Additional Details on Outage

Dear Valued Customers,

I wanted to take some time and provide you with some additional detail related to the recent outage. As our long time customers can attest, this outage was a very abnormal situation.

I want to assure you that we have made some changes in our ‘change procedures’ that will help prevent such issues in the future.

In non technical terms, the cause of the problem was a change in the way the servers communicate with the storage (data). For the more techie, the MTU (byte size of transactions) was lowered, not allowing larger packets to be read when smaller packets were expected. This forced us to have to change the size of communication on each of the host servers, so that they could again communicate with storage. This sounds simple, but in reality was a very time consuming process, waiting for host servers to boot, and then after booting finding the function keys (F2) not working on some, etc., host servers hanging on boot due to non communication, etc. It was like watching paint dry.

As mentioned above, we will no longer allow a vendor to make or suggest a change to be made and implemented that is a settings change, without having a two person authentication for approval from our side first. We already have this change requirement in place for data center hardware/cabling changes, and has provided to be quite affective the past several months after implementing that requirement.

With over sixteen years in this industry with experience in rack mount servers in a non virtual and virtual environment and blade servers in a virtual environment, I strongly believe the virtual environment (whether rack mount or blade) is the best hosting environment available. I also still strongly believe in Dell’s hardware solutions and vmWare as the best virtual software solution out there.

I sincerely apologize for the problems and frustrations this issue caused. I will continue working very closely with our team to improve overall and to regain your confidence. Your business is very important to us and we appreciate the opportunity you give us in serving you.

Brian Anderson
CEO
Hostek.com

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

3 steps to prepare for a pain-free hosting migration.

It happens to everyone, but occasionally the disaster is huge; loss of data. The most vivid memory of a customers files being lost includes a large photography firm. Their outsourced developer had gone bankrupt and left them with custom built code that required a desktop application to upload new photos for selling on their website. They had contacted us to do the migration for them, because the developers server would be turned off shortly. The first step should always be to document everything that should be moved.

776833_57033628

Step 1 – Collect information:

  • Domains – Domain names, path (for dedicated or VPS).
  • Databases – Databases and their associated domains, include user/password.
  • FTP Accounts – FTP accounts and their associated domains, include user/password.
  • Email Accounts – Mailboxes and their associated domains, include user/password.
  • DNS – The login information for the registrar to switch DNS Servers.
  • Extras – Name of current hosting provider and login information, etc..

We do not charge to migrate customers from existing servers hosted elsewhere. We understand that the job can be difficult and frustrating so we don’t want to add to this by charging for it. So for the photography site we had offered to do the migration for free, at that time we didn’t know about the custom desktop application but from the initial check of the customers files the application seemed very basic, custom code with application configuration file, easy.. so we thought. To avoid early trouble discuss the migration with your hosting provider, and be specific.

Step 2 – Co-ordinate the migration plan:

  • Decide on dates and times that work best for you.
  • Discuss any responsibilities with your team for testing after the migration.
  • To reduce DNS propagation ask consider setting the TTL low, 3600 is 60 min.

Once we migrated over the customers code our first priority is to test ourselves. This is very basic because many times we have no experience with the application and all it’s features. Next is to have the customer test. In this case the customer also did a BRIEF check of their application, and reported back all was working. After the final switch over and shutting down of the old server the customer came back and said their files were missing. BEFORE migrating decide what needs to be tested.

Step 3 – Build a list of areas to test, ask these questions:

  • What parts of the site do we use every day?
  • What parts do customers interact with every day?
  • Are there processes that takes place in the background?

NOTE: Sites can be tested before moving them by making some small modifications on any PC or Mac to trick your computer into looking for your site on the new host. Referred to as changing the host file, here’s instructions for PC or MAC.

The photo site’s migration was a bust, our migration team was completely surprised because they had followed strict rules when moving the customers files. Now there was no way to retrieve them period – server was gone and not coming back. There was about 1 weeks time between when DNS was changed and the files were reported missing. This was a great reminder to me that building a list of areas to test AND testing after migration was imperative. The last step to any migration is the final DNS switch, but don’t neglect the testing.

