13 Mar

5 Beginner Tips for Web Hosting – By: Kevin Duong

I have been working in data centers all of my adult, computer loving life. I love D.C.’s! The noise the Leiberts (air conditioners) make. The super cold of the D.C. floor. All of the lights on the servers that shine when the data center lights are off which makes you feel like you are on a spaceship. I love everything about working in a data center! Well…almost everything. Sometimes, working in a data center environment lets you see some pretty horrible things. Of course, I am speaking of “horrible” on a data center/technology scale. No, these horrors aren’t ax wielding psychopaths, but they are just as terrifying for small and large business owners who rely on uptime, data, security and a strong network to keep their businesses going. The tips listed below are from our staff here at Opus-3 Data Centers. Here is what they had to say.

Backup your data and backup that backup – Justin Clutter (VP of Operations at Opus-3 Data Centers in Dallas, Houston, Hong Kong and Germany)
As an administrator, you will need to perform a backup of your data on a regular basis, especially before you make any changes/updates to your system. This way, you’ll never be left vulnerable to any data center issues (power outage, loss of network connection, fire, etc) or updating issues. Remember, disaster can happen anywhere and at any time. Therefore, as an administrator, always make sure that your system and data are backed up. There are many backup services, along with many types of backup software out there on the web. Be sure to compare the services and their related costs for backing up your system and find the best service for your organization. Since backup options are inexpensive and widely available nowadays, if your system fails and you have no backups, you have absolutely no one, but yourself, to blame.

Monitor your systems – Jason Miller
Jason Miller (Linux/Windows Administrator, Gamer, Tech Nerd at Opus-3 Data Center in Dallas, Houston, Hong Kong and Germany)
Running a web hosting business is like driving your car. You can’t drive your car without interacting with the car itself (for the time being anyways). Running your own web hosting also requires various amounts of interaction. In order to be sure your business runs smoothly and without any downtime, you need to implement monitoring. By implementing monitoring, you are interacting with your business in such a way that you are constantly aware of cost, bandwidth, downtime etc. Monitoring your sites/servers/services/resources will help you know how many people are visiting hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and yearly. You can see what pages are primarily visited on a particular site and how much time the average visitor spends on any particular domain. With the variety of site monitoring services and software available on the market today, all you have to do is choose which one you’ll be using for your web hosting business.

Be secure/update – Gary Byers (Opus-3 Data Center Manager in Dallas, Houston, Hong Kong and Germany)
Web hosting is a tough business. You’ll have to secure your site and system to the never ending stream of attacks. Since your site is open to the public, it is exposed to everyone, including crackers (for the record Crackers = bad. Hackers = good*). Crackers attempt to crack your system for a myriad of reasons. Some want to steal your customer information, while others may want to use your system as an attack base upon which to prey on other systems. Therefore, it is vitally important for you to secure your system and be up to date with, and aware of, the security features it has. A non-secure server/site is guaranteed to cost you traffic and to mar your online reputation. Simply put, a secure hosting platform leads to more business and more money.

Be patient and be smart– Noah Cain (Linux/Window and Social Media Administrator at Opus-3 Data Center in Dallas, Houston, Hong Kong and Germany)
When hosting, don’t expect to get 1 million hits per day at the beginning. Web hosting requires and abundant amount of both time and patience. You will be slowly generating traffic when you do the right marketing as marketing will drive traffic to your domains. Since traffic equals money, the right marketing will help your business generate the necessary cash it needs to grow. Playing it smart by being patient and controlling your costs will help you survive while waiting for your first paying customer.

Research your hosting provider – John Berry (Senior Network Engineer at Opus-3 Data Center in Dallas, Houston, Hong Kong and Germany)
Most data centers that offer web hosting packages are capable of handling most all needs of a web hosting business. Be that business gaming, web stores or informative sites, be honest with your sales associate so that they can find the exact plan that fits your needs. There are many e-publications, review sites and forums that list data centers that offer services. Pick one and make sure to put in your due diligence. Research them, ask them questions. This is your business that you are going to be trusting to these individuals, so don’t approach this task lightly. If possible, visit the data center (in many instances this isn’t possible due to security measures, but it never hurts to ask). Know your hosting companies as best you can. It is definitely in your best interest!

Remember, you are ultimately responsible for your business. Therefore, the choices you make will affect your business as a whole. We hope these tips will help you survive and stay strong in all your web hosting adventures.




Starting your own business is a risky move for anyone. Be confident and remember that practice makes perfect. Here is a video proving just that! Enjoy!


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03 Mar

How CloudFlare increases speed and security of your site

This is a guest post written and contributed by CloudFlare.  CloudFlare makes it easy for any site to be as fast and secure as the Internet giants.

