Saturday, April 17, 2010

FTP Publishing - The Full Story

I've been writing about Custom Domain Publishing, and about FTP Publishing, and the relative advantages and differences, for several years now. In August 2007, I went out on a limb (for me, anyway) and I suggested that
From an economic and support viewpoint, it makes more sense for Blogger to concentrate its attention on Custom Domain publishing, where they control everything but the domain directory process, and can eliminate the uncertainty of supporting communications with hundreds of third party servers, complicated by geographical and network distance issues.


Blogger, in FTP vs. Custom Domains, last year, provided their view of why custom domain publishing has more future.
As I've dug in over the last few weeks on issues relating to FTP, as often as not the problems were not Blogger-related but were a byproduct of a webhost implementing stricter security on FTP logins (only whitelisting certain IP addresses, for instance, or throttling access for certain users). These are notoriously hard to isolate, particularly when they involve coordinating support with a third party. No one - including us! - enjoys the terrible back and forth of "it's the webhost's issue" "no, it's Blogger's issue" "no, we're pretty sure it's the webhost's issue" when all you want is to be able to post to your blog.


I've written numerous articles about various problems with FTP Publishing - some problems directly attributed to changes by remote server support staff, others suspected to be related to changes - but not proven. Many problems have been fixed by Blogger Support. So I sort of had an idea that problems existed, but what I was seeing - and suspecting - was merely the tip of the iceberg.

In Deprecating FTP, we see statistics
FTP remains a significant drain on our ability to improve Blogger: only .5% of active blogs are published via FTP — yet the percentage of our engineering resources devoted to supporting FTP vastly exceeds that.


In The Technical Side of FTP, we see even stronger details.
Google runs many datacenters, and Blogger runs in several of them. Each datacenter has a different Internet address (a.k.a. "IP address") when it connects to your FTP server, so if your hosting service requires an IP whitelist, you would have to list all of the IP addresses associated with each of our active datacenters. ... This leads to a significant amount of user frustration, and regularly results in blogs failing to publish successfully. Diagnosing these issues has taken up a large part of our engineering and support team's time.
and
In a great deal of cases, FTP publishing works but is extremely slow due to shared hosting plans having slow or limited network or disk per user. We have seen cases of full FTP republishes taking over a month, entirely due to the FTP server being slow.
and even a concluding
We spent a significant amount of engineering time improving FTP support in the last two years, not including support and troubleshooting user issues. Even after this effort, approximately 10% of all FTP publishes fail.


So you see, folks, when you saw the well known error
Publishing your blog is taking longer than expected ...
you weren't alone. Blogger engineers were seeing it, too - from a different, and equally, frustrating viewpoint.

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3 comments:

bytehead said...

Interesting.

My FTP blog had hardly any issues. And when it did, it was an issue for all of them, not just mine. My troubleshooting usually consisted of checking to see if other were having the same problem (they were), and waiting for it to be fixed. Sometimes fairly quickly, sometimes not. I'd be surprised if my publishing failures were over 1%.

I have had the password reset to the wrong value (Duh!), and I've had my host block my account due to unusual activity, complaining that it was coding on my side, when it was THEIR AWSTATS that got hacked, they just happened to be using my blog name for address.

Now I have gotten the "taking longer than expected" before, but a quick continue and it would finish. And while it might be expedient to blame the FTP server, there are plenty of times when it's just something between Google and the server.

I'm talking about the YouTube videos that play for two seconds before I see the browser buffering again and again. I'm on cable, so I don't think it's me, and they should have enough servers and enough replication that it shouldn't be them, so just where is the problem?

Google doing all the heavy lifting of hosting the blogs and truly generating all the code on the fly certainly solves a few headaches for them. And I wish them all the luck. But I don't feel like changing my blog URL just to use it. And I really don't feel like trying to come up with all the widgets that I would want to customize my template, when all I really want are some tweaks here and there done with a modicum of PHP.

Chuck said...

ByteHead,

Unfortunately, you're in the minority here.

1. Your one server, out of the hundreds (no probably thousands) of different servers, each with their different security and support policies.
2. It's going to happen, whether you feel like it, or not. You can publish content to your FTP published web site, it just won't be Blogger blog content. You can, if you like, make the FTP published web site static content, and publish a custom domain blog to a virtual host in the web site domain.

bytehead said...

Yeah, it does indeed look like I'm in the minority.

I plan on moving to Wordpress. I have already imported and exported my Blogger stuff into and out of Wordpress. I'm waiting for my host to make some upgrades (sometime, Real Soon Now maybe) or get impatient and change hosts, and move ahead with Wordpress.

Probably the saving grace has been that my blog isn't that active, with a handful of people that read it regularly. But yeah, when things started popping for Google hosted accounts, and nothing seemed to be happening with FTP, I had already glimpsed the future.

At this point, it's so long, and thanks for all the fish Google!

:)