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Cloud

 

You don’t have to be a certified cloud expert, but given its rapid growth and staying power, you might want to brush up on a few bits of cloud jargon for your own edification.

Don’t you hate that feeling of being at a party or in a meeting when the conversation turns to a topic you know next to nothing about? If it’s a party, you might be able to politely excuse yourself and go grab another drink, but in a business setting, that’s not really an advisable exit strategy.

Sure, you can just smile and nod along, but wouldn’t it be better to understand the back and forth and actually add your own insight? Of course it would be. And when it comes to cloud computing, those conversations about it are only going to increase. The cloud is being utilized in more and more applications every day, and analysts expect cloud spending by businesses to increase 21% in 2016 to a whopping $106 billion in 2016.

Here are some of the most common cloud-related bits of jargon that you’ll be likely to hear thrown around, along with some layman-style definitions.

The Cloud

We’ll start off with the basics here, just in case you’re a total Luddite and are starting from square one. Defined loosely, cloud computing is eschewing utilizing the hardware and software on your local computer in your home or office, and instead utilizing it from a different computer(s) via the Internet. So despite what commercials and advertisements convey, there’s no magical computer-less “cloud” out there – it’s just using somebody else’s equipment.

Example: Total Server Solutions

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

IaaS essentially comprises the three main models of cloud computing, along with SaaS and PaaS (which we’ll be getting into here in just a moment). Infrastructure as a Service can be seen as the most fundamental type of cloud computing service offered. The basics of virtualized servers, hard drives, networking and other services are provided to the user, but the user is free to do with them what they choose. That can be great and will serve a lot of basic needs, but you as the end user are still responsible for managing applications, middleware, operating systems, and everything else.

 

Software as a Service (Saas)

This is the practice of using a company’s software as a web-based service as opposed to installing it manually on each and every computer’s local hard drive. Obviously this saves time as each computer or smartphone with an Internet connection can use the full capabilities of a robust suite of software without going through the installation process, but it can save a considerable amount of money as well. Licensing big applications for business-level use can be expensive, so opting to pay a monthly fee to use SaaS is often far cheaper.

 

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

PaaS provides a full platform for not only delivering applications over the Internet, but also for users to run, manage, and develop their own applications. For application developers, this can be a godsend – the complexity involved with creating and managing the resources and infrastructure for an application creation environment can be daunting. The PaaS model instead allows developers to existing toolkits and hardware/software for a monthly fee or as a pay-as-you-go model (the more you use, the more you pay).

 

Private Cloud

As the name might suggest, a private cloud is one that is available only to a certain company or enterprise. To the employee or user of a private cloud, it operates in the exact same way a public cloud system would work, with the lone exception being access is only granted toward employees and users granted specific access. This can be advantageous for operations with concerns about security and/or privacy (such as a medical billing company looking to adhere to HIPAA regulations).

 

Hybrid Cloud

As you might expect, the hybrid in the term Hybrid Cloud refers to using a mixture of both on-site storage (or Private Cloud, as we just learned) as well as public cloud systems. This is an attractive option for many companies who have a small set of critical, sensitive data they either prefer or are perhaps obligated to keep on-site, but don’t want to invest in a fully private cloud capable of hosting all of their non-critical data. Hybrid Clouds offer a good deal of flexibility as well, making them a popular choice.

 

Although this article just touches the surface of the sheer amount of cloud definitions, it provides a good start with some of the most basic concepts and cloud service offerings. We’ll look to do an update to this in the near future with some more advanced terminology. In the meantime, be sure to look at the wide variety of cloud packages we offer here at Total Server Solutions. We’re more than happy to work with you to find a service that meets the needs of your business.

 

 

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MicroCloud-Logo

 

You have lots of options when it comes to selecting your hosting provider – we’ll dive into why selecting one with a solid worldwide footprint is crucial.

In today’s hyper-cloud connected world, selecting a hosting provider can quickly become an overwhelming exercise. It’s borderline astounding when one examines the sheer amount of cloud-based hosting providers that exist in today’s marketplace.