CloudFlare, a web performance and security company, is excited to announce our partnership with Sprocket Networks! If you haven’t heard about CloudFlare before, our value proposition is simple: we’ll make any website twice as fast and protect it from a broad range of web threats.

Today, hundreds of thousands of websites—ranging from individual blogs to e-commerce sites to the websites of Fortune 500 companies to national governments—use CloudFlare to make their sites faster and more secure. We power more than 65 billion monthly page views—more than Amazon, Wikipedia, Twitter, Zynga, AOL, Apple, Bing, eBay, PayPal and Instagram combined—and over 25% of the Internet’s population regularly passes through our network.

Faster web performance

CloudFlare is designed to take a great hosting platform like Sprocket Networks and make it even better.

We run 30 data centers strategically located around the world. When you sign up for CloudFlare, we begin routing your traffic to the nearest data center.


As your traffic passes through the data centers, we intelligently determine what parts of your website are static versus dynamic. The static portions are cached on our servers for a short period of time, typically less than 2 hours before we check to see if they’ve been updated. By automatically moving the static parts of your site closer to your visitors, the overall performance of your site improves significantly.

CloudFlare’s intelligent caching system also means you save bandwidth, which means saving money, and decreases the load on your servers, which means your web application will run faster and more efficiently than ever. On average, CloudFlare customers see a 60% decrease in bandwidth usage, and a 65% in total requests to their servers. The overall effect is that CloudFlare will typically cut the load time for pages on your site by 50% which means higher engagement and happier visitors.


Broad web security

Over the course of 2011, CloudFlare identified a 700% increase in the number of distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) we track on the Internet (see the chart below). As attacks like these increase, CloudFlare is stepping up to protect sites.


CloudFlare’s security protections offer a broad range of protections against attacks such as DDoS, hacking or spam submitted to a blog or comment form. What is powerful about our approach is that the system gets smarter the more sites that are part of the CloudFlare community. We analyze the traffic patterns of hundreds of millions of visitors in real time and adapt the security systems to ensure good traffic gets through and bad traffic is stopped.

In time, our goal is nothing short of making attacks against websites a relic of history. And, given our scale and the billions of different attacks we see and adapt to every year, we’re well on our way to achieving that for sites on the CloudFlare network.

Signing up

Any website can deploy CloudFlare, regardless of your underlying platform. By integrating closely with [Your Company Name], we make the process of setting up CloudFlare “1 click easy” through your existing [Your Company Name] [control panel] dashboard. Just look for the CloudFlare icon, choose the domain you want to enable, and click the orange cloud. That’s it!


We’ve kept the price as low as possible and plans offered through Sprocket Networks are free. Moreover, we never charge you for bandwidth or storage, therefore saving you tons via reduced bandwidth costs.

For site owners who would like to take advantage of CloudFlare’s advanced offerings, we also offer a ‘Pro’ tier of service for $20/month. The ‘Pro’ tier includes all of the ‘Free’ tier’s offerings, as well as extra features like SSL, full web application firewall and faster analytics.

We’re proud that every day more than a thousand new sites, including some of the largest on the web, join the CloudFlare community. If you’re looking for a faster, safer website, you’ve got a good start with Sprocket Networks, but the next step is to join the CloudFlare community.

You can sign up now for this free service by logging into your cPanel Control Panel and clicking on the CloudFlare icon.

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28 Jan

Shared Hosting, VPS Hosting, and Dedicated Hosting – Why so much hosting?! – By: Justin Clutter

With all the different types of hosting available, it can be confusing when you try to make the right decision. Do you choose shared, VPS, or dedicated hosting? In this article we will cover the basics of the different types of hosting plans, so you can find which type fits your needs.

Hosting Platforms – What makes them different?

Shared Hosting

Shared Hosting is very similar to living in an Apartment Complex. All residents are in the same location and must share the available resources with everyone. These may include such things as the pool, parking lot, and play ground. In shared hosting, all accounts must share the available resources with all the other accounts on the server. These include CPU time, memory, and disk space.

VPS Hosting

VPS (Virtual Private Server) Hosting is similar to owning a Condo. While you still share things on the property, you are ultimately responsible for maintaining your own property and repairs inside the condo. There are also significantly less residents per building and assigned parking. On a VPS, you are allotted resources that are not shared by everyone. The overall CPU time and memory are shared across all accounts on the machine, but at the same time, portions of those resources are always dedicated to each account. This allows for more power and flexibility than being on a shared account.

Dedicated Hosting

Dedicated Hosting can be compared to owning a house. You are allowed and have access to all resources available on the machine. No one else’s account resides on the machine and would not be capable of tapping into your resources.

Server Resources

(When is it time to move up?)

Regardless of which type of hosting you choose, your website will reside on a server. When someone visits your page, the server’s CPU and Memory will work together to send that visitor the page they requested. There are cases in which your website may use too much CPU or Memory to serve those pages, and that is when you will need to upgrade your account.

