I’d like to share my #UnpopularOpinion and say that GoDaddy is an excellent hosting provider with impressive tech support. I’ve always been quick to call and ask them questions, and they always explain everything without talking down to me. They know web developers.
I recently took advantage of a sale on GoDaddy’s Deluxe Hosting and secured three years worth of hosting for as many web sites as I like. About six months after making the payment, I finally set about the task of migrating my web sites over to a new server.
My first view of the new hosting service came through the new-hosting-wizard. You’re basically forced to pick one of your domains to migrate before you can access cPanel Admin, the main gateway to hosting management on GoDaddy. In addition to the wizard and cPanel, GoDaddy supplies a minimal management panel (confusingly called cPanel) under My Account / Hosting / cPanel. The wizard does little more than redirect DNS to the new server, so I was going to need to move all of my hosting files and web server configuration over manually or using GoDaddy tools.
I’m into doing things the hard way and keeping control, so I decided to ignore all high-level tools in cPanel and move my site files over using Secure Shell. The minimal-management panel has a block dedicated to ssh, and it was here I learned that GoDaddy picked an obtuse username and default password for me to manage cPanel Admin or connect with SSH. I’ll never need the password since cPanel Admin is automatically logged in when I log into godaddy.com. cPanel Admin has an SSH Access widget that will allow you to manage SSH keys. You can use the Import Key action from here to add an authorized key for the management account. I added the public key from my already-generated ssh profile on my Macbook Pro, and I was set with unfettered encrypted access to the server shell itself. More on this in a minute.
If you haven’t played with ssh, you really should. Yes, that’s a link to a nuclear physics experimenter’s guide to using ssh to access a particle accelerator from off site. I have… a colorful background.
In a nutshell, ssh uses something called Public Key Infrastructure to enable a two-key system where one key (a large number encoded into characters kept in file) can be used to encrypt data that the other key can decrypt. Each key can encrypt or decrypt whatever the other key can decrypt or encrypt. One key is labeled public and released while the other key is labeled private and kept secret. This gives us the ability to authenticate (use our private key to encrypt something so that the public key can be used to decrypt it) and to transfer our data in secret (use our public key to encrypt our data and only our private key and decrypt it). In practice, SSH actually uses this secret transfer to pass another temporary secret key for faster encryption.
But here is how easy it is to copy a site:
tar cvf - . | ssh firstname.lastname@example.org 'cd public_html; tar xvf -'
This command works if you have all of your site files in your current working directory on your local machine. I keep a working copy of all of my source files local and use git to revision them. I don’t have a fancy upload tool – I just use git to tell me which files have been updated and ssh to transfer them.
I opted not to buy any email plans. My whole show runs on the cheap. You can set up a free email account through CPanel that forwards any email aimed at your domain to any account. I just forward them all to my GMail account. This tutorial saved me a lot of stress.
Finally, every web site needs to upgrade to HTTPS. Chrome and other browsers are flagging insecure sites. ZeroSSL has a very easy set of online tools to generate your certificates. The only catch is that you need to renew them manually every three months. This tutorial helped me make sense of the various key components. Once you understand which fields go where, it’s just a matter of finding the right panel and pasting in the right value. When it’s time to renew, this video shows what keys go where.
That’s all done! WordPress has been upgraded, and I’m ready for another year of (hopefully more frequently) blogging. The key takeaway here is that you can really get most things for free (email redirection, SSL) and the rest for cheap (domains about $15/year each, web hosting $60/year for unlimited sites). All this if you’re willing to do the work.