Site Slow? Not any more!

January 26th, 2011 by Kyle West

We had some issues, over the weekend. Those are behind us and we’re back to kicking ass and taking names. Your site is nearly 3x faster than it was last week.

That’s not all: we’re still working on a few performance enhancements (we’re car guys at heart, speed is in our blood) and haven’t forgotten any of the promises made in the post mortem. In related news, Matt just released the third January catalog update. Stay tuned!

Site Slow? Server Upgrades Coming.

January 21st, 2011 by Kyle West

Update: 5:43PM – Rackspace has scheduled this upgrade for January 23, 2011 from 10:30pm-11:30pm (CST). While the maintenance window is an hour we do not expect the downtime to last that long. Again, please call or email with any questions or concerns.

Noticed anything different about your site lately? It’s faster, just not all the time.

We recently released some code changes that dramatically lowered the average page load time (we cut it in half) for every website running RPMWare. That’s great news, but it came at an unexpected cost: you guys are getting a lot more pageviews and a lot more orders – you’re absolutely killing it. We think it’s because your customers are appreciating the added speed.

So, where’s the issue with that? Our servers are having a hard time handling the increase in traffic. Specifically, all requests are faster until a certain point. Once that point is reached the servers can’t process them as quickly as they come in and a backlog grows. As that backlog grows, more and more resources (CPU, RAM) are consumed. Eventually that gets to a tipping point and everything slows down.

We’re Fixing It – Now

We started working with our awesome server provider, Rackspace, this morning. They are in the process of planning and deploying some server upgrades that will resolve the issue. We’re also gathering metrics on the lowest performing pages so we can make code optimizations to speed those up as well.

Thanks for sitting tight as we work these growing pains out. We are hoping Rackspace can deploy the upgrades this evening. There will be a short amount of downtime, but we will update you before that happens.

If you have any questions please call or email me directly. My contact information is here.

Kyle

Update: 5:43PM – Rackspace has scheduled this upgrade for January 23, 2011 from 10:30pm-11:30pm (CST). While the maintenance window is an hour we do not expect the downtime to last that long. Again, please call or email with any questions or concerns.

Quick Scheduled Outage Tonight

November 22nd, 2010 by Kyle West

Since Rackspace loves us so much they are going to be giving our servers a little TLC in the wee hours of the morning. They are making a few configuration changes to our database that will help us eek out a little more performance. These changes will require a restart and RPMWare will be unavailable for a couple minutes while the servers come back online.

We do not expect any issues and no data will be lost.

This Afternoon's Downtime

June 30th, 2009 by Kyle West

This afternoon (6/29/09) at approximately 4:15PM EST our hosting provider Rackspace had a power failure at their Dallas datacenter, as a result all RPMWare servers we’re unavailable for approximately 2 hours while Rackspace rectified the situation.

All our systems are back online now and we do not expect any more downtime. No data was lost.

Details are still scarce as Rackspace engineers continue to work on the situation; however, we have been assured the root problem will be found and corrected. Rackspace has an amazing track record and we’re confident they will take all measures necessary to prevent a future occurance.

To stay abreast of the most recent news we suggest you stay tuned to Rackspace’s blog and twitter feed. We’ll update this post with any additional relevant information as it’s available.

We’re extremely sorry for the inconvience and are doing everything we can to make sure this doesn’t happen again. If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment or contact us.

Kyle
founder & chief geek

Version 1.9.4 & 1.9.5 = Rackspace + Amazon CloudFront + New AAIA Data + Sitemap Enhancements

February 15th, 2009 by Kyle West

We just put the finishing touches on v1.9.5 and wanted to let you know what exactly is different and why you should care (you should care!). We also skipped our blog post about 1.9.4 and wanted to give a quick update on a few things are were changed with the move to Rackspace.

The underlying theme of both releases though is: everything is MUCH MUCH faster!

v1.9.4

There were two main changes in v1.9.4.

1. We upgraded to Windows Server 2008 x64, SQL Server 2008 x64 and ASP.NET MVC RC1. While infrastructure changes aren’t normally a good enough reason for a new release we’ve made a couple code changes to take advantage of some new features in each product to make RPMWare faster, more secure and more reliable. Not to mention our newer, bigger, beefier servers from Rackspace.

2. We created our own DNS manager to provide you simple access to your redundant name servers from your RPMWare admin.

The Results

The migration went off without a hitch and after about 45 minutes of downtime we were humming along on our new servers.

Speed – The average response time for your website homepage has decreased from a little over 1 second to just over 600 milliseconds, almost a 100% improvement. The results are even more impressive on more complex pages. We’ve seen some pages improve from 5+ seconds to just over 1 second. 

Reliability – Since the move we’ve had exactly 1 minute and 44 seconds of downtime, before the move we were having that much or more downtime every day. We’re constantly striving to get that number to zero, but this is certainly a step in the right direction.