Apartment living to Condo living – Upgrading from Shared to VPS

Shared accounts are great for most users. You can host all sorts of applications (such as WordPress or Joomla), and there are plenty of email accounts to go around. If you compare Shared to VPS Hosting, here are some good reasons to upgrade:

A Growing family: If your family grows more than what your apartment can handle, then it may be time to move up. If your website becomes popular, you may need to upgrade to VPS Hosting for more CPU and Memory for your account. This will allow you to handle all the new traffic coming to your site.

Customizations: If you require software that is not available in Shared Hosting, Upgrading to VPS hosting will allow you to install any software that you would like!

Condo Living to Single Family Home Living – Upgrading from VPS to Dedicated Hosting

Keeping with the same analogy, with a VPS, you have a lot of control, but you don’t have complete control. VPS Servers are great for mid-sized businesses. You have a virtualized private server in which you can setup and tweak exactly the way you need. You can host an unlimited number of websites, and there are really no restrictions, other than usage of your server’s CPU time and memory. A VPS Server is not a Dedicated Server, so you are still on a server with other users. As you’re sharing a server, your actions can still affect other users. If you have a very busy website, dominating the server’s CPU time and memory could cause performance issues with other users on the same server. This can cause possible downtime or severe lag for other users on the same server. At this point, it is time to move into your own home (dedicated server). This allows you all the freedom of home ownership with no sharing of any kind. You control how your lawn looks, the color it is painted etc. With a dedicated server, you control all the resources, updates, security and responsibility that comes along with owning your very own home…errrr…server!

I hope this better helps you understand the differences between the types of hosting available to you on the internet! If you have any questions, please feel free to email us at sales@opus-3.com! We look forward to helping you!


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13 Jan

Start Up – A Delicate Balance

Start Up – A Delicate Balance

By – Gary Byers

The term “Startup” or “Start-up” has a couple of connotations. It can be used as a noun such as the act of starting something up or setting something in motion. It can also be used as an adjective when relating to the beginning of a new project or venture. Opus-3 or 03Cloud was, and to some degree still is, both of those. It started with an idea to provide a better data center for everyone.  Not just the Mega-customer with 30 cabinets and 10Gbps of bandwidth but also for the little-guy with a single 1U server and 3Mbps of bandwidth. It all started in a building that had previously been a boon in the Data Center industry for a large Tier 1 Internet Provider. Even though the makings of a success story were all in place, there were large hurdles to overcome before the first customer would be able to install a single server. Point to remember here is that we started this process in June of 2011, one of the hottest summers on record since the summer of 1980.

One of the first hurdles to overcome was HVAC or the lack thereof. See how that “Hottest summer on record since 1980” comes into play? During the year  that the building sat vacant, it became a target of the notorious “Copper bandits”. That’s right, those degenerate individuals that have determined that since no one is in the building, no one will miss it. They generally work in packs and will put a couple of people up on the roof of a building (working all night if needed), to strip every piece of copper out of condensing units and anything else they can pry open.  It took our team 45 days from start to finish to get all of the condensing units installed and the copper re-installed. We decided that since the HVAC company was having to re-run and install all of the copper, we would reroute them through the building to gain some efficiency over running them across the roof.

Once we started getting cool air inside the building (we are now into July of 2011 and hotter still), we could focus all our efforts on the Critical Power Systems. This is made up of the Uninterruptable Power Systems (UPS), Automatic Transfer Switch’s (ATS), Power Distribution Units (PDU), and the Generators. The Critical Power System is what supports you and your customers in the event of a power failure by the utility company. Data center customers don’t realize there is a power outage if your critical systems work properly. We had already run tested the generators and had been concentrating on getting the UPS’ re-configured with new batteries and capacitors. Now it was time to load test and commission the UPS’. The ironic thing about this part of a Data Center startup is that it is a brutal test of a delicate system. You are plugging in a series of “load banks” that are built specifically for testing UPS’. They pull a lot of amperage or load and they put off an extreme amount of heat in the process. It really systematically tests your UPS and HVAC at the same time because while you are load-testing your UPS, the HVAC’s are trying to keep up with the heat coming off of these load banks. Then you inflict the ultimate insult to your systems. You go in and just turn off the main utility feed to see if everything remains online. This process has been known to make grown men cry, because every once in a while, a weakness shows itself. One of the backup systems doesn’t like how you are playing and decides to quit in the middle of the test. If you are a startup and this is the initial commissioning test, no harm, no foul, but if you are operational and have customers installed, it’s ulcer time. Believe me, you want to find this out during initial commissioning rather than when you have customers depending on the backup system. So you dig in, start troubleshooting and find the problem, fix it, then start the test all over again. All the while you are sweet-talking your Critical Power Systems and promising that you won’t EVER do this to them again if you can just get through this one test.  At least until next year when you are required to do it again.

