Brent:TextDrive :: Rat:Sinking Ship

Work isn’t the only horrific tale from my life, as of late: my sketchy lifetime webhosting deal has finally met its untimely end.

Longtime readers might recall that TextDrive (said webhost) originally merged into Joyent, and that Joyent had decided to unceremoniously dump its lifetime commitment back in August 2012. (Joyent is still scum, by the way, and should be avoided at all costs. You might be best avoiding Jason Hoffman as well, who was the face of that decision back in the day.)

At the last moment, Dean Allen, original founder of TextDrive, swept in and spun the managed webhosting part of Joyent back out into “TextDrive 2.0”. I figured I might as well ride things out, since my money was already spent. (It certainly looked like a “take the horse out back to quietly shoot it” sort of move, but what else could I do?)

Things went well at first. Then Ten Little Indians kicked in, and people started dropping like flies: the first to disappear was Dean himself. Then what support staff there was started thinning out. By December 2013, it was obvious that there was only one support guy left, and he was the only thing standing between my server and chaos. That said, he did stand there, and my server did run.

And then in January we learned that Lone Support Guy hadn’t been paid in months. Unsurprisingly, Jacques ceased being a support guy in late January. (If this were a horror movie, January would be the scene where the protagonist discovers the bodies of every other character in a Crescendo of Terror.)

This put me in the awkward position of being on a server that would only be up for an unknown, but certainly limited, amount of time. It was time for me to figure out how to be a sysadmin—with my data hanging in the balance. (Stress!)

I don’t didn’t know crap about setting up a server. Now I know more about Postfix and Dovecot and Procmail than I ever wanted. I have set up various DNS record types, not just pointed my domain at preconfigured nameservers, and have once again fought through PHP and Apache config files. Heck, I even have an SSL certificate for my email. It’s been quite the learning experience.

(I’m hosting all my stuff comfortably on a little $5/month Digital Ocean VPS, FWIW. I actually migrated everything in early February; I’m just getting around to writing about it now.)

All in all, I’m still glad I signed up for TextDrive back in the day. That gave me a far more gentle introduction to servers than I could have gotten anywhere else: the freedom to screw with most settings, coupled with the structure of a starting setup that worked and the comfort of having some support if you really effed things up. (Most other hosts, back in the day, either had some sort of CPanel interface or a command-line prompt.) And the total cost, per month, over the nine years that I got out of it is less than the comparative pittance I’m paying now.

I’m also glad that TextDrive died in a visible-enough way that I had time to migrate things cleanly. Or, rather, I’m glad that Jacques was open enough to indicate (however subtly) that it was time to abandon ship.

I’m mostly happy to be done moving stuff, though, and to have moved everything successfully. The new server’s been quite zippy, too, which is nice—at least my new digs aren’t a downgrade.


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