There are a lot of metrics you can use to select the best provider for you and your business, which we have covered on the TSS blog before – cost, speed, and customer service are probably the top three that come to mind. But again, with as much competition as there is right now in the hosting space, odds are good that you might find several cloud providers that are around the same price, offer nearly identical IOPS (Input/Output Operations per Second) speeds, and boast 24/7 customer support. How then do you decide who to go with?

One aspect that many don’t think about is how big of a global footprint your hosting provider has. There are several distinct advantages that having numerous datacenters in a wide variety of geographical locations provides that probably aren’t obvious to the average everyday consumer. Let’s take a look at a few.

Enhanced Performance

Even with the lightning fast speed that data travels through the Internet, your proximity to the datacenter on which a website or network is hosted makes a difference. Without going into too many technical details, the closer you are to the server, the faster you’re generally able to access the data that’s on it. It might only be a few fractions of a second here and there, but for many businesses, that slight delay can make all the difference. Imagine you operate an e-commerce outfit and your entire site and infrastructure is hosted in the Bay Area, whereas your closest competitor has datacenters in the Bay Area as well as New York and Chicago. Customers in the Midwest and East Coast can go through the entire shopping cart process without any noticeable lag, but yours tends to bog down and buffer a bit more the further you get away from California. Those few seconds can translate to lots of lost revenue.

Catastrophe and Disaster Mitigation

The old adage of it being wise to never put all your eggs in one basket is applicable in a lot of different areas in life, and cloud hosting is certainly one of them. Using the same hypothetical e-commerce company as above, imagine the disastrous consequences if a mega-quake or some equally destructive occurrence took place in the greater Bay Area. You could quite literally lose everything in a matter of moments. If your data is hosted several different locations, your customers using your online store might not even notice that everything from San Francisco to Los Altos just got swallowed up by the Pacific Ocean. (We’re obviously hoping that this never happens.)

Corporate Stability

This one’s a bit harder to quantify, but generally speaking, a hosting provider that has had the proven successes and established track record to grow into an organization with multiple locations and numerous employees to manage them all probably has their act together. They aren’t some fly-by-night, slipshod organization that could fold up at a moment’s notice due to some financial improprieties – no, you can rest assured that with your hosting provider’s increased size and footprint comes increased stability and longevity.

The TSS Difference

There’s no denying that we’re proud of the company and the team we’ve built here at Total Server Solutions over the years, and due to our dogged commitment to delivering a great product with professionalism and integrity, we have been fortunate enough to grow. Significantly. We now offer 12 locations around the world – nine here in the United States (Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Weehawken, Seattle, and two in Atlanta) as well as three abroad (Toronto, Amsterdam, and London).

Our Salt Lake City and Seattle datacenter locations are the newest to join the TSS family, with the former going online on September 22 and the latter doing the same on September 16. Both of these additions bring specific advantages to our customers. With Salt Lake City, we are providing much-needed local hosting to the huge swath of the nation between California and Chicago, which happens to be home to a burgeoning business scene. And we all know Seattle is home to plenty of tech businesses already, but having a datacenter gives our clients increased connectivity to the rapidly expanding Asian markets.

Our mission is to be 100% committed to the success of our customers, and adding these datacenters shows that we’re also 100% committed to doing whatever it takes to give them the finest cloud hosting options available today, as well as into the future. Sound like something you might be interested in? Please feel free to drop us a line at any time – we’d love to hear from you!

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Top5

The rapid adoption and proliferation of cloud-based computing can truly be defined as a revolution. We’ll look at 5 ways the cloud has changed the business world forever.

If you’ve ever watched the NBC sitcom 30 Rock, you know they were very self-referential and often threw jabs at the network on which they were hosted. Tina Fey and her writers often referenced NBC’s parent companies – first General Electric, then Comcast (known as “Kabletown” in the show). And while plenty of aspects of both conglomerates were made fun of, one that was generally revered and spared criticism was former GE CEO Jack Welch.

