Archive for Web Hosting Resources

I received quite a few phone calls and emails the other day (Tuesday to be exact) on the state of the blog. Yes I knew it was down for 15 hours and no it is not closing. The problem all stems from a botched move from one datacenter to another.

Although to say botched means it didn’t go according to plan. It did go somewhat according to plan, but it didn’t go according to my own personal plans and therefore is botched within my point a view as opposed to the actual plans the original planners planned. I didn’t necessarily planned all of that, but the once I grabbed hold of the plan word I just sort of ran with it.

So on Friday, late night early Saturday morning the blog was suppose to be setup on the new server. This of course did not happen. Instead the festivities started on Tuesday around 3am. In a perfect world, the data would be transferred via cPanel’s utilities, the DNS entries swapped, and then after some waiting everything would be done without interruptions.

Instead, all the sites on the server were taken down for transfer in alphabetical order. As you can imagine it took quite some time for the Ws to be transferred.

What I continue to not understand is how many Web hosts fail to take the one extra step in order to make customers happy. The transfer of servers could have been a very easy, if not seamless affair. I’ve transferred sites from one host to another without any problems and I almost wish that they had giving me the option to transfer the site myself, probably would have gone smooth.

To make matters worse I had received several emails saying the transfer had completed when it had not. After talking with the customer support I found that they only had a modest amount of knowledge when it came to what was actually going on so answers to my questions took a lot longer than what they should have.

When planning a move of clients from one server to another or one data center to another it is imperative that there be uninterrupted service and that all staff have a working knowledge of the plan. Without those two you will lose the trust of your customers and in turn lose their business.

Suffice to say, the blog will most likely be moved to a new host.

Categories : Commentary
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While others were getting ready for the first official day of HostingCon, I unfortunately was in an airport boarding my last flight. After being bounced from airport to airport trying to get around the storm front that battered the MidWest I was finally going to arrive at the con. Unfortunately, when I landed in DC my bag did not come with me and so I decided to skip settling into the hotel and just get on with the morning festivities.

Many of the attendees were having difficulties figuring out which tracks to choose from. The sad thing is a lot of really good sessions where in the same time slots making choosing difficult. Still, in a conference this is the sort of complaint that organizers want to hear.

The first 12 sessions covered a wide range of topics, but a lot of it was general information. This is the type of information you should know about the Web Hosting industry, however not everyone has the chance to learn all the basics and the sessions served as a good refresher and filled a few holes. Basic points for the day include:

  • Augment your hosting with 3rd party services and software to move customers up “the chain”
  • Target a specific audience with your hosting plans
  • Give customers reasons to purchase your plans
  • Motivate your employees to work a set standard increasing efficiency
  • Look into outsource opportunities for areas that you cannot cover without spending a huge amount of money
  • If subpoenaed for information you can object on the basis of costs
  • Litigation costs a ton, weigh the risks before going to court
  • “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as a publisher or speaker for any information from another information content provider”  ie if you don’t edit it, touch it, or review it, you are not liable.
  • Big difference between criminal and civil cases
  • Leverage the big “talking heads” of the blogosphere to increase traffic and brand awareness
  • Ensure your books are in proper order
  • Track your customers, their needs, their plans, and their support tickets and keep them on file
  • Go through and determine the metrics that are right for you in tracking customers, services that sell, services that stagnant, customer type, etc. and use that to grow your business

By top three from this group of sessions are:

  • Double your Revenue without Getting One New Customer – Sharon Koifman (Applicure)
  • How to Respond to Legal Threats to Your Business – W. David Snead and Jeff K. Gordon (W. David Snead P.C. and Andrews Kurth LLP respectively)
  • Alternatives to Search: Leveraging Local, Mobile, and Social Media Marketing – Gillian Muessig (SEOmoz)

After lunch, conference goers were giving three keynote speeches. Iain Grant’s (SeaBoard Group) Keynote, Walking a Mile in Your Shoes, was particular rousing and I hope he will be speaking next year. Serguei Beloussov, CEO of Parallels, was back again for another Day 1 keynote. Attendees complained about the apparent use of the keynote to sell Parallels products. However, in fairness, I must point out that the key points of the speech should be the cornerstone in any new Web hosting business and current Web Hosts should see if they fit into their own corporate plan. Virtualize, optimize, automate, and partner up are essential to taking a successful company to the next level and until more companies do this than I will assume we will keep hearing variations of this speech.

Something new at this year’s HostingCon attracted my eye. The inclusion of a Twitter feed for the keyword #Hostingcon, viewable on every large LCD screen. Last year various speakers were utilizing Twitter in their conference sessions. I know our marketing roundtable included a twitter feed and we even answered a few questions from it, this year’s twitter board was attached to all the main monitors found throughout the conference. What was great about this was the fact that everyone at the conference was able to start dialogues discuss sessions and the like.

