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The ServInt Source

Patching the Shellshock Bug Exploit

20562069_7cf1e2aaec_oIt’s been a busy couple of days at ServInt, but I’m glad to say that our customers are protected against the recently found Shellshock bug.

Some background

Shellshock is a newly found vulnerability in Bash, the most common application allowing users to execute commands on Linux machines.  It’s the environment within which commands are executed – the “shell”. There are a variety of shells available in the *NIX world, but Bash is by far the most common in Linux. Read more

Maximizing Site Speed with ServInt’s New Resource Graphing Tools

all graph simpleSite speed is all about page load times. But what causes one site (or one page) to load faster than another?

The short answer is that it depends on the site and the server. Each combination is unique, but there’s a lot you can do to find your bottleneck.

Even to experienced developers, the traditional VPS or cloud server sold by most hosting companies can be something of a black box. There are specs listed on the company’s site; there may even be a control panel that reminds you of the power of your server. But in the end, you make a purchase and hope that the hardware is fast enough for your application.

But how much of your allotted resources are you actually using, and how much do you have in reserve for growth? Read more

ServInt’s Resource Graphing: Beyond the Site Performance Guarantee

As part of ServInt’s SolidFire Site Performance Guarantee, our system resource graphing allows you to track and analyze all of your critical system resources from one convenient dashboard.

There are more uses to these proprietary server analytics than simply ensuring that you’re receiving all of your critical system resources. Let’s take a moment to look at some of the most common ones.

1. Checking your site performance

The stated purpose of the Site Performance Guarantee resource graphs is to show that you are receiving your promised resources. If you see your site performance degrading, it’s very simple to check your resource graphs and make sure you are receiving 100% of your critical server resources.

Resource degradation, though, is so unlikely that not only could we not find an example of it to show you, we could not find an accurate way of artificially producing the problem for illustrative purposes.

The important point to remember when checking for hardware degradation is to make sure you look at the “Allocated” number in individual resource graphs. If that number falls below your guarantee for even five minutes, you qualify for a refund of that entire month of service. cpu no degradation The important point to note here is that for each of our guaranteed resources — CPU, RAM, disk space and IOPS — if your site slows down and you do not know why, you can check these resources at any time to confirm that it is not a problem with the hardware. If it is — you get that month of hosting absolutely free. If you want the fine print, you can read our entire SLA here.

2. Monitor your total server uptime

With ServInt’s SolidFire SSD VPS, full server downtime is very unlikely in all but the most dire circumstances. Still, let’s look at what a full server outage would look like in your resource graphs. all resources outWe simulated an outage on August 25th by rebooting a test server. Notice that the lines on the graph simply disappear. If you see this, click into a specific resource graph (such as CPU): cpu out You can see in this graph that not only has the resource utilization gone to zero, but the allocated amounts have as well. This indicates that the server itself was offline.

In the extremely unlikely event that you are temporarily unable to access the Portal, please know that these graphing tools will continue to collect data. This will be valuable after the incident should you decide to seek a refund for downtime.

3. Monitoring resource usage.

Confirming that your server hardware is running at 100% efficiency and your server is up are both important, but frankly, we don’t expect many customers to find evidence of resource degradation or downtime.

What is far more common is for customers who are experiencing site slowness to log into their resource graphs and find that their server is online and they are receiving all of their promised resources, but that they are using all the resources in one or more categories. Let’s look at some examples of this. slamming ram slamming cpu slamming iops These examples show customers who are maxing out IOPS, CPU and RAM respectively. Simply put, if you are using all of the resources your server has been allocated and you then wish to use more, your site will slow down. The question of how to fix this is one of time or money: should you optimize your code or purchase more server resources. spiking cpu Sometimes customers only have spikes in their resources. These spikes may have been anticipated or may be a surprise. The questions to consider in this scenario are: Did you have enough computing power in reserve to handle this extra traffic, and was the traffic spike preventable or simply a result of increased visits to your site?

Finally, there is a special circumstance when monitoring RAM usage on your ServInt SolidFire SSD VPS. There are two separate RAM metrics that add up to Total RAM: Active and Cache RAM. high total ram usage Active RAM is just what you would expect — this is the RAM the processes on your server are actively using.

