My Blog is Now on Orchard, Hosted in Azure and Redesigned

I've re-launched my blog & will be sharing my journey and insights on how I did it. Join me as I explain my decisions and offer tips.

A little over a month ago I blogged about how I was planning to re-launch my blog . This post is from the newly launched site! Before I say too much here I want to mention that I will be writing quite a few posts on the reasoning behind some decisions I made with the new site as well as how I did it. Since posting that I was making the move, I’ve received quite a few comments from folks on Twitter asking why and how so these posts will serve those answers.

When I started blogging in September 2003 I was using an open source engine named .TEXT that was run by one guy. This engine developed quite a following and another small team took it over, forked the codebase and called it SubText . I’ve been on SubText for over 9 years. While a good engine, the community has mostly dried up around SubText, the main guys behind it have lost interest / moved on and the engine has shown its age. As someone who lives in the content management system (CMS) space, I wanted a more robust and flexible engine. There are plenty of commercial off the shelf (COTS) products like SharePoint Web Content Management , Sitecore and Episerver , but for my blog I wanted to stick with something affordable to a single man shop, open source and something I could extend and tinker with.

My new site, including the blog, is now run entirely off OrchardCMS ( ). Orchard has a strong community following and Microsoft even pays some people as their full time job to maintain. I wanted a few videos and poked around in late 2012 and was immediately impressed. I also moved this site from the shared hosting provider I was using after having a few issues with them (nothing specific to them, specific to the shared hosting space like the inability to recycle app pools or backup databases yourself). The site is now 100% hosted in the cloud using Windows Azure Web Sites, SQL Azure Databases and Windows Azure Storage… even the mail system is hosted in Azure (SendGrid).

Another big change you’ll notice when you browse to the site is that I gave the site a big facelift. I had a professional designer help with the layout and generating a HTML5 friendly & responsive design (so one theme it works from full screen on the biggest monitors down to the smallest smartphones) and I built the Orchard theme.

The last really big change to the site is the URL structure…every single URL changed (yes… EVERY SINGLE ONE). Orchard has a module that helps with permanent redirects and I’ve done a lot of research so I don’t hurt my Google/Bing search rankings. The new URLs are much more search friendly.

Now for a short disclaimer and a “yes, I know that doesn’t work”: I still have countless things I’d like to do on the site. A few things are not operational just yet, the two biggest ones are that (1) the contact form for sending me email isn’t working & (2) all comments are currently disabled. I’m moving my comments to an external engine and the importing of the old comments is taking a bit longer than I had hoped. If you left a comment on my old blog after mid-February 2013 it won’t come across (sorry!). Hopefully these two things will be resolved in short order.

Broken links & images: You might also notice some broken images here and there. Over the last 9 years I’ve been so inconsistent where I’ve put images referenced in articles & posts from Flickr to different Skydrive folders to a folder off the root of the site. Over the next few weeks/months I’ll consolidate everything into a single bucket (Azure Storage). That process has already started for many posts.

Code Samples: In addition, I’m no longer using pictures for code samples ( like the first picture in this post ). I’m now using what Google Code & StackOverflow use, a Google Code project that does syntax highlighting elegantly ( Prettify ). You can see it in action in these posts here and here ). Fellow bloggers know how hard it is to deal with code in a blog post. Some utilities added a ton of markup to your code which made it nearly impossible to touch up. With Prettify you just drop your code in and put it either in the semantic CODE tag and apply a single CSS class. A JavaScript library then applies the styles on the fly. You can see what the source looks like if you jump to this page on timer jobs, view source & jump to lines 182-215. Not all posts are using this… I’ve only converted a few articles. Just like the migration of consolidating images & downloads this will take time but I will get things move over. What I need is an intern to help with this!

I’ll write a lot more about what I’ve said above and much more in future posts. All these posts will be tagged using the Blogging & Orchard tags on my site (I’ll also create an index on the site as well). Stay tuned and until then, if you have a question, best to connect with me on Twitter ( @andrewconnell ) until I get the comments turned on.

Andrew Connell
Developer & Chief Course Artisan, Voitanos LLC. | Microsoft MVP
Written by Andrew Connell

Andrew Connell is a web & cloud developer with a focus on Microsoft Azure & Microsoft 365. He’s received Microsoft’s MVP award every year since 2005 and has helped thousands of developers through the various courses he’s authored & taught. Andrew’s the founder of Voitanos and is dedicated to helping you be the best Microsoft 365 web & cloud developer. He lives with his wife & two kids in Florida.

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