Re-Post: Why and How We Left GoDaddy

When we quit writing our tech blog Tag Team Tech last year, it was always interesting to see what posts continued to get traffic. This one was easily our most popular right up until Posterous shut down and Tag Team Tech was no more. While ostensibly co-written by both of us, you can definitely tell it’s mainly Tom, especially his expertise and wicked sense of humor. And, while GoDaddy commercials have gotten better since they hired James Hinchliffee as a spokesperson, we still are glad we made the change.

We had been using GoDaddy for both our domain name registration and web hosting for a very, very long time. We started using them way back before there was such a thing as a GoDaddy “girl.”

This was a time when most web hosting was done with small local companies who couldn’t afford to provide things like guaranteed 100% uptime or weekend tech support. Sometimes, not even any tech support. Go Daddy had those features and many others in addition to very competitive pricing. Sure, it was a long distance call to tech support, but you always got a knowledgeable person who wasn’t in India. During our time with GoDaddy, we frequently would request the post-call survey so we could let the company know how great the tech support person we talked with was.

Then, the television ads started. And they kept getting worse. Can you say sexist? Can you say misogynistic? Every time one of the ads came on, you couldn’t help but feel dirty giving money to a company that objectifies women that way.

And then there was the elephant hunt video. If you missed it, GoDaddy CEO Bob Parson posted a video of himself hunting and killing an elephant in Zimbabwe. Parsons has since responded to the not-surprising outcry by saying that each year he goes to Zimbabwe and hunts “problem” elephants. Problem elephants? Really? Is the problem really with the elephants? He claims that it’s “one of the most beneficial and rewarding things” he does. We’d really hate to know what he does that he thinks is less beneficial and rewarding.

So more and more, we kept talking about moving off GoDaddy and last weekend we made the move. For the record, we went with Hover.com for our domain registration (Thanks Leo Laporte for telling us about them) and we chose Media Temple for our web hosting because Tom has used them on other projects. We decided to separate hosting from domain registration so hosting is a bit more portable. Plus we like to support TWIT’s advertisers.

So here’s what you see when you log in to GoDaddy with your account information:

GoDaddy My Account

Here’s what you see when you log in to Media Temple with your account information:

Media Temple Account Center

Any questions?

Remember there are at least three parts to moving from one web hosting company to another:

  1. Getting all of your content from your old hosting company and putting it on your new hosting company
  2. Getting the Internet’s Domain Name System (DNS) to understand that you’ve moved
  3. Getting everything to work

Fear, rage and the eventual loss of hope in both God and Man are all optional steps.

Now here’s the deal: you want to do them in that order. Move your stuff first. Get things working as best you can (more on this in a minute), then do the DNS work. When that finishes, clean up whatever doesn’t work.

The trouble for Tom was that step two was the most psychologically satisfying part of the whole exercise, at least at first. Every time he told the Internet “No, we’re not using GoDaddy for that anymore” it felt good. Real good. He was going to do just one domain just to test things out, but then couldn’t stop himself. He did all of them. And it felt even better.

Right up to the point that nothing worked anymore

You see, he was using the fabulous tutorial that Hover.com has written to assist you in transferring your domain registration to them. The very first thing it says is that GoDaddy will shut down all your DNS services beyond the bare minimum as soon as the domain transfer is final (and you can make it final in less than an hour). You know what? They aren’t kidding. All of our sites, except for our main domain, were suddenly invisible to the Internet.

Oops.

It wouldn’t have been so bad had Tom been more prepared to move the domains. Here’s a tip: write down all of your old DNS information before you start. Then write down what your new DNS information is going to be. If you can’t write out both things, you’re not ready for do Step #2. Since Tom was a moron and didn’t do this, he failed to notice all of the DNS records were still pointing at GoDaddy long past the time GoDaddy considered us a customer. It took an incredibly nice and helpful support tech from Hover.com to point that out. Had Tom done this correctly, this blog would have been inaccessible for an hour or two. As it worked out, it was most of a day. All due to Tom getting in a hurry.

So copy all your content over to your new web hosting company and then do the DNS changes. This blog and a couple of others we have are hosted on Posterous so there was no need to copy anything. (Posterous isn’t active any more.) Our blog Hoperatives is self-hosted on WordPress and there are a couple of other domains that have a number of static pages along with a separate WordPress installation. All that stuff got downloaded from GoDaddy to Tom’s local machine, then uploaded to Media Temple. It is possible to send files directly from GoDaddy to elsewhere, but he wanted the assurance of a local backup.

