Four years ago, we wrote a post about big changes coming to Mennonite.net, as we transitioned from simply maintaining a large directory of church sites to being a full managed web host. Since then, we haven’t stopped changing, continuing to provide our customers with new features and services.

Now, we’re changing again. We built a new website, and with it, we plan to restart our blog, in order to keep our customers informed about what we’re doing.

The recent series of changes began with a number of staff transitions, which happen every few years at Mennonite.net. These started when Jacob Nofziger, then our system administrator, moved on to bigger and brighter opportunities in January of 2017. He prepared us for this change by hiring Christian Stoltzfus, a Goshen College (GC) student, as an intern, preparing Christian for the “sysadmin” role.

The sysadmin transition came on the heels of another change, as Paul Leichty, our Director of User Services, moved to Pennsylvania in November 2016. Following a medical leave from early December through February, Paul has been working remotely to orient David Stahnke who was hired in early March 2017 to begin taking over his roles.

Finally, Bryce Yoder, another GC student, joined the team for the summer, helping Christian with sysadmin duties and working on many of the projects below.

In the last few months, there have been a number of big projects we have been working on:

  • Server Caching
  • SSL Implementation
  • Website Redesign
  • Blog System

Server Caching

We have implemented site caching on our servers for managed customers, which will make your sites load much faster! Essentially, caching works as a middleman between you and our server. Normally, when someone visits a website, the request goes from their computer to our server. Our server looks for the files they want, puts them all together, and sends them back to the computer. This can take up to a few seconds, depending on how large the page is. With server caching, when the server receives the request and compiles the page, it saves a copy of the entire page in the cache, which sits between your computer and our servers. Afterwards, when somebody visits a page, the request first goes to the cache and looks to see if a copy of the page is saved. If it is, that copy is immediately sent back to the computer, causing the page to load almost instantaneously. If there’s no copy of the page in the cache, then the page loads like normal. The cache is kept for one day, meaning that after that amount of time, the next person to visit the site will get a fresh copy of the page and that page will now be cached, ready to be served to the next visitor. The cache is also purged every time you update your site, thanks to the Nginx Cache plugin you may have noticed has been installed if you are a managed customer. No need to worry about changes not showing up or visitors seeing old pages — all of that is taken care of!

SSL Implementation

All of our sites have now been secured with SSL (Secure Socket Layer) protection, and redirect from http:// to https:// URLs. SSL encrypts traffic between users visiting our sites and our servers, adding an extra layer of protection and privacy, and ensuring users that the site they are visiting is secure. Any new sites will be pre-installed with SSL.

Website Redesign

Our site has received a massive redesign! While our old site was cluttered and confusing, our new site is easy to read and understand. It is meant to make it clear to visitors right away what we do and who we are, as well as provide important information such as the features we offer and the pricing available. It’s also built on Divi and WordPress, showing off the power of both. In fact, we started with our own default Hope template, and from there built it into the site it is now — proving that it can be deeply customized to your liking beyond the surface.

Blog System

As we are making changes to our company and to our site, we are also bringing back blogs. The blog section of our website will be a place for updates on features and functionality, as well as a resource containing helpful tutorials regarding the management of your site. Stay tuned for more — in the near future we’ll have a guide on recommended plugins and proper plugin management!