Visitors and Pageviews – We don’t keep stats on each of your sites individually, but we do keep stats on all the RPMWare sites as a whole. Comparing the week before the move to the week of the move your visitors are down 1.19%, but page views are up 2.79% and pages per visit are up 4.04%. Fewer visitors checking out more pages, a direct result of faster page loads? Most likely. But what’s the impact on the bottom line?

Conversions (orders) are up 16.50%! I’ve never been so excited. This is why we’re here, to help you make more money.

v1.9.5

v1.9.5 packs a couple more items to boost performance and get your sales up. The first of which I, and any other geek, will be pretty excited about.

All your images are on Amazon CloudFront

CloudFront is a content delivery network (CDN) built and supported by Amazon.com. It’s similar to Amazon S3 (which we implemented around this time last year) with a very important advantage. Everything you look at on the internet needs to be loaded from a server somewhere. If those servers happen to be closer to you physically you’re content will load faster. A CDN maintains servers around the country (and the globe) and uses specialized algorithms to load content from the servers closest physically to your users. 

The end result is another speed boost for your website as images are loaded from servers physically closer to you. If you do international business your international customers will certainly notice a speed boost. We haven’t had time to analyze the performance boost yet; however, CDNs are a proven way to substantially improve site performance.

New AAIA Vehicle Information Database

We updated the underlying data that powers our year, make, model search to the latest available from AAIA. The total vehicle count is now over 50,000 including all the new 2009 models.

Sitemap Enhancements

Before we moved to Rackspace we simply didn’t have the resources to provide 100% complete sitemaps with all your categories, brands, groups and items. There is so much information included in your sitemap now we had to split it into multiple files to get all the information submitted to Google and the other search engines. Don’t worry about doing anything differently, things will just work after you submit your sitemap.

We're Live at Rackspace! Update your DNS if you haven't already. EXTREMELY IMPORTANT!

February 10th, 2009 by Matt Gold

We’re extremely pleased to announce we’ve migrated our servers to Rackspace and everything is humming along as planned. We know you’re going to love the speed boost and superb reliability.

EDIT: Check out the new DNS Guide

If you haven’t already, NOW is the time to update your DNS!

RPMWare ONLY + GMail Hosted Email

If your only website is your RPMWare website and you use Google Apps for Your Domain (GMail) all you have to do is change your name servers and everything is automatically setup and ready for you!

  • ns1.rpmware.com
  • ns2.rpmware.com

If You Have Other Websites on the Same Domain

Some of you maintain two or more websites. For example: yourdomain.com and store.yourdomain.com. If you fall into this group you’ll have to add A Records to your DNS settings before changing your name servers.

To add A Records for Another Website on the Same Domain:

  1. Login to secure.rpmware.com, click the ‘Websites & DNS’ Tab
  2. Click the DNS zone you want to modify. A DNS zone is your domain name without any prefixes.
  3. The IP address currently configured is the IP address of your RPMWare server. Note this IP address.
  4. Change the target address for the @ and * host to the IP address provided by your other web host. If you do not know this IP address you can use the OpenDNS Cache Check to find it, just enter the domain in question.
  5. Create a new A record for your RPMWare website. For example if you’d like to use store.yourdomain.com for your RPMWare website you’d enter store as the host and the IP address from step 3 as your target.
  6. When you are done click “Update DNS Records” and change your name servers to: ns1.rpmware.com and ns2.rpmware.com.

If You Don’t Use Google Apps For Your Domain (GMail)

  1. You will have to enter the MX records provided by your email provider.
  2. Login to secure.rpmware.com, click the ‘Websites & DNS’ Tab
  3. Click the DNS zone you want to modify. A DNS zone is your domain name without any prefixes.
  4. Edit or Remove the current MX records so they reflect what you have been given by your email provider.
  5. When you are done click “Update DNS Records” and change your name servers to: ns1.rpmware.com and ns2.rpmware.com.

DNS 101

DNS is a fairly advanced topic which you may not understand immediately. We put together a quick video to help answer your questions.

If you have ANY questions or need ANY help we’ll all be around all week to help you with your DNS. We can even login and completely configure everything for you.

Going Live Tonight – DNS Changes

February 9th, 2009 by Kyle West

As you know we’re going to complete our move to Rackspace tonight, well actually very early Tuesday morning. While we’re going to do most of the work, we’ll need your help with one small task: updating your DNS records.

DNS is going to work differently than it has so please carefully read everything here. In the past you’ve been responsible for maintaining your own DNS records at a 3rd party of your choice. With our move to Rackspace we’re able provide both your website hosting and DNS hosting.

Name Servers

We’re going to provide redundant name servers for your use and an easy-to-use interface in the RPMWare admin area to control your records. Once your records are configured correctly (for 90% of you they are already configured correctly), simply change your name servers to the following and your work is done.

