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