4th Anniversary Summary Series Part 2: About Dave

I am the systems admin for Tom’s website. We are brothers. I work more out of a brotherly obligation rather than for the money. Tom’s voice needs to be heard and he sweats out mountains of original content for public benefit. Against the small fraction of the content on the web is original, Tom’s website stands out. His research and analysis make huge contributions in energy sectors the general public depend on but where industry expertise like Tom’s is normally unavailable to the public for free.

I am a professional web systems admin with a background in large corporate data management infrastructures. My service is keeping my client’s websites alive in the constantly changing and often hazardous internet ecosystem. It is one thing to design and build a website. It is another thing to maintain it. Tom’s site is not simple to maintain. Not only is the content database huge, the site is subject to attacks. The worst such event — an apparently targeted DOS attack for which we captured the malicious code — was in February 2012. Another bad event occurred in April 2013. Security, file management, and site recovery have been huge challenges for us.

The website is runs on WordPress, an open source content management system. It is excellent software and has satisfied Tom’s blogging needs. Akismet does a reasonable job of spam control. After a frustrating experience with ExpertHost, we moved the site to HostMonsters, which so far performs better. On the security side, we use a plugin called Bullet Proof Security from http://www.ait-pro.com/. It locks down the WordPress core files and database. It then quarantines all incoming files until they are reviewed and approved. This complication makes the site cumbersome to maintain but is a small price to pay for keeping the site alive and running. AIT-Pro’s product is complex to use in our application but their customer support has proven to be exceptional, particularly during site emergencies. As a recent upgrade, some backups are now performed by BlogVault, http://blogvault.net/. The key feature of this plugin has been the Restore option. We have called upon this feature and we can now bring the website back from complete disaster in minutes. Another recent upgrade is that we are starting to leverage the wonderful array of resources from Amazon Web Services. Legacy data is being managed by Amazon’s S3 and Glacier Web Services.

Our current technical development priorities, pending funding, include a better website layout to improve speed and archive presentation, improved user experience on multiple devices, and expanded multi-media presentation. We also need better tools for converting FOI requests and other document research to web-friendly, searchable formats. These conversions, mostly presented in the Gas Busters series, have been a huge unexpected effort and a significant expense for the site in the past. The solutions we came up were improvised as urgent public interest concerns arose. Better solutions are available.

I hope you continue to enjoy the website but please keep in mind that it runs a budget of pennies. If you notice that the site is sometimes slow to load or even down, please consider making a donation.

If I can help you with any web security, back-up services, cloud computing architecture, or related services, I’d be delighted to discuss your needs.

Dave Adams
mail(use the “at” sign)dave-adams.me

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