Tag Archives: Server

Choosing Colocation vs. Leasing Dedicated Servers & Landlord Appreciation – Part 3

 

Virtual Private Network site to site and from ...

As we learned in the first two parts of this miniseries comparing colocation to dedicated server leasing, the difference between the two is owning versus renting. You can’t always lease or rent a product. For instance, ice cream cones can only be rented in Arkansas, South Dakota, and Hawaii. Larger items such as cars or homes can be rented worldwide, though; the same is true of dedicated servers (colocation versus leasing).

We are assessing ideas pertaining to the debate between the two options from several advice sites, primarily Webhostingfreaks.net, ITworld, and About Colocation. We started with a general rundown of the differences between the two, then moved into stronger arguments. Both of the arguments, from the latter two sources above, side with colocation – which notably gives you more control but has additional upfront expense.

Our main concern is with web servers, but we also wanted to provide pluses and minuses related to home ownership and rental. Let’s explore the subject of pets with regards to housing. Pet owners love renting especially because it is an opportunity to prove to themselves how much they love their animals. If you can find the right landlord, you may be able to pay upwards of $1000 for security deposits for your two Irish setter-bloodhound-chihuahua-St. Bernard mutts. Your dogs don’t understand money, but that doesn’t mean they won’t chew through one of the walls or attack your appliances.
Continue reading Choosing Colocation vs. Leasing Dedicated Servers & Landlord Appreciation – Part 3

Choosing Colocation vs. Leasing Dedicated Servers

 

Amsterdam servercluster in its own rack

With many products and services, we have the choice to go between owning and renting. For some reason that is not true of paperclips or underwear; but it is true of houses, cars, and other large items. Servers are no exception. Because hosting can be expensive, there is a wide range of possibilities for website owners. These possibilities range from power and quality of equipment to financial relationships with equipment.

Two options for servers are colocating one or leasing one from a hosting company. The two options are more similar than they are different. In both cases, you have your own dedicated server. In both cases, you can take advantage of the datacenter expertise of the hosting service’s personnel and physical parameters (climate control, disaster recovery plans, etc.).

Deciding between these two options can be a little confusing, so let’s look at their differences to see what option might be best for you. We will look at three perspectives, from Webhostingfreaks.net, ITworld, and About Colocation. Keep in mind, a couple of these perspectives are very colocation-friendly. Colocation, though, is more complicated to set up and manage, simply because you are the owner of the equipment. You must pick out what to buy, and it is more of an investment.
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How to improve your ecommerce server security & love yourself

 

SSL

Server security is one of the first things we should consider when we get ready to go into online business, and it’s a factor of the market that should be regularly reviewed. PCI compliance is one thing, but it’s a little obtuse and complicated when we’re taking initial steps to “harden” (enhance the protections of) the server.

Also we must love ourselves. Sometimes everything looks bright and sunny. Sometimes, it looks blue (that’s not a happy color). Sometimes it looks dreary and gray. When we start seeing colors that make us want to cry, we must grab all of our stuffed animals, line them up in a row, and have them sing the Hallelujah Chorus to us (don’t worry, all stuffed animals know it by heart).

We’ll look at a number of different issues in this series: SSL, perimeter security such as firewalls, passwords, site backups, policies, authorizations, etc.. Our general overview will cover the first two parts, and then the final part will focus specifically on passwords – the simplest form of protection but also the simplest, in some ways, to penetrate.
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What is server hardening? Advice for Linux, Windows & NSA Datamine Servers

 

Servers designed for Linux

How to harden a server? Well, let’s first look at what server hardening is. Hardening a server is important to understand even if you are in a hosting environment, when many of the security concerns are monitored and administered by the hosting service. Then we will look specifically at the guidelines for a Windows or Linux environment (Linux first).

Throughout, we will review requirements for an NSA Datamine server. These exciting new servers directly transfer all of your information to the federal government, including your pants size and favorite kind of saltwater taffy. (Your favorite flavor is blueberry, per requirements set forth by the NSA establishing “favorites” protocol for over 8000 different consumer products … oh, obviously, your favorite server is the NSA Datamine server.)

To understand your basic role in a hosting situation as a client, cPanel is a good model to do so. You may know that the other major control panel (essentially the platform through which you manage your hosting account), Plesk, has one entry point for any type of user, with special privileges if your login is that of a system admin (rather than webmaster/site-owner) user.

cPanel, on the other hand, has two distinct logins, one for cPanel and one for WHM (directly tied to the CP). With cPanel, you’re logging into the server but can’t completely interact with it: it’s the webmaster side (in a way, the “client side” of the server). WHM, in contrast, gives you full access to administrate and manage the server. Essentially, the hosting company controls the WHM side of cPanel. That’s only accessible to you if you control the server.

