It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week at ServInt – the worst we’ve had since 10 years ago, when a fiber cut in just the wrong place brought us offline completely for seven hours. That day was one of the most professionally terrifying of my life, but we learned from it and we grew. In the wake of that event we added redundancies far beyond the “industry standard,” we fixed a ton of processes and we quickly regained the faith of our customers. To this day, that date in 2004 was the very last time ServInt’s entire network has gone down.
Every time we experience problems I am determined to make sure we learn from them. This week is a big learning week, because it’s been fraught with some of the biggest problems we’ve seen in nearly a decade. Let me take a few moments to tell you a bit about what challenges this week brought — to show you what went wrong, and what we did right as we resolved them.
This week started with an announcement that the largest kernel level exploit in the history of our VPS and virtual dedicated offerings had been discovered. This exploit could have allowed hackers to access not only our customers’ VPSs but also the machines that they were hosted upon. A fix would require the reboot of literally thousands of servers, while minimizing the impact on our clients’ businesses — always our top priority. Within 48 hours we performed emergency maintenance on nearly every single customer in our datacenter. This meant forcing every single customer to accept at least a little downtime in the pursuit of vital security protections. Some customers did not like this, but if I had to do it all over again I would do it the same way. I am proud of the way ServInt rose to the challenge and protected our customer base from this dangerous exploit in such a swift manner.
I was really hoping that the week would get easier from there — but it didn’t. Last night, one of ServInt’s datacenters experienced one of the strangest, most difficult to explain, and most difficult to solve networking problems we have ever seen.
We build our networks to withstand most anything. We have stayed up through hurricanes, ice storms, and more equipment failures than I can count. We’ve made it through power disruption for extended periods, and other horrendous events that would have taken down providers that aren’t as thorough, many times over. But this one got us good for a while.
On Saturday evening, our network was running smoothly, as it generally has for more than a decade. Suddenly our monitoring system started showing red/green/red/green/etc. The phrase “this is not a drill” had to be used as senior engineers were plucked from their lives and rushed into the datacenter. Our COO was on a plane, I was at dinner, but the engineering fix-it team that really needed to be there was there, immediately. What made this situation unique, and what made it impossible to fix in the normal few minutes, was the fact that the critical equipment that was in the process of failing seemed incapable of making up its mind whether it was healthy or not. Making matters more challenging: high levels of equipment redundancy (normally a very good thing) made it nearly impossible to determine where the problem lay. Our top engineers, without access to reliable diagnostic data, literally had to pull the network apart and put it back together to find the exact piece of hardware that went haywire (in this case a router) that caused everything else to behave erratically. In the meantime, there was simply no information to share with increasingly frustrated customers, and our Tweets and Facebook posts began to sound unnecessarily vague.
In a typical router-failure situation, as soon as the router shows “red/down” on our monitoring system, we post “we had a failed router interrupt traffic impact the network. This is being fixed and we’re routing around it — we’re sorry for the inconvenience.” Those are facts and details, things people can get confidence from. However, with no reliable detail to pass on, our team was left to pass on rather vague updates for quite some time. It was frustrating and made us seem much worse about communication than we actually are.
In the end, last night’s events pointed out some of ServInt’s greatest historical strengths — and some newly discovered weaknesses. We’re still the best in the business at running a reliable, robust network and data center — and, when necessary, finding and fixing complex technical problems. When it comes to customer support and communication through a crisis, however, we need to do better. Having no support/communication failover systems, and forcing ServInt and its customers to rely on Twitter and Facebook to communicate, was totally unacceptable. We will build greater redundancy into our ticketing and communication systems to make sure that never happens again.
Having said that, we can’t promise that technical glitches will never happen again. They are a fact of internet life. What matters most is that we must always — always — learn from these thankfully rare events, and become a better service provider as a result. I promise you we will do so in this case as well. You’ll see the results of this growth as the weeks and months unfold. I am confident you’ll like what you see. Thank you, as always, for your continued faith and trust in us.
For almost 19 years I’ve believed that trust should be the foundation of every action we take here at ServInt. I originally set out to share my belief with small businesses by creating a different kind of hosting company — one that strives to find ways for small businesses to succeed and for entrepreneurs to realize their dreams. I wanted to let them focus on what they do, not on what we do.