425342_92381375

Finalize any DNS changes:

This can be it’s own topic so I’m not going into great detail here. There are multiple ways to handle DNS changes and there’s changing DNS SERVERS and RECORDS. I personally recommend changing DNS SERVERS first by duplicating the existing records at the new host before migrating. After migrating update the DNS RECORDS to reflect their new record.

There are horror stories galore but when handling migrations these steps will minimize your chance of a surprise. I’ve seen hundreds of methods for migrating data from spread sheets to text documents, special form with check-boxes and project planners. How someone manages a migration may be completely based on their personal organization style, which I’m not trying to change. These are tips and insights from the trenches that work based on hundreds of successful and not so successful migrations.

Download this Server_Move Excel document as a template for a hosting migration and customize as needed.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Hostek Deep Dive – The Best Hosting Support Ever

Even since the very beginning of my employee training at Hostek I’ve come to appreciate areas where we are consistent. Today by working with customers that have various needs I’ll interact with a gamut of departments within Hostek to building the perfect solution for them and gladly find our consistency there as well – great customer service.

On average 40% of potential new clients I work with specifically ask about how support is handled and a large portion of these are asking because they received poor support from their previous host. The good news is that some are asking just to be sure they will receive support.

Recently a new customer asked me:

“Is the support really as good as you say it is, or is this just part of your sales pitch?”

My answer:

“I started at Hostek in the support department, and honestly can tell you our support is consistent.”

5 Star Customer Rated

Real Customer Testimonials

With that said I will admit we are not perfect and if we experience any unfortunate incident that affected a group of customers, response times can be extended. However even during those times it’s with great integrity that we handle each question as quickly and effectively as possible – our top priority as a company is to provide our customers with the best hosting experience they have ever had.

What this means to me and others that depend on 24/7 service is that when there is trouble help we will be there and also be a dependable and knowledgable resource. For example, many companies who approach us with their project will have a top notch team of their own but trust us with all their Hardware and Software configuration, including all the important stuff like security and optimization. They may also be depending upon our breadth of experience specifically with Hosting large scale ColdFusion, .NET or PHP applications or how to further optimize their environment for a special purpose. We’re glad we can help.

Our support services extend beyond the simple break fix customer service. We can help with the complex questions like:

  • How can we scale our application when subscriptions reach 100,000?
  • How can we improve the performance of our SQL Server?
  • We have three load balanced servers co-located can you help migrate & consolidate?
Read Customer Success Stories

Customer Service Extends to Finding Solutions

In many cases these questions will get routed to a team member who can share their project details with the appropriate department and get answers or develop a solution. In addition to this full-service approach to helping customers we believe that speed is essential to providing new and existing customers with “the best hosting experience” as we promised. In general our average response time is 20 minutes (no lie). For more complex issues you’ll be likely to get an answer right away setting the expectation for when you can expect to receive a response with the full solution.

It’s not our goal to “let you figure it out” and will never be. We believe customer service is everything and will stay true to our commitment. You can read more about our Core Story here and why our CEO continues to lead us in offering the best service customers have ever had.

Posted in Customer Success Stories, Success Stories | Comments Off

Three Highly Effective Customer Solutions – Streamline, Security, Load Balancing

We speak with many customers with various needs. Our approach is to first find out where the customers expectations are including where they are hosted today and what they would like to achieve. This provides us with the base information to develop a completely new solution or slightly change what they are doing already with the added benefits of high-availability virtualization.

One of our strengths in helping customers is the ability to adapt to their needs. These are real customer examples, for privacy we’ve changed the names. As we work with any new customer it’s our objective to help find the best fit for their needs. Even if that means we present a new idea to meet their requirements that’s much more cost effective. We believe that customers should have the solution they need, not just throw money away on something they will never use. 

These are three examples where we helped customers find what they needed and assisted in implementing the solution. I hope that through this article post you will get a sense of how Hostek’s team works with customers and how the services we offer create highly effective hosting solutions.

 

Solution 1 – Incredible Audio & Video Inc.

Server: Windows Silver Railo VPS
Services: IIS, Railo, MySQL, PHP, ISAPI_Rewrite 3
Applications: Custom built CFML Blog, Custom built WordPress
Summary: Large well known photo & video company with a custom CFML website to showcase their events and WordPress for their company website. Due to the massive images, video and large number of visitors they also required a CDN.

