Stop SOPA / PIPA

Millions of Americans oppose SOPA and PIPA because these bills would censor the Internet and slow economic growth in the U.S.

SOPA / PIPA

Two bills before Congress, known as the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House, would censor the Web and impose harmful regulations on American business. Millions of Internet users and entrepreneurs already oppose SOPA and PIPA.

The Senate will begin voting on January 24th. Please let them know how you feel. Sign this petition urging Congress to vote NO on PIPA and SOPA before it is too late.

https://www.google.com/landing/takeaction/

 

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Primary link soft failure

Thursday, September 16th 10:25 GMT -6

Ongoing network outage impacting a significant portion of the eBoundHost network has been traced to one of our main peering points. The peering provider has a “soft” failure and as such was not demoted from “preferred” status.

The link was not completely down since the outage was behind the next peering point and the router had to be failed over by a network technician rather than the router itself.

The regular secondary failover peer uses a diverse network which was apparently using the same provider as their primary and is now in process of switching them off. We estimate this outage to last another 10-15 minutes at the most.

This kind of network failure/recovery happens quite often, our systems are designed to automatically fail over. Such outage have impacted customers only 3 times in the last 10 years. We do not expect this to happen again any time soon but just in case, the primary network provider will be kept down until we can verify that everything works.

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Quick update

It’s been quite a while since the last official blog post, specifically almost 6 months.  This is in no way due to a slowdown of eBoundHost activity, quite to the contrary, we have been so busy that it’s been difficult to keep up with non-critical things like this blog.

The last 6 months have brought a lot of behind the scenes changes to our team, office, data center, even a refresh of our office computers.

Most importantly we have added some fresh new faces to our customer support team.  Of course, the term “fresh” is relative, since our team members are industry veterans (if you can say that for a 10 year industry).  Those of you who have the pleasure to work with our support team will notice some new names on your support tickets, be sure to put them through their paces!  No need to go easy on them just because they are new.

Our data center has been expanded in order to accommodate projected growth.  This has involved new rackspace, more bandwidth and more electrical power.    Since even the smallest changes to the data center can lead to unexpected consequences, we try to plan ahead as far as reasonable and make incremental changes. The latest update should take us through the middle of 2011 without any more major upgrades.

And finally, we are in the midst of a office move.  We outgrew the previous office of 7 years and have moved up to a beautiful new office with large windows.  It may be strange to mention that this office has large windows, but you would be surprised at how many potential offices we turned down due to the lack of sunlight.  We might be computer people, but aesthetics and comfort of the office environment are paramount.  We spend more time working than any other activity, even sleeping takes less time during the week, so the office environment has to be comfortable.

That’s it for now, lots of other things going on that we can’t get into just yet, but a few major changes are in the pipeline.  Stay tuned!

Posted in Misc | 2 Comments

Thanksgiving

Today is the American national holiday of Thanksgiving. We gather from all over the country and sometimes the world for the purpose of sitting down around the same table and sharing a meal with our closest family members. The news reported that 37 million people are traveling the highways on this day to be with their families. That is more than 10% of the country’s population on the roads at the same time trying to join their relatives for dinner. Dwell on the enormity of that for a moment.

In the hustle of life its easy to forget that this is really what is most important, family. We work to live not the other way around.

From our table to yours, we wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving!

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September 11

On this date, eight years ago, our world changed.  Never forget.

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Comcast “blinks” and we get calls!

A few minutes ago Comcast went down.  Boy, did we start receiving calls from worried clients who thought we were at fault!  Everything looks good on our side folks!  Nothing we can do to help until Comcast gets their network back up.

You really don’t appreciate a good ISP until you realize how rarely they have issues.

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Sale lasting through May 15th

Shared hosting is now on sale!  New clients or existing clients who register for a new account, can now receive our lowest price ever, $3.95 per month.  This price will go back up to our normal $6.55 on May 15th.

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Call center phone problems

Technological advancements are not without caveats.  For instance, our VOIP provider is having issues and as a result our primary telephone line is not working for some callers.  Luck would have it that all of our other (secondary) lines are working without any issues, while the only one that truly matters is down.

For the next several days call this secondary number: 847-368-9490

We have used this particular telephone company for the past 2 years without any major issues and this is the first time we have seen how they respond to a real customer service trouble ticket.

Working with their first and second level support really makes me appreciate our own support team.  Our people know what they are doing and they don’t have idiotic scripts to read while you are aggravated on the other end of the phone call.  We don’t waste your time with endless “for this department press this, for that department press that”.  We don’t have you wait on hold endlessly while reading basic notes.  We don’t transfer you to five departments before reaching the correct person.  Bad customer service is infuriating.