We started our “Re-purposing and Re-commissioning” in June of 2011 and went live with the first customer in late September 2011. Because the two of us had done these tasks so many times before, we were accustomed to working without supervision and could break the tasks out and work independently managing the contractors and got everything accomplished in a short amount of time. We turned a totally dark data center that hadn’t seen a server in 2 years into a functioning, running, bad-to-the-bone, data center with its first customer in just over 90 days. Our open house was a huge success and we haven’t looked back. We have gone from an Operation running with two guys doing everything from Sales to Operations to an Operations Department complete with Linux specialists and Cisco Certified Professionals. Being in Deep Ellum is invigorating because we love the neighborhood and its people. We find ourselves working 60 – 70 hour weeks so that we can meet the demands of other young start-up companies that have found Deep Ellum a desirable place to begin. They are looking for server storage, colocation, data backup, virtual/cloud environments and craving bandwidth and an alternative to the same old DSL or cable modem. We are able to supply all of these needs and more. With the build-out of our new fiber network, Ellum.Net, we look to be supplying “Bodacious Bandwidth” to our neighbors and friends in Deep Ellum for as long as the need is there.

If you are looking for a data backup company, want to take your server needs to the cloud, or are needing colocation space stop by or give us a call. We look forward to serving you.

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31 Dec
21 Dec

Why I love technology…a Holiday note – By NCain

When I was a young man growing up, my father was an Army recruiter. He loved the Army and he loved helping men and women realize their dreams of going into his beloved branch of military. I used to sit and watch him speak with people about the military. He could sell them on the idea of patriotism, merit, honor and brotherhood. What he couldn’t do, was help them once they were in. They would call him from basic training and tell him they wanted to go home and he would then have to inform them that there was nothing that he could do. He would come home at night and feel bad because some young woman was having a really hard time in basic training and missed her parents. We lived in rural Iowa and some of these recruits had never been away from home and were unable to call their parents due to financial restrictions. My father would go out of his way to get the farmer to the phone so he could tell his son just how proud of him he was and how he looked forward to seeing him in his uniform soon. I remember thinking that I wanted to be just like my Dad. An honorable man who did the right thing all the time. A man who went out of his way to help people, to provide for his family and to make people feel special. So, when it became my turn to pick a career, of course I went straight into the Army. I had put Ranger in my contract because my ultimate goal was to go Delta Force. Many of my Dad’s friends had gone Delta and he had the most respect for these soldiers. They were elite, they were tough and they were “snake eaters”. I wanted his admiration and I wanted the respect that came with having such an awesome title of “Operator”. Wow! Of course, like a lot of things in our lives, my dream was cut short. Cut short by an injury in A.I.T. that forced me to close the military chapter of my journey. So, at this point, what do I do? Well, go to college of course. But, to do what? If I couldn’t be in the Army and help my country, at least I could choose a career that would allow me to help my fellow human. So, I decided on communications with an emphasis on public speaking. Growing up with a salesman grandfather and an Army recruiter father had worked to my advantage in that I had no fear of public speaking. To this, I decided to go into Radio Broadcasting. I loved the job and the people and the notoriety. What I didn’t love was the removal of being able to assist people. Sure, we had toy drives for the children and donation drives to help the community, but what we didn’t have was one on one interaction and the feeling of actually being a part of the fix. So, where does technology come into all of this? After I left college (I didn’t graduate due to an unforeseen bundle of joy), I was left with a couple of different avenues. I could go into the radio biz and still feel a little bit at odds with my career, or I could go into a market to actually help people. Which one to choose, which one to choose? Of course, with a baby on the way I chose the path of least resistance and became a stock broker (you want to talk about a hard, standardized test). I know, it just doesn’t keep with the rest of my training, but I have a tendency to do the odd thing every now and then. The money was great and was much needed to provide for my family. Still, I didn’t feel like I was accomplishing anything. I was young, but I still had it in my mind that I wanted to be a member of society where my children could look up to me like I did my own dad. I stayed in sales one way or another for so many years that I eventually just started calling myself a salesman. I felt ok about it, because I could lie to myself and say that I was helping people in my carpet cleaning business (one of my sales professions many incarnations). After I sold the carpet cleaning business, I decided to take some time off and be a dad. I wanted to get in touch with my children (2 by now as we added a lovely little lady to our brood). After a few years of just staying at home and being a dad, I decided to get back into the world of work. I just didn’t know where I could fit in. One day during this time, I was having a really hard time with my computer and I called technical support. The person I was connected to was obviously just a very tired and overworked human being. They were short, rude and acted as if I should know exactly what they were speaking about, the acronyms they used and what an ethernet connection was. The person made me so angry that I decided to literally figure out how to fix the machine on my own. I went online at a friends house and went straight to the forums. WOW! If I thought the person on the phone was rude, here was a whole worlds worth of that person with a little bit