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Author Topic: Message to the Citizendium Community  (Read 31936 times)
Russell D. Jones
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« on: November 13, 2010, 04:29:43 UTC »

Dear Community,

The Management Council would like to bring you up-to-date regarding its activities over the past two weeks.  Before getting into the technical details, we should mention that the general directions that we are currently investigating are dissolving our relationship with Tides, incorporating as a non-profit, moving to a different hosting solution (see the technical discussion below), and creating a funding model based on donations.  This is a very complex model of activities, where action in one area affects the situation in another and vice versa, requiring us to advance simultaneously on all fronts while maintaining the integrity of the Citizendium.org experience for its users.

To begin, the technical team has completed a complete back-up of all CZ databases and archives and has put in place a system for frequent routine back-ups to protect our most recent contributions.  We anticipate that when it becomes necessary to find new hosts, we shall have no loss of data.

Citizendium is currently hosted by Steadfast Networks.  We operate on five servers, two of which Steadfast provides free of charge.  The five servers provide us with significantly more processing power than we need.  So, we are investigating ways to move to a more reasonably provisioned configuration.

Our three paid servers cost about $750 per month.  Our next payment is due on the 1st December.  In order to minimize downtime we have launched a donation drive via Paypal.  All paypal donations will be used to cover future hosting and administrative (e.g, incorporation fees, liability insurance, professional services, etc.) costs.  We are pleased to report that the donation drive we initiated this week has worked quite well so far.  We have had over 14 donations that total over $800. But we still have an urgent need for quite a bit more than that and we cannot rest.  We now have a PayPal donation button  available at CZ:Donate which greatly simplifies making a donation.  We urge all of you to donate whatever amount you can and as soon as you can. We are depending upon your help.

We are urgently looking to move to a much cheaper hosting solution.  This may involve reconfiguring our relationship with Steadfast, or it may mean a new host.  We have made plans already to move the forums and mail services to alternative providers should that become necessary.  Finding a temporary host for the wiki is turning out to be a little more difficult.  While we hope that we can manage these transitions (if and when they become necessary) without service interruptions, we cannot guarantee this.  You may experience service interruptions during these transitions.

We are looking at new and less expensive hosting situations.  To give you some idea of our technical requirements, here is our current best estimate of what we need:
Servers
  • Disk space - currently we are using a combined total of 361GB.  We probably require 500GB to ensure we don't have any problems in the medium term and to allow for modest growth.
  • Processor and memory - 2 dedicated servers with dual 2.5-3 GHz processors, ~2 GB memory, and ~250 GB of storage.
Network
  • Bandwidth - Short-term average of 1 Mbps, with peaks in the 2 Mbps range. Monthly bandwidth usage is ~200 Gbytes outbound and ~15 Gbytes inbound.

Servers with the necessary processing characteristics are fairly cheap (a DELL PowerEdge T110 Tower Server that meets these requirements costs about $400). The main problem we face is finding a hosting venue that provides for our bandwidth requirements at a reasonable cost.  Most free hosting solutions do not.  Furthermore, these are fairly robust hosting requirements that are not easily fulfilled by your average commercial host.  If you have any ideas or suggestions along these lines, please pass them along to one of us.

Our previous funds are held by Tides Center. They provide us with 501(c)(3) status and have been handling all of our finances. For this they have charged us $2000 a year, or 9% of our revenue (whichever is greater).  Tides has also charged us for liability insurance at a cost of $1000 a year.  Citizendium has been operating on the fruits of many generous donations made from the early days, which have, by this time, been used up.  It is unfortunate that you and your management team have discovered this at this time, but here we are.  Tides' management bill comes due December 31, and will be approximately $1500; if unpaid, they will terminate their relationship with CZ.  It is likely that our association with Tides will end then as it is unlikely that we will be able to cover this bill.  In the long-term we will be looking to establish our own non-profit corporation.  Until we get this sorted out we won't be able to qualify for any discounts or tax-exemptions provided to 501(3)(c) organizations as we have in the past under Tides.

We are monitoring the discussion boards and investigating the suggestions that you have made, and they have been helpful.  While we haven't had time to respond to all of these suggestions (we are flat out trying to figure out a way to keep CZ operating), we acknowledge and appreciate the suggestions made so far.

