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The ServInt Source

Are Hardware Failures a Thing of the Past?

3163954667_a4d136671b_zIf you’ve managed online applications or websites for any length of time, you’ve almost certainly dealt with hardware failures. VPS technology mitigates some of the more common types of failures, and Cloud has mitigated others. But the fact remains, hardware failures — failures of the machines housing and crunching your data — can still happen at any time.

There are many hardware and software solutions to limit the damage from hardware failures: RAID arrays, hot-swappable drives, dual power supplies, multi-core computers, and multi-stick RAM all work to introduce redundancy into the hardware; while backup solutions, load balancing and CDNs introduce redundancy into the data.

Most hosted content, however — whether it’s hosted on a dedicated server, VPS server or “in the Cloud” — still exists on one single physical computer. So if there is a catastrophic failure of that computer, your site goes away until the data can be recovered and rewritten to the drives on a new computer. Read more

What is Not Guaranteed on a VPS

noisy IOThere was a time in hosting’s distant past when virtualization and Cloud were foreign words. Back then, the idea that you could put multiple customers on a single host machine and give them all fully partitioned and secure “virtual environments” — environments that looked and acted exactly like a small dedicated server — was novel, if not literally unbelievable. Most people who wanted to host a website simply assumed they had to build or rent a physical server in a room somewhere.

Oh, how things have changed. Now, actual physical infrastructure has become conceptually divorced from the idea of a “web server.” Want to host a web site? These days, you buy amorphous cloudy things like “instances” and “environments,” which you scale up or down as your site requires, nearly instantaneously. Costs are down, speed-to-deployment is way up, and it’s all pretty miraculous. But our eagerness to forget what a pain in the neck it is to actually own and manage a real, live server has also made us forget what we sacrificed to get scalability, redundancy, flexibility, and all the other benefits of virtualization.

The big tradeoff — the “con” against which all the “pros” of cloud must be weighed — is the fact that, no matter how you slice it up and partition it, shared infrastructure is just that: shared, usually by many. Read more

Web Hosting for Non-Technical People: Pricing Cloud Services

Author, marketing VP and notorious luddite

Author, marketing VP and notorious luddite

Last week we talked about the dangers of generalizing about website and app requirements when picking a cloud service provider. Here’s the big question we’re going to try to answer this week:

Is it even possible to compare prices between cloud hosting options?

An increasing number of large cloud service providers have been trying to address the problem of explaining just what their services cost by producing cost calculators like Amazon’s. There are a few problems with these calculators. Read more

Web Hosting for Non-Technical People: A “Medium-Sized” Website?

wsj blog post imageLast week, a good friend who works at Google sent me a link to a Wall Street Journal story on the price wars that seem to be heating up in the cloud computing and storage sectors. (Editor’s note: WSJ hyperlinks only work once. To read this article run a google search for “A Price War Erupts in Cloud Services”)

I found the article fascinating, but I thought it did a surprisingly poor job helping the reader understand how the Cloud might affect real-world hosting decisions.

At the center of the problem was the effort the author made to demystify the cost of cloud hosting. In order to provide a common storage and processing task against which all the major cloud service providers’ fees would be measured, the author chose the following:

“(Hosting) a medium-sized website with about 50 million page views a month…” Read more

SSD Cloud Storage and ServInt’s Flex Dedicated Servers

SSD imageIn January, ServInt launched our cutting-edge SolidFire SSD VPS cloud storage platform. It is simply the fastest, most highly scalable, and most reliable turn-key hosting solution on the market today.

Almost since the day we launched the SolidFire SSD VPS, our customers have been asking when they’d be able to buy a dedicated server with SolidFire SSD cloud storage.

That day has arrived!

You can now order a Flex Dedicated server with either onboard SSD or SolidFire SSD cloud storage. Both options offer the speed of an all-SSD storage array, but our SolidFire SSD cloud storage gives you additional advantages, summarized below: Read more

Patching the Heartbleed Bug in OpenSSL

tech bench server securityRecently, a vulnerability was announced with OpenSSL based on a bug called Heartbleed:

“This weakness allows stealing the information protected, under normal conditions, by the SSL/TLS encryption used to secure the Internet. SSL/TLS provides communication security and privacy over the Internet for applications such as web, email, instant messaging (IM) and some virtual private networks (VPNs).”

 - heartbleed.com

This vulnerability impacts openssl versions 1.0.1 and 1.0.2-beta. ServInt customers may have this vulnerability if they are running CentOS 6. CentOS 4 and 5 do not have versions impacted by the Heartbleed vulnerability. Read more

Webhosting for Non-Technical People: the Dark World of DDoS Attacks

Author, marketing VP and notorious luddite

Author, marketing VP and notorious luddite

DDoS attacks sound like something out of one of those cheese-ball 1980s “hackers break into somebody’s computer and ignite a world war three” movies — you know, the ones that feature 400 baud modems and TRS-80s with cassette drives — but “distributed denial of service” (DDoS) attacks are very real, and are a growing problem.