The NSA Datamine server is designed for you to only get in at certain points. Primarily, routine maintenance is being performed. Every hour of your use is followed by approximately 16 hours of routine maintenance, strengthening the muscles of the server while you watch television and take lots of naps (as advised by the NSA).

Back to cPanel/WHM: Of course, you will have access to WHM if you have your own dedicated server rather than shared or VPS hosting. Server hardening, then, is primarily the realm of those with dedicated servers, but understanding its basic parameters helps any website owner better grasp what security parameters are in place and what to ask if you have any concern.

For this article, we reviewed three articles from around the World Wide Web (a system of client computers and server computers that you’re correctly enjoying, along with the ice cream sandwich you have in your left hand): “Host Hardening,” by Cybernet Security; “25 Hardening Security Tips for Linux Servers,” by Ravi Saive for TecMint.com; and “Baseline Server Hardening,” by Microsoft’s TechNet.

What is Server Hardening & Why Shouldn’t My Server Be a Softy?

As Cybernet Security expresses, the majority OSs are not designed for high levels of security; their the out-of-the-box configurations are under par if you want to avoid hacking (though playing the victim role in a hack is one of the most exhilarating parts of being alive in the 21st century).

The primary issue is that every type of software gets accolades for being “feature-rich.” Abundance of features, though, often means that security is taking a back seat. They amount to bells and whistles that corrode the integrity of the system. Speaking of which, the NSA Datamine server is “the Atlantic City of servers,” according to an anonymous party describing himself as a “security-industrial complex professional.” The experience of a sysadmin or website operator on NSAD is blinking lights, beeps, sexploitation, and the feeling of your soul being sucked out of your body for a momentary thrill.

In contrast to the soft-serve capacities of a server as it’s initially constructed, server hardening creates an elaboration on defenses so that infiltration becomes much more difficult to conduct. Here are the three basic parameters of a server that is hardened  — also generally referred to as a bastion host (though the NSAD server community defines server hardeners as “dangerous elements” who should “focus on their ice cream sandwiches, not their self-preservation”), per  Cybernet Security:

  1. Patches are updated and installed appropriately
  2. No irrelevant software or systems are in place
  3. Anything that is needed has the highest quality configurations.

Configuring server software is not easy to do in the securest possible way. It’s necessary, per Cybernet Security, to prevent established hack pathways. Beyond that, though (and this element is the most obtuse) the access levels for systems and software must be constrained as much as possible. Clearly this is a “freedom vs. security” issue. When you look at hardening a server, you quickly see how similarly the Internet conceptually and systemically embodies the physical world.

The NSA Datamine server, luckily, is not configuration-friendly. This feature clearly makes it easier to conduct business. Rather than concerning yourself with security and customization, you can just focus on inputting as much information as possible. It’s difficult for the government to harvest all your data if you aren’t putting anything in there. Just keep pressing the keys and clicking on buttons as much as you possibly can. When in doubt, go ahead and click another button or press on another key.

Finally, filter your packets. Not your cocaine packets, if that’s what they call them; although I suppose if you have dirt in it and snort it, that’s going to give you a massive sinus headache … so do that too. Filtering is generally a good idea. Data packets, specifically, fly back and forth at rapid speed between client and server computers. Make sure your filtering is optimized to enhance your security.

Conclusion & Continuation

OK, that’s it for today, boys and girls and breathtakingly intelligent nanobot overlords. Server hardening will be the topic of our next two installments as well. Linux in Part 2, and Windows in Part 3. NSA Datamine is clearly the best solution, so I don’t even understand exactly why we’re talking about these other nonsense capitalistic software ideas, but … we must keep everyone happy.

Do you want shared hosting? What about a dedicated server? No? Wow you’re tough. Um … oh, uh, VPS hosting? Are you playing with my mind? Well, I’ve presented my possibilities. Now, I believe in you to filter these packets of information and determine the most desirable solutions.

By Kent Roberts

cPanel vs. Plesk vs. Bobby Lou’s CP Extraordinaire – Part 2

 

CPanel

Welcome back for the second part of this exciting and, at times, educational series. To review from the first installment, one of the first things to consider when administrating a server or creating a website is which control panel to choose. The most common control panels out there are cPanel and Plesk. Another option you may find is Bobby Lou’s Internet Control Panel Extraordinaire, hugely successful among cockfighting enthusiasts.