We are confident that within six months we can resolve this complex constellation of issues facing CZ and put into place a technical and financial structure that will ensure CZ's continued existence and provide the foundation for growth.  While we are confident that we can reign in our hosting costs, it will still amount to around four hundred dollars or more each month.  Furthermore, incidentals, such as incorporating, insurance, bank and professional fees, etc., will amount to another $1500-2000 this year alone.  Thus we are looking at an operating budget of around $6-7,000 a year at a minimum.  This is no small amount for a community as small as CZ and your support will be vital.

As always, the Citizendium exists and thrives because of the contributions in time, talent, expertise, and money that you, the citizens, provide.  With your generous contributions, we shall go on.
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Russell D. Jones
http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/User:Russell_D._Jones
Milton Beychok
Forum Regular
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Posts: 1312



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« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2010, 07:20:06 UTC »

I would like to add a postscript to the announcement by Russell Jones, our Management Council chairman:

It would take many kilobytes of text to tell all of you what a marvelous and tremendous job Dan Nessett and Chris Key have done to back-up all of our system and to define our system's technical  specifications needed to find another hosting solution. They have proven to be very valuable members of the Management Council. We were lucky to have them in place.

Milt Beychok
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John Stephenson
Forum Administrator
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Posts: 562


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« Reply #2 on: November 13, 2010, 12:20:28 UTC »

I second Milt's comments and would like to add that I am very glad we got our act together enough to get people elected and others in place who were then able to uncover all this and start tackling the problems. Had CZ continued to drift for another few months, we would have definitely lost the wiki, as there wouldn't have been enough time to organise a response to these issues.
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Martin Baldwin-Edwards
Non-Citizen
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Posts: 2689


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« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2010, 12:31:34 UTC »

We are fortunate to have elected such a committed and competent MC, when the legal and financial circumstances of CZ are suddenly revealed as highly problematic (to say the least). Thanks, guys!
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Sandy Harris
Forum Participant
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Posts: 371


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« Reply #4 on: November 13, 2010, 13:41:59 UTC »

To begin, the technical team has completed a complete back-up of all CZ databases and archives and has put in place a system for frequent routine back-ups to protect our most recent contributions.  We anticipate that when it becomes necessary to find new hosts, we shall have no loss of data.

Is there a mechanism for XLM or other dumps? I have enough spare space to store one.

Quote
Our previous funds are held by Tides Center. They provide us with 501(c)(3) status and have been handling all of our finances. For this they have charged us $2000 a year, or 9% of our revenue (whichever is greater).  Tides has also charged us for liability insurance at a cost of $1000 a year.  Citizendium has been operating on the fruits of many generous donations made from the early days, which have, by this time, been used up.  It is unfortunate that you and your management team have discovered this at this time, but here we are.  Tides' management bill comes due December 31, and will be approximately $1500; if unpaid, they will terminate their relationship with CZ.  It is likely that our association with Tides will end then as it is unlikely that we will be able to cover this bill.  In the long-term we will be looking to establish our own non-profit corporation.  Until we get this sorted out we won't be able to qualify for any discounts or tax-exemptions provided to 501(3)(c) organizations as we have in the past under Tides.

Why are we considering leaving Tides?

Are we obligated to pay the December bill? Is there a contract? Is the December payment for 2010 services received or for 2011? I really do not like the idea of stiffing them if it is an obligation for services already rendered. I assume our MC would not do that, but the post was not clear, so I am asking.

Would paying their bill and using their 501 status for Dreamhost's free-to-501s program be cheaper than other alternatives?
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Gareth Leng
Citizendium Council
*****
Posts: 21


« Reply #5 on: November 13, 2010, 13:54:39 UTC »

Just to add my appreciation of the whole MC, who are I think doing a difficult job wisely and excellently. And I think it's warmly encouraging to see the community gathering together so constructively and positively - it really does augur well.
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Hayford Peirce
Forum Regular
*****
Posts: 3117



« Reply #6 on: November 13, 2010, 16:39:45 UTC »

Yes, it is hard to believe that the MC had to not only take office, get under way with the normal sort of stuff that was perhaps anticipated from the start, and THEN to find themselves in the middle of this dramatic and unexpected situation!  It seems to me that they (and everyone else involved with it, such as the ME) have performed far and above the call of duty!  Well done!
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Milton Beychok
Forum Regular
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Posts: 1312



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« Reply #7 on: November 13, 2010, 16:48:07 UTC »

And we now have $1543 in total donations!  Please keep them coming in.

