Archive for Features

Jun
06

My Methods For Interviewing

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I would like to start this blog with a thanks to the folks at cPanel. Special thanks go to Nick, Aaron, and Keelie. Also a shout to Keith and Derek from Ping Zine who joined me at ground zero. If you were not aware I was in Houston for a few days interviewing the one and only Nick Koston. If you do not know the name I am not surprised. Not because he doesn’t warrant fame, if anyone I would say Nick is in my top 3 for individuals who have had the greatest impact on the Internet of all time. Luckily, I found myself in the fortunate position of interviewing.

For this blog I wanted to address how I interview. I will rarely email questions. Honestly, I find emailing questions on par with just quoting sales material. Canned questions give canned responses and I prefer livelier discussion. In fact, most of my interviews are more conversation like. I want to know not just the answers but the reasons, thoughts, and emotions behind them. You can see them in the way someone gestures, facial expressions, the speed in which they talk, and those expressions lead me to my next questions.

It would be far easier for me to simply build an interview form and send it out to everyone I thought was interesting. I could have asked dedicated server provider Superb.net’s CEO, Haralds Jass, softball questions to entice “perfect” responses. But in either case, comes out sounding rehearsed as opposed to something more impromptu.

I often bait my interviewees. I admit it, and although sometimes I feel bad about it, there is sometimes no other way to get the information I want. As a for instance, when interviewing Barbara Koston, it is clear to anyone that she is very proud of her children. But if I just made that observation it really wouldn’t be quotable or even an interview. I can suggest it, but I might end up with a few word answer. Both of these are the exact opposite of what I consider the standard. The standard is find something amazing that your interviewee can say and let them say it… and sometimes you better get the hell out of the way cause they might have a lot to say. So I bait a little. In fact, I baited Barbara about whether she was proud of her son. The question riled Barbara a little and for that I am sorry, but I received the perfect answer and I could ask for none better, so for that I am eternally grateful.

When I first get an interview assignment I do two things: I research the topics involved and I research the person I am interviewing. The process can take several days to several weeks. As a research I ask myself questions, along the lines of what would I want to know. As the research goes on, I look at what has been said and what hasn’t. Can I fill in the gaps? I would certainly hope so.

Most people don’t know this, but I am scared crazy going into an interview. Though you would think I would be use to it by now, I am not. I always wonder if I will end up asking the wrong questions or push too far or not push enough. Will the person I interview understand I am trying to not just fill in the gaps of information on them or their product/service, but also to give them the opportunity to voice details they may not have thought of or didn’t think important?

If life is a journey then so must an interview. I prefer to trace the path of someone through dialog then to merely ask questions. Although I want who I am interviewing to feel at ease, I will delve, I will even make myself look stupid, in order to bring out the details. In the end, it doesn’t matter how I look or how others see me, it’s about presenting my subject in a way that is new and fresh. And hopefully, in such a manner that others will see them as fondly as I see them.

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May
12

Why Move Your Corporate Headquarters?

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In light of Superb Hosting, a now 13 year old provider of virtual and dedicated hosting solutions, moving to Hawaii earlier this year, I was asked why would you move your corporate headquarters and more to the point why move it away from your datacenters?

There are many reasons as to why moving is a good choice. The number one reason I often hear is for tax purposes. Moving the headquarters to a place like Nevada, Wyoming, or Delaware which is corporate friendly is a sound move as far as saving money is concerned. You see even if you incorporate or form an LLC in those states if you do main business in another state you will have to accommodate both. So by moving corporate over all their transactions are handled through only one state law.

Superb had two reasons for moving both are extremely valid in my opinion. One, the not talked about, but always threatening dollar problem. With the differences between the Canadian and US dollar, and the deflation of the US dollar, Superb was losing money as far as transactions went. A great deal of their customers are from the US, and six data centers in the US, on a money exchange basis, moving the corporate headquarters to the states makes sense… and dollars.

The reason that Superb has been publicly stating, and also a good one, moving the HQ to a Hawaii makes it easier for them to retain and attract employees. How many people who love to work in a place most people simply vacation too? The economic situation we have right now makes it all the more reason to find ways of holding onto key staff and entice the best staffers from other companies.

The last main reason which should be also taken into account is the cost and community of living in the area. For instance, how many staffers actually live in the same town and how many have to commute. Is the town the current HQ in dying out (increased cost, “brain drain,” etc.), et al are good reasons for leaving, but when moving to a new place they should also be taken into account.