Unique Solution: They opted for Railo because they wanted to keep costs down. Previously their custom CFML and WordPress applications were hosted at two other companies, we were able to help them consolidate hosting providers, migrate both sites and guide their team in utilizing a CDN for their static content.

By using IIS’s outbound rewrite (img tags) rules we could quickly enable and disable traffic to their CDN (read more about Railo’s integration with S3) without any code changes. By achieving this level of flexibility we were able to provide robust service and easy to use integration with a popular CDN service for their 10,000 visitors per day.

 

Solution 2 – Large City Web Services LLC.

Servers, Storage, Network:
2 x Windows Business ColdFusion Virtual Dedicated
- 500GB *Bulk Storage (As second drive on Windows CF Web Server)
- Linux / cPanel Business Virtual Dedicated
- **Virtual Private Network and Virtual LAN

Services: IIS, SQL Server Standard, ColdFusion 10, Linux with cPanel
Applications: WordPress and custom applications written in ColdFusion and .NET
Summary: Web design company providing city departments and local businesses with custom websites and applications. Difficulties with previous co-location provider included unresponsive support, improperly secured environment and insufficient DDOS protection resulted in multiple days of no service. The custom applications built with .NET also required SQL Server Standard (see image below for edition features) to execute DTS Packages.

Unique Solution: For this solution we focused on migration of their key services which included hundreds of sites being moved from their existing cPanel Dedicated Server. In conjunction providing a tightened level of security using a VPN for their team and private network between servers.

The migration spanned multiple days moving one service at a time. Hostek completely managed the entire process for the customer at no cost. After completing the cPanel server migration we quickly moved to migrate all ColdFusion and .NET sites which involved ad-hoc fixes as needed. The customers own team worked closely with Hostek to insure downtime was minimized. They now enjoy a secure and stable environment.

 

Solution 3 – Extreme Realtors Corp.

Servers, Network:
2 x Windows Business ColdFusion VPS
- Windows Business VPS
- Windows Silver ColdFuison VPS
- **Load Balancing & Virtual Private Network
Services: IIS, SQL Server Web, Coldfusion 10
Applications: Multiple mission-critical custom applications written in ColdFusion for realtor marketing.
Summary: This unique company provides custom tools for realtors for automating marketing tasks. A key requirement were load balanced web servers to maximize uptime and responsiveness. The customer currently hosted at another provider was moving to save hundreds per month while increasing availability by implementing a load balancer.

Unique Solution: We utilized VMWare’s vShield Edge for Load Balancing and the Virtual Wire feature to create the customers virtual local area network. Having two web servers meant that the customer needed a single file server which would also be their SQL Server.

 

What makes Hostek a good partner for Hosting Solutions?

When we’re asked this question, here’s how we answer:

“not only do we provide a platform on excellent hardware and virtualization technology we are a solution company, helping customers with small to large deployments with various requirements.”

Our solution minded approach and strong company wide values mean you can rest better as you build your future business.

Definitions:
*Bulk Storage, SAN based storage for standard I/O uses.
NOTE: Premium Storage is the default storage for all VPS hosting plans. This is SAN storage (fully replicated to an secondary SAN) provided by Dell Complement Storage. SSD is available with all Virtual Dedicated Servers.
**Load Balancing, Virtual Private Network and Virtual LAN are provided by VMware VShield with 10Gbps between servers on private networks.

Posted in Success Stories, Uncategorized, Virtual Dedicated Servers, VPS Hosting | Comments Off

SAN Storage – It’s what makes cloud hosting ROCK SOLID..

Over the years at Hostek, we have tested different server and storage options. Our earliest hosting was powered by custom built servers. In the beginning this was an economical option for us. Within a few years and after hundreds of hours laboring to restore files due to failed hard drives and components we decided to use Dell servers and never looked back. Having Dell servers almost eliminated the problematic issues we had with custom-built servers.

Having better servers was not good enough so over the next 2-3 years we tested many complementary products, such as EMC appliances and Opensource SAN software while also exploring virtualization. From this exploration of new technologies we soon realized our goals. These new goals narrowed down a list of available products which could help us achieve a higher level of service.

