Tag Archives: OrcsWeb

OrcsWeb Cloud Servers Compared to CloudServers.com

MeInRedJacketI’m running two primary brands now – still one company, ORCS Web, Inc., but two main brands… www.orcsweb.com (high-touch managed hosting) and www.cloudservers.com (IaaS unmanaged cloud servers).

Both brands sell cloud servers. Both brands have both email and phone support.

CloudServers.com Windows servers start at $34/month. OrcsWeb Windows cloud servers start at $99/month. BUT, when you go through and configure both apples-to-apples, the OrcsWeb server is only about 10% higher priced. And there are additional services included, and differences, that justify that difference in price:

  • Every OrcsWeb server has uptime monitoring that pages the support team 24×7 and they will respond to address any issue that arises – or contact the client as needed – even with the minimum level of managed services that are included in the base rate. CloudServers.com clients are responsible for configuring their own monitoring and responding to any issues specific to their server (not architectural).
  • OrcsWeb cloud servers are members of the OrcsWeb domain – allowing the support team to access the server to assist customers with any troubleshooting, performance analysis, or problem solving. CloudServers.com servers are not joined with any domain and the support staff has no direct administrative access to the systems.
  • Everyone OrcsWeb cloud server sits behind redundant high-powered physical firewalls that not only block all but primary ports, but also provides intrusion prevention services. Every CloudServers.com cloud server comes with its own virtual firewall. This provides a great additional layer of security but doesn’t have the advanced features of the OrcsWeb firewall solution.
  • OrcsWeb cloud servers are powered by VMware’s enterprise class (and license level) product solutions that are feature-rich and targeted toward a more enterprise level project and customer. CloudServers.com leverages CentOS, KVM, and a variety of different products for its cloud server architecture.

So which is best? It really all depends on your needs. If you want Linux, then CloudServers.com is the only choice today – OrcsWeb may start supporting Linux soon but it doesn’t currently. If you want an extension of your IT team to help with crafting solutions and assisting with any issues that might come up, OrcsWeb is best for you. If you self-administer your servers and just want cost-effective, yet still full-featured and fast-performing cloud servers, then CloudServers.com is best for you.

Hope this help clear up any confusion. If you are looking for cloud server hosting, be sure to check out whichever brand best matches your needs. Feel free to email and/or call in and speak with someone about either solution.

Happy hosting

DevOps. What does it mean?

MeInRedJacketWhat does DevOps mean?
Like many terms, there are a variety of slightly different (in some cases vastly different) definitions. The current definition per Wikipedia seems pretty good:

DevOps is a software development method that stresses communication, collaboration and integration between software developers and information technology (IT) professionals. DevOps is a response to the interdependence of software development and IT operations. It aims to help an organization rapidly produce software products and services.” – Wikipedia

There has always been an important relationship between the people who develop applications, and the people who manage the servers where these applications live long-term. It hasn’t always been a positive relationship, but there is a relationship nonetheless.

What concern does this movement address?
Not everything fits into a generic generalization, but the contention historically relates to:

1)      Developers love to be nimble and make changes (bug fixes, updates, etc.) very quickly as they are ready. This is not a bad thing – especially if your business is dependent on the success of a particular application. A developer makes a change on their development machine, runs through some tests, and wants to push these updates to the production servers… where the contention arises…

2)      Operations people (think server, storage, security, and network administrators) are responsible for the 24x7x365 monitoring, operation, and support of the organization’s IT systems. These people thrive on consistency and plans. To do their jobs well they need to know the operating system, how it was configured, what changes were made, what changes are planned, how will those changes impact the running systems? Will there be performance impacting changes? Will changes push capacity thresholds? Will the changes impact the stability?

See the potential issue there? I can’t count how many times I’ve heard from a developer “but it works fine on my machine” after deploying code and either it doesn’t work as expected or it creates operational support challenges. It is very likely that the development environment isn’t as secure as the production systems. It’s also fairly common for a developer to install an update – perhaps the latest version of some development framework – and assume that it is either already on the server or that installing it there won’t be an issue.

