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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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Blog Migration Hell – An Argument for SaaS

Comments (7)

I’ve been in blog migration hell the past few days.  Simple goal / painful execution.  My blog runs on Movable Type 3.2 on a dedicated server (that happens to be six years old) located in our office.  I’m about to launch a new blog and we decided to upgrade everything to Movable Type 3.3, migrate to a new server, go from flat files to MySQL, switch from static to dynamic page rendering, and set it up so we could host multiple blogs on the same server. 

Sounds easy, right?  We planned it out, tested it, and set up fall back scenarios that we could roll back to if it didn’t work (actually Ross did all the work – I was just the tester.)  The primary fall back was from the new MT 3.3 config with MySQL rendering dynamic pages back to the old MT 3.2 (but without MySQL and with static pages) on the new server in case we had problems with the upgrade.

We froze the content (e.g. no new posts).  We did the data migration.  We tested.  Things seem close enough. We redirected DNS.  Things seemed to work.

A few hours later, after doing a search for something, I realized that the URLs for the individual posts were completely different from the URLs in the previous configuration.  When I found a page of mine on a search engine (Google, Technorati) or another blog that linked back to an individual post, the link was no longer valid.  Ok – that shouldn’t be a big deal – we’ll just figure out the old URL syntax and change MT 3.3’s formatting to it.

Nope.  Spent an hour on it.  Couldn’t figure it out.  Maybe it’s the static vs. dynamic page thing.  Flipped to static pages.  Tried to rebuild the site.  Nope – doesn’t work on the new server – we had tweaked our old server settings so it wouldn’t time out on a rebuild – we can ‘t modify the new server since it’s hosted and our hosting provider is limiting this setting.  Tried lots of other things.  No luck. Ok – downgrade to MT 3.2.  Whoops – that won’t work – static page / rebuild problem.  Tried a few more things.  Nope.

So – we rolled all the way back to the old server (rerouted DNS).  We’ve spent the last 24 hours trying to figure out the configuration problem on the new MT 3.3 / MySQL / dynamic settings.  Still no success (yet).  Ross will figure it out eventually, but for the time being we have to start the migration all over since I’ve decided a couple of days without blog posts is enough.

In contrast, when the latest TypePad upgrade came out (or Rally, or NewsGator Online, or FeedBurner – all SaaS providers), it was seamless and transparent.  When I started blogging in 2004, I used TypePad for a week and then decided to set things up on a dedicated server since I “wanted more control.”  While that was a good idea in theory, my experience underscores the reality of the difference in an upgrade.  In my case, I’m changing three variable – server, software version, and hosting provider.  If I’d been using a SaaS model (e.g. TypePad), I wouldn’t have had to do anything.

At least I get to post new blogs again.

  • http://www.venturegeek.com ndintenfass

    WordPress = Happiness.

  • http://adamduvander.com AdamD

    I’m a big WordPress fan, too, but that’s certainly not the problem. If Brad had switched platforms entirely, it might have been an even messier migration.

  • Jason

    If your SaaS provider had run into problems during the transition, you’d be stuck with no way to roll back to the last version.

    I wouldn’t call each one of Rally’s upgrades seamless or transparent. We’ve hit bugs that break our tools, and if we were running on our own server, we could have rolled back to the version that worked. We are also forced to take their new “features,” which we might consider to be reductions in functionality.

    Software is software, and software has bugs. While the last “S” in SaaS gives you someone to yell at when there are problems, you ultimately don’t have control over which version of the software to use, and you can’t do anything to mitigate the risks of bugs and changes to features. There are obviously advantages, but I am not yet convinced that SaaS is inherently better than self-hosted software.

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