Plesk 11 to VM – Part 3: Customisation and migration

Intro

In this series of Best Practice articles I talk about migrating websites and emails from a Plesk 11 run server to a Virtualmin run server. It describes in details the steps involved, including the eventual pitfalls and other thing I came across whilst doing it. Note that this documentation is addressed to people with medium expertise in linux/system administration.

Useful customisation

Most of VM defaul settings are fine, however in order to make it a little easier to migrate websites, the following mods are useful.

Server Template – Apache directives

As Plesk websites are hosted under $Documentroot/httpdocs this can be set by default before creating website by editing the Apache website default config:

VM Menu > Server Templates > Default Settings > Edit template section: apache website

Change: DocumentRoot ${HOME}/public_html
To: DocumentRoot ${HOME}/httpdocs

Change: <Directory ${HOME}/public_html>
To: <Directory ${HOME}/httpdocs>

Under “Users’ website subdirectory to create“.

Change: Default (public_html)
To: [httpdocs]

Account Plans

One may customise them to match previous Plesk hosting “plans”, however this is not mandatory.

Virtual website creation – Admin username

The only requirement in this process is to create the Administration username as a “Custom username” giving it the domain.tld name (i.e. mydomain.com). This way the websites paths will end up being: /home/domain.tld, which makes it easier to do a path change from /var/www/vhosts to /home wherever there are scripts configurations containing full paths.

Perl

I am a perl script writer thus I use perl extensively, over the years I have created scripts that require a few additional modules. I shall not go into details with them (yet), however there’s an important bit I must mention, some perl scripts I use have a different #!. Some point to the sometimes non-existent /usr/local/bin/perl, so in order to avoid these script throwing an error I simply link it to the whereis perl (usally /usr/bin/perl or /bin/perl):

ln -s /usr/bin/perl /usr/local/bin/perl

Website content transfer

To transfer website content from Plesk to VM it is a matter of rsyncing each website with the rsync command,  to minimise the load, the following commands are run at nice 20 from the source server, note that the target server must have the virtual server already configured prior to doing this, otherwise an error will be thrown:

rsync -avz --rsh='ssh -p{port}' /var/qmail/mailnames/{domain}/{user}/  root@{server}:/home/{domain}/homes/{user}/

Where:

  • port is the ssh port (if different than 22, which is recommended for security)
  • domain is the domain to be transferred
  • target is is the target server IP or domain

Depending on the size of the website this might take some time. Note that I am not really needing to transfer statistical information over. most if not all the required files are under httpdocs and cgi-bin in my case.

After the transfer, on the target server, ownership of the directories must be set:

chown -R {username}:{username} /home/{domain}/httpdocs /home/{domain}/cgi-bin

Where:

  • username is the owner of the httpd and cgi-bin content (in my case I created a username matching the domain, making it easier to find the correct directory under /home when working over the CLI.
  • domain is the domain

Email content transfer

The operation of transferring emails to the target server are pretty much the same as website transfer, with a couple of exceptions.

nice -20 rsync -avz --rsh='ssh -p{port}' /var/qmail/mailnames/{domain} root@{target}:/home/{domain}/home/

Where:

  • port is the ssh port (if different than 22, which is recommended for security)
  • domain is the domain to be transferred
  • target is is the target server IP or domain

After the transfer, on the target server, ownership of the directories must be set:

IMPORTANT: note user is user.domain (not just domain)

chown -R {user}.{domain}:{domain} /home/{domain}/homes/{user}/

Where:

  • user is the name of the user
  • domain is the name of the domain

IMAP changes (At client level, here using Thunderbird)

Server name: no change
Username: replace @ with .
Connection security: from SSL/TLS to STARTTLS
Authentication method: from encrypted password to normal password

SMTP changes (At client level, here using Thunderbird)

Server name: no change
Port from 25 to 587
Connection security: from SSL/TLS to STARTTLS
Authentication method: from encrypted password to normal password
Username: replace @ with .

