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FTP Publishing and Network Issues

I've been discussing FTP Publishing, and comparing it to native BlogSpot and Custom Domain publishing, for many months. Besides the functionality and style differences, there are network issues - several key differences between custom domain and FTP publishing, which cause problems. The problems will come and go, and will randomly affect a different segment of the blogger population each time.

  • Authentication. Blogs published by FTP are copied to servers with differing, and not always appropriately maintained, authentication policies.
  • Control. Blogs published by FTP are copied to servers that aren't owned or supported by Google.
  • Distance. Blogs published by FTP are copied to servers that are distant from Google.
  • Dynamics. Blogs published by FTP are published statically. Each time a post is published, the entire blog is copied to the distant server.
  • Overall. Looking at these issues, what should we expect?


Authentication
Authentication, the process of establishing your identity, and your right to access a given host server, isn't a simple process. Modern security precautions contribute to problems with establishing an authenticated FTP connection.

When you publish your blog to a Google server, you're already authenticated. This is simply not an issue.

Control
There are hundreds of servers, each with a different owner, that are used for FTP published hosting. Each server, with a different owner, will be setup and maintained differently. Sometimes, a server owner may even change the configuration on some, though not all, servers. Even though any single detail of the setup or maintenance, of any server, can affect the ability of Blogger to communicate with that server, Blogger has no way of knowing what problems it may face at any time. Any given server, that was successfully published to yesterday, may change at any time. Some controls may depend upon documentation by Blogger, which however benevolent the intent, simply won't be 100% reliable.

With blogs published to a Google server, the entire publishing process is controlled and supported by Google. Every detail of each server is predictable. This makes publishing to a Google server much more reliable.

Distance
The hundreds of FTP published host servers are located all over the world. Besides the ownership factor, the distance factor is different for each server. A constantly changing distance (and network speed) between the Blogger servers and the FTP publishing hosts servers makes for a challenge, and ever varying stability.

With blogs published to a Google server, the entire publishing process is local. Both Blogger and BlogSpot / Google servers are on the same network, again owned and supported by Google. This makes publishing through the Google network much more reliable.

Dynamics
When you publish a blog using FTP, you're doing static publishing. The entire blog is copied from the Blogger server to the FTP publishing host server.

Most Blogger blogs have Layouts templates and are published dynamically. Do you remember the Spinner of Death? For most of us, it's but a distant memory, as our publishing process involves each blog post, dynamically. If you publish or update 1 post, that's all that gets published, and that only when the post is initially referenced. If you update the template, each post is, again, published when it is referenced.

This lets you, the blog owner, get on with your life and work on the next post, while your readers initiate the actual publishing of the posts. The older posts don't even get republished at all, if they aren't needed (read by the blog readers). With the majority of bloggers using Layouts templates and dynamic publishing, you'll find that Blogger resources will be allocated for that.

When you publish a blog using FTP, the entire blog gets copied to the FTP publishing host server, each time that you publish a post, or each time that you update the template. Many blogs published by FTP are commercial in nature, making the average blog larger (you have to pay for blog hosting, and larger blogs are generally more profitable), and constantly growing even larger still. FTP publishing may be done from less Blogger servers too, increasing the overall workload on the specific servers used for that task.

Absolute size * ever increasing size * the necessity of copying the entire blog each time you publish * possible resource limitations makes static publishing a significant problem.

The Overall Effect
Taking these issues together, do you not see a problem? Combining authentication issues * lack of control * distance and network issues * static publishing issues, produces inevitable results.
  • Speed. You never know how long a blog is going to take to publish, at any time.
  • Stability. You never know if a blog is even going to publish successfully, at any time.


But wait - - there's more.

One of the challenges of FTP publishing is the diagnostics (or lack thereof) when publishing. If you can use an FTP client interactively sometime, watch the FTP log as you copy a file. You'll see a command or two when the copying process finishes, and a response from the FTP server when the copying finishes.

What if the FTP server simply stops responding? This will happen, and the client server (or Blogger script) has no way of knowing when this happens. At any time, if the script has not finished a copy, there's no definitive way to tell if the script (the copy process) will ever finish. Combine the speed and stability issues, and how do you know if an FTP copy process will be successful?

The Blogger script can only estimate how long the publishing should take, run a timer, and stop when the time expires. If the timer expires before the copy finishes, the copy is aborted, and your publishing doesn't complete. Or, you watch the Spinner Of Death for an eternity, before giving up.

Watch It Spin.

Small wonder that Blogger Support would prefer that more people publish to Google servers.

>> (Update 9/4): Besides the many details discussed above, there are two newly discovered tweaks, which have provided relief to some.

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