Our Early Goals

  • Near 100% uptime for all servers
  • Quick recovery from disk failures if catastrophic
  • Could be used to virtualize servers
  • Could be used to move virtual servers between hosts with no reboot

We decided to deploy a SAN storage solution from Equallogic. Equallogic was acquired by Dell and today their solution still makes up a portion of the enterprise storage products Dell offers. A few key reasons we started with Equallogic include great performance, integration capabilities with VMware, and their superior support. At the time, these factors provided our team with an higher level of experience and expertise.

We deployed our first SAN with our goals in mind which meant installing a secondary SAN dedicated to snapshots and disaster prevention.

Cost Of Outages

The cost of outages can be huge and we knew having a SAN and secondary SAN was a worthwhile investment. Oracle’s downtime calculator instructions state that the impact of outages vary and several factors should be considered such as internal costs (e.g. Productivity, Increased Costs – for example paying for external service monitoring) and external costs (e.g. Lost Sales, Reputation).

Compellent Rollout

Years after operating our private cloud we knew that to achieve a new set of goals – we needed more flexibility and that’s when we begin reviewing Dell’s Compellent product.

A brief history on Compellent – a storage solutions company started in 2002, publicly traded in 2007 and bought by Dell in 2011. Compellent storage solutions automate data movement at the block level.

With Compellent we were able to keep latency low and maximize scalability by reducing the number of individual SAN nodes we had to install. We rolled out the Compellent solution at the end of 2013. To keep our original goals this rollout included:

  • Primary SAN
  • *Secondary SAN
  • Automated Near Realtime Replication
  • Nightly Snapshots
  • NO PRICE INCREASE

*The secondary SAN is completely independent from the primary SAN and data is automatically replicated to the Secondary SAN. In the event of a complete SAN failure we could quickly switch all virtual machines to utilize the secondary SAN – minimizing disruption.

In Summary

We want to be the best choice for Business & Cloud Hosting solutions and to achieve this we have to continually invest into newer hardware with more advanced features and increase flexibility so we can provide what customers need in the future.

Posted in Cloud Hosting, Product & Development | Comments Off

7 Must Have Business Apps

GoToMeeting

GoToMeeting is an easy, convenient way to schedule and host meetings from your Iphone, Ipad or Ipod Touch in seconds. You can view or share presentations such as slide shows, spreadsheets, design mockups or anything you want to share onscreen. Whether you are training, , doing a sales presentation or having a general meeting of any sort, GoToMeeting is a handy app that lets you attend these meetings on the go at any time you may need to.

CardMunch

No more keeping up with a ton of business cards! With this easy to use app you can now access your business cards anywhere any time.. all in one convenient place! This highly intuitive app also converts your business cards to address book contacts and allows you to add them as connections on Linked-In. This app has a simple design and is sure to make keeping up with your important contacts much easier.

BOX

You can now access, view, share, edit and manage files from your iPhone and iPad as well as project those files to a TV, LCD monitor or projector. Box allows you to upload files from your computer as well as save content to Box from 50+ compatible apps. You can organize your files and folders easily, upload files, photos and videos to box that you can later access from your computer. Box allows you to secure your content using file-level encryption, a four-digit pass-code and automatic log out when the app is closed.

Secret Apps

Secret Apps allows you to have a “safe” for private data on your iPhone and iPad. Using a Pin or pattern lock you can protect photos, videos, bookmarks, web browsing history, notes, contacts and more. Not only does it require a pin or pattern lock; this app will also snap a photo of anyone trying to pry in, tag the location and save it on file for you to see. Whatever the need may be Secret Apps will keep your private information locked up.

Genius Scan

Finally a scanner that fits in your pocket and allows you to access it at any time! Scan documents and quickly email the scan as JPEG or PDF. This intuitive app detects the page frame and corrects the perspective while enhancing the scan with color or black and whit post processing. You can also export the documents to Box, Dropbox, Evernote and Google Docs or share them over Wifi for easy access from your computer. There are many uses for Genius scan.. some others include make a copy if no copier is available, on the road to scan receipts, at the university to take a picture of a whiteboard, save handwritten memos, restaurant menus and so many other possibilities.