WordPress was surprisingly easy to migrate. The fact that the WordPress Codex documentation site has a wonderful how-to about moving your site doesn’t hurt. The necessary databases from GoDaddy were backed up and copied to Media Temple. An empty database with the same name was created on Media Temple, then a database restore was performed from the backup. Media Temple has an extensive documentation center that has articles on just about every aspect of this. Once that was done it was a matter of editing four lines in a configuration file in WordPress to tell it to use the new database instead of the old one. The blog came back as if it hadn’t moved.

The thing is, you can move and partially test a WordPress installation before you change your DNS settings. Tom didn’t, but if he had, we’d not have had any downtime. The trouble is that you can’t fully test everything until you throw the switch on the DNS changes. You see, your self-hosted WordPress blog likely thinks of itself as www.yourhost.com (or whatever domain you use). Until you let the Internet know what IP address www.yourhost.com uses, it’s going to have a hard time finding things like CSS files and such. In our case, before he made the DNS change for www.hoperatives.com, Tom could only see a version of our main page that had no styling whatsoever. That was enough, though, because it told him the database migration worked just fine.

Tom didn’t know about this tool when he was actually doing all this, but he wishes he would have known about viewdns.info. Things would have gone much smoother. The thing about DNS changes is that they take time to spread across the Internet. It’s kind of like the “Twilight Barking” system in 101 Dalmations where messages are passed from dog to dog. It takes a while, but the message does eventually get there. It’s always important to check your work, and the tools at ViewDNS.info help you do that.

The last step of migrating is making sure everything works. That part has been pretty painless because nearly everything came over flawlessly. Tom had to make a change in the WordPress control panel to change the path of the directory where images are stored, but that might not happen to you (ours was funky to accomodate GoDaddy). There were a couple of other minor issues that took a grand total of five minutes to fix (and were related to plugins we use). All-in-all, that part went really smooth.

A couple of things to keep in mind. GoDaddy isn’t going to give you any money back for any domain registrations you’ve made with them unless it’s within five days of registering them. We’ve asked for a pro-rated refund of our hosting fees and we’re still waiting to hear. Hover.com doesn’t staff a call center on the weekends or late into the evening, but they do respond to e-mails and tweets very, very quickly. Tom sent an e-mail with some questions and just a little while later our phone rang and it was a tech from Hover. It was pretty clear that she was willing to stay on the phone for as long as it took. She said that, but it was pretty clear from the way she was talking that she meant it. Did we mention that this was on a Sunday morning?

We left GoDaddy because we decided it wasn’t a company we wanted to give money to anymore. We chose two companies to replace it for equally personal reasons. Our reasons may not be the same as yours, but if you choose to leave your hosting company for another, take your time and research prices and features. If something isn’t clear, pick up the phone and call. How that call gets handled is probably going to be a pretty good indication of how things will go for you. Make a step-by-plan with all the information you’re going to need to make the switch, then plan for it to take some time. If you prepare in advance, it’ll all work out fine in the end.

And you’ll be able to look at yourself in the mirror again.

Review: Ease into 5K app

UPDATE (6/20/14): You might want to also check out my review of the app I’m currently using – Zombies, Run! 5K.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that I started walking as part of an fitness program. I’ve mentioned before that I’m using the Ease Into 5K app from Bluefin Software on my iPhone. Since I’m sidelined from walking this week while my heel gets better, I thought it was a good time to review the app.

Originally called Couch to 5K, the Ease Into 5K app is part of the RunHelper family of products. They also make Ease Into 10K, Bridge Into 10K, PowerWalk, RunHelper and apps geared towards half and full marathons plus the Susan G. Komen 3-day events. Each app costs about $2.99 and there are free trial versions available of some of the apps (including Ease Into 5K). You can use the app four times before you have to pay for it. Most of the apps are available for Android as well as iOS.

They also have a RunHelper Connect feature. For a small fee (as little as $4.99 for three months), all of your workout information is automatically backed up to RunHelper Connect. So, as soon as you finish, you can see your pace, distance, calories burned, etc. There’s even a map of your route. You can see this on your phone or, in more detail, on your web browser.

Ease Into 5K Start

When you fire up the app and get past the initial start screen, you see the information for the next workout you are scheduled to do. Tapping the green Go button doesn’t start your workout. That happens on the next screen. But, you can set your playlist, check out the journal or the settings from this screen.

Ease Into 5K Start 2

This is where you actually begin by hitting the Start button on the left. The image in the lower left corner is the album art for the song that’s cued up to play on your chosen playlist. The lock image in the lower right hand corner is just that: touch it to lock your screen while you’re walking. (Learn from me… you’re going to want to do that.)

As you work your way through, a voice tells you what to do (you can pick between male and female). The female voice has such an urgent tone when she tells you to “Run!” You also are notified when you are half way through and when you are about to begin the last run segment.

