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What happened in 2011?

21 December 2011

There has been a lot of work going on at Chirp in the last 12 months, most of which has probably passed unnoticed as it involves 'back-end' upgrades and improvements. Some of these changes were heralded in this post from January.

Server upgrade

In the first half of 2011 we completed moving all our hosted websites to a new server. Having two servers has allowed us to separate the website and database hosting from the DNS (domain name) and MX (mail) settings giving much more security and flexibility.

The new server is running the very latest versions of Debian GNU/Linux, Apache2, PHP5 and PostgreSQL. All of our hosted websites and databases have been upgraded where necessary to be compatible the new system - a much larger task than anticipated.

Upgraded content management system

Some of you may already be working with the new version of our content management system (CMS). It takes advantage of some of the latest browser technologies to make it even easier for you to update your website, including the ability to copy and paste formatted text and links from other sources - even from Microsoft Word.

In addition to the new CMS we have rolled out upgrades to various other website features including:

  • Google Maps (upgraded to v3 and added a new direction finder)
  • PayPal (itemised checkout and automated payment detection)
  • Google Shopping (have your products appear in Google Products search)
  • Calendars (you can now subscribe to our calendars using Outlook or iCal)
  • Twitter (your Latest News automatically tweeted or posted to Facebook)
  • Web fonts (embedding non-standard fonts using Google and other services)
  • SEO (more search engine friendly URLs)
  • and much, much more...

If you've recently upgraded your browser you may have started to notice new CSS effects ranging from rounded corners and drop-shadows to subtle transition effects. Internet Explorer has been slow to evolve, but in IE10 these should also be visible.

Into the cloud

As you may have already read on this website we are now backing up all websites and data nightly to a cloud server using the Amazon S3 service. This is in additional to the existing on-site and off-site backups to physical media.

In the last couple of weeks we have also successfully migrated our main DNS and MX services to a cloud server. This provides many more options for backing up and restoring services to avoid any possible disruption.

Speed improvements

Even before Google announced that website speed would be a factor in search results we were already working to streamline and optimise our services. This year we have taken a large step server by enabling gzip compression for all websites and installing the ModPagespeed module which dynamically optimises CSS and JavaScript content.

For speed testing we recommend the GTMetrix website analyser. Most of our websites now achieve 90-95% rankings in both the Page Speed and YSlow tests, slowed down only by including external scripts such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or Google Maps.

Looking ahead

In the new year we are considering moving our hosting service to a new location with a focus on improved support and security. For now this will still be a physical server and not in the cloud, at least not just yet.

For those of you following our progress in the real world we are also planning to move into our new house in January which should provide a quieter and more relaxed working environment.

To all our clients, whether you've been with us for 2 months or the full 15 years, we'd like to thank you for putting your trust in us and wish you all the best for 2012 :)

Duncan Crombie
Managing Director

Moving time »

« Planned downtime - UPDATED

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