Cache RAM is an optimization wherein unused RAM is temporarily used to store (or cache) data that has been recently accessed on the server. When that RAM is needed for Active RAM, the cache is simply dumped (or a portion is dumped) to free up the RAM. Some servers have a large cache because of many active users. In this case, the Active and Cache RAM total nearly all of the allocated RAM. But other servers do not require a large cache or the cache has been recently dumped due to the need for more active RAM. not much cache ram variable ram If your active RAM usage increases to near the limits of your allocated RAM, you will have little-to-no space left for Cache RAM. Depending on your configuration and requirements, this could signal a need to optimize your code or upgrade your hardware.

4. Planning for future optimizations or upgrades

One of the best ways to use your ServInt SolidFire SSD VPS resource graphs is to plan for future growth of your sites. Monitoring resource usage over time and deciding on predetermined limits past which you will upgrade can save you the headache of running out of resources in the first place. steady increase disksteady increase cpusteady increase ram


Study your resource graphs. Determine how much of your system resources you’re using on a regular basis and how much you need to hold in reserve for growth or spikes in traffic. This will help you know when it is time to scale before you run out of resources. With ServInt’s SolidFire SSD VPS, knowing when to upgrade your resources has never been simpler.

VPS or Cloud: What’s in a Name?

ml01blogIn the context of hosting, “Cloud” originally referred to a “next generation” of technology abstraction, something better than basic virtualization. Vendors proposed many conflicting definitions that included a mix of vertical scaling, horizontal scaling, automatic scaling, API driven provisioning, etc. Usually, whatever a particular vendor was offering was that vendor’s definition of Cloud.

There was never full agreement on what constituted Cloud, and then, over time various traditional, non-Cloud hosting platforms began growing Cloud features. So, did those platforms become Cloud platforms, and if so, when? That’s a question that’s open for debate. Read more

The Future of VPS Cloud Hosting is Clear — Transparent, Even

Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 3.22.54 PMToday, ServInt continues the ongoing rollout of customer-facing and back-end improvements to our VPS hosting platform. Here’s a status report on our platform enhancements, as of Sep. 1:

- Downtime-free OS kernel updates – Available now
– Redesigned network core to increase resiliency to attack and hardware failure – Available now
– Enhanced, third-party network status update resources – Available now
– New privacy policies and procedures – Available now
– New SLA and SolidFire Site Performance Guarantee  – Available now
– New, customer-accessible, to-the-minute analytics on server resources – Available now
– Reliable, customer-controlled backups, powered by R1Soft, heavily customized by ServInt – Coming soon
– New bandwidth providers and increased capacity – Coming soon
– Improved DDoS mitigation – Coming soon

You’ll see that there are two or three items on the list that are “coming soon.” When I say “soon,” I do mean “soon.” As always, we need to balance our desire to bring you platform improvements as quickly as possible with the need to make sure those enhancements are stable and customer-ready.  We’re almost there, and I appreciate your patience.

We’re very proud of these enhancements, about which you’ll be hearing more over the next few weeks. We believe they will result in a VPS hosting solution that radically outstrips anything offered by our competitors — and there’s more to come.  But I want to spend a little time reminding people about something we rolled out a week ago, in our first installment of these VPS platform enhancements, that may be the most significant addition we’ve introduced:

On August 21, all of ServInt’s SolidFire-powered hosting accounts started being covered by a new SLA that guarantees our SolidFire customers’ sites will never slow down because of a shortcoming in RAM, CPU, Disk or disk read/write operations per second (IOPS) on the server that hosts them. To keep us honest about that, we put a completely new, precedent-shattering set of system resource utilization graphs in our customer portal so clients can see exactly how their resources are being provisioned and consumed. What’s more, if those graphs show that a running server fails to deliver the proper amount of RAM, CPU, Disk, or IOPS for more than five minutes, we’re going to give our SolidFire customers an entire month of hosting for free.