Reliability, integrity, transparency, support, and expertise are cornerstones of building such a high level of trust, and these are values all of us at ServInt share. About a year ago I realized that I remained confident in why we do what we do, but despite all the breakthroughs in cloud technology I wasn’t confident in how we do it — not just as a company, but as an industry. Since that day ServInt has been working on a paradigm shift in web hosting, and today I’m proud to announce the result of our efforts.
We’re solving a problem that most people don’t even know exists. The most prolific example is someone with a new VPS or cloud service that complains of unreliable performance. They assume their provider sucks, or the industry sucks. It’s clearly not that customer’s fault and we all know it, but nobody knows what to do about it. Those types of situations make the whole industry look bad, and they should. This problem needed to be solved, and we are disrupting the industry by solving it. Nobody who cares about their business should buy a product they can’t trust, but there haven’t been cloud or VPS products they truly could trust without over-buying or over-engineering – until now. Read more
Like any other business, ServInt periodically takes stock of the configuration of its products, and makes adjustments to ensure they remain competitive. Unlike most businesses, however, when we make these adjustments, we usually provide them to our existing customers at no extra charge. That’s what we’re doing this time, too. Today, we’re doubling the guaranteed RAM specifications for our Essential, Essential+, Signature, and Ultimate VPS products, and we’re extending that enhancement to our existing customers at no extra cost.
We’re doing this for two basic reasons: one, because we want to keep our current customers happy — and two, because this is a first operational step towards a new and revolutionary platform enhancement that’s on its way soon. Read more
Last week, ServInt put out a joint press release with VC fund Runa Capital announcing a program to offer discounted ServInt hosting and advanced infrastructure consultation to Runa portfolio companies, a kind of grant program for their slate of startups. We announced at Hosting Con and put out a simple joint press release for industry types. The logic was that this partnership between ServInt and Runa Capital is something industry insiders would be interested in, but it would not be on the radar of customers in the hosting industry.
But then I got thinking about just what we are doing with Runa and the wider implications. Runa Capital’s companies include all sorts of tech start-ups who are redefining the possibilities of the Internet. Their portfolio companies include Nginx, Jelastic, and StopTheHacker, and their team’s previous investments include Parallels. These are the companies Christian was talking about last week when he wrote about people changing the world with the Internet. Read more
Today marked the 17th anniversary of when I founded ServInt. 17 is an interesting milestone. Last year, at 16, I marveled at the fact that if the company I had created was a human, it would now be old enough to drive. Now we’re forging further into “adulthood,” and I’m reflecting on what we’ve built and on the friends we’ve made along the way.
I had the unique opportunity to spend this special occasion in Hong Kong, celebrating with our friends and partners from PCCW Global. Every year immediately following the Chinese New Year, PCCW hosts a large kickoff event in Hong Kong. This year they invited us to join them as their guests.
When I started ServInt, the very first bandwidth provider I signed on was a company called CAIS, short for Capitol Area Internet Service. In 2001 they were sold to a company called Ardent Communications, which sold off its networking assets to a company called BtN, or Beyond the Network Access, in 2002. Around 2006 BtN was folded into its parent company, PCCW Global – one of the world’s largest and most powerful telcos. But we still basically have the same account team we started with when I started ServInt 17 years ago. Long-term relationships like this in the Internet industry are rare to say the least! Read more
In the wake of a well-publicized boycott campaign against GoDaddy, hosting providers are racing to try to come up with their stances against SOPA. I am proud that we don’t need to do that. Our stance on SOPA, its sister bill PIPA, and the bill from whence they both came COICA, is well known. We have spent much of the last year not just railing against these bills but trying to do something about them.
