In a nutshell, we have to move out of our existing server, that currently resides in a secure data centre in Manchester, and move into a new server, located in York. This was not my idea, I hasten to add. I have nothing against Manchester! 😉
It has come about due to restructuring on the part of our upstream service provider, Bytemark. Obviously this is causing me massive disruption that I am trying very hard not to pass on to my users. However some disruption is inevitable, I’m afraid.
To sweeten the pill, Bytemark has done me a rather good deal where we get a faster and more highly-specified server for very little extra money. I am also taking the opportunity to improve the facilities that the server offers. Over the years customers have requested various features that the old server was either unable to provide, or provided rather poorly. For example:-
- A simple, fast webmail service.
- TLS security on emails (so that emails can be automatically encrypted).
- Password-protected secure SMTP, so email users can send email via our server as well as receive it.
- Better support for mobile devices.
- The new sever is much faster, with a better CPU and a lot more RAM. We have also taken steps to optimise the delivery of PHP-based content. This should all result in a much faster delivery of web pages.
I am also taking the opportunity to weed out a lot of cruft that has accumulated over the years. To make most efficient use of the available computing resources, a number of redundant or barely-used services will be withdrawn:-
- Old sites/projects that customers no longer use. Up until now we have maintained closed projects at our expense, keeping them hidden in the background, just in case users wish to reinstate them in the future. This has proven time consuming and expensive. It has also taken valuable computing resources from current projects and poses at least a theoretical security risk. Therefore, all such projects will not be carried across to the new server. Instead, archived copies of dead projects will be made and kept off-site.
- EGW(EGroupWare). This is a massive project with many excellent features. However customers only ever used its webmail feature. Many customers also commented that they found EGW to be overly complex and cumbersome. Webmail, for those who want to use it, will now be provided by the much simpler and faster Squirrellmail. I must add that we have not lost interest in EGW and still have the greatest respect for its lead developer, Ralf Becker. We will be running experimental and demonstration installations on private servers. This is to serve future clients that need such an extensive and sophisticated CRM (customer relationship management) system.
- EyeOS. This is a web-based virtual operating system, that showed great promise in its early days. But hardly anyone actually used it. Added to which it was a pain to maintain, and often even minor upgrades would break it. As with EGW, we will be running experimental and demonstration installations on private servers, for possible future deployment.
- POSITIVE. This was a project running at deoss.org aimed at NHS customers considering moving to open source software. Again it showed great promise in its early days. But it has seen very little activity recently. Customers who wanted to “go open source” have mostly done so. Those who haven’t, probably never will. So POSITIVE will be closed down within the next few weeks. The deoss.org domain will be redirected at deoss.com for the time being, with a view to the domain being reinstated for a new generation of open source projects in the future. Meanwhile the plethora of small experimental projects at deoss.org will be moved to and/or merged with projects at garfnet.org.uk, over the next few weeks.
The whole move has to be completed by midnight 2014-10-31. However I am hoping to have the majority of this work done much earlier than this.