Welch is widely seen as a business visionary, and has been attributed with the following quote:

“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.”

That quote is particularly germane in today’s business climate for one big reason – cloud computing. Over the past 10 or so years, businesses have had to learn how to best utilize the cloud, and those who have been able to learn quickly and act upon that knowledge faster are the ones who are in the best position for success in the future. The amount of ways in which cloud computing solutions have changed the business world is exceedingly high and would take much more than a single blog entry to accurately cover. As such, we’ll stick to five.

Leveling the Playing Field

When it comes to data storage and infrastructure needs for a business, how much you need can be a question with a different answer each quarter. But one thing remains constant and has been for some time – smaller businesses and startups need much less in the way of servers and storage. When that same small business expands though, it used to be a fairly gargantuan undertaking to go through pre-cloud.

Not only did it constitute a significant financial investment, but business owners had to figure out where they were going to house and store all this suddenly necessary equipment. The Big Boys on the block could easily afford to purchase a few dozen more servers, and more often than not could store them in any one of their big headquarter-type buildings.

With the cloud, now small business owners can quickly and easily expand their infrastructure and network at the speed of a phone call or email – and for a fraction of the cost compared to purchasing and housing the equipment in-house.

Allowing Emerging Markets to Compete

In the same vein as the point above, the cloud has almost instantly allowed emerging markets like China and India to compete with the United States and Europe. By definition, emerging markets are still in the process of developing, and with that development comes high speed infrastructure, experienced professionals in the data/colocation/managed hosting arenas, cities with hubs that support and foster high tech businesses…the list goes on. America and Europe have a bit of a head start in this category, but allowing startups and new businesses in developing countries to quickly shift their networking needs over to an established cloud provider anywhere in the world is a huge benefit.

Improving Mobility and Speed

This one is big for business professionals, but also for everyday users as well. It wasn’t too long ago when if you wanted to access work files or anything hosted on your company’s physical network, you had to be on-site. Putting everything on the cloud has allowed businesses to be more flexible with their employees who, for a variety of reasons, might be more efficient if they telecommuted. It saves on travel time and costs, and can cut down on time wasted by improving response times. Imagine your biggest, most important client has an emergency on a Sunday night and needs a file right away…but you’re on vacation. Instead of having a minor stroke and panicking about who you’re going to have to call to head to the office to access it, you can simply log onto the company server from your phone and send it in a matter of minutes.

Saving Money

The cost of cloud computing is a fraction of what it costs to purchase, set up, and manage your own data center. Sure, you’re going to pay a monthly fee that will increase based on your usage, and there may be a migration fee to bring all your data over to your provider. But the fact remains that cloud computing is a much more affordable option, and it makes sense when you think about it. Most cloud providers specialize and focus on only the cloud. This allows them to purchase the requisite equipment needed in bulk and trim away all other elements, which in turn allows them to offer their services at surprisingly low prices. And when you take into account that the monthly fee includes maintenance services, the savings grow with the reduced need of in-house IT services.

Reducing Risk of Physical Theft

Believe it or not, stolen or lost laptops with confidential, proprietary company information on it used to be a major issue – in fact, as recently as 2010, one study found that just over 10,000 laptops were reported lost each week at the largest 36 airports in the country. Pre-cloud, many traveling business execs would load company documents onto their laptops to work on or edit while traveling. With cloud access, a lost or stolen laptop would still not be great, but at least the employees are (hopefully) accessing documents from the cloud with a username and password unavailable to the person who found or stole the laptop.

Grow Your Business with Cloud

These are just a handful of ways the cloud can help grow your business – there are lots more that we’d love to talk to you about! Our team of industry veterans and experts can provide you with the high-performance cloud options that will help build your company and power your success. Check out our competitive cloud options and pricing and see why Total Server Solutions has quickly become a leader in the cloud computing space.

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High performance cloud, managed services, and colocation provider, Total Server Solutions today made public the availability of datacenter space in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Atlanta, GA based company has been working to increase its global footprint in recent months. Salt Lake City is the latest facility offering to be added to the range of datacenters available to Total Server Solutions customers.