Milt
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Dan Nessett
Forum Regular
*****
Posts: 2197


« Reply #8 on: November 13, 2010, 18:07:37 UTC »

Is there a mechanism for XLM or other dumps? I have enough spare space to store one.

Thanks for the offer Sandy. However, we have plenty of space to store the back up data.
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Dan Nessett
Forum Regular
*****
Posts: 2197


« Reply #9 on: November 13, 2010, 18:11:08 UTC »

I would like to add a postscript to the announcement by Russell Jones, our Management Council chairman:

It would take many kilobytes of text to tell all of you what a marvelous and tremendous job Dan Nessett and Chris Key have done to back-up all of our system and to define our system's technical  specifications needed to find another hosting solution. They have proven to be very valuable members of the Management Council. We were lucky to have them in place.

Milt Beychok

Thanks Milt. We shouldn't forget Greg Sabino, who is doing daily backups of the wiki database.
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Sandy Harris
Forum Participant
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Posts: 371


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« Reply #10 on: November 14, 2010, 00:42:45 UTC »

Is there a mechanism for XLM or other dumps? I have enough spare space to store one.

Thanks for the offer Sandy. However, we have plenty of space to store the back up data.

That's not the point. There are any number of reasons to have external XML dumps
as well as internal backups.
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Dan Nessett
Forum Regular
*****
Posts: 2197


« Reply #11 on: November 14, 2010, 03:27:38 UTC »

Is there a mechanism for XLM or other dumps? I have enough spare space to store one.

Thanks for the offer Sandy. However, we have plenty of space to store the back up data.

That's not the point. There are any number of reasons to have external XML dumps
as well as internal backups.

Uh, well no. The XML dumps do not include revision information (see http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/CZ:Downloads ). So, they do not allow us to restore the wiki to its full state.
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Anton Sweeney
Forum Participant
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Posts: 121


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« Reply #12 on: November 14, 2010, 21:58:28 UTC »

This may mark me as something of a Luddite - but I don't have a Paypal account.  Is it possible to donate directly using a credit card?
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Martin Baldwin-Edwards
Non-Citizen
*****
Posts: 2689


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« Reply #13 on: November 14, 2010, 22:01:01 UTC »

This may mark me as something of a Luddite - but I don't have a Paypal account.  Is it possible to donate directly using a credit card?

Yes  Smiley  Go to the Donate page and there are options. http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/CZ:Donate
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Anton Sweeney
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Posts: 121


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« Reply #14 on: November 15, 2010, 21:21:18 UTC »

This may mark me as something of a Luddite - but I don't have a Paypal account.  Is it possible to donate directly using a credit card?

Yes  Smiley  Go to the Donate page and there are options. http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/CZ:Donate

Unfortunately, there aren't - clicking on the "Continue" link in "Don't have a PayPal account? Use your credit card or bank account (where available). Continue" just leads to a Paypal signup page... a slight problem for me as I'd an incomplete account partially set up years ago.  Got around it by setting up a new email address, though, so no worries.
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Anton Sweeney
Forum Participant
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Posts: 121


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« Reply #15 on: November 15, 2010, 21:24:24 UTC »

We are looking at new and less expensive hosting situations.  To give you some idea of our technical requirements, here is our current best estimate of what we need:
Servers
  • Disk space - currently we are using a combined total of 361GB.  We probably require 500GB to ensure we don't have any problems in the medium term and to allow for modest growth.
  • Processor and memory - 2 dedicated servers with dual 2.5-3 GHz processors, ~2 GB memory, and ~250 GB of storage.
Network
  • Bandwidth - Short-term average of 1 Mbps, with peaks in the 2 Mbps range. Monthly bandwidth usage is ~200 Gbytes outbound and ~15 Gbytes inbound.