If we don’t have a resolution tomorrow, we will move off to another carrier, telephone support is too important for our customers.

You don’t appreciate good service until you need it.

Posted in Misc | 2 Comments

The joy of (more) speed!

After blowing through deadline after deadline, our new bandwidth carrier delivered our newest ultra fast backbone connection.  What they lack in intra-department coordination they more than make up for with the quality of their bandwidth.  The new connection has great ping times from around the world.

  • Chicago:   12 ms
  • Stanford University: 32 ms
  • Czech Republic: 141 ms
  • Italy: 141 ms
  • Sweden:  128 ms

Our customers should see a decent response time improvement as well as raw download speed improvement.

Happy browsing everyone!

Posted in Hosting | 1 Comment

Network monitoring

After a conversation with a concerned customer we need to clear up the network graph situation.  The graph located here, is showing uneven traffic with gaps and dips and seems to drop down to near “0″.

We are absolutely NOT experiencing an outage or interruption.  We are just pushing so much traffic that we are hitting a limitation of our monitoring software.  When it reaches a peak our software becomes confused and  “wraps” around to start at zero.  The graphing software assumes that nobody could possibly push this much traffic, so it thinks the data is invalid.

We are looking for other graphing software options right now and should have a fix shortly.

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Happy holidays everyone!

Whatever you celebrate, we can all join together and wish each other a happy holiday season.  With such awful weather (in Chicago), it’s the perfect time to gather indoors and spend time with the family.

Due to holidays our team is operating on a skeleton crew for the next few days but we are still here for you if you have any questions, concerns, or just want to say “hello!”

Have a happy and safe holiday season and we’re looking forward to working with you in 2009!

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Network Maintenance Completed!

Maintenance took longer than originally anticipated, but the extended time was used for wire routing and other such non-disruptive tasks.  Total customer outages were between 12 minutes and 57 minutes, depending on server.

All considered it was a great success!

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Final maintenance window

This weekend, Saturday 11/22/2008, we have a scheduled outage.  Some customers are going to receive the following text.  Just to make sure that everyone has a chance to know what is happening, here is an update.

If you don’t hear from us in the next 24 hours, then your account is not effected.

==============================

Dear eBoundHost Customer,

This upcoming Saturday night, November 22nd, 2008, the server which hosts your account is scheduled for maintenance.  The service window is between 9pm (21:00) and 3am (03:00) with an actual expected outage of 30-60 minutes.  This impacts, shared hosting, vps and dedicated hosting customers.  All times are in the Central Time Zone, GMT -6.

Over the past few weeks some servers have been upgraded in anticipation of this event.  We appreciate your patience through this final scheduled outage.  After this maintenance window, we do not foresee any more wide ranging outages, only the occasional kernel upgrade which requires a quick reboot.

Due to phenomenal growth in the past two quarters, we are upgrading hosting facilities.  This will allow us to provide faster throughput, lower network latency and ability to scale with demand.  Additionally, our equipment is being consolidated into a formation that will make it more resilient to power failure and less susceptible to overheating.  In a nutshell, things are getting even better.

As always, it is recommend that you keep a full backup of your entire account, including website, email and database.  We provide excellent tools for backing up your account, check your control panel.  Data loss is not anticipated but you can never have too many backups!

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VPS maintenance complete

Several VPS servers were down tonight for software and hardware maintenance, if you did not receive a notification ahead of the maintenance, your system was not effected, feel free to stop reading.  Everything is now back online and arrays are happily rebuilding.  Most servers experienced 15-20 minutes of total downtime but one server in particular took over 45 minutes to finish the process.

Beyond the outage itself, customers were not impacted.  No data was lost and there is nothing you need to do post upgrade.

Great success!

Posted in Maintenance | 1 Comment

Get out and vote!

Its November 4th, election day in the USA, and all the nonstop political coverage is almost over. Whatever your political leaning, I’m sure we all agree on one important thing, electing our leaders is one of the few true freedoms we have. However you vote, its better than failing to show up. If you don’t like either candidate, then write in your own name. This is a much better way to protest than through aparent apathy. Howvever you vote, just vote.

Let’s hope that whomever takes the White House is going to unite the country that has been so bitterly divided politically for the last few election cycles.

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Always in our hearts – 9/11

As life gifts us with happy moments, we must always remember the tragedies of our past that shape our future.  9/11/2001, always in our hearts.

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Brief outage this morning

We were up and down sporadically this morning for about 15 minutes.  The network issue took a little bit of time to clear up, but we should not see any more downtime for the rest of the day.

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This is NOT our data center!

Someone emailed me these pictures and could not help but post them up for your amusement! This is the very opposite of how a data center is supposed to look.