So what’s the solution? What is DevOps?
The solution is actually rather simple in concept (but not always easy to get people to follow). A main ingredient needs to be communication. Operations people need to communicate the environment, its constraints, generalized reasons for certain “restrictions” (permissions, changes, etc.). Developers need to communicate what they’re planning, what dependencies exist, what changes made need to be made to the systems, and generalized reasons justifying the changes.

Another key ingredient needs to be education. It’s fine to communicate things, but both departments need to understand what the other is doing and why. It will make the communication part easier, and will help both departments appreciate the reasons for certain guidelines.

DevOps in hosted world
Addressing the DevOps topic is often a easier in a corporate enterprise environment. Communication not working? Let’s get the IT Director involved and they’ll referee to straighten things out. There are a lot of hosting companies that either hide from this type of interaction or don’t have the experience and expertise to deal with it. The support teams may know operating systems but not know a model view from a case statement from a dynamic query (whatever – you know what I mean). This increases the challenge level but definitely does not rule out successful DevOps implementation. It just takes a bit more work up-front before engaging with a hosting company.

First, successful DevOps interaction with a site or server host is going to require managed hosting. In an unmanaged situation the client is generally on their own. Super-cheap hosting models are generally unmanaged – it costs money to maintain quality, experienced, and educated operations people, and make them available as-needed.

Second, you’ll want a host that doesn’t hide. Does the host respond quickly to email tickets? Do they provide telephone access not only for critical issues, but for talking about plans and changes and working proactively through upcoming deployments?

Third, you’ll want a host with knowledge and experience. Do they have developers on staff that work in the same development stack that you do? Are those people available to help out if needed? Sometimes development topics can be extremely technical and it might help to have a developer-to-developer interaction. Do the support people have some basic development knowledge? If you explain to them that your code is doing X, Y, and Z – do they get it?

Lastly, you’ll want a host who is proactive. Communication should flow both directions – not just from the customer’s developers to the host – but the host should also proactively review the systems and communicate and trends being noticed. Patching and change schedules should be communicated and coordinated. Operations people should make themselves available during deployments to assist and closely monitor for any issues. Scheduling a planning meeting to discuss ideas, plans, and suggestions (from both sides) shouldn’t be a hassle.

Do any hosts really operate at this level?
Yes, some do. Definitely not all of them though – in fact, in a world with thousands of “hosts” available, a small percentage provide this level of quality interaction.

If you don’t already know, OrcsWeb was founded 17 years ago (1996) and focuses on exactly this level of interaction with its customers. Its goal is to operate as an extension of the customers IT team and work proactively together for the overall success of the project. The Complete Care Managed Services (CCMS) that is available to all cloud server and dedicated server hosting clients provides all of the above: Proactive system reviews, system operational analysis, performance analysis (slow load pages, long running queries, optimization pointers, etc.), architectural guidance as needed – in addition to 24x7x365 monitoring with immediate alert response, 24x7x265 critical issue resolution, security solutions (VPN, firewall, ISP, etc.)

There may be other options too – I’m just not familiar with any. Before you decide who to partner with, I’d suggest picking up the phone and calling candidates. Chat a little with the person who answers the phone. Ask about the possibility of having a pre-sales architectural call to discuss your project and their solutions. Are you dealing with just a sales person or do they engage experienced architects to understand your concerns and needs?

I hope this helps you better understand the DevOps topic and some of the surrounding challenges (aka opportunities), and I hope it helps you make a good decision with selecting your hosting partners. Remember that group of people is going to be key to your success as a developer/manager/owner, so take the time up front and choose wisely.

Happy hosting!

Can you run WordPress on Windows? Sure, it works great!

Did you know that WordPress works – and works great – on Microsoft Windows? Sure, WordPress runs on top of PHP and MySQL, which are commonly thought to be related to Linux, but they work perfectly on Windows Server also. In fact, this blog post that you’re reading right now is running via WordPress on Windows, MySQL, and PHP.

Here’s a blog post by Artur at OrcsWeb showing a walk-through of installing WordPress on Windows Server.

As you can see in the post, Microsoft’s WPI (Web Platform Installer) makes it super-easy even for non-administrators.