more sarcasm and snarkiness mixed in, along with anger and bitterness. These people believed you should know how to fix the problem instinctively and then, and only then, come to the forum to brag and boast about how you fixed the issue with as few keystrokes as possible and in no time at all. So, of course, they were no help. I did, however, vow to never be like those people. The type of people who hang out on a website specifically designed to help other humans with their tech problems, but are only there to ridicule and harass unsuspecting noobs by publicly shaming them for their ineptitude about all things technology. I gave them a piece of my mind and left. I also vowed that one day, I would understand computers to the point that I could be just like those dyspeptic nerds, but instead, I would be helpful and polite. So, I got started. Having nothing to lose, I rummaged around Craigslist and found a tech job working in a Data Center that required me to have no experience. I have always had issues with sleeping through the night, and since this was an overnight position, we fit together like a custom made glove. I quickly learned Centos, Freebsd, Debian and to some extent Windows. I learned about RAM and hard drives, about pins and monitors and motherboards. I learned as much as I could, as fast as I could. My trainer went from taking as many as 20 phone calls a night, to calling me to make sure everything was OK, because he “hadn’t heard from me in a while”.  I loved my job for the first time in my life! I loved the fact that I was actively involved in the fix and that people would actually tell me “you just saved my business” when I would rescue their data. I loved helping people. I loved the pats on the back (hey, I never said my love of tech was completely selfless). I loved the fact that people trusted me with something so personal and so much a part of their lives. I promised to be a good steward of their trust, to always keep their secrets (and believe me when I say EVERYBODY has secrets). My father would go out of his way to make people feel comfortable, a trait that I inherited as well. I can recall just one time in my almost decade long career, where I was not 100% professional with a client. He called me at 3:00am with an issue that I had never been apprised of. He screamed at me, at the top of his lungs, for 5 straight minutes, so loud that I could literally not understand what he was saying. When he was finished, I reminded him that I was a human being and that I was just there to help, but that I refused to be abused. My father may have been a very ingratiating man, but he taught me to stand up for myself at all times. The gentleman started screaming again during which time I fixed his issue. When he realized that the issue was fixed, he simply stated “great, now you’ve gone and woke my kids up”. That was the last straw. I said “Sir, you are a bad person” upon which time he simply hung up on me. He, of course, took the time to write a  very angry and bitter letter to my boss. My boss was a very deliberate man who listened exceedingly well. He listened to the audio, weighed the situation and then posed the question “How did you keep cool for as long as you did?”. I remember telling him “I just wanted to help him.”. I just wanted to help the guy, because I know that being awoke at 3am by a monitoring alert is aggravating and that all people want to do is to get back to their warm beds and catch as much sleep as they would be able to get. We left that issue there, to go quiet. In my quest to help people no matter the circumstances, I had failed to remember that I have a unique role to fill. My job in tech is to be what you need, when you need it. If you are feeling the frustrations of not knowing, my job is to make you feel comfortable with the fact that not everyone knows everything. You don’t have time to learn how to code in php or use a linux command line. That is why you have me. Yell at me, thank me, pat me on the back, but I can promise that I will still give you the exact same amount of my time as I would anyone else who sought it out. My job is to help, not to hinder. My job is to know what the problem is, and if I don’t know, taking the time to learn it. My job is to be the professional you can count on, when you need a professional you can count on. I truly love my career. I’m not rich, but I am fulfilled! At the end of the day, I believe that is all that matters.


A Holiday Note From Me

As a side note, this is going to be printed during the Holiday season and I just wanted to remind everyone to relax and enjoy their neighbors, friends, family, clients, customers and co-workers. We can all get stressed from time to time, say the wrong things, act different than normal and it is all just because we love our family and friends so much, that we work on little sleep, little time and have so much to get accomplished during this time of year that we sometimes lose sight of the really important things in life. I leave you with an excerpt of one of my favorite country comedians, Jerry Clower. Speaking to his friend and first boss, Owen Cooper, who was upset that when asked if she could go back in time and do life over again, a lady responded only in the materialistic, such as winning lotteries and buying things. When challenged by Jerry about what would he do, Owen said this:


“If I had my life to live over, I would love more! I would especially love others more. I would let this love express itself in a concern for my neighbors, my friends and all of whom I came into contact… I would love the unlovely, the unwanted, the unknown and the unloved. I would give more. I would learn early in life the joy of giving, the pleasure of sharing and the happiness of helping. I would learn to give more than money! I would learn to give some of life’s treasured possessions such as time, thoughts and kind words. If I had my life to live over, I would be much more unconventional, because where society overlooks people, I would socialize with them. When custom acknowledges peers at best with whom to have fellowship with, I would want some non-peer friends. Where tradition stratifies people because of economics, education, race or religion, I would want to fellowship with friends in all strata! I would choose to go where the crowd doesn’t go, where the road is not paved, where the weather is bitter, where friends are few (and) where the need is great…”!

