It has been awhile…
By Greg Holden
The CKReview has been offline over the past few weeks, as a series of technical glitches took the wind out of our sails. What was supposed to be a seamless transfer of the site from one hosting service to another, morphed into a frustrating experience and lesson in web servers. The theme from Gilligan’s Island played in my head repeatedly throughout the process, leaving a sense of comedy to what was a doomsday situation. Thankfully the saga has ended with a highly improved CKReview.
The CKReview surged in popularity during September and October, having 10 times as many followers on Facebook as in the past. What viewers saw, was a slow site that was too often down completely. A change was needed for better service. The decision to transfer the site to Atlantic.net was made without hesitation as they offer cloud servers (a technical term for faster service) and a more reliable uptime. Sold to the CKReview as a painless process, the three-hour-tour became a long stay on an island of isolation.
On The Downside
In the early stages of the process it seemed easy enough, copy the files and upload them to the new server. Database intact, we could keep the archived stories and no-one would notice any change except better service. That theory fell apart when the site simply didn’t work. Instead of reading the local news, people saw a site that failed to load anything. Even an error message promising service would soon be restored would not hold on the server. Expecting the problems to be soon resolved, many people worked extra hours to resolve the problem(s). The CKReview wishes to thank Bryan from Imaginart, Kevin from tech support at Atlantic.net in particular for their dedicated efforts. No one person solved what ailed the CKReview. It turned out that most of the trouble came from Atlantic.net themselves, giving what was a complicated situation an impossible twist. The servers that Atlantic.net had recently purchased and the CKReview was provided to use, had problems unforeseen to Atlantic.net. Once that change was made, the CKReview still did not run and had errors that made the site unusable. Updating the site was a waste of time, given the distracting nature of the visible errors. Once that was resolved, pictures no longer showed up and although the 1350 photos in our archives were in old stories, none of them could be used in future stories. Test, fix, fail was a mantra. It seemed at times that the archive would be lost and the CKReview would have to start from scratch with no stories at all. That would have destroyed the nearly 2 years of news gathering done here and was not exactly my first choice, so on went the restoration process until finally daylight could be seen.
That only partly summarizes the series of events that kept the CKReview offline. To our regular and new readers, I would like to personally apologize for the delays. My role in these problems is central and although there were problems outside my scope, the reality is I need to delegate better. The buck stops with me and the decision to forge ahead with the help I had was the best solution I saw to quickly solve the issue(s). Ultimately I made the choices that kept the site offline for so long, including using Atlantic.net in the first place. However, I am now very pleased with the set-up. What remains is the media work now and the server problems are resolved.
On The Upside
There are some large advantages to the new CKReview service. Users should notice a much faster response time to the site, even during busy hours of the day (8 a.m. to 9 p.m.). The old set-up often had 15 second delays before the site would load. Secondly the downtime at Atlantic.net is minimal compared to our previous host which was frequent and sometimes for many hours of the day. The CKReview can reset the server from Chatham now, so if the site crashes then control over a server reboot is in our hands and no-one elses. The CKReview has an option to move over to a new server at Atlantic.net or be first in line to get solid state drives in a few weeks and we took the latter option, so improvements to speed will only improve down the road and the site is already very fast. The CKReview can handle 30 megabytes per second of transfer to our readers without delay.
Cosmetic improvements have been made as well. Notably the comments section has been changed entirely and migrated over to Disqus, the same service used by the Chatham Daily News. Users no longer have to login separately for the CKReview and can use the same login they use at the Chatham Daily News to comment here. Classifieds no longer exist, the logo has been made smaller, stock photos have had to be reloaded and so they were resized and now appear proportionate. Some features are still missing and will be restored over time, however the site is operating fully. Some stock photos have been removed for the sake of speed on the backend, so some police stories in the archives will be missing a photo. If you experience any problems with the CKReview then please email me and tell me what happened. The CKReview servers are now fast, able to handle the traffic this site generates and root access to them happens right here in Chatham. Technically the CKReview is vastly superior to what it was before and I want to thank readers for their patience as we got there. Now on to the news…