Tag Archives: server

AWS, a new comer’s views

As an IT professional it can be a daunting task trying to keep up with new technologies. A lot of job specifications I’ve seen have asked for Amazon or other cloud experience, so I decided it was time I had a look!

Previously I’ve administered several virtual servers hosted by hosting companies, all of which can be classed as cloud computing, given that the machine doesn’t actually exist and all of the processing is done “in the cloud”, so what are my initial thoughts having delved into AWS for the first time?

Mainly how easy it is to get started! The interface certainly looks daunting, though I managed to get a virtual server up and running on the EC2 (Elastic cloud computing) service in less than 10 minutes! And what’s better, they provide a modest machine known as a t2.micro, absolutely free of charge for the first year!

Delving a little deeper, following Ryan Kroonenberg’s “AWS Certified Developer 2016” course on Udacity, (https://www.udemy.com/aws-certified-developer-associate/) I was surprised by how easy it all was! I even manged to get a load balancer set up, linked to an EC2 server, and managed to Link to the Tomcat server seamlessly from Netbeans! And it was still free! (So long as you pick the right machine…) Admittedly the choice of course was biased towards getting certified rather than actually learning AWS, but it provides an excellent starting point!

Having developed an idea for a future Android app, the environment looks like the perfect place to host the back end processing given it’s scalable nature and high availability. Plus it will earn me some brownie points for the CV! Watch this space for details of the App in the future!

What a week!

What a week it has been! We returned to Kent from visiting family in Derbyshire, unaware of the events in store…

It all started Monday morning with an ominous email reading “The server has disappeared!”. Never something you want to see, never mind on a Monday! The usual ping test confirmed the host was down, though the hosting companies routers confirmed that the host was unreachable, so at least the DNS was not to blame.

Checking the providers news feed revealed they’d had a server outage the previous day, confirmation something had gone awry on their end. After finding someone with the password for the dashboard, they raised a support ticket and got the server running again! Unfortunately that was only the start of the problems!

As the server had unexpectedly gone off line, the file system had a few errors and so had been mounted read only until we could run FSCK over it to correct any problems. Being a hosted server, this had to be requested from the ever helpful support team. That done, we managed approximately half an hour before the server switched the file system back to read only mode! After several attempts to stabilise things, the decision was made to request a new server image and perform an emergency migration… Not something to be taken lightly, given the server was still running Ubuntu 10.04!

With the new server freshly running 14.04 and updated, the long slow process of installing the LAMP stack commenced, followed by the reinstatement of the databases and web site pages. By Tuesday evening, everything appeared to be running. Or so it seemed! It turns out the website was relying on features disabled in the currently installed version of PHP! After trying a few code kludges to work around the matter, time was pressing on and so a downgrade looked the best option. But how to carry it out? A good old compile from source! Which always takes forever in a server environment, given they aren’t geared for development and so package after package had to be added before it was finally compiled and installed and back up and running!

So, by Wednesday evening, the majority of the functionality had been reinstated…  A problem reading created Excel spreadsheets was traced to bugs in a no longer supported PHP module (http://pear.php.net/bugs/bug.php?id=19284&edit=3) and usability issues relating to cookie usage across domains were rectified (rather than respond to several addresses, the site now forwards requests to one domain) and so we’re up and ready for the weekend!

So what did I learn from the week?

  • Always keep up to date backups of the /etc/ directory! Luckily I had a copy I’d made last year available, but it would have been much easier if it had been kept up to date!
  • PHP is evil…
  • And PHP code from last decade isn’t going to be happy on a fresh server.
  • Ask for passwords for the control panel of the server! I hadn’t asked as I didn’t forsee a need for it…

So here’s to the weekend, and the 10 mile run on Sunday! (http://canterbury10.co.uk/)

With thanks to:

The support staff at Hosting UK (https://hostinguk.net/)  who did all they could to ensure we were back up and running as quickly as possible.

My colleagues at AUKWEB (http://www.aukweb.net/) all volunteers who set up the old server, coded the site and assisted where they could in the migration.

Here’s to another decade of uptime!