Welcome to our first update for 2018!
The following update isn't that exciting but may be of interest to some more than others but it heralds a faster, more responsive Millennium website experience, which I'm hoping you will notice as from today.
As you might expect, our website has grown significantly over the last 15 years and our website community software has become more complex and feature-laden also.
Last year, we needed to upgrade to a more powerful cloud-based VPS web hosting solution using SSD (solid state drives) with access to 48 unlocked CPU cores, which saw massive performance increases and cuts to page loading times but also permits more opportunity to tweak performance.
As a matter of course, I regularly monitor reports from GTMetrix and other sites such as Page Speed and Pingdom to ensure the site and server is optimised and efficient. Three months ago, after learning more about the dark art of server management whilst I've been ill and waiting for an operation for 12 months, I installed and activated Zend Opcache on the server which is a database caching service. This basically caches database queries so that the results are reused if possible when the same query is repeated again. This means pages are generated more quickly, and we saw an improvement in responsive page loading again, the site just seemed noticeably more snappy!
One or two extra improvements never hurt, so earlier today, I got into my Brian Roedecker mode and activated some significantly babe-a-licious server side changes to provide further performance improvements, and to ensure quicker page loading times in order to improve your experience at TIWWA.
Amazon S3 Cloud Storage
Firstly, our TIWWA community website now makes use of Amazon S3 cloud storage to host the majority of our uploaded member's file attachments and image content. This will free-up space and save resources on the main server.
Not only does this include our theme images, CSS and theme templates, but also all emoticons, reactions, profile photos, profile blog and calendar cover images etc, and all existing and future file and image attachments have been shunted over to S3.
All member uploaded attachments are now stored on Amazon's S3 service. The S3 cloud servers provide robust storage, and fast delivery of the many attachments and images that make up the TIWWA website. Since the majority of our members and visitors are based on the west coast of the US, I opted to configure the S3 storage bucket to be hosted in N California. Our much loved @beerbelch should see a huge boost! You can learn more here if you are interested, and see a neat video on how it works here:
Amazon Cloudfront CDN
The second important feature we've activated is Amazon's Cloudfront which is their powerful Content Delivery Network. A CDN takes files, images and attachments and distributes them across the world to various endpoints, where they are mirrored and cached. We've hooked it up to our new S3 cloud storage server in Northern California, so the content is effectively stored much closer to our members and visitors, where ever they reside.
The Amazon CloudFront content delivery network is built on the expanding global AWS infrastructure that includes 44 Availability Zones within 16 geographic regions today, with announced plans for 14 more Availability Zones and five more Regions in China, France, Hong Kong, Sweden, and a second AWS GovCloud Region in the US. Amazon CloudFront has 113 Points of Presence (102 Edge Locations and 11 Regional Edge Caches) in 56 cities across 24 countries.
What this means in simple terms, is that when say @Libby, myself or other users who access TIWWA in the UK, will now access copies of the image and file content hosted on Amazon's S3 servers mirrored in the UK.
Members based in Europe like Alex @SadEyes or @Viivi or the US like @Earthnut and @Walkabout will be accessing the same content from their nearest endpoint. This means a huge boost in page loading times, as well as many other CDN related security and reliability benefits.
TL;DR *Faster loading and less waiting allows more time for other nice things in life, like pizza!
The process isn't fully completed yet, so please bear with us as we complete the transfer of our remaining images and files across to Amazon S3.