  • ns1.rpmware.com
  • ns2.rpmware.com

By default we’ve configured everyone’s records to use RPMWare as the primary website and Google Apps for Your Domain (GMail) as the email service. If you have a dedicated server or your own SSL certificate all the required changes have already been made for you.

If you’re only using RPMWare and Google Apps for Your Domain (GMail) all you have to do is change your name servers to ns1.rpmware.com and ns2.rpmware.com and everything is automatically setup and ready for you!

If You Have Other Websites

You need to create the proper A records in the RPMWare DNS Manager BEFORE you switch your name servers. We are here and available to help you with the process and more than happy to configure your DNS for you.

If You Do NOT Use Google Apps for Your Domain (GMail) Email

You need to create the proper MX records for your email service in the RPMWare DNS Manager BEFORE changing your name servers. Again, we are more than happy to help (or complete) this process for you. Please just ask.

DNS How-To Video

Because DNS is a fairly advanced topic we’ve put together the video below to help with the transition.

If you have any questions or need any help configuring your DNS or dealing with your domain name registrar (GoDaddy, Network Solutions, Register.com, etc.) please let us know. We’re ready to step in and help!

Rackspace Move Progress

January 23rd, 2009 by Kyle West

Just a quick update. Matt and I had a call with the account team at Rackspace this afternoon. Your servers will be online this time next week and we’ll begin configuring them immediately. It’s too early to give a definitive move date, but we’re shooting for early February.

Rackspace Logo

What the move entails

We’re going to split the move into 2 steps to minimize downtime and ensure everything goes smoothly.

Step 1 – Setup, Configuration, Testing

Well before we move any live sites were going to install everything and test it completely on the new servers. This will ensure that the move is as simple and straightforward as possible. We’re not going to be putting out any fires in the middle of the move.

During this period we’re also going to time how long it takes to transfer our database so we can give an accurate downtime estimate for step 2.

Step 2 – The Move

At some time we’ll have to take all the sites offline and move our database to the new servers. Once the database files have been moved we’ll bring RPMWare and your websites back online.

Before your site will show at yourdomain.com though you’ll have to modify your DNS to “point to” the new servers. We’re investigating some new methods to make this process as easy as possible. We’ll post specific instructions at a later date.

We do have plans in place to prevent excessive downtime while you are updating your DNS. We understand that it is impossible for everyone to update their DNS at exactly the same time so we wanted to ensure you weren’t without a site as you waited for the change.

Each RPMWare website has at least 2 domains 1 of which is a .rpmware.com domain. Any requests sent to the old servers (because you haven’t updated your DNS yet) will be forwarded to your .rpmware.com address. Everything, except the domain will look and function exactly like it does now. Once you update your DNS the redirect will be gone.

If you have a custom SSL certificate or dedicated server we’ll be in touch personally with some additional instructions before the move.

Plans are evolving quickly and Rackspace is certainly standing up to their end of the Fanatical Support promise. I’ve already had quite a few calls from them this afternoon. We’re in good hands.

That’s all I have for now, if you have any questions in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Have a great weekend.

We're Moving (Servers) to Rackspace

January 22nd, 2009 by Kyle West

Rackspace Revs Up

We are very excited to announce that after a solid month of working together on the optimal configuration for our clients RPMWare is officially a Rackspace customer. We’ll be moving all your data and our applications to Rackspace in the coming weeks.

If you’re not familiar with Rackspace, they are bar-none the most reputable and respected managed hosting provider in the industry. They’ve got all the typical stuff (super fast servers and networking) all backed by what they call Fanatical Support.

What It Means To You

We’re committed to providing you the most reliable and fastest tool to help you build your business. While we’ve done a great job on our own for the last 2 years Rackspace is going to help us do a tremendous job for the next 20. Their staff are experts in managing networking and server hardware allowing us to focus 100% of our efforts on building new features and adding more product lines.

Upgraded Hardware

While the servers we’re on right now are no slouches we’ve spared no expense when building the new configuration. We’re talking super-fast processors, gobs of RAM and hard drives with 15k red-lines. We’ve easily tripled the specs on the servers currently powering RPMWare.

24 Hour Support & Monitoring

Our current provider monitors our servers around the clock, but Rackspace takes it to the next level. Under our current agreement our servers are monitored for ping (networking), power and cooling. In addition to that Rackspace is going to monitor actual websites to ensure they are displaying correctly and immediately react if any trouble is detected.

You’re In Good Company

Rackspace (RAX) is a NYSE publicly traded company with solid financials and a proven track record. You site will be hosted in the same building as some serious heavy hitters: American Express, Verizon, Walt Disney, Marvel, Atari and Microsoft to name just a few.

What’s Coming Next

Matt and I have a meeting with our (your) account team tomorrow to introduce ourselves and begin work on a migration plan. While we’re not planning on dragging our feet on this we’re also not going to make any haste decisions or jeopardize your business.

We’ll post more information as we have it. Please stay tuned, and get excited!

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