Servers with the necessary processing characteristics are fairly cheap (a DELL PowerEdge T110 Tower Server that meets these requirements costs about $400). The main problem we face is finding a hosting venue that provides for our bandwidth requirements at a reasonable cost.  Most free hosting solutions do not.  Furthermore, these are fairly robust hosting requirements that are not easily fulfilled by your average commercial host.  If you have any ideas or suggestions along these lines, please pass them along to one of us.


We don't actually need to buy servers, though - most hosts would provide virtual servers, I'd imagine?

Question - do the servers need to be located in the U.S.?  If the E.U. is an option, I can investigate hosting solutions on this side of the pond.
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Joe Quick
Forum Regular
*****
Posts: 1530


« Reply #16 on: November 15, 2010, 21:42:59 UTC »

We don't actually need to buy servers, though - most hosts would provide virtual servers, I'd imagine?

Question - do the servers need to be located in the U.S.?  If the E.U. is an option, I can investigate hosting solutions on this side of the pond.

I believe we are considering options on both sides of that big puddle in between us right now, so I think E.U. is an option.  We're still working on getting a clear plan on the legal side, which could complicate things, I suppose.  Either way, it would be very helpful if you can discover anything, Anton.  The more options we have, the more able we'll be when it comes time to make the final decision.
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Dan Nessett
Forum Regular
*****
Posts: 2197


« Reply #17 on: November 15, 2010, 21:54:31 UTC »

We don't actually need to buy servers, though - most hosts would provide virtual servers, I'd imagine?

Question - do the servers need to be located in the U.S.?  If the E.U. is an option, I can investigate hosting solutions on this side of the pond.

I believe we are considering options on both sides of that big puddle in between us right now, so I think E.U. is an option.  We're still working on getting a clear plan on the legal side, which could complicate things, I suppose.  Either way, it would be very helpful if you can discover anything, Anton.  The more options we have, the more able we'll be when it comes time to make the final decision.

Yes, Anton, any information on hosting vendors in Europe would be useful. I have looked a couple of hosting companies in Europe. One, 1&1, had good prices, but all of the reviewers rated its service poor to bad. So, keep in mind that there are a lot of hosting vendors out there, but not all of them provide quality service.

We can use virtual hosting (Amazon EC2 might be an option), but we need the equivalent of 2 servers with 2.5-3Ghz processors, 4 GB memory and ~500GB disks. In addition, we need network bandwidth of 1Mbps average with 2 Mbps bursts and ~200Gbytes/month aggregate outbound and 15Gbytes/month inbound.
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Tillmann Eben
Non-Citizen
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Posts: 15


« Reply #18 on: November 15, 2010, 23:35:57 UTC »

We don't actually need to buy servers, though - most hosts would provide virtual servers, I'd imagine?

Question - do the servers need to be located in the U.S.?  If the E.U. is an option, I can investigate hosting solutions on this side of the pond.

I believe we are considering options on both sides of that big puddle in between us right now, so I think E.U. is an option.  We're still working on getting a clear plan on the legal side, which could complicate things, I suppose.  Either way, it would be very helpful if you can discover anything, Anton.  The more options we have, the more able we'll be when it comes time to make the final decision.

Yes, Anton, any information on hosting vendors in Europe would be useful. I have looked a couple of hosting companies in Europe. One, 1&1, had good prices, but all of the reviewers rated its service poor to bad. So, keep in mind that there are a lot of hosting vendors out there, but not all of them provide quality service.

We can use virtual hosting (Amazon EC2 might be an option), but we need the equivalent of 2 servers with 2.5-3Ghz processors, 4 GB memory and ~500GB disks. In addition, we need network bandwidth of 1Mbps average with 2 Mbps bursts and ~200Gbytes/month aggregate outbound and 15Gbytes/month inbound.

The 500 GB seem to be excessive..
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Hayford Peirce
Forum Regular
*****
Posts: 3117



« Reply #19 on: November 15, 2010, 23:38:41 UTC »

Hi, Tillmann,

To conform to our rules for participants in these Forums, we need to have your profile easily accessible by anyone who reads one of your messages. Since there are always new people joining our discussions who may not be familiar with you and your background, we want to help them be able to make some sort of initial judgment about how much credence/deference/respect/belief/etc./etc. to give to what you are posting.

