The deed is done. Not since I switched from a home-built ASP-coded blog to WordPress has RandomConnections undergone as many radical changes. None-the-less, here you are…the New and Improved™ RandomConnections!
I finally got completely fed up with my old hosting company, AccuWeb Hosting. The service was locked down so tight that I couldn’t use even common features on WordPress. I had to do work-arounds to get things posted, and that was a pain. Yet, even though they had everything locked down so tightly as to what and where you could post things, they somehow couldn’t keep viruses off of their servers.
I knew I was on an older version of WordPress that had some vulnerabilities and limitations. However, when I asked my hosting company about migrating to a newer version of PHP so that I could upgrade, they told me I would have to change my service plan and would most likely lose most of my content. I’ve got nearly 10 years of blogging here, and didn’t want to lose any of it, so that wasn’t an option.
The final straw came with this last round of spam comments. I knew it was virus-related because every time I activated my spam filter it would mysteriously deactivate about an hour later, and the spam floodgates would open. I had to shut off comments all together. At this point I figured something had to be done, and if I had to change, so be it. However, I wasn’t going back to AccuWeb.
I’m now hosting everything at GoDaddy. Yeah, I know they are evil and all. I did take pause because of their recent support for SOPA/PIPA, but I was already hosting several other sites there. One of the attractions is that they have very good support for WordPress.
In the end it was not as easy as it could have, should have been, but it wasn’t as disastrous I had feared, either. Here was the process…
First, I had tried using WordPress’s XML export feature. However, that kept timing out – another lovely feature about my hosting service that prevented me from backing up the entire blog. If I had been able to do an extract, it would have been trivial just to import that into the new host. Alas.
It was obvious that I couldn’t back up or export the entire blog database at once. The next step was to go into phpAdmin and do a table-by-table export of the database, saving each table as an SQL file. That worked, and now at the very least I had a back-up of the blog’s data.
Once I had the database, I turned up a copy of the XAMPP server on my laptop and set up the same version of WordPress that was running on my old host. I did the upgrade to version 3.3.1 on the laptop, which also updated the database.
When I had assured myself that the blog had been replicated locally, I began the transfer to the GoDaddy service. Initially I set up the blog using RandomConnections.org so that I could run both sites for comparison. I did a clean, empty WordPress installation on GoDaddy and made sure it was working. Then I went into phpAdmin for the new host and dropped the tables for the blog’s content. I then imported the tables from my local, upgraded version, and Voila! I was in business. I had to tweak a few settings, and it took awhile for DNS to catch up with the changes to the domain names, but it now all works. As an added benefit, both RandomConnections.com and RandomConnections.org now point this this website.
One of my biggest fears was that internal links would be broken. One of my goals was to change from the default permalink structure to something that was more reasonable. The default structure linked to the post or comment’s ID number in the database, something like www.randomconnections.com/?=12334, whereas the new links look like www.randomconnections.com/blog-rebirth. As it turns out, both systems work, so none of my links were broken.
There are lots of other internal improvements that visitors never see. Basically, stuff just works. The tagging system now works correctly, the wysiwyg editor does what it’s supposed to do, and I’m not getting flooded with spam comments. (Although, as soon as I brought the new blog online the Akismet filter had to start blocking that junk. The spammers found me before anyone else.)
I now have more options for displaying photos. I’ve created a Photos page that integrates nicely with Flickr. Videos and other content can be brought into blog posts much more easily.
As for the blog appearance, I’m still working on it. The current one looks a bit cluttered, so I may migrate all of the archival stuff to its own page. I like that I don’t have to resize all of my photos so that they fit the blog theme. I also like the rotating header image. I selected several of my photos for that option. Of course, many of my readers use an RSS feed, so these outward appearances will have no effect on them.
Still, I’m happy with the transition, and I’m not looking back. I’m sure I’ll be experimenting with themes, plugins and lots of other cool things, so expect a bit of remodeling to take place, but the bulk of the work is done, and I’m glad it IS working.