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Announcement Comms

Ianwild
Grafter
Posts: 3,835
Registered: 05-04-2007

Announcement Comms

I'm going to post the following Blog, hopefully tomorrow if time allows me to complete the second part, which is the internal comms to the business and the last bits of the ticket path and details of the forum post to people taking part in the trial.
Comments on the text would be appreciated.

News for Plusnet Webmasters
Plusnet pioneered the bundling of quality, free, value add services some years ago. One of the most popular services at that time was our advanced web hosting platform (known as CGI). However, development of this service has been limited in recent times and we've been considering the future of the service for a while.
We're now announcing a plan for major update to our advanced hosting products (including CGI and Frontpage), which will take place during the first half of 2009.  This will see us offering access to a new platform (based on the one used by our sister brand PAYH). This news will impact all users of the current CGI service and details of a preview available to all customers is available below.
The main reason for the lack of development with the current CGI platform has been that the highly customised design made it very difficult for us to perform updates and upgrades in line with the speed that hosting technology has changed. There are now a number of commercial solutions available which make this process easier for service providers, and we've chosen to use one of these, Plesk, which we believe offers the best overall solution.
Using Plesk to host Plusnet customer sites will allow us to offer a range of new hosting products in line with our desire to provide a high quality hosting platform that is fit for all purposes, including professional and business use. It will mean we can keep things up to date and maintenance will no longer be the chore it is today. This should prevent the same issues occuring that we've seen with the CGI platform. There are however some drawbacks, such as the lack of support for SSH logins on the new system. We hope customers will be able to work round these and will find the benefits of the new service (such as PHP5) outweigh the disadvantages.
A preview and trial of the basic elements of the new service we plan to provide will be available shortly. This is in advance of planned development work to build the new solution, which is scheduled to start early in the new year. This preview is available to all customers, and will also allow people to start the process of migrating their site from the CGI service now if they so wish. We will be asking for feedback on the service before the main development work commences and will include as much of that as possible in the project.
Further details about the trial and how to take part, as well as what to expect from the new hosting service, can be found in the detailed announcement in the Web Hosting forum.
Users of the 'homepages' basic webhosting service are not affected by this proposal, although they are welcome to try the new hosting service if they wish.
---
Any comments?
Ian
5 REPLIES
SoulBriski
Grafter
Posts: 179
Registered: 15-06-2007

Re: Announcement Comms

Hi Ian
If i were not involved in this secret forum and therefore was not 'clued up' on some of the major improvements on their way, the blog would not tell me much and I would probably just speed-read it and miss the vital impact it could have on me.
May I suggest that you emphasize some of the key features that the new platform has to offer. i.e. Multiple MySQL databases and domains, Protected Directories, Pay As You Host flexibility etc in order that the reader is intrigued enough to follow the links.
I think what you are doing is brilliant and your users should be aware of those key features in an instant
Regards

Brian
Ianwild
Grafter
Posts: 3,835
Registered: 05-04-2007

Re: Announcement Comms

Hi Brian,
Thanks for that. There is a comms plan that stretches between now and the new year which I hope ensures we won't miss anyone. I don't want to oversell things or overload people with too much information initially though, but I will make sure all that goes in the forum post that is linked from the below.
Ian
Ianwild
Grafter
Posts: 3,835
Registered: 05-04-2007

Re: Announcement Comms

Proposed post for the hosting forum - Feedback would be appreciated, although I do plan to post this today.
Summary
As per the recent web hosting announcement, we're planning to restructure how we deliver our advanced web hosting services in the new year. This will impact all users of services associated with the CGI Platform, which includes Frontpage Extensions, MySQL databases and CGI server based web hosting.There will be further specific communications for customers using these services later in the year, but the preview being announced here will allow all Plusnet customers try out the new platform, and if they wish, begin the process of moving their websites sooner rather than later.
Details
In order to allow people to test, feedback and begin using the main element of the replacement service, we are offering all Plusnet customers the opportunity to create and use an account based on the current PAYH service. At this stage in the trial we are offering this option for free, although because of the manual nature of creating these accounts, we must ask that people only request access if they intend to actively use the service. We will close down completely untouched accounts, and we reserve the right to make a one-off £5 set-up charge if people later wish to request another PAYH account where we have done this.
This preview service shares the same underlying infrastructure as PAYH, as will the eventual new advanced hosting platform. However we do plan to do a fair amount of work to the service before we withdraw the CGI platform. As such, the service now won't be exactly the same as when it is formally launched, especially where look and feel is concerned. That said, to all intents and purposes this should be close enough for customers to understand the final solution, and this does represent a good option for anyone who uses CGI now and wishes to continue hosting their website with Plusnet. Customers choosing to migrate from the CGI platform now will of course be able to retain their new sites in the same format once all the the changes have been made.
New Products
At the time of writing, we are planning to launch four products for Plusnet customers on the PAYH platform. These are:
Residential Options:
* £0 per month - 250Mb Storage, 1.5Gb Data transfer per month, 1 MySQL DB, Standard Apps. Community Support Only
* £2.50 a month - 350Mb Storage, 2Gb Data transfer per month, 3 MySQL DB, Standard Apps + Premium Applications (when available). One month free trial to all customers choosing this option.  Telephone / ticket support available on PAYH number.
Business Options:
* £0 per month - Community Support Only, 500Mb Storage, 3Gb Data transfer per month, 1 MySQL DB, Standard Apps
* £5 per month - Telephone support, 750Mb storage, 5Gb data transfer per month, additional features. Telephone / ticket support available on PAYH number. 3 MySQL DBs, Standard Apps + Premium Applications (when available). One month free trial to all customers choosing this option.
Platform Features and differences
There are a number of key differences between the CGI platform and the Plesk based service. An FAQ will be published which details these further, but some key items are:

  • Support for Perl [5.8.8], Python [2.4.4], PHP [5.2] and ASP [perl based]

  • Ability to pay for additional MySQL databases, storage space and data transfer.