ServInt, like everybody else in the hosting industry, has seen an uptick in DDoS activities on its network over the last couple of years. And while DDoS hasn’t been a major problem for us, it’s something we’re working hard to stay ahead of — which is what brought it to my attention, and what got me to make the effort to understand DDoS attacks better.

What is a DDoS attack?

A DDoS attack occurs when hackers gain control of multiple computers (that’s what makes these attacks “distributed”) and force them to make some form of system resource-dependent request of a target computer or website. The volume at which these requests are made quickly overwhelms the computer that is being targeted, and eventually the site or computer ceases functioning.

This is not the place — and I am certainly not the author — to go into the specifics of how this all works. Here’s an article that does a good job summarizing the different kinds of DDoS attacks.

What’s more important to you and me is: how can all this affect ServInt customers, and what measures does ServInt take to address the problem? Read more

My Son’s First Linux Command

3038629479_cdf1017a4e_bMy son is five years old and a digital native. For the last year or so he’s been saying that he wants to develop video games when he grows up. I’ve acknowledged his desire, telling him that he can develop video games, but that he’d need to learn how to write code and work hard. When he recently brought up his plan again I finally said, “Okay, lets do it.”

We sat down and talked about what he wanted his game to do. His first idea was a Minecraft type game with dinosaurs, I told him that was a good end goal, but that we needed to start smaller, something simple. I asked him what he wanted the goal of his game to be about, he said slaying a dragon. Then I asked him how he wanted the game to start, and he chose waking up in a cave. We then began designing our text-based adventure.

I used this opportunity to teach him the echo command. Echo is the simplest of commands, returning whatever string of text or variables is typed into the command. It’s also a great command to use to learn your first script. Read more

Install Minecraft Overviewer on cPanel

tech bench game techEditor’s note: this tutorial assumes you are familiar with working on the command line on your server via SSH. If you’re not, you might want to check out this article first to get your feet wet.

In previous Tech Bench posts, we discussed how to install vanilla Minecraft and how to install Bukkit Minecraft, but how can you look at your beautiful server maps and buildings and show them off to your friends? Minecraft Overviewer is one solution.

As I’ve mentioned before, Minecraft is memory intensive. Minecraft Overviewer is also memory intensive. I would recommend at least a Signature VPS for hosting a Minecraft server, but an Ultimate would be better.

mcmap2

Here is how to install Minecraft Overviewer on a cPanel VPS. Read more

PHP Mail Issues and DNS

tech bench 2 Here’s a question: What do these two very common email support request have in common?

1. A VPS user believes that the PHP mail function is not working or that there is something wrong with the mail sending script (Contact Us form, registration form, or an order form which sends an email).

2. A user is having trouble sending email to other email accounts that are hosted on the same server.

In both cases, the client’s site is usually hosted on the server while email is hosted elsewhere. The site is also usually using third party nameservers (e.g. nameservers at a third-party domain registrar). The server is trying to send email locally instead of remotely where it actually exists (Google Apps, GoDaddy mail, Office365 etc).

If you think your PHP mail function is not working because you are having trouble sending email to an account on your server, you should check your DNS configuration:

  1. Run a DNS report of the domain on a site such as intoDNS.
  2. Use the output to determine if the domain is using third-party nameservers.

Third-party nameservers are nameservers whose IPs do not resolve to your server’s IP addresses. Running a DNS report will help you determine if this is the case. If it is, you likely set up an A record to have the site resolve to your server while keeping the mail exchange (MX) records set to resolve to another server.

The Fix:

  1. Move the domain for the off-server email address from /etc/localdomains to /etc/remotedomains. On cPanel servers, this can be done in WHM:
    1. Navigate to DNS Functions >> Edit DNS Zone, choose the domain in question and scroll to the bottom and switch to ‘Remote Mail Exchanger’. This change in WHM updates the above two files. (In certain instances even though a domain may be in /etc/remotedomains, it may still be in /etc/localdomains as well. Check to see if it is properly removed if you decide to add the file manually.)
    2. If you are using your own private nameservers for the domain in question, this is all that needs to be done to resolve the issue. If you are NOT using your own private nameservers, proceed to step 2.
  2. Delete the DNS zone file from the server because it is using third party nameservers and is not needed on the server. This local zone file is actually what is directing the server to send email locally instead of looking for it off your server. The zone file can be deleted from the following location: DNS Functions >> Delete a DNS Zone

Please note that this DNS zone file can be generated again if you ever decide to move away from third party nameservers and start using your own (e.g. ns1.yourdomain.com and ns2.yourdomain.com).

That’s it, you should now be able to send email at your domains that are hosted with third parties.

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