Farewell Rails Playground

December 21st, 2013 by Alistair MacDonald Leave a reply »

Most of my web sites, including this blog, and various experiments have been hosted on Rails Playground that I migrated to 6 years ago. On the whole things have gone well with only one short outage in the first 5 years, but sadly over the last year there have been a lot of problems including outages, data loss, and security issues. This post is a quick summery of the problems. I will be posting about some other related changes in the very near future.

It all started when another of their customers started relaying spam email, perhaps because of a security floor, or perhaps they were just a spammer. Because of this all outgoing email was blocked without notice. I have to say I am not at all happy about the way this was done and it stopped all my services that use email dead without any prior notice or notification. I was also not best pleased at the attitude that this was not a critical part of the service and I was initially expected to adapt my services to another email system.

After this happened for a second time and a lot of moaning my sites were migrated to a new server. They did all the migration for me although it would have been easer to do myself. They inconsistently screwed up the dates when porting the databases. Being a US focused company with technicians in Asia migrating UK sites between servers in goodness knows where I can see how it happened, but it is not an excuse for the error.

Another problem is this new server was running the security mod called suEXEC that will allow email to be blocked per user, but unless some effort is put in it opens up a gaping great security hole. The way suEXEC was set up, and in fairness this is becoming quite common with the lower end hosting companies, will allow someone who can find a small exploit in any code to completely take over my sites. I like to think my production code is secure, but no one can 100% promise this, and holes in WordPress and PHPBB are being found all the time.

My general advice is if your ISP uses suEXEC, and the account you use to upload files is the same account that the web server uses to access the files, then just go to another ISP. If you have a separate user account for the upload and the server then this is the prefect setup, but if not you are better without suEXEC at all.

Anyway, the new server was also resulting in a huge percentage of cron jobs failing and I can not login using SSL most of the time. After a few more significant outages things got a little out of control and I decided I had to move away.

I have now moved everything that I am not culling to a new virtual machine hosted with Digital Ocean (and that is a referral link so if you are thinking of signing up then please use the link). Although I am a fan of managed shared hosting (despite it not being popular in some circles) I am having trouble finding a good and reliable ISP at a decent price. As a result I have had to go the self hosted route that will take a little more effort than I would like, but having done it before I feel I have the sys admin skills to keep things secure, efficient and a lot more stable than things have been recently.

I am truly am sad to have to be moving away from Rails Playground as they really have been good in the past and I have been happy to say so, but I need an ISP I can rely on and sadly I can not do this any more. :-(

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