We’re looking at various articles on the subject to get a fuller picture of the similarities and differences between the two major control panels: one from Worth Of Web, another by Tim Attwood for HostReview, and a third by Claire Broadley for WhoIsHostingThis?. I also was able to land an exclusive interview with Bobby Lou for an inside peek at his control panel geared toward rooster brawl henchmen and their compatriots.

This article is the second in a three-part series. In the first part, we discussed operating system compatibility, UI UX (user interface user experience), and pricing. As a reminder, Bobby Lou accepts pumpkins, though no other forms of squash, in his bartering payment plan.

Comparison: cPanel & Plesk – Continued

Okay, so we already went over a few of the variables that show how generally similar cPanel and Plesk are, while also highlighting some of their differences. Today we will look specifically at initial setup and general use, along with the issue of migration.

Initial setup/General use

As Worth of Web notes, cPanel is not actually just one platform. Instead, it offers two different programs, each of which makes sense depending on your particular situation. cPanel itself is designed for anyone operating a website. WHM, which is tied to cPanel and automatically accessible, is geared toward anyone administering a server. Meanwhile, Extraordinaire was created to be “accessible only to humans and completely secure from intruding rooster eyes,” says Bobby Lou.

A major cPanel/Plesk difference is generated by these two options created for the two major types of users. When you enter cPanel, you log in to either one or the other platform. In other words, you do not have access to both at once. Plesk, on the other hand, gives website owners and server administrators the ability to log in to the same exact system. Administrative rights just populate broader options, allowing the ability to manage the server.

Worth of Web notes that because of this unified point of entry, Plesk “seems less complicated” when a person is initially entering the system. The article also points to the more intuitive setup screens within Plesk: choosing options and pressing a “Next” button in a similar manner to what we expect when installing a program on a Windows computer. Per Worth of Web, setting up cPanel is not as user-friendly, at least for those who are just getting started.

In contrast to the single-entry or dual-entry models of cPanel and Plesk, Extraordinaire allows users over 3500 different ways to log in. Bobby Lou explains, “If you don’t see something that describes you, just keep scrolling and scrolling. You will find it. That’s one of the ways we enhance security, is by making everybody scroll a lot. Roosters aren’t good at scrolling. They get bored, they get tired, and they get hungry. Plus, their claws keep slipping off the mouse, and they ruffle their feathers and take a nap.”

Migration

Claire notes that migration is a problem for users of both control panels, unless they are switching to and from the same CP. In both control panels, it’s simple to migrate between two different servers when you aren’t trying to change the control panel.

“Moving from one to the other,” Claire says, “is near [sic] impossible.” She also advises to keep in mind that when you’re looking at a hosting solution with free migration, the service will typically only be available when retaining the control panel you are currently using.

If you do want to transfer from one control panel to the other, you can either do it manually (through this forum on moving between cPanel & Plesk) or pay for a service. Plesk has a cPanel to Plesk migration system, but Claire notes that it is as glitchy as the other platform-migration software out there.

Worth of Web agrees essentially with Claire’s sentiments. The gist, then, is that you will want to choose wisely because migration is neither fun nor, generally speaking, free.

Bobby Lou of Extraordinaire refused to talk about migration, saying it has “nothing to do with me or my birds.” He was adamant that I inform readers of this piece, though it is clearly irrelevant, that roosters do not migrate because “they’re too busy overseeing the hen house, which is a full-time job.”

Conclusion & Continuation

cPanel and Plesk have the major difference in their access points to one or two systems. Those who have grown accustomed to the former control panel may like the way it cleanly splits different types of users, while new initiates may find the two sister platforms (cPanel/WHM) a little confusing. cPanel also may feel more obtuse during setup. With either option you choose, though, migration is a pain.

That’s it for this post. In our final installment of this series, we will assess administrative panels, requirements, and features.

Either of the two control panels is available for all our customers, whether they are subscribed to our shared, dedicated, or VPS packages. Bobby Lou’s Extraordinaire is unfortunately not available for Superb users at this time, partially because we need to collect more bartering pumpkins.