Not our data center!
Not our data center!
Not our data center!
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Just to prove a point!

For a very good reason this article is being written and published entirely on my blackberry.

If nothing else it proves the point that you never know how your website is going to be accessed.

Like it or not, there is now a whole new dimension of compatibility to test for when designing your new website.

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Cloud Computing and Web Hosting

Having just come back from the HostingCon 2008 industry trade show, my head is still buzzing from all the presentations.  Everyone from hardware vendors (ICC-USA) to the great satan himself (Microsoft) was presenting their wares and as much as I hate to admit it, even the microsoft presentation was very impressive.

There was a lot to see this year from the vendors, but far more interesting were the presentations and group learning sessions.  Far less time was spent on the technical aspect this year than in previous years.  There were no “how to install XEN paravirtualization” classes;  instead, many sessions focused on the business itself, such as graphically mapping the company’s track record, how to evaluate your hosting company’s net worth, and some very interesting QA sessions with industry leaders who spoke about managing growth and valuation of assets.  Very grown-up conversations indeed!

The thing I noticed more this time than in past years is how the keywords “cloud computing” and “grid hosting” were thrown around the room.  It’s the new Web 3.0 terms that have had little meaning in the past but are now, all of the sudden, more tangible.

So what’s the deal? Grid/Cloud computing means: a “process/computation” moved off a single server into a “cloud” of computers.  A group of servers (can be tens of thousands) is presented as a single unit to handle a task with the combined power of all the processors/ram/storage.  In this model, all systems are the same when it comes to both hardware and software, and are completely interchangeable. Meaning that you can take any two systems and swap their physical locations in the cloud, they will not need to be reconfigured.  All systems perform the same task.

While this model works very well for parallelizable tasks such as graphics processing and mathmatical computation, it simply does not work for hosting a website.  A “grid” or “cloud” as they are being presented are far less useful than a “cluster” of servers.  While I may be too picky, I feel terminology is very important.  In our case, a Cluster is a group of systems, each performing a specialized task (web, mysql, dns, email), and presenting a unified interface to the Internet.  Here, you cannot take a server from the MySQL group and swap it with the server from the eMail group and expect them to work.  They are very distinct systems with differing hardware and software configurations.

This “cluster” model is a very old concept and is the only way to host the largest websites, such as facebook, myspace, youtube, google, yahoo.  When the existing systems are approaching saturation point and load spirals higher and higher, you simply add another front-end machine to the effected segment of the cluster to offload some of the processing.  When web traffic goes up, add another front end apache server.  Too many SQL queries, add another mysql machine.  In essense a Cluster is a collection of Clouds/Grids.  Each Cloud handles its specialized task and contributes to the performance of the main Cluster.

What I find infuriating is that some providers are talking about Cloud or Grid computing as though it’s the next step in VPS hosting.  This is so misleading that it makes my teeth grind.  There is no way to run a single VPS instance over a cluster/cloud/grid of computers.

When they market their VPS service this way, it makes a client believe that if the server that hosts their VPS, has a meltdown, their own system will continue to run on the rest of the cloud without interruption.  In fact, what happens is that a crashed system is a crashed system, and your VPS instance will also go down in smoke with the rest of the server.  And while it may be restarted almost immediately, it will still have downtime.

Also, they claim that you can scale out your VPS to unlimited levels, implying that it’s a trivial task to add more processing power.  The way they handle this is by adding other VPS instances of the same system and splitting the traffic with a load balancer.  This has it’s own tremendous issues because you cannot take a normal website, split it into two or more instances and expect it to function properly.  Websites have to be designed especially to handle this scenario.  For instance, MySQL files cannot be written to at the same time by two instances of MySQL without experiencing some very serious corruption.

More than that, this new “Cloud” model is billable based on usage of cpu cycles, bandwidth, disk access.  This means that you never really know how much it’s going to cost at the end of the month.  This is especially wonderful in the case of a Denial of Service attack which can burn through server resources like there is no tomorrow.

Today’s providers who claim to live in the Cloud, are using traditional hosting technology masked with a very fancy control panel.  In my opinion, cloud computing still has a long way to go before it’s going to be useful for our industry.  Today this technology is useful to a handful of customers.  For the rest of us, we have Shared hosting, VPS hosting, and Dedicated hosting.  With the incredible pace of technological advancement of individual servers, I don’t see a reason to move to the cloud.  Today’s web servers are more powerful than yesterdays supercomputers and this trend will continue for a long time yet.

Last thought, when the Cloud is going to become useful, we will add it to our product line.  For now, our products are every bit as useful as anything available today on the market, and without any fancy buzz words.

Posted in Hosting, How it works, Marketing | 2 Comments