October News: Important Upgrade Announcements & £1.49 UK Domains
Posted by Paul Woodland on 28 October 2021 11:15 AM
IN THIS NEWSLETTER
We hope that you have been keeping well during this ongoing worrying period for many people. Today we have a lot of important information to share with you regarding upgrades to our services in the UK that are taking place in the remainder of 2021, which are detailed below. There are also some forthcoming changes to some of our data retention policies in January, which are at the bottom of this message and are important to be aware of. Finally, our £1.49 UK domain promotion has been running throughout September and October and finishes in a few days, so don’t miss out on your chance to save 85% on as many UK domains as you like – see below!
1. Upgrades Overview
Whilst the pandemic has delayed some of our plans due to the associated transportation and supply issues, we are now ready to announce our latest round of upgrades to our UK network, which will be improving a large number of our services. You may already have noticed improvements to some services as a result of changes behind the scenes and the installation of new equipment at the datacenter in the past couple of weeks, but the migrations of the largest services are now being scheduled - including to the servers hosting Email, MySQL and SQL Server, as well as all of the web servers.
The most obvious change for websites will be the upgrade to the brand new latest edition of Microsoft's server operating system - Windows Server 2022. All of our UK customer servers will be running on this new operating system by the end of this year. At the same time we will be moving many services onto new hardware, including improved specifications and fast SSD drives for all services. This is coupled with improvements to how we deploy and run servers, to increase their reliability and our ability to recover more quickly from any hardware failures, or avoid any disruption altogether.
Although originally we had intended to do all of this in one go, the hardware upgrades for some services have had to be delayed due to ongoing supply issues. We have decided therefore to proceed with the move to Windows 2022 on all servers now, and complete the hardware upgrades over the coming months as stock arrives in. This will be being done in the background with no disruption (which is possible due to the new Windows 2022 servers all being virtualised), so the only brief disruption will be in the move to Windows 2022, which is set out in more detail below.
These upgrades only affect our UK network, they do not affect the US network, which has already been upgraded more recently.
Details on all of the migrations that are happening can be found below, and we are looking forward to continuing to serve your hosting needs on our new improved hardware and software setup. If you have any questions about any of these changes, please do not hesitate to contact us in the normal way.
2. £1.49 UK Domains
Just quickly before we get to the upgrade details, our promotion on UK domains that has been running throughout September and October is finishing on Sunday - don't miss your chance to get all new .co.uk, .me.uk, .org.uk and .uk registrations at the special price of £1.49 (exc VAT) for the first year, saving £5.50 + VAT. The cut off for orders at this price is 10pm UTC on the 31st October. There is no commitment to continue to renew for future years. You can order easily at any time through the control panel, just click on "LiquidSix Domain Registrations" and follow the link to register a new domain - you will be charged the special promotional price and there is no limit as to how many domains you can order at this price.
For details, please see here:
3. UK Mail Server Upgrade
The first of our migrations onto new hardware will be the UK mail server. We will be upgrading to the latest version of SmarterMail during the move to the new hardware, with fast SSD drives storing all data and running on Windows 2022. There will be no changes to IP addresses or any other configuration.
Date: Saturday 6th November 2021
4. UK MySQL Server Upgrade
Happening on the same day as the mail server upgrade, we will be moving the MySQL server to new hardware. During the move to the new hardware (with fast SSD drives storing all data and running on Windows 2022), we will also be upgrading to the latest version of MySQL 5.7. There will be no changes to IP addresses or any other configuration. This will affect the main shared/reseller MySQL server only, and does not affect customers using MySQL on low density hosting, which will be moved separately.
Date: Saturday 6th November 2021
5. UK SQL Server Upgrade
The next upgrade will be to SQL Server. We will be migrating all databases onto a new SQL Server installation on Windows 2022 with new hardware, including fast SSD drives. We are already using the latest version of SQL Server, so there will be no change to the version in use as a result of this migration. Both customers on the main shared/reseller SQL Server and those on low density hosting will be affected, but at different times during the migration window. There will be no changes to IP addresses or any other configuration.
Date: Sunday 7th November 2021
6. UK Web Server Upgrades
The largest migration will be all of the websites hosted in the UK onto new Windows 2022 servers. This will be being done over the next couple of months, one server at a time. We are aware that customers may not know what servers their websites are hosted on, unless they have looked in the control panel, so instead of publishing the dates (some of which are still to be confirmed) in this email we will be emailing affected customers 1-2 weeks before their migration takes place. The email will list the affected domains, and give an exact date for the migration. If you have multiple websites with us, they may be on the same server, or on different servers - so you may receive multiple emails over the next few months, one for each migration date, with a list of your domains included in that migration.
Although the upgrade to Windows 2022 is important and brings many benefits in reliability, security and performance, it is not expected to impact the running of websites or require any changes like some previous operating system upgrades have needed, as it will still support all the same features that we use now and work in basically the same way. All of the existing versions of PHP and .Net Framework / .Net Core that we support will continue to be available on the new servers, with all the latest patches and updates being installed on them, although if you are using an older version of any of these (especially PHP 5.x users) we do recommend that you look at upgrading to a newer version as soon as possible. There will be no changes to any IP addresses (and so no DNS propagation to worry about) as the existing IPs will be moved to the new servers.
One area with big improvements is support for newer HTTP protocols and TLS 1.3, which will all be available straight after the migration. To smooth over the transition, we will be continuing to support older SSL/TLS protocols for the rest of this year. However, to improve security for all users, we will be withdrawing support for some older protocols from January 2022, in line with what most companies are now doing. This only affects websites that are using SSL certificates to provide a secure version of their website on a https:// address, it has no effect on standard HTTP sites. We do not expect this to have any significant impact on users, as it is only extremely old (and insecure) browsers and other software that might have issues if they don't support modern security features (but will have the same issues with a large proportion of websites on the internet, and likely almost all HTTPS websites in the near future). The changes have been tested already and allow for HTTPS websites hosted with us to get an "A" rating on the Qualys SSL Labs tests that are widely used to test HTTPS security. If you are concerned about these changes, please contact us for assistance.
For more technical customers, the exact details of older features that will be disabled for security are:
- SSL2, SSL3, TLS1.0 and TLS1.1 protocols.
- Encryption ciphers DES, 3DES, and RC4 (so only AES is used).
- Encryption cipher AES with CBC chaining mode (so only AES GCM is used).
- RSA key exchange.
- DH key exchange with key size less than 2048.
- ECDH key exchanges with key size less than 224.
Due to the way the migrations will be being performed, downtime for websites when they are migrated should be less than 15 minutes, but we wish to give you plenty of notice because of the change of operating system.
The first servers to be migrated to Windows 2022 will be EUROPA and DIONE. Migration emails for customers with websites on these servers will go out later today, but do not worry if you do not receive one, as it just means your websites are not hosted on these servers. You will receive your notifications in the coming weeks. If you do wish to check in advance what servers your websites are on (although it is not necessary), this information is available in the control panel on the "Website Settings" page for a domain.
If you have any questions or concerns relating to the website moves, please do not hesitate to contact us in the normal way.
7. Logging & Backup Limits from January 2022
In order to assist customers in complying with data protection regulations, we will be applying some changes to the retention of some data as from January 2022. These changes are:
These changes will come into effect in January 2022 at the same time as the SSL/TLS changes detailed in the web server upgrades section above.
As always, we would like to thank you for your continued custom. If you have any questions about anything in this newsletter or anything else regarding your services with us, please do not hesitate to contact us via the helpdesk at https://support.liquidsix.com.