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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.

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On the night of Tuesday, June 30, 2015 (going into July 1, UTC) there will be a leap second added to timekeeping.  One second doesn’t sound like much, but it has the potential to cause problems.  This article will describe a leap second and list potential issues from various operating systems.

clock

What is a leap second?

Simply put, a leap second is a second which gets added to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).  This second is added to synchronize atomic clocks with astronomical time.  The precision achieved is to within 0.9 seconds.

Leap seconds are added once in a while.  This is due to the fact that the rotation of the Earth around its axis slows down over time, albeit very gradually.  The time discrepancy between astronomical time and the time measured by atomic clocks becomes apparent due to this slow down.  The speed of Earth’s rotation is not absolute whereas an atomic clock (a time keeping device that underpins timekeeping across the Internet) will keep counting uniformly for millions of years.  The simple fact is that atomic clocks are actually too accurate.

Adding a leap second is a way to maintain coherence between astronomical time and atomic clocks.

How often does this happen?

Leap seconds get added every few years.  Since 1972, a total of 25 leap seconds have been added.  What this means is that over the past 43 years the rotation of the earth has slowed down by 25 seconds when compared to the time kept by atomic clocks.  The last time a leap second was added was June 30, 2012.

How will the new leap second affect your IT equipment?  Are there any known issues?

While it doesn’t sound like much, the leap second can in fact cause some problems.  Eric Brogdon, one of our most experienced technicians has come up with a list of known issues and are included here for you to peruse.


 

Known Issues (Red Hat)

Errata RHEA-2012-0356 did ensure on RHEL3/4/5/6 that the leap second inserted at the end of June, 2012 is properly recognized also on systems that are not connected via NTP.

RHEL 4

  1. There is a chance that the printing of this message can cause the kernel to crash in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4; this issue is documented inSystem hangs on printing the leap second insertion message.
  2. Ensure that tzdata-2015a-1.el4 or later is installed so that this leap second may be inserted for systems not synchronized by ntpd; this package was released fromRHEA-2015:0141-1.

RHEL 5

  1. There is a chance that the printing of this message can cause the kernel to crash in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5; this issue is documented inSystem hangs on printing the leap second insertion message.
  2. Ensure that tzdata-2015a-1.el5 or later is installed so that this leap second may be inserted for systems not synchronized by ntpd; this package was released fromRHEA-2015:0141-1.

RHEL 6

  1. There is a chance that a system can hang once it receives notification of the insertion of a leap second; this issue is documented inSystems hang due to leap-second livelock.
  2. After the leap second has been inserted futex heavy applications began consuming a large amount of CPU; this issue is documented inWhy is there high CPU usage after inserting the leap second?.
  3. Ensure that tzdata-2015a-1.el6 or later is installed so that this leap second may be inserted for systems not synchronized by ntpd; this package was released fromRHEA-2015:0141-1.
  4. The TAI offset is not updated correctly during the leap second; this issue is documented inTAI offset is incorrect during the leap second.
  5. Using-x with ntp still results in instantaneous clock changes when leap second occurs; this issue is documented in Does Red Hat plan to release xleap.patch with ntp?.
  6. Absolute timers may fire early when the leap second is inserted; this issue is documented inAbsolute Timers that Expire at Midnight UTC May Fire Early When the Leap Second is Inserted.

RHEL 7

  1. Ensure that tzdata-2015a-1.el7 or later is installed so that this leap second may be inserted for systems not synchronized by ntpd; this package was released fromRHEA-2015:0141-1.
  2. Using-x with ntp still results in instantaneous clock changes when leap second occurs; this issue is documented in Does Red Hat plan to release xleap.patch with ntp?.
  3. Absolute timers may fire early when the leap second is inserted; this issue is documented inAbsolute Timers that Expire at Midnight UTC May Fire Early When the Leap Second is Inserted.

In addition to the issues tracked above it is possible that application-specific issues will arise if the leap second was not considered during development. Issues of this nature are documented inLibraries and Applications do not account for the Leap Second.

Note: Red Hat recommends that customers using PPC and IA64 architectures use the method described under Systems not running NTP or PTP.


CISCO

https://tools.cisco.com/bugsearch/bug/CSCus83447/?reffering_site=dumpcr

Symptom:
UCS Fabric interconnect reload or switchover may occur due to Leap second update.

Conditions:
UCS Version 2.2(x).
This problem does not occur on 2.1 or before.

Workaround:
Disable NTP at least one day (24 hrs) prior to the event. NTP servers typically send the information concerning the upcoming leap second up to a full day in advance.
After the occurrence of the leap second you can safely re-enable NTP.

Further Problem Description:
There is a known Linux Kernel caveat (discussed in public forum at
http://serverfault.com/questions/403732/anyone-else-experiencing-high-rates-of-
linux-server-crashes-today?answertab=active#tab-top). UCS 2.2.x version runs the affected version of the Kernel.

– See more at: https://supportforums.cisco.com/discussion/12455421/ucs-leap-second-2015#sthash.GMGJq6tS.dpuf


 

This is by no means an exhaustive list.  It should serve as a base from which you can research to see if your particular environment may be susceptible to issues stemming from the leap second.  If you have any questions though, please do not hesitate to contact our technical team.  We’re always happy to help.

 

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The ITU (Internet Telecommunication Union) predicts that 3.2 billion people, half of the global population, will use the Internet in 2015.  The sheer numbers of people using the power of the Internet provides some tremendous opportunities for businesses with an ecommerce presence.

ICTFF2015-image1

Take advantage of the power and strength of the Total Server Solutions network to get your business in front of the most people possible.  We have services to meet any need you have, all the way from a small website or blog right on up to services capable of powering the largest ecommerce websites imaginable.

