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Some Notes on Moving to Mosso

It’s been over a month since I opened my account with Mosso, Rackspace’s cloud hosting division. Overall, I’ve been very happy with my decision – but there are a few things you may want to be aware of if you’re considering switching.

These issues are not deal-breakers, and most restrictions can be easily worked around – but it took me some digging to find the answers, so I figured I’d post them here in case any of you are running into the same challenges.

These are not criticisms of Mosso - merely a head’s up on Mosso-specific configurations that may be confusing for folks in the process of switching. Workarounds for all of the challenges are posted here.

I’ll keep adding to this list – and I invite you to add your own in the comments. I’m still migrating sites, although I have the bulk of the heavy-duty ones moved already. (I was moving around 170 sites, so I took my time moving things so I could adequately troubleshoot and QA.)

No SSH

This isn’t news – I mentioned it my previous article, and they make no secret about not currently offering SSH (although it sounds like they’re working on possibly making it available.) They do offer SSHFs right now, and surprisingly, I have not run into any situations where not having ssh has been terribly prohibitive.

If you have large databases to import when migrating a site, the process is very easy. Export your current database, upload it to Mosso, and jump onto Live Chat from your admin panel. Just give the tech on duty the location of your sql dump, and your database credentials (the chat is SSL-encrypted), and they’ll import it for you. I’ve had to do this at least 10 times now, and each time, the tech has taken care of the import immediately with no wait time at all.

Quota on Mail Accounts

The default quota on email is 1GB per domain. While this is more than enough for many people, I have some IMAP accounts with tens of thousands of messages. Good news: all you have to do is hop onto support chat and they will increase your mailbox quota to whatever you wish.

Cron Jobs Require Output Email

If you don’t need any cron jobs, this one won’t affect you in the least – but if you do, this can be a bit of a pain. When you set up a cron job through the admin, they require an email as the destination for an output message, even if your cron doesn’t have any output upon success. No big deal if your cron runs daily or weekly, but I have a few that run every 5 minutes – you can imagine how quickly I’d fill up my mailbox at that rate.

The solution here is pretty simple – create a specific email account for cron job output, like <crondump AT yourdomain DOT com>. Then, in your webmail account, set up a filter that automagically deletes them, so you don’t eat up server space.

No Email Migration Scripts

In general, this isn’t a big deal. If you use IMAP, the easiest – although not particularly elegant – solution is to have your old server account and your Mosso account set up in the same email program, and copy the messages from old to new.

I’m not going to lie – for someone like me, with hundreds of thousands of messages to move, this is a bit of a pain in the ass – but you only have to do it when you first set things up, so it’s really not that bad. Set Thunderbird up to move the messages right before you go to bed, and all will be right with the world when you wake up in the morning.

If you’re using POP3, the email messages are stored on your computer, so there’s no need to really do anything special. I recommend having both POP3 accounts (old and new) set up for the 48 hours after you flip DNS, just in case some sender’s ISPs are a little slow to clear their DNS cache, but after the 48 hours propagation time is up, you should be able to safely delete the old POP3 account.

30-Second Script Timeout

This shouldn’t come up in most situations, but if you have a script that takes longer than 30 seconds to finish executing, the load-balancer will return a “No suitable notes available” error. If Mosso is having issues, you’ll also see this same error, but your own scripts can trigger it if they are taking too long to finish. The solution that Mosso suggests (even in annoyingly inappropriate applications) is to employ a “loading” bar that keeps the connection alive with the server, so the load-balancer doesn’t give up on the request. Obviously, this is not always going to be an adequate solution, but shorter script timeout limits are something to keep in mind when deciding if Mosso will be a good fit.

Generally speaking, your scripts probably shouldn’t be taking over 30 seconds to execute, unless they are specifically designed to do some seriously heavy-lifting – in which case they are probably home-grown scripts and could be modified with a loading bar or similar device to work around the limitation.

Unconfirmed: Issues with Facebook Applications That Use IFRAME

I don’t know whether or not this truly is an issue, since all of my Facebook applications are written in FBML, but one user on the Mosso forums has reported an issue retaining the Facebook API session on Mosso’s servers. I suggested appending the fb_session code to the IFRAME src, which he says he did, but I cannot confirm whether he did, or whether something else is wrong with his app. This is just something to keep in mind, and perhaps something to test during your trial month if this is important to you.