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17 Aug

How to become a tough guy (Systems Administrator)

By – Noah Cain





500 broken computers!


That’s the number I figured when I was a tech noob!


500 computers repaired to working perfection before you could consider yourself a tough guy systems admin!


You need that many for experience! To develop leather fingertips! To learn all the motherboards and the different types of processors. The R.A.I.D. configurations and how to manipulate a 1950 into letting you only use 1 disk.


So…I got started!


Of course, along the way, you stop thinking about how to be smart and all that, about learning all the different types of laptops and desktops, tablets and smart phones…it stops being the point!


You get past the silliness of it all…past the ever changing names and hardware of technology.


But then, AFTER, you realize that is what you are! You are a systems administrator. You can fsck a machine…even a freebsd machine. You can get CPanel to work on a Debian machine, not that you would want to, but you could do it. You start to see things in a different light. You start to see computer issues as much more than just common bugs. You start to see them as imperfections in a perfect environment. You start to hate them. They glare at you and make the people needing the help think of you as the problem.

I’ll tell you, you learn a lot of things on the way to 500, but none more important than this: your systems administrator is only here to help you succeed. You should remember that they are human, they have bled for the knowledge that seemingly everyone else seems to think is very easy to learn and to master. They have forgotten more information about technology than you will most likely learn in your life. Most of them can’t change the oil in their cars, but most of them can quote every movie you have ever seen…especially ones with awesome quotes like this one from “The Knockaround Guys”.

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23 Apr

IT Continuity Planning

Sprocket NetworksBy: Sofiane Chafai

Today most organizations have committed resources, developed policies, procedures, and tools, and set their organization and IT infrastructure to maintain their critical business process (Business Continuity Plan) and recover to their normal activities (Disaster Recovery Plan) as quickly as possible during unforeseen circumstances and major outages.

Having a plan for these situations is not straightforward; the planning tasks are challenging and require several expertise and efforts.

In summary, the following details should be included in the IT continuity plan:

  • IT and business core process list
  • GAP analysis exercise outcome which includes the Recovery Time Objective and Recovery Point Objective for each process and component
  • IT architecture
  • Roles and responsibilities during contingencies and recovery
    • IT continuity procedures
    • IT recovery procedures
  • Invocation procedures (call tree)
  • Damage assessment
  • Tests plan
  • Contact details (staff, vendors, stakeholders, rescue services, hospital, etc.)

The IT continuity plan includes four stages:

  • Initial response
  • Relocation
  • Recovery
  • Restoration

Initial response includes the first following processes: Notification and plan activation,

Relocation mainly covers staff relocation schedules, logistics, and transportation to the alternate site, activation of the alternate site (IT equipments, telecoms, servers, etc.)

Recovery includes the damage assessment of primary facilities, initiation and completion of recovery tasks

Restoration requires verifying and confirming primary facilities and infrastructure readiness, staff relocation schedules from the alternate site to the primary site, restoring business files, consolidating and archiving incident documentation, returning to business as usual.

In practice, how to build your plan (dos and don’ts)

You need to have a valid business case. Management commitment is probably the first and most important requirement to succeed and have a sustainable IT continuity plan.

Today most organizations have developed business continuity planning and set their IT infrastructure, process, and business model to reduce the impact of natural disasters and outages they might face, but how many have an annual program testing of their plan to identify all areas where improvements are needed?

Companies need to conduct a gap analysis exercise to assess their plan with the standards and best practices in order to identify their weaknesses and develop a roadmap to include all missing elements and take the right steps to implement strategies, so they do not need to start from scratch and do not try to cover all Business Continuity Plan aspects at the same time.

Know your business! The IT continuity plan is a piece of the Business Continuity Plan, hence it needs to be aligned with business strategies and objectives. Wrong or incomplete solutions can waste time and money.

Perform a regular company risk assessment review exercise to ensure all risks are covered and set the plan accordingly. Get more flexibility by outsourcing some IT functions such as the help desk; the company will be less reliant on people in case of contingency, where tasks will be handled through SLA and covered by external vendors. This will help the company to focus on their core business process.

As people are a key element in IT continuity plan, creating a plan that depends on too few qualified people can threaten the overall plan. What if one of those people is unavailable for some reason? You need to identify a pool of employees who are capable of responding in an emergency, and initiate a set of best practices: job rotation, staff mobility in the job contract, a succession plan, and training, to ensure that people are ready to run the plan regardless of their positions or experience in the company.

