Moving the blog again

A year ago I moved from free shared Linux hosting to paid one to GoDaddy. Everything was good, there was no downtime like free hosting solutions. WHen I was in free hosting sometimes my site got blocked by antivirus software because somebody else would have hosted such content in the same server.  However I did not earn any revenue from this blog so paying for hosting was not really my favorite idea.

I read several articles in the internet why GoDaddy is not a very good choice for hosting blogs. I had also used GoDaddy for hosting the website of local chapter of IEEE section (ieeehyd.org) but faced a lot of problem during renewal. First of all only the 1st year hosting price was attractive but the renewal charge was almost four times than that I initially paid for starting the hosting. I had my credit card in GoDaddy payment methods and now they wouldn’t let me remove it until I gave details of another card. This inspired me to close the account itself. Also lately my site got blocked by websense several times , probably because of their blacklisted servers.

I had considered to move to wordpress.com (the PaaS solution ) but they were charging a lot for assigning the domain name and they did not have a domain transfer facility so that I could delete all my account and GoDaddy and only pay wordpress for the domain name. I was also not happy with dealing with GoDaddy customer support who kept on replying me  with some templates from their manual book instead of looking into my hosting problem.

I came across an old post of one of my friend which shows how an wordpress blog could be installed in heroku even in the free tier. Ofcourse there were some limitations but I wanted to get rid of current hosting. Apart from the steps mentioned in the blog post I had to do some additional steps to overcome the limitations of heroku and have my blog up and running.

  1. Heroku now have ClearDB for MySQL so I did not have to go for heroku’s posgreSQL service as mentioned in the blog post.
  2. Because mine is not a new blog and I was moving all the contents from Linux host. I used the wordpress export file and wordpress-importer plugin to migrate the database. For images stored in wp-content  I downloaded via ftp and pushed using git from my local directory. However I was able to reduce the size of the content by using some orphan image checker plugin and deleting unattached files.
  3. I had to create  the .htaccess at the root directory of my blog at heroku to make sure the permalink’s of post and pages are redirected to the appropriate query strings. This is normally created by the wordpress installer itself but heroku file system can not be altered permanently unless attached to storage service which is paid.
  4. The DB size was small , so I added a plugin to optimize the wordpress  database once in a while. It also made the website fast. Initially I saw my export file is huge but later realized that there was a post in which I had dragged and dropped a lot of images from my desktop. All those were stored as data-uri scheme (plenty of junk characters in the post text itself) instead of separate image files.
  5. The MySQL user created by default by clearDB did not have insert and update grants in the database so the database upgrade did not go through after I manually upgraded the wordpress to 3.6.
  6. GoDaddy DNS manager did not have the option to forward the  the domain name (with masking )  to the heroku’s url where my blog was hosted. It was accepting only the IP address which heroku did not give me. So I forwarded it to a subdomain (www.neilghosh.com) and created a CNAME record to forward the domain to the subdomain and subsequently to the heroku URL.

Following are the challenged I am ready to face during maintenance of the site but I think its worth it, if I could save some money. On the bright side you get used to git commands because of frequent usage :) .

  1. Every plugin/theme needs to added via the local git repository to the wp-contents/plugins directory because anything uploaded via the admin portal will not be persisted in storage. It may seem so temporarily but eventually they will go missing when heroku moves the app as part of load balancing. Paid Amazon S3 storage is recommended but as of now I am pushing everything via git. I will try to see of I can use Dropbox for this.
  2. Similarly pictures in the posts should be uploaded through git, otherwise it may be hosted in some 3rd party site and embedded in the blog. This is a better option because it saves the blog’s bandwidth and if blog is moved , the HTML code still referees to the same image.

Thanks to my colleague Sridhar  who initially game the idea of heroku. I think I will be happy with it for sometime till my hunger to pay around it stops. If I could generate some money out of it , Google Compute Engine and AWS/VPS are definitely some good areas to play around. I also like the idea of static blogs so that I don’t waste computing (DB operations and PHP interpretation ) every time some user requests a page from my blog.

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