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The ServInt Source

Still My Favorite Web-based Charitable Event: the Desert Bus for Hope!

“Impossible means eating the sun.” — Lou Reed

Faithful readers of this blog know that each year around this time, I turn into a one-man social media army for my favorite web-based charitable event, the annual Desert Bus for Hope drive-a-thon.

Each year, ServInt donates free server hardware and bandwidth for the Desert Bus event, and we’re proud to do so. What could be more ServInt mission-friendly than making it possible for event contestants to play the world’s cruelest, most pointless, most existentially hopeless video game — for days on end, without ceasing, until they literally drop from exhaustion? It’s for the children, dammit!

Seriously, I won’t go into the many, many reasons why this event is so amazing. Just trust me on this one — or check out our 2010 and 2011 blog posts for more detail, video snippets, and the greatest appearance by Lou Reed in any video game, ever.

Oh, and visit http://desertbus.org to join in the fun, and give generously. Thanks!

Is Cloud Right for You?

Have you been thinking about cloud hosting? We have.

A lot.

We’ve launched our Java cloud PaaS product, Jelastic, and we’ve been incorporating cloud technologies and automation into our VPS IaaS line to increase scalability and redundancy while at the same time getting pretty close to true zero-downtime migrations. And we’re continually working with partners to vet and develop other cloud technologies to bring to market.

But so far we’ve yet to market an IaaS product as “pure cloud.” And there’s good reason for that. Simply put, we’re not sure cloud is right for most of our customers. This doesn’t mean we won’t ever offer cloud, it simply means that right now, we’re concentrating on what our customers demand: a predictably priced, virtualized server that is highly scalable, very stable, ready to use from day one and comes with world-class managed support and service.

That’s a tall order by any standard, but it’s one we’ve been perfecting since the first days of VPS itself.

We’re taking a new step here at ServInt in the coming weeks. We’re reaching out further afield than we ever have before to make this pitch to potential customers who share your need for rock-solid VPS infrastructure from which to launch an online business. One way we’re doing this is to publish a series of white papers to simply educate the public about hosting technologies. One of these papers is Ten Questions About Cloud.

If you’re interested in learning more about the pros and cons of cloud technology, check out the white paper and let us know what you think.

Photo by Philip Leara

Frankenstorm!

The Washington DC area is a funny place to live for many reasons, and one of those is certainly its officially panicky reaction to any tiny incident of inclement weather. Out-of-towners are frequently perplexed by decisions to close schools and other institutions when things turn a tiny bit snowy, or windy, or rainy.

This storm, however, is different. We won’t add to the cacophony of voices describing in terrifying detail exactly how much more awful this storm is likely to be compared to our normal inclement weather — just take our word for it. The skies are black, rain is pouring down, and the wind is picking up ominously.

So what does our Frankenstorm armageddon mean for you and your online business? Probably nothing! The following blog entry was posted by our CTO, Matt Loschert, during our last major weather event, for Hurricane Irene in 2011. Some minor weather-related policies and procedures have been added since this was written, but it’s still an excellent summary of what we do to keep our business — and yours — humming along despite the vagaries of Mother Nature.

Customer Interaction at ServInt

In addition to providing you with valuable information and hosting industry news weekly here on the ServInt Source, many of you may not realize that we have an entire suite of customer engagement tools that are at your disposal.

ServInt on Twitter

ServInt has two twitter accounts, the longstanding @ServInt corporate feed which we use to engage both our customers and the hosting community at large and the all-new @ServInt_Swarm.

@ServInt_Swarm is a Twitter feed specifically for our customers. We use it to share special deals, keep our customers in the loop on important ServInt developments, and provide a private Twitter environment where customers can share their thoughts and concerns with us. Read more

The Tech Bench: Hosts File Modification

How do I view my site on a new server without letting the public see it?

When migrating your website to a new web host, it can be helpful to see the site up on the new server before it goes live. You want to make sure that the site is going to work on the new server without any errors before you start sending traffic over to it. You can copy the site and all your content to the new server, but how do you test the new setup without changing the DNS (and having the whole world see your site on the new server before it’s ready for prime time)?