Nobody else in the hosting industry offers anything like ServInt’s SolidFire Site Performance Guarantee, because nobody else can.  With this radically transparent approach to server resource reporting, we’re literally redefining VPS and the cloud.  You want to know how many cores you get with any of our VPS solutions?  ServInt will tell you — and then guarantee, and then prove to you that you’re getting every fraction of every core you were promised.  The same goes for RAM, disk, and even IOPS.  That’s what we mean when we say: if you’re a ServInt SolidFire hosting customer, we guarantee that your site will never slow down because of your server. And we’ll prove it.

ServInt may not be the only web host to tell you how much RAM, CPU, disk and IOPS you’ll be getting when you sign up — but we are most certainly the only web host willing and able to prove to you, on a near real-time basis, that you’re getting what you were promised… and that’s huge.

At ServInt, we have never been a simple infrastructure provider. We’re a solutions provider — and our goal is to provide the best solutions for our customers by not simply following, but establishing best practices in hosting technology design and customer care. Providing this performance, while offering premium levels of security, privacy and transparency has always been the foundation of the trust we’ve earned from our customers over the years. Simply put, we’re not willing to leave our customers’ livelihoods to chance. These upgrades are the right thing to do for you, and that’s the only reason we’re doing them.

So welcome to the transparent, honest, worry-free, high-performance future of VPS cloud hosting.  You’re going to like it here.

ServInt Site Performance Guarantee Resource Graphing Tools: an Engineer’s Perspective

all resources GilesEditor’s note: A reader made the following comment on yesterday’s blog post about our SolidFire Site Performance Guarantee and resource graphs: “I am curious to know what’s proprietary about these graphs given that so many open source tools exist (Munin, MRTG, Nagios etc.) that show similar stats.” We’ve asked one of the chief architects of ServInt’s resource graphing tools, Giles Fox, to weigh in.

From an engineering perspective, there’s nothing in particular that makes our graphs proprietary. For the most part, all of that same information can be polled by any user of the system, except — potentially — some of our IOPS data. Also, extrapolating the CPU data using open source tools involves a lot of complicated calculations. Still, if one wished, one could use Munin, MRTG or any of a number of other open source solutions to build their own graphs. Read more

Graphing the Heartbeat of Your Server

all graph simpleYou’ve heard us talk a lot about what makes ServInt’s SolidFire VPS and dedicated hosting platform the most significant evolution of Cloud hosting technology in many years — the elimination of noisy neighbors, the transition to an all SSD cloud storage solution, and most recently, the implementation of a hosting-industry first: a Site Performance Guarantee that promises your site will never slow down because of a drop in available RAM, CPU, disk or read write operations per second (IOPS).

What is behind this guarantee — and the verification and proof that you’re receiving the performance you’ve been promised — is the proprietary analytics tool that we’ve introduced to support our Site Performance Guarantee.

If you’re a SolidFire customer, these resource graphs are available in your ServInt portal. They give you total transparency into all your critical server resources, showing not just how much CPU, RAM, disk, IOPS, and network resources you’re using, but also tracking how much you’re guaranteed and currently allotted.

Never before has a virtual server been so transparent.

So, just what do these graphs include? Read more

Your Site Will Never Slow Down Because of Your Server.
We Stand Behind it and We Prove it.

Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 3.22.54 PMIf you’re a ServInt SolidFire customer, your site will never slow down because of your server. Ever.

Did you know that? Have we done a good job explaining that to you? I wonder sometimes.

In past blog posts, we’ve examined IOPS, resource contention, disaster recovery, and lots of other very good reasons why you should choose our SolidFire-powered VPS and dedicated servers. But when you boil it all down, the main reason is this:

If you’re a ServInt SolidFire customer, your site will never slow down because of your server.

That’s revolutionary — and it’s a genuine first for the business-focused hosting industry. No other hosting company can make this promise.

Now, as of today, we’re backing our promise up with a revolutionary new guarantee — ServInt’s SolidFire Site Performance Guarantee — that says this: if your site slows down because your server doesn’t deliver 100% of the CPU, RAM, disk and IOPS you were promised, for more than five minutes… you get your entire month of hosting absolutely free.