The well-intentioned goal of SOPA is to go after piracy, which is noble and very important. But piracy is something that needs to be handled smartly, with a laser-focus. SOPA isn’t a laser, it’s a wrecking ball that if enacted is likely to destroy hard-working legitimate businesses more frequently than it does pirates. SOPA allows people merely accused of ‘contributing to infringement’ to have their business taken from them. Pirates will maintain back-up plans in case they get their resources pulled – it’s legitimate businesses that will suffer most. SOPA will be used for censorship and as an anti-competitive tool. It will stifle innovation, and is one of the most dangerous bills I have seen in my two decades in this industry. Read more
Today is an exciting day at ServInt — because we’re announcing the largest free product upgrade in the history of our VPS platform. Basically, we’re upgrading our entire VPS line from Essential through SuperVPS. Today, VPS clients will begin to see dramatic upgrades in up to 24 different resource allocations associated with their hosting account, including highly requested upgrades to burst resources and disk i/o. Current customers will see an instantaneous drop in their server load as we actively allocate fewer customers per server than ever before. This decrease in density will mean more CPU resources for every customer, at no additional cost. All packages will receive a 20% increase in disk space. Signature and above will receive additional RAM guarantees and across-the-board increases to all product specifications — and our SuperVPS line will include even bigger CPU guarantees.
It’s no coincidence that this upgrade comes on the heels of our recent data center expansion in Northern Virginia. In the past 12 months we’ve made substantial capital investments in our network and data center infrastructure, further customized and refined the code that augments our virtualization software, and invested in a 60% increase in our customer support staff. Increasing the power of our hosting platforms is one of the first things that these investments are allowing us to do, and we’re happy to pass along the benefits of these new efficiencies to our loyal customers.
As I’m sure you know, most hosting companies don’t operate this way. It’s far more common for hosts to increase profit margins by packing customers more densely onto their new, improved networks. But ServInt has always believed that passing infrastructure improvements on to our customers and increasing the value of our products is the best way to build a loyal customer base and ensure long-term growth. That’s why we’ve regularly performed upgrades for our clients in the past and why we continue to look for new ways to reward our customers for their allegiance.
We don’t usually get this business-y on the ServInt Source, but I thought it was important for you, our current and (hopefully) future customers, to understand what we value here at ServInt — and to understand the theory behind the decisions we make. Every product offering and improvement—frankly, every dollar spent at ServInt—is meant to increase the value of the customer experience. Our business model is not simply built on attracting the greatest number of customers, but is tied to the health and quality of our customers and their hosting experience. At ServInt, our top priority is you.
Photo by sparkieblues
Back in June, we announced that we would be increasing the disk space across our entire VPS line — and that this upgrade was going to be passed along to all our customers, both existing and new, at no additional cost. After weeks of hard work, I’m proud to announce that we have successfully completed the disk space upgrades — and prouder still that we did it more than a month ahead of schedule.
I should be clear — the fact that we performed the upgrade quickly doesn’t impress me so much. What impresses me is the fact that we performed this massive upgrade so quickly, without compromising our exacting standards for uptime, customer care and service reliability.
It wasn’t easy. Before our announcement we had done extensive testing. We had invested a small fortune in new equipment, and had devised the necessary workflow to get the job done right. But no matter how hard you plan you can’t help but worry when the hard work actually gets underway. Over the course of just 58 days, we managed to test each and every box to make sure it met ServInt’s standards and get everything into production without a hitch.
We implemented the change in two phases:
- All new clients were automatically turned up on new host machines (the giant servers we use to host our VPS and SuperVPS products) that were pre-outfitted with the upgraded disk space.
- All existing clients were then carefully migrated to host machines reconfigured with new resources by ServInt’s network engineers.
We made that decision because we wanted to get as many people more resources as quickly as possible, and we didn’t want to make everybody wait. Some of you may have seen your resources suddenly pop up overnight without ever having noticed the transition, and if you didn’t — well, that was the idea!
I’ve got pretty high standards for this company, and I don’t brag about our achievements too often — but in this case I really want to say that this was a fantastic example of intelligent engineering. Our team worked long hours, as long as it took, at all of our data centers to bring you these features in a way that minimized interruption to our clients’ online businesses, and I’m proud of them.
Now that everybody has their free upgrade, we hope you can put it to good use. Look for even more free updates in the future — and thanks again for your business!
If the point of virtualization is to make hardware abstract, why do most hosting companies charge for resource upgrades?
At ServInt, we work hard to ensure that our VPS and SuperVPS customers never have to worry about being left behind as new hosting industry technology and service standards evolve.
