26 Jan 2024

1st Anniversary of GSDF Website

Q&A with Staff Sgt. Kerry Hatcher

26 Jan 2024 - Staff

The Georgia State Defense Force (GSDF) Public Affairs Office conducts an interview with Staff Sgt. Kerry Hatcher.

In late 2022 and in 2023, Staff Sgt. Hatcher assisted PAO with updating the GSDF website.

The new site launched shortly before midnight on January 31, 2023.

In his civilian life, Sgt. Sgt. Hatcher is a lead software engineer at Cox Automotive, Inc.

Q1. Why did the GSDF update its website?

The previous website backend was less secure. The new website significantly increased security and reliability by eliminating complexity with a server-less solution. This allowed the GSDF to deliver more value with the new site.

Q2. What were some of the benefits of updating the website?

Security. The primary benefit was security. In today’s environment of attacks from advanced persistent threats, the need to reduce attack vectors was paramount.

Speed and Visibility. Additionally, the new website has a significant speed improvement, as there are no backend servers processing data. This speed increase, along with various other small improvements, greatly improved the GSDF’s website visibility on search engines, also known as Search Engine Optimization. Previously, the website would often not appear on the first page of results when searching for the GSDF. Now, the GSDF site is usually the top result.

With the move to a Jekyll-powered static site tracked in a version-control system (git), the GSDF gained the ability to track every change to any part of the site and systematically roll back, if needed. This allows for greater confidence when making changes and creates an environment where more Soldiers can contribute their skills from across the force. Some Soldiers from outside PAO have made significant impacts to the overall success of the new site. This was something that just wasn’t possible with the previous setup.

Q3. For users, what are some of the site’s features?

From a user standpoint, the site has a streamlined “join” form. GSDF PAO and GSDF Recruiting worked to together to streamline the form.

In addition, the site describes various units of the GSDF. Prospects can go to the site to learn more about GSDF units.

On the website, users also can view the GSDF commercial, and other GSDF-related videos.

Q4. From a technical standpoint, what are some of the site’s features?

From a technical standpoint, the website is now an open source, flat text file, compiled static site powered by Jekyll, tracked in GitHub, and hosted by Cloudflare. This allows Soldiers to write stories and pages in simple markdown files and have those changes tracked and managed by GitHub.

When a change occurs, a process compiles the HTML of the site and pushes it to Cloudflare, where it is hosted as a static website. Cloudflare then keeps the website safe from various attacks and hosts the site on thousands of servers across the world.

Q5. Why did the site address change from “.com” to “.gov.” Why was that change important?

The GSDF is a government organization, and as such, qualifies to have a .gov domain. Since .gov domains are tightly regulated and controlled, they add a certain amount of trust and credibility to the organization represented.

The GSDF is a component of the Georgia Department of Defense. The .gov domain clearly associates the GSDF with the government, in this case, state government. The .gov also clearly distinguishes the GSDF from non-government organizations with similar names and/or acronyms.