A Trip to the Cloud

Ah, December. The social month; with dinners, parties and all kinds of get-togethers. This, in addition to some unscheduled overtime at work have left very little time in terms of spreading the word on the interweb. And just to top it off, VBOX went tits up in the early hours after this year’s Christmas party at work. My trusty VBOX hosts this site and seeing it offline of course broke my geeky heart, but I was too busy laying in bed in fetal position, trying to remember my name and how to speak to really care at the time.

But as soon as the worst of the after-party aftermath had passed, I set to work on getting everything back online. Unfortunately, it proved to be hard as the embedded network card had decided that it just didn’t want play anymore. With the network card enabled, Ubuntu (and several other distributions) simply refused to boot. With the network card disabled, everything booted just fine, but not having a network card kind of makes it hard to host anything. The motherboard had to be returned for repairs. Hallvard later suggested that I could just get a USB network card, and this would have solved my problems in a matter of hours. Too bad my mind really wasn’t working very well at the time. And now the ASUS motherboard has been returned for repairs anyway.

I’ve got a Google Apps account for vegard.net, so moving my e-mail was as simple as changing the MX records for the domain. But what to do with the site? I didn’t really want to move it to a shared host after the struggle I had with GreenGeeks two years ago. Also, I would certainly miss the joy of tinkering with my own server, even if it was just temporary.

One of this year’s more dominant internet buzzwords, The Cloud, in the form of Amazon EC2, came to the rescue.

Amazon EC2 let’s you rent virtual servers. It’s a great service, if you are prepared to put the money on the table. I was not, so I decided to go for their cheapest solution, the micro instance, and launched a Bitnami WordPress stack image to get up and running a quickly as possible. A great idea in theory, an utter failure in practice: The micro instance will throttle you down as soon as you’ve used just a tiny amount of CPU. At full speed it was great, but when throttled down the cloud instance was useless. Unpacking simple theme upgrades took forever and ever. Also, I didn’t feel comfortable with the Bitnami stack, with its default usernames and passwords and whatnot. Had I remembered to change every default setting, or was there still a back door available somewhere?

In the frenzy to get the site back online I had forgotten a very important detail: The old VBOX, which has been sitting on my desk, collecting dust. It would have been a great substitute while the new VBOX was getting its groove back. In fact, I’d already prepped the old VBOX as a backup in case of a fatal hardware error in the new VBOX. I just didn’t remember until yesterday. After a full week of struggling with EC2, it finally dawned on my that I had a fully working, ready-to-go server sitting on my desk.

The site is now hosted by the old VBOX, or slave.vbox-host as it’s been called. It’s not as powerful, needs more air to cool down, uses old-fashioned spinning hard drives and is connected to the internet via a not-so-stable Wi-Fi connection. But it works, and it works better than my EC2 experience.


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