The IT continuity plan requires a budget that should be included in the annual exercise and company plan. The key point here is to have a proactive approach so management will be aware of the fact that the organization might have to finance the IT continuity plan so appropriate action can be taken.

The BCP should not be an afterthought when preparing the budget. It has to be included in the company plan and discussed. As with the IT continuity plans, management must be aware that the BCP might have to be financed by the organization. External funds may be required.

New trends in technology such as virtualization, mobile devices, cloud computing, and social media need to be assessed.

Many new technologies introduce complexity, so maintaining the IT environment may require skills and resources. Reduce complexity and keep it simple for operational staff to run and eliminate potential sources of human errors.

To reduce costs of having to buy, rent, and maintain alternate facilities, a disaster recovery site, datacenters, etc., organizations should look for mutual agreements with other companies to share IT infrastructure and office desks in contingency situations.

Organizations should also consider leasing or procuring new IT infrastructure (including data communications) and arranging with suppliers to have them carry a contingency stock of IT equipment, software, etc., to be available at short notice.

In contingency situations, phone communication and the primary carrier might be down. Then you will have to plan for multiple communication options and make sure everyone knows the options and has the appropriate phone numbers, web addresses, and emergency contacts to get and stay in touch.

Password protection is a key goal of data security, IDs and password need to be stored in two geographically separate and secure locations and more than one IT staff person should have access to all passwords and codes.

Every major application enhancement, technology infrastructure change, or new service offering should have its own BIA (Business Impact Analysis) and risk management reviewed for applicability, along with its RTO (Recovery Time Objective) and RPO (Recovery Point Objective) to ensure that change management is embedded during the Business Continuity Plan lifecycle.

The Business Continuity Plan is an ongoing process which will not stop after testing. It has to be maintained and updated as required

Tests will familiarize staff and IT teams with the continuity and recovery process. They will verify the effectiveness of the selected strategies and the readiness of the recovery site, and will identify improvements required to the process and infrastructure.

The recovery tests should be conducted at service level, and should avoid focusing on components such as hardware, systems, and applications. A particular service may require different servers, data on several local drives, or user network connectivity.

Organizations are urged to assign individuals and teams to lead, drive, and run the IT continuity plan. Authority should be given to a crisis management team group to make the process effective and sustainable.

Auditing plans and procedures will enable an impartial third-party review of regulations, laws, standards, and best practices and provide recommendations.

Finally, the business’s perception of risk must be changed.

It’s no surprise that risk management and continuity planning often end up siloed into separate functional areas. Changing the perception and culture has to begin at the top level with a top-down approach to the following tasks: putting the organization in place; instituting reporting at the top level to avoid any conflict of interest; including continuity management on the board meeting agenda; ensuring that a continuity section is included in every corporate document; initiating policies and procedures to promote and develop internal control and compliance functions; conducting regular risk assessment to determine changes in the organization’s risk profile and assess performance; and proceeding with regular audits. “The boss knows best” philosophy must be avoided. Top management must listen to and accept others’ thoughts and ideas.

People must be educated through training and awareness programs, brainstorming sessions, and workshops. Use metrics and KPI to assess performance and ensure compliance.

The challenge is to create a situation where people will instinctively look for risk and consider its impact prior to making decision

When you think about processes, setting up new systems, hiring new employees, contracting with vendors, and opening new accounts for customers, you need to think RISK

IT continuity planning trends

Virtualization will make the plan easier by reducing the number of IT assets which need to be maintained, supported, and reviewed. We will have fewer devices to worry about, and the RTO can be reduced by switching quickly to virtual machines from live environment to backup.

Desktop virtualization can enable people and company staff to work off-site, at home through Citrix and DVI, which allow flexibility for the organization to recover quickly and get people on board without having to invest in alternate sites areas, reducing the cost of maintaining a wide alternate site for their employees. This needs to be secure through appropriate tunneling with data leakage protection installed on the machine.

The deployment of virtual machines over the internet can be an alternative to allowing staff access through their personal home computers, making them more productive by using the environment they are familiar with during outages.


As applications (SaaS), platforms (PaaS), or infrastructures are delivered from the cloud, an organization can mitigate and drastically reduce the risk of major or minor disruptions. The drawback for IT is the additional responsibilities involved in managing third parties through an efficient problem management process and services level agreement to ensure that third-party suppliers have resources in place, failover systems, people and processes to maintain the same level of services and guarantee data availability regardless of disruption and outages faced at supplier level.

This exercise can become more complicated in the future. As more and more companies outsource services to the cloud, the process will have to include several suppliers and services for maintaining the plan and proceeding with required testing and audit reviews.

Mobile devices

Getting more mobile devices in the workplace will definitely improve business continuity strategies. It has become easier to communicate during disaster through computer tablets, smartphones, and Blackberries, which gives more flexibility for workforce recovery options by accessing the corporate applications, communicating with coworkers, customers, and vendors from multiple remote locations. More software designed for mobile devices enables users to access information needed during crisis situation, such as status of recovery, recovery site location, list of applications and services available, and, finally, emergency updates.

