Site update/planned downtime (we are moving again)!

By: Steven Tarbox
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Eagle eyed visitors will have noticed a few changes on NI Ferry Site over the past couple of weeks. This has been the result of the ‘in-service refit’ which I previously posted about when we moved server from the US to Germany just under a month ago (it seems longer!).  This has taken a lot longer than I had hoped, but as a result things are moving a lot smoother.  I have added some proper galleries now and plan to replace  all of the photo feature pages with proper galleries over time.  This will both improve page loading times and also allow for pictures to be displayed at higher quality on larger screens (and in a light box) rather than being constrained by the width of the page window.  Speaking of higher quality images, a number of photographs have been re-uploaded with higher quality versions, and I have also secured the consent of some further photographers to use their work.  The backend of the site has been totally overhauled (including the database, which is now a 5th of its former size) over the past 2 weeks with a new theme in place which allows a lot more customisation (and which is also built for speed).  All internal and outbound links have been checked and repaired were necessary and around 150 post tags have been merged with others or removed.  The menu system has been tidied up, and an accessibility feature is now implemented (this is available from the icon always displayed on the top left of the site and should be particularly useful for those with Irlen syndrome or Dyslexia, as visitors can change the colour of the whole site to make it easier to read). Like all good ships, ‘the crew’ will continue to do some ongoing maintenance and painting following this major overhaul.

Unfortunately there have been a few issues with our new host, including a couple of spells of downtime, and a few times when the site has been unavailable in the UK/Europe (but available in the US and Asia!) despite 1&1 not reporting any issues.  There also seems to be a recurring problem at around midnight when the site runs very slow (possibly due to the host’s backup processes).  As I have previously mentioned, it has been my intention to move to a UK-based host whenever I could.  The opportunity presented itself this evening to get a massive 50% off genuine UK hosted space with TSO host, a large UK-based provider that own their own custom-built data centre in Slough, and the provider I had identified as my preferred choice.

One of the issues I had with 1&1 (our current host) is it seems to be incredibly difficult to do anything, as all administration needs to be done via their own proprietary interface which seems to have been designed to sell (expensive) add-on’s with administration functions an afterthought.  Unfortunately the main domain name of the site is also with 1&1 (as well as  One of the quirks of their way of working is that despite being purchased separately, I cannot cancel the hosting contract with 1&1 without also cancelling all the domain names I have purchased through them (despite having over half a year left on my contracts for them before renewal).  I would have been quite happy to leave the domain names with them, but that unfortunately is not how they do business.

As a result there will be a period of up to 48 hours while the hosting and domains migrate over to TSO that the site may have limited availability.  At present I am not sure when this will be, as TSO are going to manage all the migration and domain name transfer on my behalf.  If I had been able to keep the domains with 1&1 the migration should have been seamless, but having to move the domains at the same time adds a major complication.  This will hopefully be the last move for the site for some time – not only do TSO have a state-of-the-art purpose-built UK based cloud network housed in their own fully company owned data centre (so the site will be served from multiple servers simultaneously meaning improved speed and reliability), but the account will be fully optimised for running WordPress.  The data centre is also directly connected via a bespoke private ‘dark fibre ring’ connection to not just one but 2 major points of presence in London (Telehouse North – the main internet hub in the UK, and Equinox LD5 (which itself is connected to nearby LD4 and LD6)) – points of presence are the direct connections to the main internet backbone, like Motorway slip roads in a way.  TSO are also members of the London Internet Exchange (LINX).  Once I have confirmed the timetable with TSO I will post another update to the site and its associated social media accounts.  While the site is unavailable any updates will continue to be posted via social media.

In the meantime, EUROPEAN SEAWAY left Calais this morning for Dover.  I am just finalising the profile article for her, and it should be live before she arrives on our shores on Wednesday morning.  Other things happening on NI Ferry Site this week include a new look for our Stena Line 2017 dry dock feature which will be completed this week once I add the last of Scott Mackey’s pictures of STENA PRECISION, and of course there will be updates on EUROPEAN SEAWAY‘s arrival at Larne.

Polite notice: While we welcome our articles being shared, we request that links to this website are provided rather than other approaches. Thank you (NI Ferry Site team).