 

Have a look at the ITU report and then contact us to find out how to get your business up to speed, fast.

 

 

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The Total Server Solutions Cloud is truly high performance.  Our cloud platform boasts some of the highest performance levels in the industry.    We tested a myriad of storage solutions prior to our engineers deciding on the system we have in place today.  The heart of the Total Server Solutions Cloud is our SolidFire SAN storage solution.

100% SSD Based Storage

All of our cloud storage is based on SSD technology.  With zero moving parts, and low power usage it provides an extremely reliable way to store your data.  Where SSD truly shines though is speed.  Our SAN is fast, seriously fast.  The goal of our engineering team in building our cloud platform was to provide an industry-beating, high-performance cloud platform that could handle anything our customers could throw at it.  But, being fast wasn’t enough, we had the goal of guaranteeing levels of performance to our customers.  Having one of the fastest SAN systems in the world doesn’t mean much unless performance can be controlled and guaranteed.SolidFireRack

What are IOPS?

IOPS stands for Input/Output Operations Per Second.  It’s the key measurement in benchmarking performance in storage systems such as hard drives and SSD drives, and SAN systems.

Guaranteed IOPS

With our SSD based SAN in place, we are able to provide IOPS levels that are, quite simply, unmatched by virtually any other cloud hosting provider.  Our customers have database heavy e-commerce sites that require high performance storage to function properly.  Our cloud is able to guarantee you performance from 1k IOPS up to 100k IOPS without breaking a sweat.  To visualize just how fast our cloud truly is, check out this graph comparing our cloud storage against your run-of-the-mill single SSD and also against the Amazon Cloud system.

graph-iops

To find out how our high performance cloud solution can help you, get in touch with our sales engineering team today.  

 

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tss-cloud

Managed Services Provider (MSP) Total Server Solutions today formally announced the availability of their new cloud platform at their Phoenix datacenter. This high performance cloud platform leverages the technical expertise and experience of the TSS engineering team to provide a solution that is scalable, reliable, easy, and extremely fast.

“Providing customers the right services that leverage our industrial strength infrastructure is what we’ve always prided ourselves on.” said Gary Simat, CEO at Total Server Solutions. The high performance cloud from Total Server Solutions lets customers fully utilize the infrastructure and levels of service for which Total Server Solutions is well respected. The Total Server Solutions Cloud Platform saw initial availability at TSS headquarters in Atlanta. The second phase of the cloud platform has been rolled out to their Phoenix, AZ datacenter facility.

“Above and beyond our service and attention to detail, our new cloud platform is very distinct from what other providers offer in that we can guarantee levels of performance across our cloud.” said Ryan DiRocco, CTO at Total Server Solutions. Mr. DiRocco goes on to state; “As a result of careful equipment selection and engineering, we are able to guarantee IOPS to our customers. Guaranteed performance is something that very few competitors are able to offer yet it’s a factor that is extremely important to our customers.”

Storage in the Total Server Solutions cloud is powered by an ultra-fast SSD based SAN from SolidFire. This high performance SAN coupled with backend network connectivity through the latest Arista networking equipment allows Total Server Solutions to guarantee industry leading performance levels across their entire cloud platform.

In addition, the cloud can be used in conjunction with bare metal servers to provide customers with solutions that are individually tailored to any need. The speed, reliability, scalability, and ease of use that underpins this new cloud system is the result of extensive planning and effort. It promises to revolutionize the way hosted services are handled. Customers desiring even greater levels of performance can pair their cloud resources with the Total Server Solutions CDN to provide an even more robust global footprint for their content.

“With the installation of additional cloud platform infrastructure at our Phoenix datacenter, we aim to provide our customers with another rock solid location to serve their content. This second cloud installation continues and enhances the main benefits of our high performance cloud platform: reliability, scalability, performance, and redundancy. ” said Gary Simat.

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There’s a new security issue causing headaches for many server owners running Linux, it’s called GHOST and designated as CVE-2015-0235.  A patch for this vulnerability was issued approximately two years ago.  But, most production linux servers are, even now, unprotected and unpatched.  One of the primary reasons for this is that after patching, all services that rely on glibc must be restarted.  Generally, this is most easily done with a full reboot.  For this reason, many systems remained unpatched.

 

This vulnerability affects nearly all linux-based applications that require perform a domain name resolution.  It can be called by anything which uses the “gethostbyname()” and “getbyhostname2()” functions of glibc.

Many services potentially vulnerable as a result of this issue include:

  • Exim
  • Apache
  • Cups
  • Dovecot
  • sendmail
  • Pure-FTPd
  • Many more…

Essentially, this is a remote code execution vulnerability which is quite severe.  It effects Linux installations that utilize the glibc library including the following popular distributions:

  • Red Hat or CentOS 5.x, 6.x, 7.x
  • Ubuntu 12.04
  • Debian 7
  • SUSE 11 and earlier

Luckily, if your Linux based server utilizes yum for package management, the fix is relatively simple.  From a root shell, running the following command should take care of this issue:

 
yum install glibc
 

If you’re using Debian or Ubuntu, you can use the following command to install the patch:

 
apt-get install glibc
 
As with anything though, knowledge is key to keeping yourself safe and secure.  If you have questions, or if you’re not sure if you’re vulnerable, please get in touch with our team of system administrators.  We’re always here and always ready to help keep you secured.

 

If you’re one of our customers who is under management, your equipment has already been taken care of and you’re safe & secure.  As with all security issues that arise, our team is always proactive in keeping you up to date.