Upgrades and Additions

We’ve had a few people ask us exactly what we were doing in our recent scheduled downtime sessions during April, so here we are:

New Datacentre Facilities

The main bulk of the time has been spent moving the majority of our servers from our current point-of-presence (PoP) at Interxion in central London to our new PoP at London Hosting Centre in the Docklands area. There are a number of reasons for this move, which we weighed up very carefully with the inconvenience that would be caused to you:

  • Inability to get extra power to our racks – we were running them half empty as we could not get extra power without moving our equipment to a different part of the building.
  • A change in focus for Interxion – they are moving towards fewer, much larger corporate customers.
  • Above market rate pricing – year on year we have absorbed price increases, unfortunately the latest price increase we would have had to have passed on and would have resulted in prices rises of between 15-25% for you, this is not something we would have been happy doing and something a number of you told us you wouldn’t want to pay.

When we weighed up these 3 main factors we took the decision to find alternative facilities to run our services from, we are confident we have made the correct choice of facilities. We have always set out to work with partners for the long term, working as we did with Interxion for over 7 years.

The eagle eyed among you will have noticed a plural in the above statements, that we have chosen facilities to work with, not just a facility. Our network and services are now present in 3 geographically diverse datacentres, along with London Hosting Centre we have setup PoPs in:

Manchester

We are now present in Manchester, with our first services planned to go live during May (more of which below). We take network connectivity in Manchester from two providers, as well as having a gigabit link between Manchester and London.

Woking

We also have a presence in the Sentrum IV facility in Woking. This is a highly secure, Tier III+ facility providing excellent options for customers who need to be outside of London, but not so far outside that it causes them major travel problems.

Network Upgrades

A major part of our work has been to upgrade our network so that it is now Juniper powered in the core and distribution layers. For LHC this means using the latest Juniper MX80 3D line of routers and EX4200 switches. For Manchester this means Juniper J-Series routers and EX4200 switches. Woking is currently connected via diverse Layer-2 services back to LHC for routing – as any network connectivity in to the building is predominantly back-hauled to London first anyway, so it would currently serve no purpose carrying out routing from there.

As time passes, the needs of the facilities change and traffic levels increase we will be reviewing the equipment used at each facility, with the plan being to bring them all in-line with each other utilising the Juniper MX 3D series of routers.

Gigabit for all

During the move to LHC we took the opportunity to replace the last of our 10/100 switches and replaced them all with new 48 port Gigabit capable switches – all existing customers will now find they are connected to our network with a Gigabit port if their equipment supports it – a free upgrade that many providers charge monthly for!

IPv6 Support

A major driver in replacing all of our routers has been IPv6, it is something that has been long overdue in its implementation on our network and will be formally rolled out in June. Unfortunately many software vendors still aren’t supporting IPv6, so this does mean that for some services we still won’t be able to support IPv6 – unfortunately one of those vendors is cPanel, so for the time being our shared business hosting still won’t support IPv6. This is something we are putting pressure (along with many other companies) on cPanel to implement as soon as possible.

Increased connectivity

We’ve increased our public Internet facing network connectivity by 100% in anticipation of take-up on our new services and also to match ever increasing broadband speeds.

The Future…

We’ve got a couple of new products on the way in May, as well as making some changes to the way we do certain things – but you’ll have to come back later to find out about those :)


Facility Migration

As many of you will already be aware we are currently in the process of moving our equipment from the data centre facility we currently use to a different one (whilst also expanding our hosting network to cover two other facilities). As part of this we obviously have to physically move servers.

Around half the notices to dedicated server customers have already been sent, starting with those who will be moved first.

In terms of our virtual/shared hosting we will be moving servers on the weekends of 1st/2nd April and 8th/9th April. To find out when the server your site is on will be moved, please use the following tool: Server Move Date Checker. All server moves will take place starting at 23:00 on the day given by the tool and will carry on until 06:00 the following day. We expect downtime to be between 1 and 2 hours maximum.