Tip: Dead-End Bandwidth-Eating Bots

While Mosso gives you a considerable amount of bandwidth, and their rates if you go over are reasonable, you may wish to consider setting up your .htaccess file to dead-end known bad bots and spiders. From an article on Javascript Kit:

The definition of a “bad bot” varies depending on who you ask, but most would agree they are the spiders that do a lot more harm than good on your site (ie: an email harvester). A site ripper on the other hand are offline browsing programs that a surfer may unleash on your site to crawl and download every one of its pages for offline viewing. In both cases, both your site’s bandwidth and resource usage are jacked up as a result, sometimes to the point of crashing your server. Bad bots typically ignore the wishes of your robots.txt file, so you’ll want to ban them using means such as .htaccess. The trick is to identify a bad bot.

Their handy article gives you a copy and paste solution to add to your .htaccess file that will return a 500 error to the known bots, spiders and site-rippers in the list.

Ready to Switch?

If you’re interested in giving Mosso a shot, they offer a 30 day risk-free trial (money back guarantee) – and if you use the promotional code REF-SNIPE, you’ll get a $25 rebate/refund on your first month’s bill. So basically, you get two months for free to give it a shot. If you’re still not sure or you have more questions, follow @mosso on twitter. They’re very responsive, and often quite funny.

Already Using Mosso?

Are you using Mosso already? What do you think about it so far? And what quirks have you encountered?

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About snipe

I’m a tech geek/dev/infosec-nerd/scuba diver/blacksmith/sword-fighter/crime fighter/ENTP/warcrafter/activist, and the former CTO and CSO at a business innovation agency in New York City. Tweet at me @snipeyhead or read more...
  • http://www.quotefishing.com/ Corey

    I have a Mosso account and I have to admit it’s quite nice. The only thing I have to add as a tip for those that are going to host using Mosso with Windows technology, they have a known glitch during FTP of files that the server does not immediately update the cache. Your changes won’t show up immediately, possibly not for 30 minutes. There is a work-around, however. You must delete the file from the remote location before uploading the new version of the file. If you do this the cache is updated immediately.

    Corey’s last blog post..Workers’ Compensation FAQs

  • http://www.quotefishing.com Corey

    I have a Mosso account and I have to admit it’s quite nice. The only thing I have to add as a tip for those that are going to host using Mosso with Windows technology, they have a known glitch during FTP of files that the server does not immediately update the cache. Your changes won’t show up immediately, possibly not for 30 minutes. There is a work-around, however. You must delete the file from the remote location before uploading the new version of the file. If you do this the cache is updated immediately.

    Corey’s last blog post..Workers’ Compensation FAQs

  • http://www.snipe.net snipe

    Hi Corey – thanks so much for adding this. I never use windows hosting, on Mosso or otherwise, so I didn’t know about that. Excellent tip!

  • http://www.snipe.net snipe

    Hi Corey – thanks so much for adding this. I never use windows hosting, on Mosso or otherwise, so I didn’t know about that. Excellent tip!

  • John

    I am working on migrating a dedicated server with about 40 sites to Mosso. I like Mosso for the most part. Mail seems to have issues in receiving. Aliases aren’t working at all for certain domains and forwards are slow to do anything. I call support and it works fine with them and then I test it a day later and not working again. Did you experience any issues with mail?

  • John

    I am working on migrating a dedicated server with about 40 sites to Mosso. I like Mosso for the most part. Mail seems to have issues in receiving. Aliases aren’t working at all for certain domains and forwards are slow to do anything. I call support and it works fine with them and then I test it a day later and not working again. Did you experience any issues with mail?

  • http://www.snipe.net snipe

    Hmm.. I haven’t run into any issues at all with emails or aliases. It can take a few minutes whena site is first created for aliases to go through, but after that, I’ve had no issues or reports of anything bouncing.

    Are you getting specific bounces? What’s the error message? Or do they just go to limbo?

  • http://www.snipe.net snipe

    Hmm.. I haven’t run into any issues at all with emails or aliases. It can take a few minutes whena site is first created for aliases to go through, but after that, I’ve had no issues or reports of anything bouncing.

    Are you getting specific bounces? What’s the error message? Or do they just go to limbo?

  • Jonas

    There’s more than meets the eye on Mosso. Biggest issue is that the “scalability” they claim does not hold true when your site does anything with SSL — if even a single page of your site is secure, the whole site runs in the SSL cluster and that DOES NOT scale nicely. 10k visitors will kill the cluster and they’ll shut you down. (Yes, shut you down, despite the fact that the traffic is legitimate, and contrary to their advertised policies.)

    If you pass the measly SMTP relay email rate limits, for transactional emails for example, they’ll be put in a queue that can deliver them up to 3 days later and randomly to boot.

    They are a good solution for small sites, but don’t use them if you intend to hit it big with your website.