Sometimes our efforts to stay ahead of the curve are largely invisible: new cooling systems, network operations center enhancements, hiring and training practices, and so forth. We do this kind of thing all the time, and assume you have no interest in keeping up to date on all of it.
But sometimes we make really big decisions, and today’s announcement is one of those.
Let me get straight to the point: today, ServInt announces the largest disk space upgrade in the company’s history. In fact, we’re adding almost a half a petabyte of disk space, across our most popular VPS packages — and, whether you’re a new or existing customer, you won’t pay one cent for it.
There are lots of reasons why we took this initiative, but they really boil down to one thing: when you sign up as a ServInt customer, you’re not buying a server. You’re buying a solution.
You can buy a server from anybody. But very few companies will take the time, or do the hard work, or hire the talented people, or spend the money to make sure that their customers’ online business never falters. At ServInt, we do.
But that’s enough chest-pounding from me. Let’s look at the numbers. This upgrade affects all our VPS products as follows:
- ServInt’s Essential VPS service, priced at $49 per month, now features 50 GB disk space, up from 30 GB.
- ServInt’s Signature VPS service, priced at $89 per month, now features 75 GB of disk space, up from 45 GB.
- ServInt’s Ultimate VPS service, priced at $129 per month, now features 100 GB of disk space, up from 60 GB.
- ServInt’s SuperVPS service, priced at $199 per month, now features 100 GB of disk space, up from 75 GB.
As before, this new disk space is provided on powerful RAID arrays with industry-leading speed and is further bolstered by our exceptional free backup system.
ServInt engineering staff have already begun implementing the disk space increases for existing customers, and we expect to have all VPS subscribers up and running in the enhanced packages within the next 90 days. This upgrade will not require any effort or involvement from our clients.
This isn’t the first free service enhancement we’ve implemented for our customers, and it won’t be the last. One thing is certain: whatever improvements we deploy over the coming weeks, months, and years will be done in order to continue providing you with the solution you bought when you signed up with us as a customer.
That commitment is just one of the things that makes ServInt different, and it’s one of the things that makes me proud to own and operate this business.
ServInt is at a very interesting point in its 15 year history. We have a lot of customers outside of the United States, and despite the ongoing global economic crisis we’ve managed to grow quite well. Whether its our latest series of data centers springing up on the West Coast, the launch of our new Solo Series dedicated server line, or our continued philanthropic projects revolving around the ongoing crisis in Haiti, we are growing larger, more competitive, and more socially aware by the day.
In celebration of our 15th anniversary, and in the spirit of being the most competitive Enterprise-class player in webhosting, I’m announcing the return of our most aggressive VPS promotion ever for a limited time.
50% off of your first THREE months on any VPS or SuperVPS with promo code ‘50×3’.
We are a premium hosting company with premium products and services. In an industry that includes competitors from every angle engaging in a race to the bottom in pricing, we’ve chosen a different path. While others focus on making their products cheaper, we focus on making them better. Because we invest in our infrastructure and development to ensure we have the best servers in the world, we don’t need to lure people in with second rate products at subsidized, unsustainable prices.
ServInt has never been your run-of-the-mill bargain-basement hosting option, there are plenty of companies that fill that niche already. However, we also know that for those businesses entering the world of VPS and Dedicated servers for the first time there is often some initial sticker shock. Going from $7 to $50 a month is not trivial for a growing business tasting its first real wave of success, but finding a partner you can trust, that you can hold accountable, and that truly wants you to succeed is a priceless commodity these days.
In the early days of ServInt, doing business with an influential partner at a special price was like winning the lottery. I want to bring that same experience to everyone who hasn’t felt 100% comfortable making the switch to ServInt.
Once you experience ServInt, you’ll stay with ServInt. We’ll be there on day one to help you get your business running, we’ll be there when you’re ready to go Solo with a Dedicated Server, and we’ll be there for you every day in between.
Being a host for over 15 years means we build our business on long-term relationships. It also allows us to build personal relationships with our clients, making you more like family to us than someone who buys a service.
Most of all, we’re looking forward to doing business with all of you.