We thank you for your patience and understanding during these moves.

[Update]

We’ve had a couple of people ask if anything will be changing with regards to the servers/settings/software etc. Nothing will be changing on this front, we are moving the physical servers as they are between facilities – all software, settings, IP addresses etc. will remain the same.


Linux Vulnerability CVE-2010-3081 – Local but serious

As many of you will no doubt be aware there has recently been a vulnerability with 64bit Linux announced that allows a local system user to gain root level system access. Whilst these things do happen from time to time, the problem at the moment is that a lot of vendors do not have a new kernel with the security hole patched. To make things worse, the exploit that is out in the wild installs a back door in to your systems as well, so even when patched they will still have root level access to your system!

Whilst many are saying this isn’t a major issue as it is only exploitable by having local machine access, it’s actually bigger than a lot of people realise in a web hosting environment as users are allowed to execute their own PHP and Perl code or install 3rd part scripts – what we’re seeing lately is that many such user and 3rd party applications have many holes in them that allow arbitrary code to be executed or even uploaded on to servers and then executed. Both situations effectively give a local user account (that of the web server user, or the account user depending on how the system is configured). One of the biggest causes of such problems are scripts that allow users to upload images or other files to a website – the vast majority of them do not check to make sure it is an image, or a PDF or a text file etc. that is uploaded – we’ve seen recently that a lot of these scripts allow users to upload PHP scripts for example instead of an image and of course once it’s in the images directory it can be executed like any other PHP.

There is currently a workaround for the specific exploit out in the wild, but they do not protect from any new exploits that may utilise the same security hole. The only solution ready at the moment appears to be that from KSplice.com – Which our managed hosting customers will be pleased to know we’ve been installing on all of your servers for the past few weeks now. For our un-managed customers you can also have KSplice but unfortunately for you there is a small charge for this, of £2.50 + VAT per copy – If you would like it installing then please open a ticket with us and we’ll get it done for you ASAP.


The winner is…

…Simon from INX-Gaming. Congratulations to Simon who won a free bottle of Champagne for coming up with the most novel use for the stack of equipment we recently bought for our new Cloud Hosting Platform.

There will be more chances to win a bottle of Champagne over coming months – so keep your eyes on our blog, and also keep an eye out for more information about our new Cloud Hosting Platform, which you’ll be able to benefit from automatically if you’re a user of our business class shared hosting, as we’ll be moving all accounts over to it once it goes live.


Welcome to You Grow, We Grow

Hello and welcome to a brand new feature on our site, You Grow, We Grow. It’s a bit of a cheesy name we know, but we do genuinely believe that the information we’re going to provide you with, will help you grow your website and your business.

The thinking behind You Grow, We Grow, is that if we help you grow your business, then you’ll help us grow ours, be it buying more web space, buying more data transfer, or even renting a server for your ever expanding website/business.

Since we first started back in 2000, our philosophy has always been to have a smaller number of customers that we have a more in depth working relationship with, that’s why if you search, you’ll really struggle to find a bad review of us – because we work with our customers, to help them with their business, because it helps us with ours. As part of our continued plan to help you grow your business with us, we’ll be using this area of our site to post articles, tips and tricks, useful links that we think will help you and your business/website. Some of the areas we hope to cover include:

  • Accessibility and Usability
  • Brand Building
  • Content and Design
  • Legal Issues
  • plus many more topics

To help provide you with this information, we’ll be bringing in experts from those areas, so you know you’ll be getting relevant and useful advice, not just the musings of ourselves on these areas. Of course, you’ll also be hearing from us, as we keep you up to date with the latest product developments and other items of interest that we find on our travels around the web.

We aim to publish new content at least once per week, so please do keep checking back. Also, if you would like to contribute to a topic on your area of expertise, or you’ve found something relevant elsewhere on the web, then we’d love to hear from you.