  • Jonas

    There’s more than meets the eye on Mosso. Biggest issue is that the “scalability” they claim does not hold true when your site does anything with SSL — if even a single page of your site is secure, the whole site runs in the SSL cluster and that DOES NOT scale nicely. 10k visitors will kill the cluster and they’ll shut you down. (Yes, shut you down, despite the fact that the traffic is legitimate, and contrary to their advertised policies.)

    If you pass the measly SMTP relay email rate limits, for transactional emails for example, they’ll be put in a queue that can deliver them up to 3 days later and randomly to boot.

    They are a good solution for small sites, but don’t use them if you intend to hit it big with your website.

  • http://www.snipe.net snipe

    Hi Jonas,

    Thanks for your feedback. How long ago were you running into issues with Mosso? I’m not sure what you consider a small site, but scobelizer.com and techcrunch run on Mosso, and they don’t fall under the category of what I would consider small, or even medium-size sites.

    I do know that there were issues as recently as a year ago, and more issues prior to that. Many of the developers who would previously not have recommended Mosso because of some significant growing pains are now with Mosso.

  • http://www.snipe.net snipe

    Hi Jonas,

    Thanks for your feedback. How long ago were you running into issues with Mosso? I’m not sure what you consider a small site, but scobelizer.com and techcrunch run on Mosso, and they don’t fall under the category of what I would consider small, or even medium-size sites.

    I do know that there were issues as recently as a year ago, and more issues prior to that. Many of the developers who would previously not have recommended Mosso because of some significant growing pains are now with Mosso.

  • http://blog.mosso.com/ Rob

    @Snipe – Techcrunch does not run on Mosso – wanted to make that clear :) Scobleizer, live.gdgt.com, chrisbrogan.com all run on Mosso though, and all are high traffic sites. The largest sites on Mosso (which I cannot list without permission from the site owners) do millions and millions of page views a month.

    Rob La Gesse
    Director of Customer Development
    The Rackspace Cloud
    210-845-4440

    Last blog post: Why an Alpha Geek Web App Developer Moved to Cloud Sites: An Interview with Alison Gianotto

  • http://blog.mosso.com Rob

    @Snipe – Techcrunch does not run on Mosso – wanted to make that clear :) Scobleizer, live.gdgt.com, chrisbrogan.com all run on Mosso though, and all are high traffic sites. The largest sites on Mosso (which I cannot list without permission from the site owners) do millions and millions of page views a month.

    Rob La Gesse
    Director of Customer Development
    The Rackspace Cloud
    210-845-4440

    Last blog post: Why an Alpha Geek Web App Developer Moved to Cloud Sites: An Interview with Alison Gianotto

  • http://www.snipe.net snipe

    Whoops – my bad – thanks for the correction, Rob :) I’m curious to see if Jonas’ issues were perhaps from a year or so ago or if they were more recent. I haven’t noticed problems like what he’s reporting, and although my biggest cpu-sites are probably not even close to on par with your largest, they do get some decent traffic.

  • http://www.snipe.net snipe

    Whoops – my bad – thanks for the correction, Rob :) I’m curious to see if Jonas’ issues were perhaps from a year or so ago or if they were more recent. I haven’t noticed problems like what he’s reporting, and although my biggest cpu-sites are probably not even close to on par with your largest, they do get some decent traffic.

  • Jonas

    The issues are today’s issues, not a year ago. Their strategic plan involves hardware configurations that will solve many of these things, but they’re 18 months away. There are tons of technical issues every day (just check status.mosso.com), and we have been affected occasionally, but no host is perfect.

    I want to clarify, standard traffic is scalable and does work well (albeit relatively slow response times). It’s when there are purchases and SSL traffic that it gets ugly. As far as size is concerned, we “killed the SSL cluster” with just 10k visitors. That is not big by any stretch, but affected their other clients. I imagine non-SSL traffic (such as the blogs) can handle much more.

  • Jonas

    The issues are today’s issues, not a year ago. Their strategic plan involves hardware configurations that will solve many of these things, but they’re 18 months away. There are tons of technical issues every day (just check status.mosso.com), and we have been affected occasionally, but no host is perfect.

    I want to clarify, standard traffic is scalable and does work well (albeit relatively slow response times). It’s when there are purchases and SSL traffic that it gets ugly. As far as size is concerned, we “killed the SSL cluster” with just 10k visitors. That is not big by any stretch, but affected their other clients. I imagine non-SSL traffic (such as the blogs) can handle much more.

  • http://www.snipe.net snipe

    Hi Jonas,

    Thanks again for replying. 10k visitors – that’s 10k concurrent, as in 10k people trying to checkout all at the same time?

  • http://www.snipe.net snipe

    Hi Jonas,

    Thanks again for replying. 10k visitors – that’s 10k concurrent, as in 10k people trying to checkout all at the same time?