  • Supports SSI, Suexec, log files, HTAccess, Custom error documents and CGI-BIN amongst others.

  • A new web based control panel and file upload tool is available.

  • SSH / Telnet access to a shell on the new service will not be available.

  • Support for MS Frontpage extensions is no longer available as the product used to support this is end of life. Microsoft have replaced Frontpage with expression.

Differences between the preview and the final product
Website addresses
During the preview / feedback period, you will be able to use any of your own domain names that are hosted on your Plusnet account. However we are unable to offer hosting for Plusner sub-domains like www.username.plus.com and ccgi.username.plus.com at this stage. We do plan to offer hosting for these names in the final product.
If you don't have a domain you wish to use with the service, you can arrange for a domain of username.plushost.co.uk to be hosted on your account if you do not have another domain you wish to lose.
Look and feel
We plan to improve the layout of the Plesk control panel and 'plusnetify' it somewhat. We will also try to simplify the control panel and remove the unnecessary icons which are currently displayed.
Plusnet account Integration
We will automate the account creation and management process so that when a new account is created it's not a manual process for us, and so that day to day administration of Plusnet accounts is more efficient.
Preview success criteria
We are looking to achieve a number of objectives by offering this preview now:

  • Prove that for the vast majority of customers, PAYH represents an appropriate alternative to CGI.

  • Identify what further changes we can make to improve the PAYH service when being used by Plusnet customers, and generally as a hosting platform.

  • Offer a set of products now that are fit for all purposes and which offers the benefits of the PAYH Product set to Plusnet customers as quickly as possible.

  • Enable people to migrate their sites sooner rather than later to make the final CGI migration itself easier.

  • Start to build a decent support resource within the community site web hosting forum which will mean that customers on free accounts can be adequately supported without access to direct support from the CSC except for service wide issues.


Development Schedule
This preview will run from now until January 2009 without much further additional development. At that  point final decisions will be made in terms of design and development requirements. Customer feedback will be a key element of this process.
We will begin development work proper in the new year and at this stage is looks likely yhat the closure of the CGI platform will occur sometime around April 2009, although this is subject to change.
Terms and conditions of the trial
By requesting access to the trial via the above mechanism, we are assuming you accept the terms and conditions of the trial hence. These terms are subject to change during the preview period and are additional to those which apply to use of the current CGI service:
1. This is a preview which is subject to some changes during the trial period, although we will endeavour to maintain people's sites and data once customers have created their new accounts.
2. Zero cost accounts which are requested but then not used cost us time and resources. If an account has been requested and is then not accessed within 7 days, we reserve the right to suspend or remove the account. We will make a charge of £5 for it's re-instatement of a customers access in these circumstances. Please only request a preview account if you intend to use it.
3. We will send quarterly emails to all zero cost account holders asking them to confirm by clicking a link that they still want to use the account.
Preview Support
During the preview period, customer support will be via the Community Site Web Hosting discussion forum. The Plusnet support centre cannot assist with queries in relation to these products, and will direct customers to the forum where they need assistance.
How to request a preview account
You can request your preview account on the Plusnet trials page. If you follow the appropriate ticket path and instructions there we will create you preview account for you as quickly as possible. You will need to choose from one of the following products and tell us which you want before submitting the ticket. This can be changed at a later date on request by following the relevant ticket path on the same page.
1. Residential Free
2. Business Free
3. Residential Subscription (£2.50 per month inc VAT)
4. Business Subscription  (£5 per month ex VAT)
A welcome email will be sent with details of how to login and use the new service once your account has been activated. Please ensure the contact address we have for you is correct in the account control panel.
Trial Feedback
Feedback and support is via this forum. Please let us know what you think, ask questions, make suggestions etc here and we will do our best to answer prominantly and accurately.
Again, we would stress that this is a preview and entirely voluntary. People don't need to engage now (although sites hosted on CGI related services will at some point need to be moved). There will be plenty of further communications to all affected customers in time, but we wanted to use this stage to give all of the 'early adopters' amongst you the opportunity to get your feedback in early so we can hear that and react while there is still time to change what the final design looks like.
Kind Regards,
Ian
Ianwild
Grafter
Posts: 3,835
Registered: 05-04-2007

Re: Announcement Comms

And it's announced. I will try and pop back during the weekend to answer any questions that have arisen.
Ian
Superuser
Superuser
Posts: 2,523
Thanks: 925
Fixes: 8
Registered: 10-04-2007

Re: Announcement Comms

Apologies Ian
didn't get time yesterday to review this post. 
I think it reads well and is fairly clear about what the trial objectives are (and are not!); the planned timescales and a rationale for the current lack of accuracy.  All in all quite informative and should be sufficient to get a lot of current users moving to the new platform.  I propose to do a review of the current list of PUGIT items that are outstanding against the Hosting platform for review against possible closure with the formal introduction of the change.  Is this a sensible forum to have tat debate?
Maurice