Webmastering the Worldcon, Part 33

Chaz Boston Baden, smofsweb@bostonbaden.com
Rev. 06-Apr-1997

Previous | Top | Next

Backup Servers and Mirror Sites

If I was doing this again, I'd arrange for a mirror site somewhere. Publicizing two alternate URL's would be the hard part; I'd probably have the mirror sites listed on http://worldcon.org/, and on my own Worldcon's home page I'd urge people to bookmark the "parent" domain as well, in case of failures.

Anyhow, I'd try to find a mirror site that I could directly FTP files to. As it happens, I now have three or four different places that I could set up a mirror, if I had to, with varying degrees of ease-of-use. And, for a Worldcon, I expect I could get more sysadmins on my side than if I, for example, wanted a dozen mirror sites for my personal home page and Jell-O recipes.

Ideally, of course, I'd like to have access to a document root, which probably means having virtual servers - they could be (for example) www-1.lacon3.worldcon.org and www-2.lacon3.worldcon.org. (Another approach might be to try to have the same top-level directory name, such as 'lacon3' at the various sites. Kind of hard, though, if you've shoehorned it into a place like Geocities.)

But if I don't have root access, I'd just have to work on ensuring that all of the links are relative links, not absolute links. (The reason this was problematic at L.A.con III is because I had canned chunks of HTML that all the pages used, regardless of directory depth.)

You may be asking... why? what could go wrong? what are the chances?

Actually, I'm thinking of real-life history. We had a server failure the weekend after the Pocket Program schedule was released. I don't remember whether it was a failure on the server itself, or if the office building was cut off from the net because of air-conditioning repairs, or what; it doesn't matter, both of the machines associated with lacon3.worldcon.org were off-line. Fortunately people who had sent in e-mail requests did eventually get a response, because of how e-mail works, but the web pages were off the net briefly...

This Could Happen To You. Set up a backup system when things are calm, not frenetic. Set up procedures (i.e. a script or batch file) that mirrors everything on your server to the back site. Make sure that the stuff all works, that you can access either one interchangeably.

It is conceivable that some of the bidding Worldcons can offer you mirror space. (Zagreb wanted a Euro-side mirror, but we never got it put together; if they could have set up someplace that I could FTP everything to, I might have gone for it.) As long as you're not showing favoritism - if you ask for mirror site from everyone and accept all usable offers - I think you're not on any kind of shaky ground... especially if you can have a virtual server set up so that the fact that you're sharing machine space with Atlantis in '05 or whatever isn't as apparent. Besides, you're Webmaster, not Site Selection, right? In any event, I'd suggest asking on SMOFS, because you never know who might pop up with space for you. (And the web is a different place than it was three years ago; lots more servers under the personal control of fans.)

Trans-oceanic mirror sites would serve a double benefit (especially in years where there are a lot of members who live on the other side of the ocean in question, or in years that there's a bid on the other shore), but even if you just have a mirror site "locally" (on your own continent) it would pay off in the case of a sudden failure.

Anyhow, work up some kind of mirroring script, run it once a week or everytime you update the site or whatever, so that if your machine goes south people can still download that pocket program. (Presumably off of your FTP directory if you have that set up.)

Previous | Top | Next