The biggest changes you will never see
Good day members of anime@UTS, your webmaster here with a round of exciting news about the website. Let me tell you all about what has been happening under the hood and what this means for you. There are 4 grand changes: new domain register, new server hosing, new mailing list, and new email structure. Now lets get into the details.
Before last week, all of our services used to be provided by NetLogistics. This was thanks to our ex-ex-ex webmaster Mekky. He got it all set up with this provider and it stayed there ever since. So NetLogistics was our domain manager and web server host for the past 7 or so years. As I do not really know how it was back then, I can not say for sure, but for the past 5 years this website has been on a WordPress blogging platform and with a cPanel hosting platform. This kind of configuration is very convenient for managing the site and server as cPanel provides an understandable GUI for all our admin needs, and WordPress makes is super easy to write up blog posts and get them out to our member base.
This has worked very well for us for these past years, but one thing was wrong – pricing. The provider changed their pricing (to keep up with the changes in the economy) and so once our hosting was set to expire (next year), we would not be able to afford it. And thus a movement to migrate the site to a new provider was started.
First up was the domain transfer. As per ICANN each active domain name must be registered to an individual or a company. Our domain used to be registered under Mekky’s name, so that needed to change. So I got in contact and by collaborating, we transferred the ownership of the domain to the current execs and moved the domain manager to Hover.com. So anything to do with the domain utsanime.net (renewals, namespace pointers, ownership transfer, etc) is now done through hover.
Next up was hosting. Where could we host the database and all the files that are needed for our site to run? After consulting with a few IT ‘specialists’ (uni friends), I was recommended to try out DigitalOcean. They offer users to set up VMs with any configuration that they prefer for as cheap as 5$ per month. I went with a LAMP setup running Ubuntu 14.04 and WordPress as the front-end. With the back-end being linux, the entry of the setup was done via command line. This is one hurdle the next webmaster will have to overcome: they need to learn linux command line and understand how a LAMP configuration works in order to support the website for the years to come. One thing I was able to achieve thanks to this configuration, is installing SSH. Now I can remote into the server from anywhere, as long as I have the private key. Security++
On top of that, we now gained another important feature – automatic backups (snapshots) of the VM. Its great, cause if anything ever happens and we need to roll back our changes, Digital Ocean have made it super easy for us to activate a pervious snapshot and revert to a working/stable version. Unfortunately this feature is not free, and comes at an expense of 1$ a month. But I strongly believe that piece of mind for all the clubs history is worth that extra dollar.
Also with a new installation of WordPress I decided to try out Jetpack. What this plugin will help us with, is crossposting all the posts that come up here onto all our other social media such as FB, Twitter (and even G+ and Tumblr lol).
So since there is no more cPanel, you might ask yourself, how are we gonna send out mailing lists then? Easy! Mailchimp. As you probably saw with our December edition newsletter, Mailchimp lets us create custom layouts and templates for our emails. Its a really nice tool for managing mailing lists and makes it really simple, even for non tech savvy users. So my hope is that the communications directors in the future will not have to stress too much over newsletter as we got all the templates setup for them already.
Last but not least, the club emails. For years we have had our primary emails: president, secretary, suggestions and web. Now we are adding publicity into the mix, and repurposing potentially suggestions (TBA). Info for the future webmaster: the current setup is that all the emails are forwarded to the corresponding exec and stored on the server as well. Each title that needs email access has also been give the ability to send emails using the club domain (Gmail settings, add account).
All of these changes behind the scenes, and it all means absolutely nothing for the members, as they will not notice this. But for the future of the site and the ease of use for the execs, these changes were a necessity. Future proofing FTW!
Webmaster jamiejakov signing out. El Psy Congroo.