Moving an HQ can provide long term benefit, but also know there are a lot of factors involved beyond the normal considerations of tax laws.

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With so much buzz about cloud-based products and services, how do you know what will work for you? Cloud products offer many practical benefits such as low entry costs and on-demand scalability, but choosing the right platform can be a daunting proposition. To better understand how customers approach the buying decision when considering cloud storage platforms, The Planet pinpointed five important differentiators every hosting customer should consider when evaluating the adoption of cloud storage:

  1. Performance – It’s important to match the platform with your application’s performance needs. Many cloud storage platforms only provide 2-3 Mb/sec of transfer speed – that’s fine for most backup and archiving use cases but is likely not sufficient for production data. When evaluating platforms, you should also schedule multiple tests with varying traffic and load scenarios to gauge the consistency of service.
  2. Ease of Integration – The ease of user access is critical to product adoption in web applications. Many cloud storage products require the use of proprietary APIs for integration, so you would need to specifically develop for that cloud storage platform to implement the solution. When you’re evaluating the switching costs of moving to a new cloud storage platform, remember to factor in these development and integration costs, as they can add up pretty quickly. To minimize switching costs, some platforms offer standards-based integration software so you can use common protocols like CIFS, NFS, FTP or HTTP to get your content online without the proprietary API learning curve.
  3. Your Data’s Location – Most cloud products do not offer specific locations for data to reside. In fact, many providers offer data “in the cloud” as if “the cloud” is a location rather than an access medium. While in many cases the physical location of data is unimportant, sometimes being able to select a location is beneficial. If you are building a disaster recovery plan; working to reduce download times for a specific customer; or attempting to pass strict security audits, then where data resides is critical.
  4. Flexibility – One of the most appealing features of cloud storage is the flexibility of its on-demand design, which manifests itself in two primary traits: scalability and elasticity. Most cloud storage products should free you from the task of capacity planning, hardware budgeting and upgrading. Watch out for minimum-usage commitments, as they can negate the inherent benefit of capacity being available on-demand. Cloud storage products should provide elasticity, with capacity that grows as your business requires it and scales back as soon as the excess capacity is no longer needed.
  5. Usage-Based Billing – Paying for only what you use is certainly appealing. The primary aspects on which to judge the pricing of a cloud storage product are simple: how much storage capacity will you use and how much bandwidth will you need? Keep a sharp eye out for “hidden” fees, because in many use cases, they can add up quickly to be as much or more than the primary elements of your bill. “Hidden” fees to watch out for include: connect fees, account maintenance charges, and charges for “puts” and “gets.” Cloud platforms should offer simple and predictable monthly bills.

With the growing popularity of the cloud, there’s a lot of misinformation permeating the Web. On The Planet’s web hosting blog, we’ve posted a few articles about the hype and buzz surrounding “the cloud.” The platform has incredible potential and can play a great role in your hosting infrastructure right now, but it’s not going to completely change the game … yet. The industry landscape is shifting. We’re not just focused on dedicated servers and managed hosting anymore. We’re adopting new technologies, but more importantly, we’re trying to understand where those technologies fit and what real-world benefits they provide to hosting customers.

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With the way conferences this year seems to be themed it would seem that everyone is jumping onboard the cloud computing bandwagon. And why wouldn’t they? The ability to have your data hosted from multiple points allows for the perfect fail safe. If one area dies another is there to pick up the slack, if one server farm gets attacked by hackers, relax there are many more.

It would seem to be the ultimate answer to solving the enterprise question of stability and reliability. After all in an enterprise environment, any small amount of downtime can cause very big problems.

And on this note I am going to say the top 5 reasons for enterprises to not use cloud computing:

  1. No Basic Standard
  2. Application Migration Hassle
  3. Managing Cloud Application Hassle
  4. High Risk
  5. Re-Education of the IT Staff

Sadly, there is no base standard for cloud computing. Heck, it would be hard to find a standard definition of cloud computing. Even the Cloud Manifesto that has come out recently doesn’t define cloud computing, merely its function.

Without a base standard for cloud computing, if you moved all of your functions to a provider and then ended up outgrowing that provider, moving to a new cloud host would require your company to re-migrate the applications and essentially start from scratch.

An enterprise cannot directly migrate current applications to cloud applications. It requires customization and time spent on moving valuable data to more cloud friendly applications.

