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The Managed Web Service closed down on 31 October 2021. UIS is no longer offering support for the service, nor is there specific support for any external alternatives. Support continues as before for the Drupal service and Research Computing Infrastructure as a Service (RCS IaaS).

Any outstanding queries should be addressed to the Service Desk.

The information below has been retained as a record of the context and process of the closure.

The background to the decision to close the MWS service

The Managed Web Server (MWS) service was originally launched in 2000 as a free service. It was intended to provide a service to the University and reduce security incidents from vulnerable systems managed by people inexperienced in running Unix systems. The needs of the customers has been evolving over the years, along with the system.

Today, the MWS service is valued by its users, however when staff time (3 FTEs) and infrastructure overheads are factored in it costs UIS around £1,000 per site (£200,000 per annum) to provide. It currently attracts around 200 customer accounts, each of which pay between £100 and £300 per year, based on the GB storage space used.

Web hosting is now a commodity service. UIS provides a Falcon-on-Drupal Service, alternatively, some users may want to opt for a self manage option using Research Computing Infrastructure as a Service (RCS IaaS)  or other third party options.

Consultation about the future of the MWS service

In January 2020, we invited current MWS site owners to attend a meeting to discuss a 'straw man' proposal for a future MWS service and to encourage them to voice any concerns and highlight any particular requirements they had. See:

Roadmap for closure on 31 October 2021

The current MWS service stopped accepting new customers in January 2020. Since then, we have been consulting with MWS users, liaising with potential third party providers, and finalising the roadmap for decommissioning the current on-premise service.

In October 2020 we announced that the MWS service will close on 31 October 2021, giving site owners 12 months in which to transition their MWS sites to an alternative hosting solution. Over the coming months there will be some technical work to support this, including a new interface for managing hosted web site DNS records.


The new MWS service – what are your options?

UIS' new MWS service consists of three choices – two UIS-operated services and one provided by a third party. There is not an exact mapping from our current MWS offering to the new service options. A conversation may be needed to help you identify the best choice(s) for your requirements, but we believe that between these options all of our customers' needs should be addressed:

  1. Migrate to a hosting solution provided by Mythic Beasts (see below).
  2. Migrate to UIS' Falcon-on-Drupal Service.
  3. Migrate to Research Computing's Infrastructure as a Service (RCS IaaS) on-premise cloud service.

The Mythic Beasts service

There are three basic hosting options:

  1. A simple web hosting service
    This provides shell access (a single account) and the ability to upload content. Whilst the mechanism by which it works is different this is the most similar to the MWS offering. If your site makes extensive user of Python/other CGI scripts then you may find that it can be a bit slow.
    The current price is £50+VAT per year (or more depending on scale).
  2. A managed Wordpress service
    Where sites have Wordpress which isn't kept up to date we would strongly recommend considering this option. If you have an up to date Wordpress you may wish to consider this anyway as it will remove your responsibility for security patching.
    The current price is £262.50+VAT per year (negotiated 25% discount off list price).
  3. A managed VPS (Virtual Private Server)
    This will give you a VM where the standard applications will be managed for you, but not additional self-installed applications. It will offer the most flexibility, and performance, especially for scripts.
    The price varies, but realistically starts at £344+VAT per year.

Hosting multiple sites

If you run multiple sites within your MWS site you can also choose to split those sites onto separate instances. If you have multiple MWS sites you could opt to either combine them, for example onto a single VPS site, or re-organise them, perhaps to put Wordpress sites together, and simple sites together.

Where the transfer isn't particularly complicated Mythic should be able to assist with the transfer as part of the migration process.

Transition support

Mythic beasts may well be able to support you in your migration. If you are moving to a managed service (Wordpress or VPS) then an amount of support is included. If you are migrating to a web-only service then there would be a one off charge,
usually in the region of £30-£120.


How UIS will support you

We will engage with all of our customers on an institution-by-institution basis to try and identify the most appropriate solutions in their situation. We envisage that most will chose to migrate to Mythic Beasts, however some will inevitably decide that the Mythic Beasts offerings are not appropriate for them.

There is no set order for contacting institutions, so if you are keen to address matters sooner, please feel free to contact the MWS team directly () and we will help address your needs as soon as possible.


What you need to do now

It would be helpful if you could prepare for these conversations, especially where your institution has several different MWS instances. Topics to consider are:

  • Would you be able to merge different MWS instances under a single billing account, e.g. by getting a Managed VM?
  • If you use Wordpress would a managed service be of value to you.
  • Would you like to change how you currently use the Managed service, especially if other options were available
  • How important the performance of CGI/Python is to your web site/application.

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