IMPORTANT: Please make sure the person responsible for your hosting and website reads this announcement.
HELM has been a great control panel and has served us and many other hosts well for the last 12 years, but it has now officially been announced by Parallels as end of life (EOL) on 31st December 2014.
Although technically HELM has not been supported or received any updates for many years now, but from this date Parallels have confirmed to us that they will be taking the HELM licensing servers offline, which means all HELM systems used by all hosting providers will no longer be able to validate its license and will stop working.
When this happens neither us nor customers will be able to login to helm to manage their hosting, and we will thus be unable to provide any further support for customers still using HELM beyond this date.
Helm was originally created in 2002 by WebHostAutomation, who were then acquired in 2007 by Parallels, who are best known for their Plesk control panel.
This acquisition was pretty much the end for HELM as Parallels acquired all competing control panels and all development stopped, there have been no updates or new releases since and support from Parallels was pretty much non existent.
Like many we held on to HELM for a few more years hoping for Parallels to deliver promised updates or a migration tool to one of their other panels, but sadly nothing of any significance appeared. So In 2010 we started the switch to WebsitePanel as our new hosting control panel and WHMCS as our new billing system, and setup new Windows 2008 servers to replace the old legacy HELM systems. We prepared a manual migration plan for websites as well as our own in-house tool to migrate customers data to the new billing system, and in 2012 we made an official announcement to customers titled “Upcoming changes to our hosting services” which explained about the retirement of HELM and the legacy systems it runs on, asking customers to prepare for migration to the new systems, explaining the changes that would be required.
Due to the age of these old HELM systems, they had started to suffer hardware failures, so in order to keep these systems online we have been virtualising these old systems where possible and converting them into virtual machines on our private cloud infrastructure. This has been possible due to our acquisition of our former infrastructure provider “Loud n Clear Ltd” back in 2013, who originally maintained all these old systems.
While this solved the problem with the aging hardware, there was unfortunately no solution to all the legacy software involved, which cannot be upgraded to anything newer due to the fact that HELM cannot support anything newer, including the Windows 2003 server operating system, which also reaches end of life in 2015. As we mentioned in our announcement back in 2012, this presents numerous security concerns as well, as there are no patches or updates available for any of this legacy software, meaning they remain vulnerable to all any any known security holes, hacks or malware.
Since 2012 we have already stopped using and supporting HELM ourselves, and all new customer signups have been on our WebsitePanel platform
While we have tried over the last 2 years to get customers migrated, this unfortunately has not been possible due to the fact that the majority customers have not made any preparation for migration. This meant that we could not perform the migration of many websites without something breaking as none of the required changes had been made as per our previous announcement. This meant that every migration either took weeks or months to complete or clients have simply been unwilling to make those changes or do the migration. Unfortunately we simply do not have the resources available to do all the required coding changes on behalf of all customers for free as part of the migration as in most cases it requires the involvement of a developer.
We have therefore opted not to enforce the migration, but to leave the choice in the hands of the customer, but please be aware that if you do choose to remain on the legacy HELM servers, then it will be “At your own risk” and as advised you will lose all access to your account on or after the 31st December.
We aim to keep the HELM servers online as long as possible, but please be aware that they are no longer officially supported and we will no longer be providing any SLA or guarantees for these servers.
We have provided instructions on how to migrate (see below) and will provide support and assistance via our ticketing system to help you with the migration if you choose to do so.
We can also offer to do the migration for you, including providing you with a developer to help fix any issues with your site, but this will be a chargeable service. Please contact us if you require a quote.
We should also like to remind customers that ANY host still running legacy HELM systems will be in the same situation. The difference is that we have made our customers aware of these issues and have provided a migration plan, whereas other hosts have left their customers in the dark and either have no plans to migrate or have simply migrated customers without warning, leaving them with broken websites.
Thanks for listening…
You may migrate your hosting to our new platform by following this migration guide.
If you are unable to perform the migration yourself, you may contact us for a quote for perform the migration for you.
You should also read our previous announcement from 2012 “Upcoming changes to our hosting services” which explains the various changes which may be required to your website and the differences and advantages of the new platform.
To summarize the primary changes we have identified are:-
- Microsoft Access databases no longer supported. You will need to convert to MSSQL or MySQL
- Legacy ColdFusion versions no longer supported. If you are running on ColdFusion 5/6/7/8 then you will need to make sure your site runs on ColdFusion 9 or preferably Railo (see below).
- Outgoing mail must be sent through one of your own email accounts or an alternative SMTP server.
It will no longer be possible to send unlimited emails or to send email anonymously using localhost or the default SMTP server settings. standard outgoing mail quotas and limits will apply (see here).
- PHP 5.2 is no longer supported, we only support PHP 5.3 onwards.
- ASP.net 1.1 is no longer supported, we only support ASP.net 2.0 onwards.
- HELM secured folders cannot be migrated. you will need to setup any secured folders using the WebsitePanel equivalent.
- ColdFusion verity collections are no longer supported since CF 9.0.2, verity was replaced with SOLR.
The majority of our ColdFusion customers are still using legacy versions of ColdFusion, which are no longer supported by Adobe and also contain several security vulnerabilities as a result which will never be fixed, and nor will any future vulnerabilities. Due to lack of interest we have never had cause to upgrade to any version newer than CF9, so this is currently the newest version we support on our new platform, which is still supported by Adobe. However Adobe only support 2 versions below the current version (11), which means even CF 9 is nearly EOL.
In addition these older versions of ColdFusion were written back in the days of Windows 2000/2003 and so do not support the current server operating systems (windows 2008/2012), and so cannot be installed on our new platform.
Our recommendation is therefore for customers to seriously consider switching their ColdFusion sites to Railo, which is a FREE and open source alternative to ColdFusion which we have been using and supporting for several years now.
Railo is a CFML engine just like ColdFusion, they both do the same thing and run webpages written in the CFML language, Railo is simply the open source solution whereas ColdFusion is the commercial solution.
Railo will run the majority of ColdFusion sites with little or no changes, and we have found in most cases that when moving a site from a legacy version of ColdFusion it actually runs better on Railo than on a newer version of ColdFusion and requires less fixes, sometimes none at all.
Because Railo is FREE, this also allows us to keep all our servers up to date with the latest version, making them more secure and giving you all the latest features and functionality at no extra cost. Railo also has far less bugs and security issues compared to ColdFusion.
Railo also has the added advantage of giving every single website its own web admin (equivalent to the ColdFusion admin), allowing customers to manage all their own settings such as mappings, data sources and smtp servers without having to contact us.
For more information on Railo please visit www.getrailo.org.
If you are interested in switching your site to Railo, or even PHP (e.g. WordPress), then we can help with this also, so please contact us.