Ryan DiRocco, CTO at Total Server Solutions states that “Salt Lake City is our latest North American datacenter option. It’s a great location that provides another rock solid platform from which our customers can grow their businesses.”

SLC

A fully redundant power infrastructure supports the Salt Lake City datacenter. The entire facility is backed up UPS units in N+1 configuration and multiple N+1 configured generators provide a further layer of power redundancy. This ensures that the Salt Lake City datacenter will remain stable. Access into and within the fully staffed facility is secured with multiple authentication methods including biometric & key card access. Bandwidth providers within Salt Lake City include Zayo, Level3, and Cogent. Within this datacenter Total Server Solutions offers a full range of solutions including managed and unmanaged servers as well as equipment colocation services.

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Total Server Solutions, a leading MSP & high performance cloud provider today announced the addition of a
new Seattle, Washington datacenter facility. Seattle is the latest location in the Total Server Solutions range of
datacenter options. Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, with locations throughout the continental United States,
Total Server Solutions provides top tier managed and unmanaged services to hosting providers, developers,
gaming developers, site owners, and e-commerce businesses who demand the highest levels of service and
uptime.

Ryan DiRocco, CTO states “By bringing the Seattle datacenter into our network we have expanded our
footprint to the Pacific northwest. An added benefit to our customers is that it’s another location with great
connectivity to the markets of Asia.”

Gary Simat, CEO at Total Server Solutions said, “Seattle is a fantastic addition for Total Server Solutions. It’s a
highly demanded area in a region of the continental US that strengthens our presence in the region. There is
great growth potential in the Seattle market.”

The new Seattle offering boasts fully redundant power backed by fully redundant UPS units and full generator
backup for increased reliability. Direct connections to Seattle’s Westin building mean that numerous bandwidth
choices are easily accessible. Services available within Seattle include managed and unmanaged dedicated
servers. Colocation services will be available within the Seattle datacenter in the near future. Current on net
providers with Total Server Solutions include: Zayo, Internap, Spectrum, CenturyLink, Peer1, Cogent, and
Seattle Internet Exchange.

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CloudCloud

Is High Performance Cloud Worth the Extra Cost?
Many cloud providers offer basic packages and services compared premium, higher performance and higher cost options. Are they worth it? And what types of individuals and businesses are a good fit?

There are two axioms we get drilled into our heads from a fairly early age that seem to be at complete odds with one another.

“You get what you pay for.” (i.e. – buying a cheaper, affordable version of something is likely not going to be as good or reliable as the more expensive varieties)
“Don’t judge a book by its cover.” (i.e. – don’t be fooled simply by the price tag of something, as the cost isn’t always the best indicator of true value)

So if we’re taught then to not skimp on costs (especially when it comes to big ticket items), but also that there are good deals to be had out there for items priced significantly lower than the competition, how do we make our purchasing decisions? Kind of confusing, right?

It doesn’t get any less confusing with cloud computing options. We are still in the midst of a so-called “cloud boom” where there is no shortage of cloud providers competing for your business. As such, there’s been a race to the bottom in terms of who can offer basic cloud computing services for the lowest price.

While those options can definitely be the right choice depending on your needs and budget, you might quickly find that they are a bit limiting in terms of performance and support. If you’re currently on the fence about whether your or your business would benefit from upgrading to a higher performance cloud, ask yourself the following questions:

How concerned are you with performance?

This is essentially the whole kit and caboodle, here. If you don’t care about performance, then you should absolutely go for the cheapest available cloud service you can find. It’s hard to imagine a person or situation where performance wouldn’t be at least somewhat important, however. Why would you need cloud hosting if you don’t care about performance? You might be better off buying a few hard drives, sticking them in a closet or unused bedroom, connecting them to a network, and calling that your “cloud”. After all, despite some people’s notion of what the cloud actually is, there are still physical computers and devices no matter what cloud you’re on.