Database content transfer

Source server

mysqlcheck --optimize {database} --auto-repair  -uadmin -p`cat /etc/psa/.psa.shadow`
mysqldump -uadmin -p`cat /etc/psa/.psa.shadow` --flush-logs --opt {database} > {database}.sql

Where:

  • database is the database name

Target server (after rsyncing all the dbs dumps on it)

VM Menu > Edit Databases > (manage current database usually called {domain}_{tld}) or create a new one if required.
click Manage …
Click Execute SQL
Run SQL from file Tab
From local file (browse to file)
Click Execute

Special characters

Sites  with accents (like French’s)

The charset must be edited in the following Module:

Select Domain > Menu > Services > Configure Website > Languages >  Character set for documents     (x) iso-8859-1

Save, apply changes.

languages

Plesk panel, backup strategy when low in space

Plesk backup is a real pain in the backside, if your server disk space is limited, even when choosing to backup in a ftp repository. All the files are created locally and then send over via ftp.

Prerequisites

Note that in order to implement this backup strategy, one must have an external backup space available like rsync.net (which I use) so that you can use the “rsync” command to transfer your files.

Minimising disk usage

In order to exclude any gigantic compressed (or not) archives being stored in your local hard drive, here is a little guide to help you avoid filling your server disk.

The first thing to backup regularly is the Plesk server configuration, this backup will not save the websites/email/database data but the content/configuration of your Panel, which is the first thing to restore if your server packs up.

Backing up Plesk (11) configuration

  1. Open your Plesk Panel as Admin
  2. Choose Tools & Settings from the Server Management sub-menu
  3. Click on Backup Manager
  4. Select Scheduled Backup Settings
  5. Activate the scheduled backup
  6. Select Store backup in: Server repository (or you can chose ftp there also as the files aren’t big, a couple of MB’s)
  7. I have set the Maximum number of backups in repository to “3”, but you can choose another value here
  8. Under the Backup content section, select  “
  9. Press OK

Obviously the choice of Schedule and prefix is at your convenience, I personally back up every day at 00:10 and the prefix is set to “configuration”.

If you aren’t using ftp, the content of this backup is stored in the /var/lib/psa/dumps/ directory. So in order to backup this on another server, simple rsync this location with a command that could be:

rsync -avz /var/lib/psa/dumps/ user@domain.rsync.net:var/lib/psa/dumps

If you don’t want to keep aggregated data add the –delete option:

rsync -avz --delete /var/lib/psa/dumps/ user@domain.rsync.net:var/lib/psa/dumps

To automate

To automate all this simply stick it in a cron (one can use the “Scheduled Tasks” under “Tools & Settings” (select root user) with a command that could look like this:

nice -20 rsync -avz --stats --delete /var/lib/psa/dumps/ user@domain.rsync.net:var/lib/psa/dumps 2>&1 | mail -s "backups dir rsync report" you@youremail

Databases

I will refer to MySQL databases in this section.

Database content is important, and you must back them up regularly, be it incrementally or not. I have Perl scripts that are in charge of dumping the content of the entire dataset and compress it. The file for my setup ends up being about 300MB, which is acceptable. I proceed to dump the content of the dataset via a “schedule” (root cron) and another cron simply “rsync’s” this file over to the backup server.

Email

All the email accounts are in /var/qmail/mailnames, the process is the same as above, use a rsync via a cron:

rsync -avz /var/lib/qmail/mainames/ user@domain.rsync.net:var/qmail/mailnames

Website content

Same as email but the directory is /var/www/vhosts/ so:

rsync -avz /var/www/vhosts/ user@domain.rsync.net:var/www/vhosts

There you have it, obviously I am providing this entirely as guidance and will in no way be liable for any loss you may get using these instructions. Even if you are on a cloud server (like me) it is a good idea to be able to extract files, especially databases or web content should a mistake be made that a cloud server cannot prevent like deleting a site by mistake etc…

Feel free to comment if you have any questions or if I have missed some important bits to backups that a Plesk backup may make which aren’t in this article.