The best way to do this is to change your personal computer’s hosts file. When you visit a website, your computer has to look up the IP address for that site so that it knows where to go. Before your computer goes out onto the Internet to find the IP address, it will first check its own local hosts file. The hosts file on your computer is a plain text file that contains a map of hostnames to IP addresses.

By changing the hosts file on your personal computer, you can send only your computer to the new server without affecting the live site at all. In essence, you are “tricking” your computer by manually setting the IP address for a particular website and telling it where to go instead.

The process for modifying the hosts file varies depending on what operating system you are running. The following utility has already checked which OS you are running (Mac, Windows or Linux) and has given you instructions on how to change your hosts file. Note that if you are using an older Mac, the instructions are good for OSX 10.5 and higher. Read more

Dude, I Got Nothin’

At the ServInt Source, we try to keep up with two posts a week, one on something technical as part of The Tech Bench, and one on some other pertinent topic. Our litmus test for all posts is: do they have actionable intelligence? (i.e. are we giving the reader information that they can learn from and act on?) Some weeks are content rich. Other weeks, like this one, the works grind to a halt. Sometimes there are a lot of topics we are just not ready to take public, sometimes writers ask for deadline extensions because work takes time away from their writing. And sometimes… well, sometimes it’s a slow news cycle and we’re flat out of creative topics on which to opine. Today was one of those days.

The following is an actual transcript of a series of calls today between me: ServInt Source editor, Andrew Loschert, and my boss: Fritz Stolzenbach, VP of Marketing and Business Development. Read more

The Tech Bench: Changing a Document Root in cPanel

When you visit a web site, you are accessing a particular folder on a web server. For example, when you visit johns-carpentry.com, the server is pulling up the files at: /home/johnc/public_html. The web server only serves up the files located at that folder to incoming visitors. The location of that web folder is called the “document root”.

It is similar to using a coat check. You present your ticket to the attendant and they fetch it from the back room. The visitor doesn’t know the exact location where the coat is stored, but the coat does reside at a specific location.

That specific location of the web folder is the document root and is set by the Apache configuration.

But what if you wanted to change that location? cPanel’s default location may not serve your needs or you simply want to reorganize. In any case, I’ll show you how to make that change on cPanel. Read more

Parallels and ServInt: Ten Years of Partnering on Cutting-Edge Technology

Yesterday at the Parallels Summit 2012, Parallels announced that ServInt won the 2012 Parallels Partner Award for Excellence in Virtualized Infrastructure Services and Virtualization.

Parallels Partner Awards recognize outstanding yearly achievements by partners who innovate with Parallels solutions to increase their sales and revenue, with special attention given to those partners who have excelled in the rapidly expanding small and medium business (SMB) cloud services market.

We’ve been running Parallels Virtuozzo containers as the base platform for all our virtualized servers for nearly a decade. It’s been a great partnership over the years and we’ve worked together to improve the product and develop other systems that have shown us the true potential power and scalability in hosting hardware.

This award is a true honor and marks an important milestone. As we continue to move further into the cloud in 2012 we are excited to keep building and strengthening our Parallels partnership.

 Here’s to the next 10 years of working together to create the future of hosting. 

What I Learned at CES: PIPA is the New SOPA

ServInt COO Christian Dawson and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)

SOPA seems to be breathing its last!  Although Rep. Smith has indicated that he’ll remove the controversial DNS blocking provisions of the bill, we’ve heard that the bill is so poisoned, hearings won’t resume, essentially killing the bill.  That’s a huge victory for the Internet industry. This bill had big money interests behind it, and we in the Internet community were outspent to a ridiculous degree — but at the end of the day our voices were heard. Victory, right?

 

Not so fast! Read more

The Tech Bench: Jailshell in cPanel

Jailshell is a level of shell (SSH) access that limits a user to his or her specific directory structure.  Under regular SSH when users log into their servers they are taken to their home directory and can execute commands within their directory structure.

Under SSH, that user can also travel to any directoy on the server and even use “ls” to get a directory listing, they just cannot open the files or interact with them.  Jailshell, on the other hand, logs users into their directory structure and locks them in (much like a prison or jail cell), disallowing them from openly traversing the directory structure outside of their home.

Jailshell is easily implementable in cPanel. You can switch an account’s shell access in WHM by navigating to Manage Shell Access, under the Account Functions header. Read more

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