So please follow these easy steps to create your Forum signature:

1.) Go to the little tab in the top middle-left of this page that says PROFILE and click on it
2.) Then go to MODIFY PROFILE on the left side of the screen and click on "Forum Profile Information"
3.) From there scroll on down to the bottom of the screen to the box where it says Signature
4.) Type in something more or less like:

          My CZ user page: http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/User:Your_CZName (be sure to use underlines between your names as shown here)

         (you can leave out the "My CZ user page:" if you like)
 
         (if you use "My CZ user page, be SURE to leave a space after "page:"!)

5.) Then click on "Change profile" at the very right-hand bottom of the screen.

Thanks!

Hayford
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Dan Nessett
Forum Regular
*****
Posts: 2197


« Reply #20 on: November 15, 2010, 23:55:03 UTC »

We don't actually need to buy servers, though - most hosts would provide virtual servers, I'd imagine?

Question - do the servers need to be located in the U.S.?  If the E.U. is an option, I can investigate hosting solutions on this side of the pond.

I believe we are considering options on both sides of that big puddle in between us right now, so I think E.U. is an option.  We're still working on getting a clear plan on the legal side, which could complicate things, I suppose.  Either way, it would be very helpful if you can discover anything, Anton.  The more options we have, the more able we'll be when it comes time to make the final decision.

Yes, Anton, any information on hosting vendors in Europe would be useful. I have looked a couple of hosting companies in Europe. One, 1&1, had good prices, but all of the reviewers rated its service poor to bad. So, keep in mind that there are a lot of hosting vendors out there, but not all of them provide quality service.

We can use virtual hosting (Amazon EC2 might be an option), but we need the equivalent of 2 servers with 2.5-3Ghz processors, 4 GB memory and ~500GB disks. In addition, we need network bandwidth of 1Mbps average with 2 Mbps bursts and ~200Gbytes/month aggregate outbound and 15Gbytes/month inbound.

The 500 GB seem to be excessive..

Right now we have 381 GB of used storage. Ideally, we would like to use Raid, but haven't because we don't have the disk space. So, we manually replicate our data. That means both servers should roughly mirror each other (the mirroring interval may be on the order of a day or two, but that isn't relevant to this point). In order to allow for growth, that means 500GB/per server.
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John Stephenson
Forum Administrator
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Posts: 562


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« Reply #21 on: November 16, 2010, 01:07:32 UTC »

Yes, Anton, any information on hosting vendors in Europe would be useful. I have looked a couple of hosting companies in Europe. One, 1&1, had good prices, but all of the reviewers rated its service poor to bad. So, keep in mind that there are a lot of hosting vendors out there, but not all of them provide quality service.

There are bad reviews out there (many of them for 1and1's US service, I note), but I have been with their European arm for years and have never had a problem with them. Only for emailing and forwarding rather than full-on hosting, though. Their control panel features were somewhat clunky in the past but have improved, and they are also cheap.
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Thomas H. Larsen
Non-Citizen
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Posts: 67


« Reply #22 on: November 16, 2010, 01:24:37 UTC »

I honestly don't see how the Citizendium could possibly be using 361 GB of space right now---that just seems unreasonably large. Are you sure the old Wikipedia database (before Wikipedia articles were purged from the Citizendium) has been properly deleted and purged from the Citizendium's database?
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Dan Nessett
Forum Regular
*****
Posts: 2197


« Reply #23 on: November 16, 2010, 01:46:04 UTC »

I honestly don't see how the Citizendium could possibly be using 361 GB of space right now---that just seems unreasonably large. Are you sure the old Wikipedia database (before Wikipedia articles were purged from the Citizendium) has been properly deleted and purged from the Citizendium's database?

Folks. Believe me, we are using 381GB of data. Remember, the CZ wiki isn't the only application we have. We have the forums, we have apache, which produces prodigious log files. We have XML dumps and postgres backup dumps. We have images that take up a large amount of space.

Arguing with the facts isn't really all that helpful.
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Hayford Peirce
Forum Regular
*****
Posts: 3117



« Reply #24 on: November 16, 2010, 02:16:55 UTC »

We're not arguing with the facts, we're just wondering about them.  If they're explained properly, then no one will say another word about them -- except to wonder if perhaps there are more parsimonious means of accomplishing the same things.
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