  • Jonas

    10k visitors over the span of a few hours, maybe 50-100 people checking out concurrently.

    But don’t forget — in Mosso world, once you have any page SSL, you have the whole thing SSL, so it treats the 10k visitors as checking out, which obviously exceeds their infrastructure.

  • Jonas

    10k visitors over the span of a few hours, maybe 50-100 people checking out concurrently.

    But don’t forget — in Mosso world, once you have any page SSL, you have the whole thing SSL, so it treats the 10k visitors as checking out, which obviously exceeds their infrastructure.

  • George Williams

    Hi,

    I was wondering what the Mosso failure modes have been for your sites? How did they fail? How did you know? And what were you able to do about the problems? It seems Mosso doesn’t provide much in this area.

    thanks

  • George Williams

    Hi,

    I was wondering what the Mosso failure modes have been for your sites? How did they fail? How did you know? And what were you able to do about the problems? It seems Mosso doesn’t provide much in this area.

    thanks

  • http://www.snipe.net snipe

    Hi George,

    I use server monitoring services on my sites, so I get an alert via email or text if something’s wrong. One of my sites monitoring is here:
    http://tinyurl.com/pacstatus

    More options like that here:
    http://www.snipe.net/2009/01/cheap-or-free-website-status-monitoring/

    I haven’t had many issues with failure or downtime at all, but I agree that they could be doing a better job of providing tools to customers to help them make sure all’s well. I spoke to a few of the RS guys at the NYC Tweetup this month about that kind of thing. For customers of non-cloud, dedicatd Rackspace servers, you’ll get an email is there’s been, for example, a high cpu load that could cause apache failure, but Mosso customers don’t get much in the way of tools.

    One thing I suggested was to have some of the types of tools that Cpanel proides. I can’t stand cpanel – most insecure, piece of garbage control panel in the world – but even cpanel will email you if a script has been uploaded to your server that sends email, helping you make sure your account isn’t being used to send spam through malicious scripts, etc.

    The guys said the idea had merit, but I don’t know how seriously they’re taking it. Maybe one of the Mosso/Rackspace Cloud guys can give you a better answer on any planned tools for stuff like that.

  • http://www.snipe.net snipe

    Hi George,

    I use server monitoring services on my sites, so I get an alert via email or text if something’s wrong. One of my sites monitoring is here:
    http://tinyurl.com/pacstatus

    More options like that here:
    http://www.snipe.net/2009/01/cheap-or-free-website-status-monitoring/

    I haven’t had many issues with failure or downtime at all, but I agree that they could be doing a better job of providing tools to customers to help them make sure all’s well. I spoke to a few of the RS guys at the NYC Tweetup this month about that kind of thing. For customers of non-cloud, dedicatd Rackspace servers, you’ll get an email is there’s been, for example, a high cpu load that could cause apache failure, but Mosso customers don’t get much in the way of tools.

    One thing I suggested was to have some of the types of tools that Cpanel proides. I can’t stand cpanel – most insecure, piece of garbage control panel in the world – but even cpanel will email you if a script has been uploaded to your server that sends email, helping you make sure your account isn’t being used to send spam through malicious scripts, etc.

    The guys said the idea had merit, but I don’t know how seriously they’re taking it. Maybe one of the Mosso/Rackspace Cloud guys can give you a better answer on any planned tools for stuff like that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Shelby-Melban/501371809 Shelby Melban

    Thanks for all your posts they have been very fun to read. I’ve recently moved over to the Rackspace Cloud and loving it. I’m a big fan of SSH haven’t figured out ow to get SSHF going yet. I’ve got lots of large databases so good to hear that they’ll do an import for you. I’ve been using BigDump (http://www.ozerov.de/bigdump.php) but that uses up cycles so I might let them do it next time.

    Thanks for the heads up on issues like SSL that I’ll run into soon enough. Same with mailbox size limits, etc.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Shelby-Melban/501371809 Shelby Melban

    Thanks for all your posts they have been very fun to read. I’ve recently moved over to the Rackspace Cloud and loving it. I’m a big fan of SSH haven’t figured out ow to get SSHF going yet. I’ve got lots of large databases so good to hear that they’ll do an import for you. I’ve been using BigDump (http://www.ozerov.de/bigdump.php) but that uses up cycles so I might let them do it next time.

    Thanks for the heads up on issues like SSL that I’ll run into soon enough. Same with mailbox size limits, etc.

  • http://www.snipe.net snipe

    Hi Shelby – I actually haven’t run into any mailbox size limitations, and I have a few accounts with over 70k messages.

  • http://www.snipe.net snipe

    Hi Shelby – I actually haven’t run into any mailbox size limitations, and I have a few accounts with over 70k messages.

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