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First, some background:

I work for a small company that does IT. Recently I have become the "web developer" as a value added for the clients we support. The business had a guy who set up a web hosting company about a year ago (before i got here) also for a value added for our clients. It is configured with helm v4 and has 3 servers (all running windows 2003) in a co-location.

The Problem: The guys who set up and maintained our web hosting portion of the company.. got up and left!! And.. me being the web developer have been put in charge :) YAY right.. NOT! I have no real experience maintaining this kinda thing so I am a little stuck. We host around 100 sites.. so we cant just cut this off.

The question: What do you guys suggest I do here. Where do I get started. I need to somehow get control of this. I dont like helm4, it sucks, there is no support etc. None of the users require control panel access really except for using the email. (we are using smartermail module).

My Solution: I was thinking about restarting everything on my own accord. Using Linux or Windows, Apache, MySql..etc. I have another server box I can get started on to test and learn. Since the users dont use the control panel, I could manually create new domains when they come. If I do this, does anyone know any guides or faqs on how to get started on this. Obviously I need to learn about security and such as well.

ANY help would be appreciated!!

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3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

If you restart everything on a different platform straight away, all at once you will go from having one problem to many problems. Missing libraries, links, and 100 hosts to configure.

First you need to find out as much about the situation as you can. Are you using Apache or IIS? What ISAPI plugins or filters are being used? Do they utilise any server-side Active-X.

As far as I know the only way to find this out is to familiarise yourself with the sites, on a one-by-one basis.

We recently got handed the maintenance of a large classic ASP application that none of us knew nothing about. The original developer (none of us knew him) was killed in a car accident, so we couldn't go to him for any help or support, and the only option was to go the hard mile. Dig through it, and when things broke, investigate them on a case-by-case basis.

If you do want to move to a platform you're more familiar with, I suggest running everything side-by-side and moving them over one app/website at a time. It will be more expensive (running two of everything).

The other option is to purchase a large hosting package with a commercial provider. If all you're doing is providing MySQL/MSSQL and PHP/ASP/CGI/Perl/whatever, with nothing special, then a commerical host may be the way to go. Prices will be cheaper than co-lo and someone else takes care of everything. They usually ship with cpanel so people can manage their own email accounts as well.

If you get your DNS hosted off-site (if you're not already) you just need to set a site up, flip the DNS, and off you go within 24 hours (note that this is not good if it's a timely website, that is, if it writes to a database as well as reading, because half of your users might land on the old website and get written to the old database. Reduce your TTL to as small as you can on the DNS so that well-behaved hosts expire quickly, and then turn the old site off).

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1  
+1 for saying just about everything I was thinking. Bonus for the commercial provider route. I would also add that it'd be good to find a decent consultant that can help in times of emergency. –  squillman Sep 15 '09 at 21:56
    
+1 for some solid advice. –  osij2is Sep 15 '09 at 22:00
    
well, currently we are paying co-location like 200 a month. about 100 sites at 10 bucks a month is around 1000 a month.. which is good reoccurring income. you suggest i find a commercial host that allows reselling. if so , do you have any recommendations? and will i be able to make the company as much money doing this? (I actually had considered this option.. but i feel like im taking the easy way out doing this) –  Roeland Sep 16 '09 at 1:57
    
oh and were running iis6 atm –  Roeland Sep 16 '09 at 2:07
    
Easy way out? That's called ROI in the business world :D The host we used to use (dotable.com) has recently had a severe drop in the level of their service, so I'm afraid I can't recommend them in good faith. Someone like 1and1.com maybe? I haven't used them but I've heard good things about them. They even offer Windows virtual private servers which could be good for you, just transfer all your IIS settings over as you need them. –  Mark Henderson Sep 16 '09 at 2:17

Find yourself a mentor. Seriously. Being a good admin requires learning from a good admin.

Tell your management that you need training. Have them buy a few continuing ed courses from the local community college or from a consulting company. Make friend with the instructor. Ask lots of questions.

Resist the urge to throw everything out. Learn your existing systems, set up a few test sites. You'll save your company a lot of money, and you'll save yourself a lot of work.

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problem in getting training is that the company has no money.. so thats not an option right now. recession hit us hard. –  Roeland Sep 16 '09 at 1:58
    
In that case I hope you're hourly :) Good luck. –  Seth Sep 16 '09 at 19:58
    
and.. im not, good old sallery! –  Roeland Sep 18 '09 at 13:18

BlueOnyx... maybe...

What exactly are you hosting? Are these just static websites, PHP, other?

If your solution is simple... and you want to try and quickly migrate/manage some of this yourself you might want to take a look at BlueOnyx.

http://www.blueonyx.it

Normally I wouldn't recommend it over something like Ubuntu server and a seasoned admin but I think you might find BlueOnyx helpful as it tends to be geared towards an ISP/hosting type of environment. You can add/edit/suspend your clients, create new domains/sites, add/edit/delete new users, etc.

In short, its a very simple Linux (based on CentOS) distro with a very small learning curve. You'd know within a few hours if it will be helpful in your situation or not.

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we are hosting mostly very basic html sites. i have recently developed some custom php sites with mysql as well as a couple of joomla setups. –  Roeland Sep 16 '09 at 1:55
    
I'd go ahead and download the BlueOnyx CD and check it out for yourself then. It will probably do what you need. Alternatively, you could probably even look at something like a hosted 1&1 account and multiple domains. They have some decent packages over there. –  KPWINC Sep 16 '09 at 5:22

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