Changes Under The Hood

Do you sometimes put things off because the mammoth task standing before you (physically or metaphorically) is just too much of a burden and it is far easier to leave things alone? As human beings, we are designed to take the easier option. The path of least resistance. As I recall to my colleague on an almost daily basis – I am not lazy, I am just super-efficient. Sometimes though it is probably difficult to tell the difference.

In 2004 after many years using free hosting options I moved all my domains and hosting over to 123-Reg. At the time they were one of the top providers in the UK and I was keen to not make the stupid mistakes I had made over four years earlier. Aged merely 17 from the IT room (at Henley College) buying multiple UK domains on (Does anybody recall this provider and their bright orange company logo and website? Are they still around?) While this was perfect for my initial needs, six years into the project I realised I could no longer maintain a static HTML based blog. At the time, I was maintaining two blogs and the Blogger blog enabled me to run a self-hosted professional blog (the service was acquired by Google in February 2003) with the HTML files published over to my own 123-Reg hosting. However, Blogger withdrew this service in May 2010. I had to switch to hosting my blog on the blogger service but have been able to incorporate the blog quite well within my professional site.

I had heard so much about WordPress but also spent time evaluating TypePad and some others (which now over a decade later, slip my mind). So in 2010, I began the laborious process to convert every single HTML entry over to WordPress. It felt like an uphill challenge but the long term benefit would be that I could tag and manage all my entries in an online repository database. The ability to search instantly through my random thoughts (to that point) of some six years. Probably something I should have done many years earlier. What can I say in my defence, do you notice the procrastination theme coming across throughout this blog post (which in itself has taken several weeks to write). Looking back now with twenty/twenty hindsight I can see a post from just over 11 years ago… perfectly titled – The Abandoned Blog.

My dear friend Sippy attended DMU in Leicester with me from 2000 studying Computer Science but switched to a Media Technology while I was on my sandwich placement between 2002-3. He has been one of my closest friends since our days living in the student halls and then sharing a house together in our second year. Unfortunately living almost 100 miles apart we rarely get to see each other as we would like. Both now being married with kids and busy in our own lives makes finding the time and travel a logistical challenge. However, that is not going to stop us from trying once we are on the other side of this pandemic.

Let me take you back a decade and the reason I had entitled a blog post to describe my web diary status as permanent hiatus. His tweet to me, by pure coincidence, happened to be his 29th birthday. His complaint, I had spent the first 43 odd days of the new decade, without posting a single blog post. Why had I been absent for such a long period of time? I was in the middle of the manual migration from HTML to WordPress. I am sure now there is probably some automated web-based tool that will parse the HTML file and auto-generate not just the blog post entries but the tags, links, and images. Eleven years ago I did not have access to what could only be referred to (then) as alien technology. 

There were a number of reasons why I had to complete my blog migration (I prefer to describe it as a rebirth) to WordPress by early 2010. The following year I would hit three crucial milestones in my life – get married, start a new job at the biggest software manufacturer on the planet (and fulfil one of my career dreams) and turn thirty. At the time I was laboriously completing the tasks, I only knew of two of those three life-changing events. I was under pressure and rightly so. 

Moving my blog over to one of the biggest platforms was the most critical step for me in the evolution of my blog over the previous eight years. I had dabbled in guestbooks and comment systems, but every attempt to add user feedback to the site had ended in disaster. At best, very minimal functionality would be added which then had to be regularly maintained. I was also so under no illusion that in the future my time for blogging would be very much limited but also my life would change and I would perhaps have fewer experiences to share with the wider general public. Therefore the idea of having converted everything from 2002 on-wards onto WordPress would give me the blog in a catalogue that not only I could fully understand. I suppose it is the writer’s gift to be able to look back to an exact moment in your personal history with total recall. Plus from a very young age, I have been the guy obsessed with dates and times. As you would expect I know exactly which entry I should be looking up to relive a particular moment. Let us be honest – it was for purely selfish reasons – I wanted it to be much easier for me to track down that entry and therefore have that nostalgic trip down memory lane.

Via the JetPack add-in for WP I have been notified that my website has been down for only a few minutes on daily basis for the past five years. At first, 123-Reg did deal with my issues (although I had to write to the Managing Director in 2016) but to be fair to web host provider they resolved many issues but long term I wanted out. I wanted to move providers at the next available opportunity whenever that would be – always giving myself to the point my hosting package was up for renewal. After several years of putting this off, I decided during the first UK lockdown that I would have the time to review all my domains and hosting packages and begin the migration process early. However, with work and everything else going on – it was way down on my list of priorities. Eventually in October, I transferred my first domain (as it was up for renewal over to Names). By a random twist of fate, I had registered the domain name that would be the link for our wedding website on the 17th October 2010. Exactly eight years before my son Logan would be born. What are the chances?

In December I reached out to Sippy and got his advice on the best course of action. My hosting was due to expire on 31st January and I was keen to ensure at that point in time everything had migrated over to Names and my 123-Reg account could be deleted for eternity. We engaged via WA and email correspondence to get this mini-project resolved. There were a number of challenges and hurdles along the way. SSL certificates are now mandatory which was not the case when I created my site at the turn of the new millennium. Plus there were additional costs for email hosting and migrating domains which I had not originally factored in. All in all, not a small chunk of change to run my own personal website taking on board I cover all the costs personally as I do not indulge in any advertising or affiliate links or any other commercial partnerships to generate revenue. This blog truly is a labour of love. And so it should be. Never forget who you are and where you came from!

Everything was finally completed on Tuesday 2nd February including a short delay to transfer across my dot net domain. As a reader, you should not notice any difference in the service provided. The uptime will hopefully be 99.99% and with the SSL certificate you know I am taking security seriously having found a company offering cheap certificates over a multi-year plan and much more competitive than the Names in-house offering. Thankfully my new host allows third party SSL certificates to be used although the salespeople are reluctant to let this become common knowledge particularly as new customers are signing up.

I just wanted to extend a big thanks to my friend Sippy. It really does help to have a web developer you can call on for assistance. Thank you for helping to make the migration process as painless as possible and for your support to find a few short cuts and cost savings! If I had been doing this myself I would have carried out a fresh install of WP app on my CPanel and then somehow tried to migrate my blog across by importing XML export files.

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