The day ended with a networking event and attendees going to various bars in an attempt to “network,” or at least that’s what the official line was. As I walked back to my room I decided to visit the bell hops and see if my luggage just happened to show up. I was greeted with a smile and my missing bag. A good conference as any I have had, but we still have two more to go….

Categories : Conferences
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I was recently asked (as in recent, this morning) why do some people use Web hosting age as a form of litmus test as far as gauging hosting performance?

Well it’s not necessarily the test, there are a few hosts who have been around for a while and are still horrible, but for the most part the age of a host shows that it is stable, profitable, and, by extension, probably fairly good at keeping customers (hence price is either really cheap, features are really high, and/or customer support is very good).

A host who has been around for 10 years plus such as dedicated server host Superb or OLM will probably be around for a while. If we look at the life cycle of a host, the first few years are the growing stage. If the host doesn’t grow it gets bought out or it dissolves. During this time the host might grow through growing pains such as moving to a new data center or getting a large influx of customers and must expand their technical and customer support teams, etc.

After the grow stage comes the, monotony stage. From 4-9 years the founders of the company start to look to get bought out if they become tired or bored with the industry. Hosting is a very demanding industry and some people would rather cash in then spend another moment in it. It is also during this time when the founders might find out that really enjoy hosting and looking into the long haul.

About ten years plus, the host is probably in it for the duration. These companies are normally considered fairly stable and profitable (or else they would have gone out of business already). If they are profitable then it means the host can keep customers. Many hosting plans start as a loss as far as money goes and only become profitable the longer the customer stays and/or they move up the product chain (adding extra features, higher tier service plans, etc.). If a customer is around long enough to turn a profit for the company, than the company is probably doing something right the majority of the time and hence the extension (fairly good at keeping customers, as stated previously).

Again there are always exceptions to the rule. But for the most part, age is a good indicator in determining web host success.

Categories : Commentary
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Cybergangs, Botnets, and Automation

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In their blog, security firm Finjan discusses how a single team of cybercriminals are able to control one of the largest botnet networks on planet. The botnetwork is over 1.9 million computers and continues to grow. 1.9 million computers!

Let’s distance ourselves from the fact that this is criminal activity and the operations are of illegal. 1.9 million computers being controlled by a small group of people. How can this happen? How does a group of people send out and process instructions to some 1.9 million computers? Well the answer to that is easy, automation.

The hackers built an interesting control panel that tells them how many bots they have, the IP addresses, etc. Which comes in handy when they desire to trade zombied computers with other criminal outfits. The hackers also have a command line instruction set where they can tell some or all computers in the net to download trojans and malware. These programs can be thought of upgrades in that they increase the amount of commands a hacker can do with a computer. For instance, the blog identifies two such scripts Seneka and Zch. These to two files can read email addresses, communicate to other computers, execute processes on the computer, inject code into the processes, visit websites, register background services, etc.

Essentially the hackers uploaded a whole new set of services and controls to the computers they hacked and using the above two scripts can make it easier to add more later. Based in the Ukraine, six people are able to control 1.9 million computers around the world. And they do it using automation.

If six hackers can control so many computers from a single server, what can you do for your customers with the help of automation?

Categories : Commentary
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A Slice of Perspective

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I was reading on the forums about someone who wanted to pay less than $10 a month of various features and the Host had to provide 99.99% uptime.

I thought to myself what a ludicrous desire for the money. 99.99% uptime is 4 minutes of downtime each month. You know the percents of uptime we see is somewhat vague. Its an abstract idea. When you look at one host who offers 99% and some other Host offers 99.9% well of course you will say hmm 99.9% that’s better I’ll take it.

So let me add a quick amount of perspective to uptime guarantees. This will be very fast and I anyone can work out the math its pretty easy but I have gone ahead and done it for you:

99% = 7 hours 12 minutes of downtime

99.9% = 43 minutes

99.99% = 4 minutes

99.999% = less than half a minute

Now for the perspective. If you wanted a writer with those percentages of accuracy you would have:

99% = 20 misspelled words out of a 2000 word paper

99.9% = 2 misspelled words

99.99% = 2 missing punctuation marks

99.999% = 1 misspelling out of 50 2000 word papers

Most types of gasoline you put into your car are a mix of fuels and additives. Some of the additives are meant to be added (such as cleaners) and some where not removed all of the way (sulphur, water, etc). This by the way is further perspective. I pay about 2 dollars a gallon. To fill up my tank once costs more than what the guy wanted to spend on his Host for a month and yet the gasoline I use is rated around 90% purity. And if the gasoline does harm my engine, the gas company isn’t going to foot the bill like a Web Host would if they dropped the connection.

Think about it. Until tomorrow Happy Hosting!

Categories : Commentary
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