CloudOn

With CloudOn you can use Microsoft Office programs such as Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint on your iPhone or Ipad to create, edit or review files. You can also open and share just about any type of file. This app makes it easy to create and edit your files on the go and then share them as attachments via email. You can also create PowerPoint slides and present them in presentation mode.

iTap RDP 

With this free app you can get access to your PC or Mac remotely anywhere, anytime from your Ipad or Iphone as long as there is Wifi/3G. The app allows you to access all of your files, run applications and have complete control of your desktop from anywhere as if you are sitting right in front of it. iTap mobile RDP is not only the only client available with FIPS compliant security and support for NLA it is also can be more than twice as fast as the next competitor. Accessing your home and work computers on the go has never been easier.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Helpful Tips on Providing Excellent Customer Service

Think about it; business is about our customer, not about our product or services. When we put all of the attention on our products or services we forget about the most important component that keeps our business running: customers. This is why providing outstanding customer support is extremely important. Excellent customer support will more than likely create loyal customers for life.

So how do you actually achieve the goal of offering that outstanding customer service? Below are simple tips to follow:

Follow the CARP System when dealing with complaints:

The CARP system was developed by Robert Bacal in his book ‘Defusing Hostile Customers Workbook: For the Public Sector’ to help people in customer service jobs deal with hostile customers in a more timely, efficient manner.

Control – The customer attempts to control the interaction, by causing you to become defensive, angry or off-balance. The key in reasserting control is to behave in ways that send the subtle sub message “your techniques are not going to work on me”.

Acknowledge – It is important that the angry person see that you understand his/her emotional state and the situation. So, when we talk about acknowledging, we are talking about two major techniques, empathy and active listening.

Refocus – Refocusing involves making the transition from dealing with the emotions to dealing with the actual problem.

Problem-Solve – Problem-solving involves actions like getting and giving information, suggesting possibilities and appearing helpful, offering choices as available, agreeing on a course of action and following through.

Respond To Client as Soon as Possible

Non-responsiveness can be a nightmare to a customer who is trying to resolve an issue, get help or even simply trying to find out more about what you are selling. Speed is especially important when your customer is requesting something that is time sensitive. Even if you don’t have an answer yet, let them know you are looking into the issue and will be back in touch as soon as possible. Providing a prompt response will not only show them you care, but will also make them satisfied and more likely to recommend your brand.

Listen Carefully

It is extremely important to listen very carefully to what your customer is communicating to you. Make sure you totally understand what they are saying and don’t hesitate to ask for clarification on things you are not completely sure of. It may be that your customer is unfamiliar with certain terminologies in your profession and could mean something completely different than what you initially thought. Making sure you understand the first time will prevent frustration from your customer.

Put Yourself in Your Customers Shoes and BE HELPFUL

Having someone available to answer a call or chat is not the same as having someone to help the customer. Be aware of the customer needs and be sure to show respect; treat them the way you would want someone to treat you. Make sure your main focus is that the customer walks away happy; never let your own emotions take over that desire. Always ask yourself if you were treated the way you just treated your customer would you enjoy that experience? If not then make note of it and work on ways to help yourself be better prepared for that situation in the future.

Be an Expert on Your Products and Services

Think of yourself as an expert in your profession and an adviser to your customers. Make sure you know your products and services like the back of your hand and stay up-to-date with them. Always be ready to answer questions clients may have. Take note of the most common questions customers have and make sure you are able to give them a clear answer. If your customer gets the idea you don’t know what you’re talking about they will probably look elsewhere.

Keep your Promises

Think before you make promises. If you are not 100% sure you can offer what you are promising, don’t. Broken promises will damage customer relationships by destroying trust and make your company look unreliable. Reliability is incredibly important in a customer service relationship.

Over-Deliver

Go the extra mile when it won’t cost you a lot of extra time or money. A simple offer can go a long way when trying to resolve an issue with an unhappy customer. This also works well on gaining satisfaction from new customers; surprise them with something unexpected and they are more likely to recommend your business.

