Urgent question - How do I upgrade from "free" Linux to latest version?

Hi Folks

I have a web server which has version 2.4.7-10 (Release 7.2) which I realise is probably as old as Noah at this point. I'm really quite desperate to upgrade it to the latest version and wanted to use something like "up to date" to do that, but I can't, as it's not installed etc. etc.

The question is: How can I (easily) upgrade this machine without affecting several hundred websites on it and without having to rebuild it from scratch? I'm a bit of a novice but am prepared  to be very careful and do what you suggest one step at a time.

Can anyone help with this one please?

Regards
Chris
kenwardcAsked:
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mburdickConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Upgrading your system to take advantage of the newer kernel and the improvements in security/performance makes sense. However, it is not a trivial exercise.

The single most important thing that I could recommend to you would be to do an in-depth review of the web content in place and see how much of it is not "static". If users have CGI scripts, PHP, or FORMS, you will need to understand the implications of moving to a new machine, and what would happen from a version upgrade of Apache.

If you can support an additional machine on the public Internet, you could build the new system and migrate the web sites one at a time (unless you don't also have control of the DNS for the domains). This would give you a very controlled manner in which to migrate the sites.

How much control do you have over the machine, the domains involved, and the access? How much information do you have or can you get with regard to the site contents?
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
What distro?  Debian is easy - "apt-get upgrade"
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kenwardcAuthor Commented:
Hi there, leew

It's an old version of Redhat and comes up with..

Red Hat Linux release 7.2 (Enigma)
Kernel 2.4.7-10 on an i686
login:

That's all I know for now.

Thanks
Chris
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Duncan RoeSoftware DeveloperCommented:
You can usually upgrade the linux kernel of a system without affecting the rest of it at all.
The flipside of that is, why do you *want* to upgrade it?
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jlevieConnect With a Mentor Commented:
The last free version of Redhat was 9, and you could safely do an upgrade to that version, but only at the console and via CD's or via the network. The free versions of RedHat were replaced by the freely available Fedora distro or the commercial only RedHat Enterprise Linux. If you wanted to go to Fedora I would only recommend a full install onto clean disk. RHEL requires a full install.
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mburdickCommented:
Upgrades are always tricky as significant things tend to change between major version releases, and sometimes even between minor versions (SuSE replaced the 2.4 kernel with the 2.6 kernel between 9.0 and 9.1 versions of the home and professional distributions).

What does this machine do besides serve web pages? And, how do the web authors access the machine to updated their content?

What web server and version is currently in place? It it's Apache, and major version 1, there's a chance that a current distribution might want to install Apache 2.x by default. What functionality is in the web server? For example, is it FrontPage Server Extensions enabled?
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kenwardcAuthor Commented:
To answer duncan_roe:
I want to upgrade it because it's an old version of Redhat and I want to be able to keep up with latest updates to patch security issues etc.

To answer jlevie:
Sounds like a full install is where I'll end up, as long as there isn't an easier way that to build a new box, then port all the websites to it.

To answer mburdick:
The server is purely a web server. It has MySQL installed on it too. There are various .htaccess password protected areas. The users change/upload their content via FTP. There are no control panels available on this server. Front Page extensions are not installed on this server. It's running Apache 1.

To all - I would probably be happy to build another machine, complete with the Fedora package say, and then simply copy across all the websites with .htaccess etc. Other issues arise, such as how Apache 1 httpd.conf file will port to Apache 2 httpd.conf. So if we get to this, then some advice on this would be great too.

Regards
Chris
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kenwardcAuthor Commented:
Hi there, mburdick

Yes - there are scripts, PHP, forms, .htaccess files, MySQL databases....

I have total control over DNS, and the server in every way. As you say, I'm beginning to realise that it's not going to be easy just to "upgrade" the version of Redhat to the latest version without major trauma. I'm beginning to think that as I suspected before I asked the question here, I am going to have to build a brand-new machine in thebackground and then move the sites one by one to the new server. Problem is with the number of sites on the server it's going to take a long long time to do. <groan>

Regards
Chris
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mburdickCommented:
You're probably right about the amount of time it will take. However, keep these thoughts in mind:

- You will learn A LOT along the way.
- Your customers will appreciate the attention you give to something this significant.
- You will be significantly more comfortable with the process when it comes time to do it again in the future.
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jlevieCommented:
With as much of a jump as will occur here my recommendation would be to build a new machine from scratch configure it to match what you currently have. That allows testing of most everything off-line and it gives you a convient "back door" should there be problems with the new system.

You will find some differences in the Apache config and differences in the defaults for PHP. It is much safer to explore those on a test box than to run up against them after an upgrade. My experence with doing this indicates that it won't be that bad of a job. Moving the sites to a new box will actually be pretty easy. It's dealing with older web apps that might be a challenge. For example, modern versions of PHP default to register globals being disabled for security reasons and PHP applications that assume register globals are on will break. While you can enable register globals in php.ini, the better approach is to fix the PHP code.
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kenwardcAuthor Commented:
Many thanks for the recommendations and the suggestions, jlevie - much appreciated. You guys are tops!

I have a new RHN ES that I actually built as a new mail server but haven't yet deployed as such. It would be very easy to use it as the new web server instead! ;) I'll move the sites across slowly but am concerned about the differences mainly in the httpd.conf file. Any pitfalls here?

Cheers!
Chris
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jlevieCommented:
There's a slight difference in the way Name Based Virtual hosts need to be defined, but that's the only place I wound up scratching my head for a bit. Where I'd been used to using something like <VirtualHost 123.4.5.6:80> I found that I had to use <VirtualHost *:80>. The rest of your virtual host definition should move over with no problems.
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