I'm Ross. This is a post on my blog entitled DjangoSites Move Complete.

For the past few years I've hosted all of my projects on a single RimuHosting VPS. It's old, running Debian 5.0, and maintenance and upgrades have become headachy. It isn't easy to run Python 2.7 on old Debian versions, and since I only started using virtualenv relatively recently, things were a real mess.

As such, it was time to upgrade the VPS. I made the decision to look around for other hosting options, and eventually settled on Prgmr as the performance-for-dollar ratio seemed much higher to me.

I've taken the opportunity to break things down into multiple smaller VPS units to try and keep maintenance somewhat simpler. I can pull a single site's server down without breaking any other sites, and I can upgrade components individually for a single site.

Prgmr's pricing makes this possible: Their 'base' is very low - you pay $4 for each VPS plus RAM.

Djangosites.org now sits on it's own 512mb Prgmr Debian 6.0 instance. With 128mb taken up with memcached and a small portion to nginx and the operating system, there's plenty of RAM left for my gunicorn worker processes.

So how did I move everything across?

Although it took me 3 days to finish, the actual effort involved was really quite low. I hope these tips help you with server migrations in the future!

  1. In advance, drop the TTL on your DNS records low. I went to 300 seconds, but on the wrong domain. Doh!
  2. Deploy the new server environment. I have a shell script that creates the relevant users, installs all the Debian packages I need, installs system-wide tools like PIP, installs system-wide Python libraries I need, installs VirtualEnv, installs & configures Postgresql & Memcache, etc.
  3. Put your old app in Offline mode. For Djangosites, this means changing the 'accounts' and 'submit' URLs to point to flatpages instead of their views.
  4. Create a virtualenv on your new server
  5. Copy your (now not-being-written-to) database & code to your new server
  6. Configure nginx for the new app, spin up your app instances
  7. From your desktop, change your HOSTS file to let you access the new server directly as if it were live. Test your siste.
  8. Revert your HOSTS file, and update DNS.
  9. Revert your DNS TTL.

Users with stale DNS will continue to see the read-only site on the old server, whilst those with sensible ISPs will see the updated site within a few minutes.

Upgrading at the same time

Because moving code is boring I decided to take the opportunity to upgrade everything to Django 1.4. Djangosites was, until this week, running on 1.3 but it was using a number of deprecated features that wouldn't port to 1.4. It was also using the Postgres 8.3 contrib package for tsearch, which has different syntax to Postgres 8.4's built-in tsearch.

Unsurprisingly, the codebase has dropped due to this simplification. It's also let me clean out the cruft, simplifying things even further.

I also used the move to point DjangoSites at my Sentry instance - previously I just relied on the built-in Django error e-mails. Using Sentry made it easier to catch a few quirky bugs that were leftover from the move & upgrade.

Positives

DjangoSites now has it's own VPS environment, standing alone from my other projects (which, incidentally, also have their own VPS environment). This means I can do maintenance on it without impacting any other projects.

I can also manage memory/RAM with less fuss: I just ask Prgmr to increase the ram for one VPS instance, rather than try and juggle the way each application within a single server fights for memory.

At present, even on only a 512mb VPS, DjangoSites has plenty of headroom. With some basic Blitz benchmarking we're good for north of a million hits a day on a commodity hosting account... obviously we're nowhere near that at the moment, but it's good to know we can grow into this new t-shirt.

My monthly hosting costs have also dropped, but overall I've got allocations of more RAM, bandwidth, and disk space.

Negatives

DjangoSites now has it's own VPS environment, which means my operations time is going to increase. Any updates and patches to non-app code (such as Postgresql updates or OS security fixes) need to be done multiple times, not just once.

I also suck at remembering hostnames, and need to stop instinctively logging into a single host server. I'm sure I'll get over this pretty quickly, though.

Overall

I can't recommend Prgmr highly enough. Their prices are great but more importantly the VPS instances I've got are rock solid. They're fast (including the disk IO) and very responsive. My old RimuHosting VPS wasn't too bad, but the IO was certainly nowhere near as good.


That's All For That Post.

Last drinks. The end of the road. The last page. End credits.

Thanks for reading.

I'd love to hear your feedback and comments. E-mail me, ross@rossp.org, or get in touch on Twitter where I'm @RossPoulton. Chat soon!