How important is your ability to scale quickly?

If you’re moving your business infrastructure over to the cloud, you’re taking a step in the right direction – not managing a physical infrastructure on site can free up a lot of space, time, and resources. That’s the good part. But what if your business has a sudden and exponential growth phase? That initially sounds a lot like a good part as well, but unless your infrastructure can handle it, it can become a real headache. The flipside of the coin can be equally painful – if times get a bit tight and business slows down a bit, can your cloud partner scale down with you accordingly?

With cheaper providers, the increased savings they pass on to you often come at the expense of scalability. You might have to pay hidden fees for increasing or decreasing your services, or you may run into significant choke points when trying to scale. Many premium cloud providers include flexible scaling in their service fees.

Do you care if you have good customer service or not?

This question runs the risk of coming off as trite, but there’s no denying that in order to give you amazingly low prices on cloud hosting, providers have to cut those costs somewhere. Good, knowledgeable, dependable customer service reps are often the first to go.

And it makes sense if you think about it – how much cheaper is it to hire someone who can run a chat bot app off of a canned, generic, and extremely limited script as opposed to speaking with someone who actually has real-world experience and can walk you through your issue and related problems? The former requires no experience and can easily be outsourced to anywhere, whereas the latter is someone that brings applicable skills to the table. Big difference.

Is price the most important factor in your decision making?

Depending on your situation, this may very well be the case. Your operation might be running on some very razor thin profit margins, and while you recognize the need for cloud computing, you don’t have much in the way of a budget for it. That’s perfectly fine – it’s a big reason why so many providers are hustling to offer the lowest possible prices, as you wouldn’t be alone in not having a lot of financial wiggle room. Just know that if you save on price, you’re sacrificing performance, customer service, and scalability, just to mention a few.

After reviewing our questions and answers here, it quickly becomes clear that cloud computing falls under the first of the aphorisms that we discussed above – “You get what you pay for.” If you’re looking for guaranteed high performance cloud, the ability to scale up or down with your business demands, excellent customer service, and at a price that isn’t the bottom of the barrel but more affordable than you might think, you’ll want to check out Total Server Solutions. Our high performance cloud is among the fastest and most reliable you can find.

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Hawaii-178

Most businesses claim to offer superior customer service, and the cloud computing industry is no different. Which factors can help differentiate the truly great customer service providers from the pack?

If you asked every business owner, regardless of industry, what the top five things were that their business excels at, odds are strong that almost all of them would include customer service. And it’s not without good reason – even the most average of business owners well understand the need to have customers that keep coming back. After all – no customers, no business.

In highly competitive areas of business where there is a seemingly limitless option for the customer, the importance of excellent customer service and care takes on an even greater importance. No business will survive with bad customer service, but if you’re the only game in town, you definitely have a bit more breathing room. That room quickly diminishes based on the amount of viable alternatives that are available to the customer.

In the area of cloud computing and hosting, the amount of competition can be staggering. From the major players like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, to the incredibly small niche providers and everything in between, the search for a solid, affordable cloud provider with great customer service can be exhaustive.

If you find yourself in the position of wanting to find a cloud partner that will deliver on their customer service promise, here are a few areas in which you should really compare and contrast providers closely.

Constant Availability

This is becoming more common among cloud providers, but you’ll still want to make sure that your provider offers 24/7 live tech support at no additional charge. Some might only offer chat based services, but if the server that your site and files are hosted on goes down, you’ll probably want to speak to a real life human on the phone right away, so make sure they have skilled, experienced customer technicians standing by at all times.

Also, it might take a bit of leg work to verify, but see if you can determine if their support staff is outsourced or not. It’s obviously preferable to be able to speak to someone on site whenever you need it, rather than someone who will troubleshoot and walk you through various fix attempts from hundreds of miles away.