Happy hosting!

Microsoft Azure VM Role Pricing

Microsoft Azure has virtual machines (their “VM Role”) for as little as $9.36/month. Wow – that’s a crazy low price! Let’s dig a little deeper in this post though because there seems to remain a lot of confusion on the total cost of a solution.

Let’s compare the Azure VM Role to OrcsWeb’s Cloud ServerOrcsWeb pricing: http://www.orcsweb.com/hosting/pricing/

The base $99 offering at OrcsWeb includes: 40 GB disk, 1 GB RAM, and 1 vCPU. It also includes:

  • Cloudy features including automatic fail-over to another cluster node if there is a hardware failure
  • 250 GB monthly data transfers
  • A single rotating daily backup for DR purposes
  • Both email and telephone support with a 15 minute average response time. If you want administrative support (where OrcsWeb fully administers your server) and support to help you specifically isolate and troubleshoot issues specific to your application, that is covered with the Complete Care Managed Services (CCMS) for $125/month. That also adds 14-day retention to the backups.

How does Azure compare when adding in a few other key features? The base at Azure ($9.36/month) includes 768 MB of RAM, so it’s a lower-resourced solution, but still, we’ll use that to start the comparison. Microsoft Azure pricing for VMs: http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/pricing/calculator/?scenario=virtual-machines

  • Automatic fail-over: This might be included – that’s unclear in their materials.
  • 250 GB monthly data transfers +$29.40/month
  • Azure does replicate data for DR purposes in a similar fashion that OrcsWeb does.
  • Support – this is where it gets interesting. Azure support plans and pricing are linked here: http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/support/plans/

The included support with Microsoft Azure (which would put the hosting plan above at $38.76/month so far) is community forums only. Want to open a ticket or call someone? You need to upgrade support levels. Their next level of support (Developer) is an additional $29/month (now we’re up to $67.76) and allows for web-based ticket submissions with a “Fastest Response Time” of up-to 8 hours. Note too that this is the initial response time – not time to resolution. Want to be able to pick up the phone and speak with someone? You can upgrade to the next level of support (Standard) for an additional $300/month (now we’re up to $338.76). That level gives you three (yes, only 3) phone calls per month – which are “call backs” within 2 hours from the time you call them. If you want to drop the response time to 1 hour it takes the Professional Direct level of support at $1,000/month (yes, so $1,038.76/month for a VM!). How about a 15 minute response time? That’s the Premier level of support which starts at $30,000/year or approximately +$2,500/month.

So, if you want a super-cheap Windows VM with no support, Azure might be something to consider. But in my experience, even with development and test machines, support is important and when you need something you probably don’t want to cross your fingers and hope someone in the community forums will help you. Want to be able to send an email or pick up the phone and speak to someone in support, then you are looking at an Azure solution priced at least $338.76/month compared to an OrcsWeb Cloud Server priced at $99.00/month (or $224/month if you want 14 days of backups and complete hands-off system administration).

I hope this helps clarify VM Role pricing at Azure. Happy hosting!

Installing Windows 2012 Server Core plus IIS8

Installing Windows 2012 Server Core plus IIS8 isn’t as hard as you might think. At least it isn’t as hard as I thought!

Server Core can be intimidating to long-time Windows users who expect to see the comfortable familiarity of the Windows desktop (though that has also changed with Server 2012). Rather than a Windows desktop you are presented with a command window and required to make changes through text commands. Hey, what is this – Linux?!? :)

You can relax though. There are actually ways to still manage your server via GUI through the use of various remote tools. That gives the benefit of the smaller footprint and attack surface on your server, but still the ease-of-management that users are use to.

Here’s a great recent post with a few quick steps on getting Windows 2012 Server Core installed (not many steps there – its super-easy) then the command lines needed to install IIS8 and enable it for remote access. Then the few steps required to get connected remotely to manage your server.

http://www.orcsweb.com/blog/jamie-furr/manage-and-install-iis8-on-windows-2012-server-core/

Check it out – it’s likely way easier than you expected!

Happy hosting!