Remember keeping customers is just as important as gaining customers if not more important. Give your customer more than just a reply.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

New Feature of Coldfusion 10 Allows You to Dynamically Load Java Libraries

In the old days of ColdFusion if you wanted to access a 3rd party Java library (JAR or class files) you had a couple options:

1. Add the location of the library to the ColdFusion classpath
-or-
22. Use something like JavaLoader (http://javaloader.riaforge.org/) to dynamically load Java libraries into your ColdFusion application.

ColdFusion 10, however, makes it even easier to load Java libraries into your ColdFusion application without having to restart ColdFusion. All that’s required is your application define the ‘THIS.javaSettings’ attribute within the site’s Application.cfc like below:

[code]
<cfset THIS.javaSettings = {LoadPaths = ["/javafiles/"],reloadOnChange=true,watchInterval=30}/>
[/code]

The above code will check the “javafiles” directory in your Web root for ‘jar’ and ‘class’ files and make any libraries within the directory accessible from your ColdFusion application. ColdFusion will also check for changes to the files every 30 seconds and reload the libraries if it notices any changes to the files.

More info:

Adobe ColdFusion 10 Documentation – Using Java Classes: http://help.adobe.com/en_US/ColdFusion/10.0/Developing/WSe61e35da8d318518-106e125d1353e804331-7ffc.html

Posted in ColdFusion Hosting, ColdFusion Reseller Hosting | Tagged , , | Comments Off

Delicious and Simple- Fourth of July Cookie Cake Recipe

With the holiday coming up we would like to share a company favorite dessert idea for the Fourth of July. Not only is this dessert absolutely delicious; it is also quite simple to make.

Ingredients:

  • Refrigerated Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
  • 1 Package of Cream cheese
  • 1 Cup Powder Sugar
  • 1 Cup Cool whip
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries

Directions:

  1. Layer cookie dough in oblong pan and bake according to package directions (approximately 15 minutes) Let cool completely.
  2. Mix softened cream cheese, sugar and cool whip in bowl and spread on top of the cooled cookie crust
  3. Slice Strawberries
  4. Place fruit on top of cream cheese mixture to resemble the American Flag
  5. Enjoy! :)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Why Choose VPS over Shared Hosting?

Today you can find many low-priced hosting options and in most cases that means you’ll be hosting on a shared server. Shared meaning one host OS or “Server” with many clients, each with their own folder or directory. That is a great choice for a the majority because shared hosting is very affordable @ $2-$10/month – for example a small website or a blog that gets light to medium traffic. The decision to move to a VPS server should be driven by requirements and not by inaccurate information or assumptions.

Performance Requirements

As a preventative measure to keep one site from consuming all of the available resources on the Shared Hosting Server, many times shared hosting sites will be throttled to a specific limit of bandwidth, cpu or overall memory usage. This can also be a limit which causes a bustling site to slow down as traffic grows. These are problems you won’t run into using a VPS Server.

Uptime Requirements

The owner, developer or company may have SLA requirements such as 100% network uptime and 20 min resolution upon server failure not more than 2 times per month. In a shared environment this requirement may be very difficult to achieve, because the space and resources are shared by many customers. The primary reason a solid SLA can’t be established is because there are multiple tenants. It would be like requesting a dedicated parking spot at the mall, you could ask for it but your sharing the mall with hundreds of other shoppers.

Isolation Requirements

This requirement is usually most commonly associated with the need for higher security, and may be part of specific requirements decided by the an organizations security team, PCI compliance, HIPPA or to further protect intellectual property. For these reasons a VPS should be considered.

Special Applications

We occasionally get asked if we have “Dropbox” type of services, or if a user can install their dropbox on the Shared Server. This is just one of many examples where hosting providers cannot risk the security and stability of the entire server. If there is a special requirement that is key to the success of your business, but not offered in a shared hosting package then a VPS may be a solution you should explore.

Managing a website takes care and responsibility. There are many factors to consider, however once you have made the decision that a VPS is needed, the next step is to narrow down the requirement even more – fine tuned but achievable constraints such as budget, specific security requirements, uptime metrics, SLA’s, Managed or Non-Managed etc.. the answers to these questions will help you determine the best potential VPS hosting options.

Posted in Shared Linux Hosting, VPS Hosting, Windows VPS Hosting | Leave a comment