I just finished upgrading the Symphony CMS instance running the site. Why this is anything notable? Well for that since about 2 years I did not even touch anything web-related, also letting this site running without any proper upgrade or backup. Surprisingly for that, everything went quite smoothly (in the process also acquiring proper backups, of course), it was all in and out in just about three hours.
There were two major problems to face with before getting into the thing. For one, the site itself, which was still running over an old 2.2.4 version of Symphony. For an other, since long, I ceased to have any http infrastructure on my computer (Debian Linux, Wheezy) except for an Apache server lingering around, hardly ever touched since the last upgrade (from Squeeze, when I ditched the MySQL install encountering troubles with it at upgrading).
First before doing anything with the production sites, I settled things with my local machine. Cleaned up some (still!) leftover gunk from the previous version (along some other stuff about 500 leftover configurations never purged), then installed a MySQL server, which went smooth at last. Then in my "local playground" updated PHPMyAdmin, with it also testing if my config is OK, so to make things ready for mirroring the production sites.
Then just some plain mirroring, using SFTP, and PHPMyAdmin's Export feature on my databases. On my local config, I set up databases and DB users in the same way like my host provides, so to make things simpler when starting up the mirrors, then imported the contents.
One problem raised it's ugly head here: this site wouldn't start on my config. A few minutes of Googling answered why: Symphony 2.2.4 is not PHP 5.4 compatible, while in Debian Wheezy, I have PHP 5.4. Good grief! Just in time I noticed this, it would have been a lot uglier if a few months from now, say, my host would have silently made the upgrade to PHP 5.4 just to meet my site all broken! Time for upgrading!
The very neat part of Symphony kicked in here: It is simple. Download, replace stuff, run an update script, and it works, literally. The only thing I had to fix was setting up mod_rewrite and .htaccess files with Apache (which obviously weren't set up out-of-the-box).
There are only two slight problems with the upgrade to Symphony 2.4. One is that I tweaked the admin panel to show bright-over-dark (due to my eye sensitivity) which I obviously lost now, the other is the single extension I was using, the Reference Link field which does not work in this version of Symphony. But everything else does, and the site's public interface just works like nothing happened.
All this as I described, happened on my local box. So let's push it on the server. I simply dropped the contents of the database, the files of Symphony, and uploaded (Database contents first, then my files, at last the index.php, so anything accessing the site meanwhile would get some dirty output, but at least wouldn't break anything).
If just everything went this smooth! Maybe I will invest some time to at last finish this site's design. Or to theme that Simple Machines forum I set up for RRPGE. The best part obviously is that now again I have my local sandbox set up, so I can experiment with stuff without altering production sites or even using network bandwidth (which is limited here). I literally was prepared to spend the weekend wrestling with this mess, and well, now I am just walking out whistling to the shed, to take a bike trip into the hills!