How will you know whether you’re getting all the server resources you deserve? By using our new, completely transparent system resource graphs — another ServInt exclusive. From this day forward, if you’re a SolidFire customer, we’re not just going to tell you exactly how much RAM, CPU, disk and IOPS you’ll get with each hosting package. We’re going to put tools into your hands to keep us honest — tools that will give you real, verifiable proof that your server is delivering what you paid for — and we’re going to back it all up with the most radical system resource guarantee in the hosting industry.

Here’s the punchline: ninety-nine-point-whatever percent server “uptime” guarantees are a thing of the past. As of today, ServInt is guaranteeing server performance — i.e., guaranteeing that your site is not only up and online, but also that your site or app performance is never compromised by any server resource shortcoming. Ever. We’ll prove it to you.

VIDEO: ServInt COO Speaks Out About the NSA

Last week I wrote about how ServInt was beating the NSA. Here’s a talk I gave on the same subject in TechWeek in Chicago last month. ServInt cares about protecting our users’ rights. The talk will explain why we care, and what we’re trying to do to fix the “NSA problem.”

How ServInt is Beating the NSA

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 10.37.33 AMYesterday I was interviewed by Bloomberg News about the effects of NSA surveillance on the Cloud.  They wanted to know if we had lost any customers specifically because of the Edward Snowden leaks. This, of course, is a hot topic: how is mass surveillance affecting the cloud, and can we quantify the damage that is being done? Is it costing us jobs and economic growth in the cloud?  The answer, of course, is “yes” — and ServInt isn’t scared of saying so.

I said that we had lost customers and even more potential customers — which is true.  ServInt has been one of the few players willing to speak up and say this and as a result we have been quoted in places like The Hill and the New York Times.  The cloud hosting field is a tough, competitive business and it is hard to talk about losses.  But ServInt isn’t afraid of calling out the problem, because we have been leaders in directly addressing the issue since it arose a little over a year ago.

The cloud in the United States has been badly hurt by the actions of the NSA.  These days anybody can relocate their digital business with just two or three clicks of a mouse. You don’t need to sign a long contract or tell anybody why you are making your choice, you just move. I’ve talked to a lot of people who have decided they want to move their business outside of the United States because they feel like the US doesn’t care about privacy. I’m quoted in the Bloomberg article about this being a “death by a thousand papercuts.” I was talking about the affect on the overall economy, not our business, which for the record has seen a 30 percent decline in foreign signups since the NSA leaks began, not a 30 percent decline in total foreign customers.

In fact, ServInt is actually weathering the Snowden storm very well, compared to many of our competitors. Why?  Because our clients trust us. They understand the cardinal rule of security and data safety:

It’s not where you’re hosted, it’s how you’re hosted.

Your business needs to stay up, online and fast. It needs to stay stable and secure. And your data needs to be protected. You need experts at the helm to accomplish all of those things — experts you trust. And earning the trust of small to medium businesses is what ServInt has been doing for 19 years.

The NSA revelations are just another hurdle to overcome in ServInt’s ongoing pursuit of being the most trusted name in the Cloud. We’re doing so by requiring warrants for content, and by responsible handling of data. We’re doing so by being thought leaders in the fight against NSA surveillance in Washington, through our leadership within the i2Coalition. And we’re trying to curb the misinformation about NSA surveillance.  Everybody tempted to move their content out of US datacenters needs to remember that the vast majority of all spying is done on foreign networks. “Move your site out of the U.S. to avoid spying” may be good marketing, but it doesn’t take into account the reality of how surveillance works.

Over the course of the last few months we’ve launched our most trustworthy product ever — the SolidFire VPS — which offers an industry-wide exclusive performance guarantee on all critical server resources. We’re working on major updates to our privacy policy, and other major enhancements are around the corner that will further augment our offerings, across all platforms and price ranges, to give you tighter control over your data than ever before.

We do all this because we want to win the day, and win it honorably, by doing the right thing  We win the day when we make customer trust our number one goal. We win the day when our customers know we have their backs when it comes to protecting their data, and we win the day when we fight for privacy and NSA accountability.

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