Managing current cloud applications is not difficult. But it does require a change in company protocols (you no longer manage hardware, instead you manage software) and the use of multiple management tools.

Cloud computing is hosted so it requires the use of a firm Service Level Agreement that can guarantee the always on view of cloud computing. However, you would be very hard pressed for anyone to ever consider guaranteeing always on. Another issue is the case for core competencies. Sure Amazon understands managing huge server farms, but are they focused on the success of those endeavors? If their cloud computing side doesn’t make a large profit will it continue to support the technology or focus its efforts back to their main business of being an Internet superstore. Are the cloud computing companies capable of long range sustainability? The list of risk factors goes on.

As stated before, the emphasis in cloud computing is not on hardware, but on software. The IT department has to make the transition from monitoring hardware, being able to shut down systems for security purposes, etc. to being able to monitor software use, working with another company (heaven forbid) when it comes to troubleshooting problems, etc.

Personally, I like cloud computing and I believe every one of the above challenges can be overcome. However, I think companies should take realistic looks at the system before thinking it is right for them. And this goes not only for the optimistic views of cloud computing, but the pessimistic views as well.

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VPS and virtualization are still relatively young technologies in the grand scheme. Here’s what I mean:

In 1776 the first steam engines were installed and working in commercial enterprises. This technology development leads to the Industrial Revolution.

In 1870 the Second Industrial Revolution commences. Developments from the Second Industrial Revolution include the introduction of steam-driven steel ships, the development of the airplane, mass production of goods, mechanical refrigeration, and the invention of the telephone.

In 1945 the world’s first true computer debuts. ENIAC or Electronic Numerator Integrator Analyser and Computer can perform an equation of 5,000 additions. It weighed 27 tons.

In 1969 the ARPANet went live, with communications between the University of California in Los Angeles and the Stanford Research Institute. The network is the precursor to the modern Internet.

In 1974 Robert P. Goldberg, publishes a paper titled: Survey of Virtual Machines Research. The paper describes virtualization as a ”framework or methodology of dividing the resources of a computer into multiple execution environments, by applying one or more concepts or technologies such as hardware and software partitioning, time-sharing, partial or complete machine simulation, emulation, quality of service, and many others”. By all accounts the first mention of VPS.

In 1983 the TCP/IP protocol is introduced, which is still the Internet standard used today.

In 1991 CERN introduces the World Wide Web (www) which incorporates the HTML computer language. Shortly thereafter the very first web hosting companies emerge, renting shared space on centrally located servers.

On February 8, 1999, VMware introduces the first of a line of x86 virtualization products which creates the ‘VMware Virtual Platform’. Shortly thereafter mainstream hosting companies begin offering VPS hosting products similar to those we know today.

So VPS hosting has been around less than 10 years and really has gotten traction in the past 5 years. The technologies are now beginning to really take hold and become a true force in web hosting. For example, there are now over 5,240,000 results in Google for the search term: VPS hosting.

Here’s what Rob Lovell, an outreach specialist with virtualization company Parallels sees for the near term future of VPS hosting, ”Web hosting for the consumer will continue I think to consolidate and commoditize. the big few really are now established and entrances to the market from Yahoo, Google and Microsoft will impact the lower end of the hosting market considerably. I think web hosters in the small business area will see a dramatic expansion of their services away from just web hosting and domain names, to software and services. Low attrition services are required for companies to continue to grow rapidly in the industry, and with hosting companies already having a huge network of customers, they can simply add-on services to suit.”

Daniel Foster, co-founder of VPS and UK hosting company 34SP.com saw these trends in virtualization, ”I expect to see more companies moving to virtualised platforms in 2009 to enable them to rapidly adapt to the needs of their customers. We’ve seen virtualisation start to take hold of the industry, and this is set to continue throughout 2009. The fundamentals will still apply in 2009. Customers will still expect great service, great value and great hosting. If you’re not already doing that, make sure you’re moving in the right direction; customers expect it all!”

Mr. Lovell added, ”Hosting companies are in a fantastic position to start to offer more than just web and email, but focusing on line or business applications which almost all businesses use – and have to buy and support. Hosting companies already have an infrastructure and people to deliver these services and i think with higher margins on offer, this will be seen as a much more common option. For Parallels we will continue to address our service provider partners, focusing on enabling them to tackle the next step services such as Software as a Service and VOIP.”

This content was written by Derek Vaughan exclusively for WebHostBlog.com.

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