Ease Into 5K Journal

As I mentioned before, after you finish, you can see how you did by clicking the Journals tab at the bottom of the main screen. If you select an individual session, you can add information like your current weight, how you felt, the weather and the terrain. Then when you look at the main Journals page, you can compare some of this information at a glance. The Journals page also keeps track of your total miles and your fastest mile. You can also share this information to your favorite social networks, but please don’t be that person.

One of the settings is a workout reminder. You can set it up for three, four or five days or never. What I like about this feature is that if you ignore it the first time, the next day’s reminder is cute.

Ease Into 5K Reminder

All in all, I highly recommend this app. After trying RunHelper Connect out for a bit, I went ahead and subscribed for a year. It’s on the main screen of my iPhone and it’s going to stay there until I replace it with Bridge Into 10K.

— Carla

The Joys of Live Chat for Customer Service

Like most people, I really don’t like calling large companies to try to get something resolved. With all of the outsourcing of these phone bank jobs and the “push 1 for…” phone trees, it never seems to go well and I ended up hanging up the phone in frustration. And when I’m trying to take care of something in between classes, I can’t be on hold for a long time.

Recently, instead of picking up the phone, I’ve been going to the company’s web site and seeing if they offer a live chat option. Two of the last three times I’ve done this, the issue I had was solved in less than ten minutes. The one that took longer was a bit more complicated, but the customer service rep I was chatting with updated me frequently so I never felt like she had forgotten me.

So, kudos and many thanks to companies like PNC and Walgreens for making live chat an option. It’s a good use of technology to make their customers’ lives a little easier.

— Carla

Tech Review: Lift App

As I mentioned previously, I’ve been working this year to achieve some goals inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun. In the book and companion web site, Rubin has spreadsheets or checklists for keeping track how she did each day. I started out with those too, but geeked them up a bit by creating them in Google Docs. But then I found something even better.

Lift App 1

The Lift app makes goal tracking so much easier. It lets you enter several goals and then check in when you complete that goal for the day. You get to push a big green button (see below). Many goals are all ready in the Lift database, but you can enter your own custom ones too.

You can also set a reminder for each goal. Just pick which days of the week and what time. Lift will even send you “occasional, supportive reminders” if you like. In addition, you can connect to your Twitter account, link with friends and otherwise customize notifications and such.

Lift App 2

This free app is iPhone only for now, but a web version is suppose to be on its way. Lift doesn’t do lots of things. But what it does, it does well. I highly recommend it.

— Carla

Re-Launching RadioCarla.com

When Posterous announced it was shutting down on April 30, 2013 (thanks a lot, Twitter!), it gave me reason to think about what I wanted to do with my personal blog RadioCarla.com. It had started on Blogger and was more sports related (How about that win for the Cubs last night?) over there. When I moved it to Posterous, it became more generalized, but vague. I also shared lots of comic strips (I love comic strips).

The one thing I knew was that I wanted to switch to WordPress. Tom and I discussed it and then he installed it (and also moved his personal blog CrankyBear.Net to WP – Its re-launch is coming later). We also both decided to use the Responsive theme since we were using for the Rivertown Brewing web site and plan to move Hoperatives to it too.

We had gotten a back up of our Posterous sites, but soon discovered that there was some major clean up work to do after importing the back up. All images were there, but were not in the proper format so each had to be fixed one by one to show up correctly. There was also some extra HTML tags that needed to be removed. Personally, I decided to remove any post that was just a comic with no real commentary. That cut my posts from 162 to 61. (I told you I love comic strips.)

Design elements were next. Since the idea behind the Responsive theme is that your blog works on any browser (desktop, tablet or phone), I knew I wanted to keep the design very clean. The radio clip art came from http://openclipart.org/ (part of Creative Commons) and the background image is from a free Twitter background web site whose name I forget. I originally used it with my CinStateCarla Twitter account and decided it was too good not to be used more. And thank God for Google Fonts. They make such a big difference.

But what to blog about? As I was creating categories for my past posts, a theme of sorts began to evolve. I’ve been writing about the things I love: blogging, Cincinnati/NKY, comics, Disney (especially Disney Parks), craft beer, sports, teaching, technology, theater and travel. And so I’m going to continue that, but bump it up a notch. I’m also going to throw in some recipes and reviews and maybe something else. That’s the joy of a re-launch. You don’t know exactly where you’re going, but you kind of have an idea of the direction. As I was tweaking everything yesterday, I jokingly told Tom and some of my friends that I was going to add the tag line “Fat, Fifty and FUN!” I ended up not using it, but I still think it sums up my direction. So onward! And enjoy!

–Carla