Migrations and Updates

OIT Web Services will from time-to-time make updates to our existing hardware and/or migrate accounts between servers. When necessary, these transitions will be accompanied by appropriate SysNews and Change Management documentation, as well as email notifications to the contacts for affected accounts.

If you have questions or concerns related to a planned upgrade or migration, please contact Web Services directly: oit_web_services@help.ncsu.edu.

More information…

Testing & Migration Process

If you would like to test your site(s) on a different version of PHP or using other hardware ahead of a planned migration, Web Services staff can help facilitate this with the use of a VCL environment.

  1. We migrate a copy of your cPanel account with all content to a the new server. At this point you will need to test for any issues in the new environment.
    • In order to test your domain(s) please visit vcl.ncsu.edu and connect to the environment named OIT Web Services – Testing cPanel Account Migration. This will load a connection which you can then use to view your sites. If you run into problems start with the VCL Documentation.
      * Be sure to review the “Action Items for Account Owners” to identify the major issues that should be addressed.
      * Please note that this test environment will not retain changes made during the testing period. Anything done to your account or the site(s) within will need to be re-applied once the final migration is complete.
  2. If everything is awesome, let us know that you’re ready to go live! We will work with you to establish the best time for the final migration.
    If you don’t communicate with us within 2 weeks of the initial email we will be in touch about scheduling your migration as soon as possible, at a time of our choosing.
  3. We will email account owners again once this migration is complete. You can then use the site as normal.

Action Items for Account Owners

Final account transfers will be performed after the account owner has tested their site(s), confirmed they’re ready, and communicated a preferred time. It may be possible to delay if there are major issues identified during testing, however it is critical that you communicate with the Web Services staff about your needs. Thank you!

We ask that you discuss the following items with your content developers:

  • Do you have any applications that are dependent on the actual IP address of the server your cPanel account is currently hosted from? (See the “Server IP Address Will Change” section below)
  • Are there any concerns with upgrading my version of PHP? (See “Upgrading PHP” section below)
  • Do you need to update your Shibboleth rules in your .htaccess file(s)? (See “Updating Shibboleth Rules” section below)
  • When is an appropriate time to transfer the account? (See “Scheduling Time for Account Transfer” section below)

Any issues during testing that aren’t easily diagnosed? Check out some of our Troubleshooting Tips.

How will this impact me?

The new cPanel hardware specifications are outlined above but the gist is: things will be faster. This environment should provide a faster end-user experience and also has management and configuration tools that will hopefully allow us to address issues more quickly. Keep in mind that the true benefits will only be gained by using the environment efficiently; for example reverting back to PHP 5.6 will not show the improvements available from later versions of PHP (7.1, 7.2).

The process of transferring an account requires a short period of time for the account data to be migrated to the new server and for the DNS records to be updated to the new server’s hostname. You will need to work with Web Hosting Staff to identify a 3-hour-window during which you cannot edit your site; you can learn more in the Scheduling Time for Account Transfer section. Assuming you’ve done testing and are prepared for the transition, there should be little to no impact to your site(s) during the move, and you should not see significant downtime.

What’s involved with a cPanel account migration?

Server IP Address Will Change

The actual IP address of the hosted server will be different. The change of the IP address may be significant to account owners who are using IP address-based firewall rules to allow access from a specific cPanel server.

Account owners are responsible for communicating their need for IP address information if their account has been identified as one that will be transferred.

Changing PHP Versions

The cPanel environments will have multiple versions of PHP available at any one time. You can see the list of supported versions, as well as the timetable for the end-of-life of current versions, on the PHP website. You should plan ahead to update your sites to newer versions of PHP, and should anticipate that PHP versions will no longer be available in our cPanel environments ahead of security-support EOL deadlines.

To change the version of PHP for one or more of the domains hosted in your cPanel account please go to your cPanel Dashboard then look in Software > MultiPHP Manager. Here you can select the domain you want to update, then the version of PHP you want to use for that domain.

For those using WordPress, please be aware of any outdated plugins and themes: these are the most likely culprit in case of errors. For more information see Troubleshooting Tips below.

Updating Shibboleth Rules

For some, the .htaccess file(s) in your cPanel account may not work on the new server. The most likely issues are related to Shibboleth apache statements and Shib attribute rules (i.e. ‘shib-attr’). Please use the Shibboleth Docs for help updating these rules.

Scheduling Time for Account Transfer

The process of transferring an account requires a short period of time for the account data to be migrated to the new server and for the DNS records to be updated to the new server’s hostname. During that time people may view the site(s), but no updates can be made to site content, or files hosted in your cPanel environment.

If you account will require transfer, Web Services staff will work to identify a 3-hour window of time for scheduling migrations. Once you reach out to us we will share the migration windows we have available. We will email the cPanel account contact when the migration begins, and again once it has been completed. Assuming you’ve done testing and are prepared for the transition, there should be little to no impact to your site(s) during the move, and you should not see significant downtime.

If there are issues after the migration we strongly encourage you to login and try to correct the problem in the new environment. In the case of major issues you may email oit_web_services@help.ncsu.edu to request that we revert your site to the old environment. Please note that it will take at least 30 minutes to revert to the old server due to the schedule of DNS updates on campus.

Troubleshooting Tips

Error Logs

Error logs are available in the ‘Metrics’ section of the cPanel interface for your account. These are Apache error logs only, however more log information can also be found in the account root, /home/accountname/logs/. If you’re hosting multiple domains in one account the logs for each domain will exist in a sub-folder: /home/accountname/logs/domain/.

PHP Versions

The most likely culprit for a site that is not working during testing is changes in the version of PHP. During testing you may downgrade your version of PHP to see if that corrects the issues (see Changing PHP Versions section above). Coming from older versions of PHP you may have issues during testing that can be resolved by downgrading, however we encourage you to troubleshoot these issues now and complete the migration to the latest version of PHP, if possible.

If you have a WordPress site you may find that it stops working or some parts no longer function normally. This is likely a problem with a theme or plugin not functioning properly. You can see WordPress’s PHP and other hosting requirements on their Downloads page.
There are several tools to assist you with testing your WordPress site for PHP version issues. The PHP Compatibility Checker Plugin may help identify some errors or older code. You can also use the built-in WordPress debugging tool to help identify broken pages; instructions are available at Debugging in WordPress.