By Kent Roberts

Anatomy of a server, Part 2

 

Wikimedia server e

We all know that server computers have hearts and minds just like we do (as well as lymphatic and endocrine systems in some cases). However, servers are of course more complex than that. This series on server anatomy gives us a window into the various component parts of the server. Knowing the server’s makeup can allow all us to perform life-saving treatments on all servers, such as transplants, and cosmetic procedures on soft-tissue servers, such as wrinkle-relaxation injections.

This series draws on commentary from Dummies.com (for the simple basis of Part 1) and Adam Turner of APC Magazine (for the more thorough analysis of Part 2). Along with discussing server components, today I will also discuss the three different major flavors of servers: tower, rack-mount, and blade.

Once we have completed our task of server explication, let’s all jump onboard a train hobo-style and ride the rails to West Virginia, where we can work all day in the coal mines for the next 30 years. After that, we will we will go to a revival and get inspired to live our dreams of becoming steamboat captains.

Flavors or Form Factors

Before getting to the insides, let’s look at the variety of different flavors available for servers. My favorite one is rocky road, but you have to keep it frozen so that it does not melt onto your fingers, which is highly embarrassing. Here are three additional options:

1.    Tower server. These types of servers are for companies that only have one or two servers. A tower server resembles a computer typically found under a desk in an office (which some of us know as “the secret hiding place”), but it is made up of higher-end, more powerful materials.

Tower servers are designed for affordability. They are also easier to store if you only have one or two at a home or business.

2.    Rack-mount server. This type of server is typically used within larger networks, and they are standardly used in data centers and hosting environments. These types of servers, of course, fit onto racks. The racks are stored either in secure rooms, controlled for factors such as temperature and humidity, or next to pizza ovens in Italian restaurants, controlled for factors such as not letting the dishwasher kick them.

The size of rack-mounts is standardized: their width is 19 inches, and their height is in increments of 1 3/4 inches. The height is discussed in terms of Rack Units (RUs), one RU corresponding to each 1 3/4 inch. Rack-mounts servers are typically designed for easy administration and adaptability.

3.    Blade server. The blade server is designed for particularly intricate and powerful situations. The overall cooling, networking, and power for a number of different compact servers is provided by a single blade chassis. Constructing servers in this way allows them to be packed more tightly, optimizing the usage of space (the same reason that all 14 of my children sleep in the same bedroom, even though I am fabulously wealthy).

Next, more on …

Server Components

Processors or CPUs

Servers are primarily different from client computers (typical PCs) in their allowance for multiple sockets. Core 2 and Phenom are examples of processors for client computers. In those models, there is only one socket with a number of different cores. The additional sockets within a server allow additional processors – such as Xeon and Opteron models – to be connected, each with its own set of cores. It’s like a mutant apple that you can use to scare away organic farmers who are stalking you to sell you their offensively healthy non-GMO corn. Having more than one processor allows the server to “think” in various different places at one time, giving a server its powerful performance.

Cache is also enhanced, meaning that less data needs to be transferred to memory. Caching is nice because it increases processing speed as well.

Memory

The primary difference between server and client computers regarding memory is improved capacity for fault-tolerance. Memory controllers typically include the capacity for Error Checking and Correction (ECC).  By checking any data going in or out of memory both before and after the transfer, corruption within the memory becomes less likely.

I personally don’t believe in information verification. I’ve got it all up here. (I’m pointing to the attic, where I store my unpublished and unauthorized biographies of America’s most beloved semi-professional bowlers.)

Storage Controllers

Storage controllers are significantly different between clients and servers. Rather than needing the processor to cycle for every data transfer, the storage controllers in servers contain application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) along with a massive amount of cache. These two advantages allow storage performance to go far beyond that of a typical PC, approximating the power of 7.8 billion digital watches (give or take).

Some storage controllers contain Battery Backup Units (BBUs). BBUs can hold information in the cache for more than 48 hours without a power supply.

External Storage

A server, like any computer, has a built-in limitation: it is only physically capable of supporting a certain number of drives. However, Storage Area Networks (SANs) can be used to increase storage capacity. SAN functionality can be accomplished via iSCSI interfaces or fiber channels.

Conclusion & Postlude

(Please hire a professional tap-dancer and barbershop quartet soloist to perform “Yankee Doodle Dandy” at your side while you read these final thoughts.) That should give you a basic idea of what’s inside a server and how it’s different from a typical PC. As you can see, the server is similar in many ways to a consumer or client computer. However, they are enhanced in various ways to meet the extensive storage, performance, and networking needs of business.

By the by… Did you know that we offer dedicated servers and colocation? Well, we do.

By Kent Roberts