June 16, 2017
by Matt Raines

MySQL and the case of the missing EU flag

A customer recently wrote to us to tell us that they wanted to add an EU flag character (🇪🇺) to an email they sent out from on of our websites but doing so resulted an error message.

It turned out to be a problem with the “utf8” character encoding in the MySQL database engine.

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Prater Raines support a suite of websites for the Chartered Institute of Public Relations: their Influence PR article aggregating site based on WordPress, their bespoke CPD platform Ladder and the main CIPR website based on Drupal.

When we took over the management and maintenance of their websites a few years ago, it was clear that the Drupal site – based on Drupal 6 – was going to need to be updated at some stage. At that time Drupal 8 was still in Beta, and we were expecting to move straight from Drupal 6 to Drupal 8 when it was fully available.

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On Saturday 8th July we are planning on moving our server array to a larger “rack” with our existing datacentre (we’re remaining with our excellent hosting partner Custodian). The move is to allow us to further enhance the security and resilience of our servers by introducing a new hardware firewall and remote access capability across our systems.

In physical terms, it means powering off all servers and switch, unwiring, removing from their existing location, moving to a new one (about 100m away!), putting into their new home, rewiring and bringing back online.

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April 11, 2017
by Tim Prater

Stewart Christie to Join Prater Raines

Prater Raines Ltd are delighted to announce that Stewart Christie will be joining their growing team from mid-April.

Sandgate-based Prater Raines develop and support websites and data systems for a wide variety of clients. They formed in 2002, developing a website service that rapidly grew to be the largest supplier of Lib Dem websites.

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SDC Systems homepage

Although we recommend that we host your website for you, it doesn’t have to be that way…

We were approached in April 2016 by data software and security company SDC Systems. They were looking to move their website from a legacy system to WordPress to make it rather easier to update and add new content.

At that stage they wanted this change to occur with the minimum of design changes, and also to host their new site in-house as they clearly had significant technical experyise. We did so for them, porting their content and site structure with a limited number of changes in under two working days – all to time and specification.

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January 9, 2017

Exchange Rate Crunching…


Each month, we pay a $50 subscription to a US software company for use of their anti-spam and anti-virus product across our sites (just one more service we provide for our customers!).

On looking at our accounts for the last year, the payments in pounds sterling for that 50 US dollars a month have been:

  • 05-03-2016     £36.14
  • 05-04-2016     £36.30
  • 05-05-2016     £35.47

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We’ve been delighted to work on Major Foodie since moving to our hosting a few weeks ago, and have already delivered the first batch of changes that site owner Richard had been seeking.

The changes have been about evolution not revolution: tweaking design and functionality to be easier to use, work better on a range of devices and make reviews and content east to find – all to Richard’s specification.

As examples of the changes, on the home page we’ve reworked the main image slider, making it resize nicely whatever screen size (and orientation) of device you are reading on, adding captions to each picture and a click through to the relevant review in each case. We’ve also added a bespoke styled Twitter feed to bring their very active Twitter presence to the front page of the site in a style that fits well with the rest of the content rather than a standard plug-in.

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November 28, 2016

Major Foodie: How We Met

When we first met Major Foodie, his WordPress site had been going some time, and although he was, in the main, happy with it there were some changes and upgrades that his previous developers hadn’t been able to deliver.

A little while after our first discussions the site started to have problems, and, when we investigated it became clear it had been hacked.

We cleaned the site on its existing shared hosting, updated and re-set logins and passwords, restored files (from a back-up we’d taken when we first met – there was otherwise no regular backup in place), updated PHP, the WordPress install itself and the plug-ins to the site which were out of date, and generally got things back up and running.

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November 24, 2016

Welcome Naomi

We’ve been proud to be the website provider for the cross-community Alliance Party of Northern Ireland for over eleven years, and throughout that period, the magnificent David Ford has been Party Leader.

It was with real sadness that we learned David was standing down as Leader a few weeks ago, but we were equally delighted to learn former Alliance MP Naomi Long was standing to take over from him.

On the day of her election we helped Alliance get a new splash screen on the front page of their introducing Naomi as Leader in place, and encouraging supporters of the Party to sign up as members.

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HTTPS logo

Our friends at Custodian DC (the award winning data-centre where we host our main server array) have today enabled their DDoS mitigation service for all sites we host.

We’ve seen a couple of DDoS attacks on sites we host, and they are difficult* to deal with, and generally take the website offline for a period of time. The Custodian DDoS service deals with the problem differently. They explain:

“Once you have subscribed to the service, should you come under a DDoS attack (either detected by our systems or reported by you), we move your network connection behind our mitigation service. The service can withstand attacks up to 800Gbps (the unofficial world record for a DDoS attack is 500Gbps). The service absorbs the large amount of traffic and ‘cleans’ it. The clean traffic is then delivered to you as normal.”

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