IT infrastructure

running against and, sometimes, ahead of the clock

More than just the playing field

Maintaining, updating and improving the IT infrastructure is more than just a necessary condition for what we do. The technical backdrop to our websites not only shapes and constrains what we are doing, but also provides us with new ideas and opportunities.

Our IT infrastructure work is related to one of the four sites we are currently entertaining:

The software tools developed by ourselves for our different projects are made publicly available at our two github organizations: Philosophie-ch and dialoa.

Portal maintenance and improvement

This portal is a Ruby on Rails web app, which provides us with the "Alchemy" CMS to create and manage our articles, events, user profiles, and so on.

Portal hosting

For years, we hosted the portal and our emails at Oriented. However, this year we decided to start centralizing all of our technical infrastructure at Infomaniak's Public Cloud. This is their brand name for OpenStack, a technology that allows us to spin up and put down servers (virtual machines), with our own choice of specifications, whenever we need. This is a extremely flexible and less costly solution to traditional hosting. While the main downside is that this requires managining and monitoring the servers we bring up, our new IT engineer is up to the task.

We started thus the migration of our technical infrastructure by successfully moving this portal to one of our Public Cloud's virtual machines, and migrating our emails to Infomaniak's servers. Thanks to the latter, our institutional email inboxes now have unlimited space, while we're overall paying less recurring costs in this new infrastructure. Going forward, we will continue the transition from the different services we've hired in the past (Cyon, Digital Ocean, Amazon AWS, WordPress) to our more flexible and cost-efficient Public Cloud. While these solutions made sense when they were set up, in particular before having a stable IT engineer in the team, it is more convenient for our organization to have total control over its technical infrastructure and not be bounded by the different limitations and high costs that each of these different providers imposes.

Current situation

In the past two months, the core team has been working hard on improving several aspects of the portal and our technical infrastructure. In particular, we:

  • Decided to move away from an old hosting contract (with Oriented) that was very unattractive and expensive for the association. We successfully moved away from Oriented server's to our new Public Cloud. This has given us a lot more freedom in terms of what we can do, plus a better and responsive technical support from Infomaniak's side. In the process, we also moved our email server to Infomaniak's platform, and combined, for a better price our members enjoy unlimited space for their addresses
  • Modified several aspects (visual and functional) of the portal, mostly aimed at fixing several issues that made the portal either unstable or inconsistent from the public's point of view. These include several small fixes regarding the localization and translations of the portal from Swiss German to one of the other three languages, such that we can present ourselves as a true multilingual association. Other small fixes include updating the lists of universities and schools for the creation of profiles in our portal, and fixes to Alchemy (our CMS) such to improve it to better create and manage content. Some very substantial fixes include: (a) updating and manipulating the code of the portal to better manage the URL structure; (b) heavily cleaning up old redirections and links; (c) improving the creation of articles and events for our users; and (d) creating a new multilingual language page.

This is right now a work in progress, as we have planned more fixes and improvements, so some problems and instabilities are expected. Although any technical change regarding software always requires some monitoring and a posteriori fixes before it stabilizes, and we're a small team, we're working our best to mitigate these, and we apologize in advance for any inconvenience in this period. Feel free to write to us if you encounter any such problem.