Colin Barker

Colin Barker

Cloud Solutions Architect and AWS Subject Matter Expert (SME)

What's behind this blog?

Learnings from trying to host this blog and the Tokonatsu Festival website, using CloudFlare, AWS S3 Static Hosting and Hugo

Colin Barker

4-Minute Read

Logical Layout of Blog Setup

Seems pretty simple, a CloudFlare front end, with an AWS S3 bucket to hold the content for a static website generated using Hugo, but is it?

For me to get to where I am with two websites running in this way, it was a long journey and a lot of experience gained along the way. Here I will go into the details on why we are here today, and over time explain the full journey over a number of posts.

What are the key details?

CloudFlare

Not that I have a problem with AWS CloudFront, the choice of CloudFlare was a legacy one. Both the Tokonatsu Festival and my personal website have had many different backing technologies over the years. From Drupal to Wordpress, and even at one point a custom built PHP CMS system that I wrote from the ground up back in the days of DDR:UK. All of these have one thing in common; Terrible speeds under load!

CloudFlare at the time offered a service which my hosting provider at the time did not have, and mainly due to time, I have not had a chance to change this in anyway. It works perfectly well, and it would be a shame to break that!

AWS S3 Websites

A staple for any static based website. Having a large amount of processing power behind a simple website doesn’t make sense any more. Looking back at the days before “The Cloud”, I used a desktop computer, shared hosting on Plesk service, IBM rack-mounts in physical data centres in Central London and even an ex-nuclear bunker. These all do have a place in the modern world however, as time has progressed the use cases for these hosted systems becomes narrower. Cost becomes a primary issue, and for someone running a very simple blog, or a front face to a festival, an AWS S3 bucket can do the job just as well at a fraction of the cost.

Hugo

Why did I choose Hugo, a static website generator written in Go? Probably as simple as the CloudFlare decision! Someone mentioned it to me and I stuck with it! Primarily it was a decision made during the transition from Drupal 6 for the Tokonatsu Festival to it’s own static version of the site.

At the time, Tokonatsu Festival used Drupal as most of the Anime Conventions in the UK used a similar ticking system which had been written in Drupal 5, which I was one of a number of events that attempted to upgrade it to work with Drupal 6. The festival moved away from the normal way of conventions in the style of running and getting closer to other UK festivals in style. Thus we moved to a ticketing system called Pretix, and all of the processing for the website was pushed away, leaving a very heavy CMS system for a bunch of mostly static pages running on AWS ElasticBeanstalk.

The transition to Hugo took some time to get right, and to modify the theme from the Drupal site was the hardest part, but we go there in the end. Which bought me to my own site! Why re-invent the wheel when you have everything working!

What’s next?

Automate everything!

My next goal will be to complete the automation of this blog, as it stands I am borrowing the automation used for the Tokonatsu Festival site which uses a self-hosted version of GitLab.

Describe in-depth the different parts

To prevent this from becoming a massive blog, I plan to describe in more detail the different parts of this, so expect details on:

  • AWS S3 Bucket Security, what I am doing, and what you should be doing!
  • CloudFlare, how to set that up to work with AWS S3 static website hosting
  • Automation, how I automated the Tokonatsu website’s deployment into AWS S3

I was being serious

When I said I hosted on a desktop PC, it really wasn’t a joke! My first ever view on “hosting” and how to serve things on the internet was installing Windows 95 (yes, you have permission to pull me apart on this one!) on a desktop computer, and giving it a publicly routed IP address, and it survived!

I do have to call out ExNet and Damon for helping me at the start. Looking after my desktop box inside your ISP! That however, will be a story for another day!

The original Faereal Server

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A cloud solutions architect, AWS SME, geek, tinkerer, and geocacher.