Social networks

An article published by Forrester in July 2012, “It’s Time to Include Social Technology in Your Crisis Communication Strategy,” stressed the fact that subscribing to automated communication services is now common and widely used by many professionals. The proliferation of mobile devices and easy Internet access enable the use of social technologies such as Twitter, Facebook, and Skype as elements of business continuity and recovery strategies.

Organizations should leverage and assess technologies to make their response plan effective. They need to look at which platform is actually used by employees, customers, and vendors. These channels can be used for both communicating and getting information and help from external resources to improve the business continuity and recovery process. The drawback is more uncontrolled spreading of information outside, which can damage the organization’s reputation and make the crisis communication process more complicated.

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18 Dec

Sprocket Networks – Colocation Deal-Full Cab $389 with 20A Power and Network Included


Sprocket Networks in Dallas, Texas, a 10-year veteran of enterprise hosting, is providing an end of year colocation special in our own SSAE-16 audited and certified data center.

Sprocket Networks full cabinet colocation special is $389 per month on a month-to-month term with $389 setup fee (want to lower your setup fee, you can sign up for 24 month-half off setup fee or 36 month-no setup fee). Here is everything you get for only $389:
* Full 42U Private Cabinet
* 1 Mbps blended IP on a 100Mbps port
* 1 20Amp A+B power circuit 
* UPS protected power
* Generator Protected Power
* /29 CIDR (8 total / 5 usable IPs)
* Free initial setup
* Free reverse DNS
* Free IP/KVM as needed for troubleshooting
* Free remote hands support
* 24/7 Support
$389.00 per month

* 20U ½ Private Cabinet
* 1 Mbps blended IP on a 100Mbps port
* 1 20Amp A+B power circuit 
* UPS protected power
* Generator Protected Power
* /29 CIDR (8 total / 5 usable IPs)
* Free initial setup
* Free reverse DNS
* Free IP/KVM as needed for troubleshooting
* Free remote hands support
* 24/7 Support
$289.00 per month with $289 setup fee that can be waived 
with a 36 month contract or half price with a 24 month 

We have space available now for immediate activation and you can be online the same day.

Your cabinet will be hosted in Dallas, Texas in Sprocket Networks wholly owned, fully certified data center that provides 24/7 support. If you would like a tour, please let us know.

This is a month to month deal but if you sign a 24 month contract, you can cut your setup fee in half or on a 36 month contract, there is no setup fee.

If needed, we can customize your order any way you would like.

This is a special for new clients only.

Please contact us at: salesticket@sprocketnetworks.com or call us at 214-855-5020 for any questions or to place your order!

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16 Dec

Sprocket Networks Has Joined Forces, Expands Capabilities With Opus-3 Data Center

Sprocket Networks

DALLAS, Dec. 16, 2013 – Sprocket Networks has joined forces with Opus-3 Data Center, expanding its capabilities and resources into a global platform. Sprocket Networks is a privately held hosting solutions company based inDallas, Texas, that specializes in Colocation, Dedicated Hosting, Cloud Hosting, and Managed Services.  Sprocket Networks is an industry veteran with over 10 years of hosting business success with customers in 27 countries on 6 continents and in over 35 states in the United States. This was a private transaction and terms were not disclosed.

“With Sprocket Networks joining with the Opus-3 Data Center global platform, clients will now have a broader range of capabilities and services they can choose from to best meet their needs,” says Justin Clutter, Sprocket Networks CTO. “Not only can Sprocket Networks provide the services our customers have come to expect from us,” says Justin Clutter, “we now have a stronger technical staff, greater capacity, and new offerings such as Virtual Data Center Services and Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity solutions.”

“We are very excited about Sprocket Networks joining with our Opus-3 Team,” says David Herr, COO of Opus-3. “Our commitment at Opus-3 has always been to exceed customer expectations. One aspect that is so attractive about Sprocket Networks is their culture to provide the best customer service. Our commitment has always been to best serve the client, first and foremost. With Sprocket Networks and Opus-3 joining forces, it will be easier and faster for organizations to adopt the game-changing cloud services that we provide.  Opus-3 will enable Sprocket Networks to deliver the security, privacy and reliability of private clouds with the economy and speed of a public cloud.”

About Opus-3
Opus-3 Data Center provides SOC1, SOC2 & SOC3 Tier III Data Center solutions on a global basis that are fully SSAE16 Type II certified. Opus-3 offers custom and scalable Colocation, Private Cloud Hosting, Virtual Data Center Services, Dedicated Servers, Virtual Servers, Managed Services, Mass Storage and Disaster Recovery / Business Continuity solutions.


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