I have been continuing work with Amazon EC2 recently. I am a big cloud fan (evangelist?) and, as a result of that, it was time to eat my own dog food and move my domain over.
My host for a couple of years has been Dreamhost. They provide an excellent hosting service, including a very comprehensive control panel and secure shell access. Nothing wrong there at all: I just wanted to go down the Amazon route.
Another factor is that the Dreamhost servers are based in the US. This meant that the site always seemed slightly sluggish to me, so I was hopeful that moving hosting to Ireland (The ‘EU-West’ region in EC2 terms) would speed things up.
Instance and OS selection
It made sense to embrace the AWS Free Usage Tier, which meant I elected to go with a ‘Micro’ instance:
613 MB memory
Up to 2 EC2 Compute Units (for short periodic bursts)
EBS storage only
32-bit or 64-bit platform
I/O Performance: Low
API name: t1.micro
64-bit was a natural choice. There is no ephemeral storage with this instance size. That was fine by me, as I wanted to ensure that everything was secure in the event of the instance terminating for whatever reason. Hurrah for EBS!
I tried out two different Linux images: Amazon’s own flavour, and Ubuntu Cloud. There was not a great deal in it, and although I am more familiar with Ubuntu on a day-to-day basis, I went with Amazon Linux. It is optimised by them for their own platform and has a CentOS pedigree.
Getting up and running
The instance was very quickly provisioned. I followed the standard WordPress Installation Guide, which included getting Apache and MySQL up and running on the box. Both of those are in the Amazon repositories. WordPress itself I did directly from the source, copying themes, plugins and other content data from my old host via scp.
I needed to bring the old MySQL database across as well. A simple mysqldump got the required SQL which was trivial to import. I used phpMyAdmin to help out with user creation and permissions, as it is a lot friendlier than tapping things out on the command line.
During testing, MySQL was terminated due to the instance running out of memory. By default, there is no swap space provided. Swap space is easy to provision if required, be that via a swap file or swap partition (allocating a new EBS volume).
However, it should be noted that using swap space will naturally increase I/O, along with charges!
I decided to keep things streamlined and not enable swap space. Instead, I toned down Apache’s memory usage, as by default it would spin up 10 servers to handle requests. I went with the following settings:
Everything has been stable since then.
WordPress a great cache plugin: WP Super Cache. I soon got this up and running, and took advantage of its CDN support. This allows it to rewrite wp-content URLs in order to be served up by the Content Delivery Network of your choice.
Here’s a good tutorial on this: ‘Setting Up Amazon CloudFront CDN in WordPress is Really Easy!’.
This handily takes further load off the micro instance, and therefore performance is improved.
Route 53 DNS
That just left DNS over at Dreamhost. Amazon offer this service as well, in the form of Route 53. I set up a Hosted Zone for extricate.org and it was very quick to set up the required entries (pretty much just copying over from Dreamhost). The zone was instantly provisioned and worked perfectly once I instructed my registrar to use the new servers. Very easy!
I’m happy to report that everything just works! Performance is snappier as well, although I am sure that the server now sitting more local to me is a big boost here. I also love having full ‘root’ access over the system now.
That did leave migrating my email, and that is a future article!