A brown out or "why DR planning is your friend"

My server is in the basement of my home. In Long Island. Where we have brown outs like the one we had today.

The clocks came back and had to be reset but my Linux server apparently did not, or maybe it’s the cable modem. Hard to tell exactly as I am not at home. Fortunately I backup my server every night to a VPS hosted by TekTonic. It’s $15 a month and and serves as a backup DNS server for my domains. It’s not the fastest but it’s good enough for my traffic.

So once again I updated my DNS record for blog.dembowski.net, ran the restore script on the VPS, updated my wp-config.php and poof I’m running.

The best part was that I did this using the ssh client on my Blackberry Pearl! It works but using vi on that small screen is not something I would recommend. I know where all the pieces are but if I we hunting and pecking I would not be able to get the blog up and running.

Once I figure out what is going on with my basement server I’ll do the process in reverse.

Virtual Private Servers

According to Wikipedia:

“A virtual private server (also referred to as virtual dedicated server or virtual server, and abbreviated VPS or VDS) is a server run through virtualization in tandem with other virtualized servers on one physical computer.”

Which is a pretty good description. I use TekTonic as my VPS provider and I don’t have a complaint about their service since I get a good uptime. I pay a really good fee and definitely get what I pay for.

Serviceuptime

But I think with any VPS there are things you need to check on. I notice that processes that I need (oh say, my apache web server) will inexplicably die without any reason in the log.

Lately I have not been getting my mailed database backups. I have a cron job that backs up all my blog data and files, and another one on my basement for pulling down the gpg encrypted file so no data has been lost. The mail process died (postfix, only listens on localhost) and a weeks worth of automated mail got queued up. I also need named since this host is a back DNS server for my domain.

I was thinking of doing uber script magic then I realized I should just put the following into root’s crontab.

0,15,30,45 * * * * /usr/sbin/rcapache2 start >/dev/null 2>&1
0,15,30,45 * * * * /usr/sbin/rcnamed start >/dev/null 2>&1
0,15,30,45 * * * * /sbin/rcpostfix start >/dev/null 2>&1

It’s not elegant but it works. I don’t need to know if it was successful or not and this was a quick fix.

VPS Servers

My domain is managed by me on my own name servers. When I moved to Long Island I lost my static IP addresses from my DSL line. So I moved both my DNS servers to Stefan’s house via his DSL line.

Not a good idea for availability. Since both DNS servers were there, any connectivity issues meant my domain disappeared. I had setup my basement server to queue up mail, but if the name servers became unreachable then no one could figure out to send mail to the other box.

Yesterday I went to http://www.tektonic.net/ and ordered a virtual private server from them. I picked the UM1 which is 10GB of disk space, 256MB RAM, on a Dual AMD Opteron 246. I selected SUSE 10.0 paid online and I’m good to go.

It’s a little different. I selected SUSE because that is what I use. Once I setup the yast repository I added bind, apache, php5, etc. and ran the online update. It’s very easy to forget that this is all virtual and on a shared box. The responsiveness is very good. I contacted my domain registrar, updated the record and poof all done.

Just for kicks I moved this blog onto this new server. I’ll see how it goes, but so far there have been no surprises.