A while ago I signed up for a 3 month trial for Microsoft Azure to allow me to continue to use the Azure Backup service after Microsoft moved it from Windows Azure Online Backup Preview into a more mainstream service.
Last night I decided to have a play whilst I’m still on the trial to see how quickly I could stand up a Windows Server 2012 VM instance. The answer is quickly by the way. Within five minutes, I was able to download the .rdp file and connect to the machine, but I digress.
After I was finished, I deleted the VM, but the disk remains in the event that you want to reattach it to another VM. When I tried to delete the .vhd file I got an error that it was still in-use. I wasn’t able to find the answer initially, but after a post on TechNet someone came straight back with the solution in an Azure Technical Support (WATS) blog post at http://blogs.msdn.com/b/windows_azure_technical_support_wats_team/archive/2013/02/05/iaas-unable-to-delete-vhd-there-is-currently-a-lease-on-the-blob.aspx.
In a nutshell, although the VM is deleted, it leaves behind a disk mount resource which is used to link the VM to the VHD BLOB. Follow the steps in the post to delete the link an you will be given an option to delete the actual .vhd file as well as the link. Job Done.
This is a very short blog post; more of a rant than an actual informative post.
It’s the year 2013. Office 2013 has been out for sometime now, and the XML based office document formats such as .docx, .pptx and .xslx have been around since Office 2007. Additionally, there has been the Office Compatibility Pack (http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=3) available for download for at least since Office 2010 was released to allow Office 2003 versions of Office to read the XML based document formats.
Why, based on these two factors, do people still insist of sending documents through in the Office 2003-esque .doc, .ppt and .xls document formats? They are old and horrible. They take up well over two times the amount of space per file than the XML based file types as well as reducing the features available to the document?
I understand that some banks and larger institutions may still be using Office 2003 because of compatibility issues with other line of business applications, but the majority populous will surely be running a version of Office less than 10 years old?
So, anyone who frequents my blog may have noticed a performance improvement in the last two days. The reason? I’ve moved house, or at least my blog has.
Previously hosted by a US company called ASPHostCentral, I had been having a lot of issues with MySQL of late where the blog couldn’t even connect to the instance. Several support tickets were raised for the issue and every time they resolved the issue, but never fixed the root cause which they claimed was a customer on the same shared server as me hammering the database engine. When the blog could connect to the MySQL database, I was seeing round-trip ping responses to the server of over 175ms at all times, with it sometimes peaking to 250ms. I setup a free website monitoring tool (http://www.uptimerobot.com/) to monitor the blog and a few other sites I own. I was receiving upwards of 10 alerts a day per site to say that they were offline for a few minutes and then back up again.
I haven’t fully completed the move as I have a forum site I run with a large database I need to migrate, but the blog and a few other mini-sites are moved over but so far it’s great. The blog is now hosted by HostingUK.net, a British company with datacentres based in the London area so the geography is much better for me and my primary user base. The new server is running Windows Server 2012 which means I get some of the newer features in IIS 8 for running the site not to mention a sub 20ms ping response from my home. If anyone is wondering, the reason I used the US to host the sites previously is that UK based web hosting hasn’t really been able to compete with the US companies until recently and being that this is all paid and run by me personally, I need to keep it cheap.
I’m going to be doing some performance tweaking of the blog soon, playing with caching plugins for WordPress, maybe even tweaking my theme to try and optimize some of the images to try and make the site fly, but I’m really happy with the new service I’m receiving so far, it’s faster and seems more dependable, I can get support in my time zone and the couple of questions I’ve had for their support people have been answers by certified IT Pro’s who actually sound knowledgeable.
So after typing the Surface Pro article earlier today, I realised that all of my WordPress plugins and my WordPress were out of date. After about an hour of tinkering with plugin versions, authorizing Twitter OAuth plugins and upgrading the main install.
So what’s new? Well the media manager in the admin interface is very nice and welcoming over previous iterations. Internet Explorer 10 still doesn’t get recognized as a modern browser still as logging into the admin interface produces an error that looks like it thinks I’m running IE6 – Something I as hoping would be fixed. Looking at the categories in the admin interface makes me a little sad too because my categories are all over the place so I think I need to spent a few hours aligning and rearranging them, and I also noticed a few quirks with my custom theme which I need to resolve.
Every time I upgrade my WordPress instance though, it reminds me how junk my current hosting provider are. I was only able to get between 10-20Kbps transferring files to and from the FTP site. A ping to the site results in a round-trip time of 165ms and the load times are terrible not to mention the HTTP500 errors I’ve been getting on a couple of my other sites recently because of some new user on the shared server pillaging the MySQL instance.
Normally, I forget about the issue by the time I get round to sorting it, but I’m determined to remember this time especially as my hosting is up for renewal soon, so I’m going to be finding a new home in the UK as UK hosting prices have dropped in recent years. I did take a look at Microsoft Azure earlier today, but the free instance doesn’t allow the use of custom domain names and the shared instance works out at about $45 a month for my sites which is too much.
If anyone knows a good UK hosting provider for £15 or less a month then please feel free to drop me a line.