HighScalability has Moved to Squarespace.com!

You may have noticed something is a little a different when visiting HighScalability today: We've Moved! HighScalability.com has switched hosting services to Squarespace.com. House warming gifts are completely unnecessary. Thanks for the thought though.

It's been a long long long process. Importing a largish Drupal site to Wordpress and then into Squarespace is a bit like dental work without the happy juice, but the results are worth it. While the site is missing a few features I think it looks nicer, feels faster, and I'm betting it will be more scalable and more reliable. All good things.
I'll explain more about the move later in this post, but there's some admistrivia that needs to be handled to make the move complete:

  • If you have a user account and have posted on HighScalability before then you have a user account, but since I don't know your passwords I had to make new passwords up for you. So please contact me and I'll give you your password so you can login and change it. Then you can post again. Sorry for this hassle, but for posts to be assigned to authors on import user accounts had to exist so I had to create them. Another issue is that login names in Squarespace are less flexible than under Drupal. The only allowable special character is the '-'. So if your login name contains a space or '_' or a '.' I changed those characters to a '-'.
  • If you have a user account and have never posted on HighScalability before you'll have to register in order to recreate your user account. Sorry, but with so many users I couldn't recreate all the user accounts by hand.
  • If you could switch RSS over to http://feeds.feedburner.com/HighScalability that would help a lot. The old RSS will still work.
  • A lot of links were broken during the move due to the imperfection of the export/import process. Some of the formatting looks a little strange now too. It's going to take me a while to fix all these problems. If there's anything you see that needs fixing please shoot me an email.
  • There's no tag cloud anymore, but there's an All Posts page that lists every post by category, by week, and by month.

This isn't pleasant but there was no way I could make the procees transparent. I appreciate your help and understanding.

Why was the move made?

I've played with and considered virtually every CMS available. I went with Squarespace based on weighing a few of my own personal goals and pain points:

Eating my own dog food. I've been a big advocate of cloud based memory grids. Since Squarespace uses a memory grid architecture I felt it would be a good experience to make use of their service (if I could make it work).

End-to-end management. I don't want to have to worry about my site. Ever. I want it to be managed end-to-end by the hosting service. In industry when they say they offer a managed service they usually mean the hardware/network/software stack are managed, you are still responsible for site uptime. The problem is a Drupal + LAMP + VPS stack isn't a hands off affair. Things go wrong and you have to be always on call. That's fine if you have a few people working a site, they can take turns handling the load. But if your are alone or on vacation, it doesn't work. You are always in the back of your mind worrying that something might be going wrong. By leaving the management of the entire stack to the hosting service then this worry largely goes away, assuming the host is good at their job.

Performance, scalability, reliability. I want the system to feel fast, to handle a lot of users, and to be reliable. For my purposes I don't really expect to have more users than I do now so I'm not looking for infinite headroom. But for the traffic I do have there should be no problems.

Price. A managed VPS with any sort of capability is expensive for a site that doesn't generate a lot of revenue yet gets too many users for shared hosting. A price point between shared hosting and a managed VPS would be very attractive. Some of the end-to-end managed services are enterprise plays and are way too expensive for the little guy.

Support. You are always at the mercy of your host, even with a cloud or colo. Good support you can count on makes all the difference when you are trying to get a site up and running and when disaster hits. Some service providers promise to get back to you within 8 hours. This is the Internet, 8 hours might as well be forever. No thanks.

So far my experience with Squarespace has been very possitive accross all my criteria.

They manage the site completely so my end-to-end management requirement is satisfied. A site is managed through a truly innovative browser based GUI that makes template customization and other operations quite straightforward. It will also tell you cool things like how many RSS readers you have and which posts are getting the most traffic.

I am impressed with how robust the system feels and how fast it is even doing large operations. I never feel like I'm going to break it or corrupt it and I'm almost never waiting on it to finish operations. Things just work. There's a lot of quality thought and work that's been put into the system and it shows.

Will it scale? Obviously I haven't tested that out yet, but it seems to handle largers sites so I'm fairly confident.

The price is quite reasonable, but I feel it's enough that they can make money without having to cut corners. It's a good value.

Support is excellent. Questions are answered within a short period of time and they are generally helpful. And I've asked some really stupid questions. When I couldn't set the date using a calendar widget they hardly even laughed. What they did do is make a screencast showing me what I needed to do and I was back in business.

Or course nothing is perfect. Those imperfections will show up in a lack of a few features and some of what needs to happen to make the transition to the new system complete.

It's clear they've put a lot of work in their back-end and front-end. What is missing are the wide numbers of modules you'll find for products like Drupal, Joomla, and Wordpress. Squarespace offers a small set of widgets, which are good, but the widget set is small and isn't as configurable as for other products. Part of the problem is that Squarespace doesn't offer an API for their system so third parties can't make widgets. So simple widgets like avatars, tag clouds, today's popular posts, the most popular posts of all time, recent forum posts, read counts, and logged in users are not available.

Other problems are in the process of moving an existing site into Squarespace.

Drupal is not one of Squarespace's supported import platforms. Drats! So I had to write scripts to export Drupal to Wordpress in such a way that as much of the meta data as possible was available in Squarespace. This was not easy to do. Squarespace does not have their own defined import format, which would have made life a lot easier.

Some other problems is there's no way to bulk operations to import users and map URLs. Each user has to be created by hand. If you don't have the users already created when posts are imported then the posts won't be assigned to the correct author.

One of the most important things to do when moving a site is preserve your old URLs. Every service sucks at this. Squarespace does have a way to map URLs, but again there's no way to bulk import the mappings. You have to do them one by one through their GUI. It's an enourmous pain. But it was doable, so that's something at least.

These issues weren't serious enough for me not to go with Squarespace, but a site looking to build a real community may have to look a little closer.

So that's the story. There's a lot of work yet to fix broken links and formatting, but I hope that won't take too long.

Please let me know what you think.


Todd Hoff