Guaranteed Levels of Performance

With any area of computing or technology, speed makes all the difference. The cloud is of course no different, which is why you’ll see many providers advertising that their servers are the fastest. While we’ll get specifically into speed a bit later, it’s only one half of the equation – the other half is making sure that the equipment is up and running to make sure that those speeds are actually possible. Look for a company that provides a high level of guaranteed uptime, upwards of 99%, and be sure to read the fine print to see if and how you would be compensated (via a prorated bill) if there is a significant outage.

Rapid Technician Response Times

Tying into the first item about 24/7 tech support, this one is important as well for the rare occasion when there is a problem at your cloud provider’s physical site that cannot be remotely fixed. As noted above, the ideal situation would be to have technicians on-site at all times. This is not very common however, so check in to see what the response time would be for your provider to have a technician on site. The faster, the better.

Speed

Everybody wants a faster cloud. Less time waiting for file transfers and page loads means more time you can focus toward growing your businesses. A metric known as IOPS, or Input/output Operations Per Second, is a crucial means of benchmarking cloud based storage systems. For example, SSD (Solid State Drive) hard drives are becoming all the rage due to the fact that their IOPS are (on rough average) at least three times as fast as traditional spinning Hard Disk Drive (HDD). A cloud provider that utilizes all SSD drives will noticeably improve the speed at which your site loads and files can be accessed.

Scalability

If the technical aspects (such as speed and performance) are all there, and the customer service is fast, knowledgeable, and always available – then as a customer, you’ll probably want to stick with the cloud provider that offers you all of that. And hopefully, they can help be a partner to grow your business. But with growing business comes growing cloud and infrastructure needs, so make sure your provider of choice offers seamless and easy ways to increase your resources and grow with your business.

At Total Server Solutions, our singular mission is to provide our customers with the absolute best cloud and hosting experience available anywhere. Our customer service is led by a team of experts and is available 24/7 with ultra-fast technician response times.

We only utilize only SSD storage in our cloud to provide unmatched speed, with guaranteed levels of performance. Our IOPS rates are among the fastest you’ll find anywhere, faster even than Amazon High Performance. And with our flexible plans, we can scale with you – we’ll help you adjust your resources on the fly so you can grow or scale back as needed. Click here to learn more about TSS and why we can meet or exceed every customer service benchmark imaginable for a cloud provider.

 

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There has been a new vulnerability reported in BIND. This critical vulnerability can potentially allow an attacker to utilize BIND as a vector for a Denial of Service attack.

At present, the only way to fix this vulnerability is via patch. We highly recommend patching BIND on your server as quickly as possible. If you need help, or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our technical team. We’re always available and ready to assist you.

Further information on this critical vulnerability can be found here:

http://cve.mitre.org/cgi-bin/cvename.cgi?name=CVE-2015-5477

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/07/30/bind_remote_dos_vulnerability/

Remember, patching BIND is the only way to close this vulnerability. Please open a support ticket with our technical team if you need help.

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A new vulnerability specific OpenSSL versions has been discovered. Due to this vulnerability, an attacker could cause checks on untrusted certificates to be bypassed. This would then enable the attacker to use an invalid certificate.

This vulnerability has been assigned ID CVE-2015-1793. Client side applications which verify certificates including SSL/TLS/DTLS & servers using SSL/TLS/DTLS may be affected by this vulnerability.

This issue affects OpenSSL versions:

1.0.2c
1.0.2b
1.0.1n
1.0.1o

OpenSSL 1.0.2b/1.0.2c users should upgrade to 1.0.2d
OpenSSL 1.0.1n/1.0.1o users should upgrade to 1.0.1p

This vulnerability does *not* affect users of the following operating systems as they do not include OpenSSL that includes this vulnerability:

CentOS 5, 6, 7
Debian 6, 7, 8

Further information can be found here:

OpenSSL Advisory:
http://openssl.org/news/secadv_20150709.txt

CentOS (and Red Hat) Status:
https://access.redhat.com/security/cve/CVE-2015-1793

Debian Status:
https://security-tracker.debian.org/tracker/CVE-2015-1793

As always, if you have any questions or concerns regarding this issue, please contact the Total Server Solutions technical team. We’re always ready to help you.