tenpastmidnight blog

Making hay while the sun shines

Web developer != Systems guru

There's a common misconception that web developers also know everything about PCs and other computers. It's understandable, we tend to know more about the way things run than most people, and are the sort of people who look after their own PCs, and have probably built one or two in the past.

However, like lots of developers, I avoid trying to run the server the website I program run on. Systems administration is a whole other art, and I'm happy to leave that up to the experts. One of my clients is having trouble with their MySQL server at the moment, and although I'm frustrated because it's not working, I'm happy that it's not my problem to find out what the heck is wrong with it and try to keep the thing running. Although it's my responsibility not to run anything that's going to cause the server to crash, it's a completely different skill to keep servers running 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

Fortunately, I know the systems guys who look after the servers on most of the sites I'm heavily involved with. Paul runs the server with all my personal projects on, including my work site and The Farm, which we're both part of. Another Paul runs WPC, and although I've only talked to him by e-mail, David knows him well, and Olly (who I'm sure has a site, but I can't remember the address) looks after the servers where several of my client's sites and my much neglected tenpastmidnight site lives.

Several of the servers I use have had unusual glitches recently, although not as bad as the MySQL server I've been trying to use. A few days ago I had a bit of a panic when I realised TPM was down, and so were several other sites, one of which I needed to do a quick bit of work on. Then I remembered Olly had told me he was moving the servers. This wasn't moving the data, but physically moving the servers between offices. I hope he used his car (or borrowed a trolley from the nearby Somerfield) as I remember the servers being ruddy heavy when they arrived and taking two of us to lift, and the UPS made them feel light.

In all it could only have been 2-3 hours downtime, which surprised me as I expected it to take a lot longer as the IP addresses were moving at the same time. This is exactly why I'd rather have good systems people - they know how to swap this stuff over easily without any long problems, or having to re-set DNS to new IPs, which would have been a real pain.

(I should mention Paul no. 1 is also a web developer, which confuses the matter more - it's not that web developers can't also be good sysadmins, it's just that usually we aren't.)
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