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That was Then
Since 1996, various services including web sites I own for past companies and projects have been hosted in a variety of different locations.
When it all started, I used to keep two high spec Compaq servers running 24/7/365 one was kept in the loft, and the hot spare was in the garage.
I made the mistake once of calculating how much they cost me to run during a year (it was over £800), and I decided pretty smartish that I needed to look for alternative means.
The services I got from these servers were pretty handy:
- a full blown domain, so had excellent data security
- storage for docs
- storage for music (I have over ½ terabyte in music)
- exchange – I have a never delete an e-mail policy, so this was perfect for mail archiving. Mail services were for myself, friends and family (I also ran mail services for several businesses)
- web sites – my own, plus several websites for other people/companies
- software (patches, service packs, ISO images etc…)
- a huge collection of Virtual Machines for testing and dev work
- with a fixed IP, I could use FTP for file transfer, and Terminal Services to ‘dial-in’ to my home devices
In the realisation of the running costs of the server infrastructure, in December 2005, I purchased two new HP servers and continued to run the same services.
Power Consumption was much improved, due to better spec hardware and the cost of running these came down to around £100 per year. This was acceptable.
However, I also realised that the cost of renewing solution assurance on all the software I used was also a pretty major overhead.
Cost of Software
Sure, I had Microsoft Action Pack, TechNet and MSDN subscriptions, but the software I was running on these servers would not be covered because they were running in a production environment, not a test and dev environment. So I had to pay out for these (averaging around £300 per annum).
So in 2006 I started moving the websites off premise. I used free hosting services from BT (www.btconnect.com), and through the domain registrar I was using at that time (www.freeparking.co.uk) I simply redirected all URLs to the free hosted locations. URL masking meant that site visitors didn’t see the redirects, and everything was slick and easy to move out.
I also played with Freeparking’s e-mail hosting – being able to move my own personal mail for free (as I didn’t require a myriad of mailboxes and additional functionality)
Mail services were OK under Freeparking, so I moved some of the other users out to Freeparking too, which meant I could turn off Exchange on my home servers.
Network Attached Storage
All I was using the servers for at this point was principally storage, so I decided to make the jump, and deployed a NAS solution instead.
I had a NAS box (does anyone remember Snap!, they were a spin off from Quantum back in the day and were subsequently acquired by Adaptec in 2004 after resisting the temptation of acquisition by NetApp. When Adaptec got out systems, they were bought by Overland Storage (www.overlandstorage.com)) so knew I could do most of what I needed.
After researching what was around, I purchased two Synology (www.synology.com) DS209+ units, which had received great performance reviews, and as a pair promised to consume only 15 of my hard-earned pounds per annum in terms of electricity costs.
I have kept the second ‘backup’ Synology unit in the garage, it backs up the main one every 24 hours using an app that is built into the firmware – it at least means that if my house burns down, I will not lose any data.
Whilst my requirements have changed over the years (I am now both a Mac and PC user), my TV, Sky Plus and Blu-Ray player are connected to the network, and all of my music is on iTunes and can be played on the excellent Sonos music system (www.sonos.com) I have found that the Synology NAS solution has been able to keep up with all of my requirements admirably (they release firmware updates quite regularly with great new features).
You’ve Got Mail
I had noticed that the Freeparking mail systems were not particularly reliable – the webmail function was often down or at best really slow and the Outlook mail client would often not connect to the mail servers.
With Freeparking I used a POP/SMTP combo, so archived mail was only visible on one PC and all I could use the web front end for was new mail messages.
So at the start of 2011 I started testing Google Mail (www.gmail.com)
I particularly liked the fact that I could use IMAP, which meant I could move my mail totally off premise and still be able to access it from all devices (including my PDA and iPad)
After testing this for six months, I moved friends and family onto this platform too, as I was delighted by the reliability and ease of use.
Who’s the Daddy?
I also used this as an opportunity to migrate all of my domain names from Freeparking to Go Daddy (www.godaddy.com). I like the domain management interface these guys have, plus all of my domain names can be managed, updated and renewed under one roof. Plus, their reliability/connectivity seems to be much better.
The final change I have made is to where my sites are hosted from.
As I mentioned, I used BT’s free hosting previously.
However, I have found that this has been too restrictive – having to use an archaic FTP program to upload a complete website each time I wanted to make a small change or update.
I also found that the limitation on sizing was too restrictive – we live in a multimedia age, and people expect multimedia content on the websites they visit.
I was playing with the idea of starting a blog anyway to serve as a dumping ground for what’s going on in my head, as well as serving as a repository for useful information and after playing around with WordPress (www.wordpress.com) and quite like it, I ultimately decided to redirect ALL of my sites here.
That way, it is much easier for me to maintain (everything in one place), it is still free, and they are quire generous on storage.
Up in the Clouds
With Dropbox (www.dropbox.com), Apple’s iCloud (www.icloud.com) and all of the other cloud services gaining momentum, I wonder how long it will be before I can retire my NAS boxes?
We are trialling Microsoft’s Office 365 (www.office365.com) offering at work at the moment, and I am blown away by how much like a locally installed set of apps they’ve managed to get it looking and feeling.
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