What Every Digital Agency Needs to Ask Their Managed Hosting Provider

elegant business multitasking multimedia man at home

As a digital agency, there’s nothing more important than making sure your clients’ campaigns are running smoothly. That’s why when it comes to infrastructure and hosting, you need to make sure you’re supported no matter what.

With tight deadlines, short-term campaigns, and the possibility of plans changing at the last minute, choosing the right managed hosting provider is paramount.

That’s why we created this checklist: to help you ask the questions that will ensure you work with a managed hosting provider that suits your needs perfectly.

1. Does your managed hosting provider offer short-term contracts?

This one’s key to making sure your managed hosting provider is a good fit. With many providers only offering annual contracts, knowing that you can host your campaigns for as long or as short as you require ensures that you’re not spending money unnecessarily.

2. Does your managed hosting provider offer management of nodes that are spun up on a short-term basis to meet spikes in traffic?

A campaign website is unlike any other in that traffic can be extremely low, and then spike rapidly. It’s imperative that you confirm whether your hosting company will be able to handle a fast and dramatic spike in traffic.

3. Will your managed hosting provider assist you with DevOps practices?

DevOps is the practice of Development and Operations working together to improve efficiency and effectiveness. Although DevOps is becoming a more common offering from hosting companies, double check to ensure they’ll help with setting up development staging and production environments with automated deployment.

4. Does your managed hosting provider have the same approach to business as you?

Responsiveness is key when it comes to digital campaigns. If it’s a Friday night, you need to make sure someone is around on the infrastructure-end to make sure things are running smoothly. Make sure that your managed hosting provider offers 24/7 support, and deeply understands the importance of uptime for your campaign.

5. Will you be compensated for downtime?

All hosting companies promote “low downtime,” but make sure that your Standard Level Agreement states that in the event of downtime, you’ll be compensated. That way, in the event of downtime, you won’t be liable.

6. What size is your hosting company?

A lot of people prefer larger hosting companies because they believe there’s a safety that comes with size. This absolutely makes sense, although it isn’t necessarily true. A good way to check how reliable a hosting company will be is by checking sites like Netcraft. Netcraft is an impartial, web server and web hosting market-share analysis that releases lists of the most reliable managed hosting providers by the month – great for assessing dependability of managed hosting providers. A challenge with larger managed hosting providers is that you’ll constantly be dealing with a different person. With a smaller provider, you’ll often speak to the same person every time you call who knows you and your environment. This can be much more effective – especially when working on campaigns.

7. Does your managed hosting provider manage up to and including the application layer?

Knowing that you’re managed into the application layer is key. Without this level of coverage, you can expect to be woken up in the middle of the night, which no one wants. Make sure your provider manages up to and including the application layer.

8. Will your managed hosting provider be able to handle all of your clients?

It can be messy having different clients and different campaigns running on different managed hosting providers. To keep things as simple as possible and to ensure that you have someone you can rely on for all your campaigns; make sure your managed hosting provider can handle all of your clients.

Working with the right managed hosting provider is extremely important for Digital Agencies. With the help of this checklist, you’ll be in better stead to choose the right hosting company to manage your infrastructure.

For more advice on selecting a managed hosting provider, get in touch at: hello@everycity.co.uk

How to do Managed Hosting – Without Managed Hosting

Multiethnic People with Startup Business Talking in a Cafe

Leaving your website unmanaged is like leaving a child unsupervised.

Don’t believe me?

Think about it – imagine that you left a child unsupervised for an evening. You wouldn’t stop worrying!

“Is she safe?” “Has he gotten into trouble?” “Is she playing with something she shouldn’t be playing with?” – or worse: “is he eating something he shouldn’t be eating?”

For businesses, a live website is an absolute must and without the peace of mind that comes with knowing it’s being taken care of, it can be as worrisome as leaving a child unattended.

Still unconvinced? Let me tell you the story about Octopus Incorporated…

Welcome to Octopus Incorporated.

Octopus Inc. is the app that helps you juggle eight (or more) tasks at once.

It launched in 2012 with the mission to help people manage their time more effectively, and get more done.

After receiving glowing feedback from a prominent app review site, the user base surged to over 250,000 users. This, understandably, attracted the attention of quite a few VCs, and after a one million pound investment, it all seemed to be smooth sailing.

The founders, Jack and Jasmine, are developers so they know what they’re doing, and decided to go with Amazon Web Services for their hosting to save some money and keep full control of their site. They’re confident that they can stay on top of their scaling, keep their site live, and (most importantly) keep their now 600,000 users happy!

Providing a reliable user experience

Jack and Jasmine are so caught up in delivering frequent updates to their app, that when uptime percentages start decreasing, they barely notice. After a stern talking to from their VCs who expect a more reliable user experience from their investment, Jack and Jasmine decide to offer their developers sys admin training. They’re thrilled when not one – but all nine of their developers volunteer. Problem solved!

Although their developers will have to take time away from developing to dedicate to training, Jack and Jasmine think it’s the easiest and most cost effective way to resolve their downtime issues.

What happened next: A week after the sys admin training, the app goes down and (almost smugly) Jack and Jasmine turn to their well-trained developers. It’s 2pm on a Friday, and they’re confident their trained devs will resolve the issues within minutes. The only problem is that the devs are brand new to this whole sys admin thing, and end up taking several hours to get the app back up and running.

At 7pm, burnt out and grumbling about having to work late, the devs head home.

Hiring an in-house systems administrator

After a few more occasions of app downtime (and another stern talking to from their VCs), Jack and Jasmine decide to hire a dedicated systems administrator.

They certainly have their work cut out for them seeing as neither of them are systems or network administrators, but they take it in their stride.

After two weeks of advertising the position and scouring through CVs, they finally find Alan – someone who seems to have the right credentials. The whole process has taken their focus off of their core business aims temporarily, but they figure it’s worth it because they’re pretty sure they’ve found the right person for the job.

What happened next: Alan starts his job on a high. Downtime is lower than ever, and he gets along great with the team. He correctly sets up monitoring for the website and all aspects of their servers, and things are going well!

A month after he joins the team, a stream of angry tweets wakes up Jasmine at 12am. Octopus Inc. has gone down and their American clients are fuming! All of their users’ well organized to do lists are gone and the app keeps crashing.

Jasmine calls Alan but can’t get through to him. Turns out his mobile had run out of battery and he hadn’t received the alerts. To ensure 24/7 uptime in future, she and Jack make the decision to hire another systems administrator to act as a backup. They put the bulk of their responsibilities on hold again for an additional two weeks to find the right person which is a setback, but the good news is that the website can now be monitored all day, every day.

Limited experience leads to more downtime

Three months pass with Alan and the new sys admin, Luna, taking care of infrastructure for Octopus Inc. They’re each getting paid £50,000 a year, which is a hefty investment, but it seems to be paying off as downtime has fallen dramatically – good going, Jack and Jasmine!

What happened next: After three months of no downtime, another problem arises with the Octopus Inc app. Performance has dropped dramatically, and Alan and Luna are struggling to work out why. They are pretty sure it’s a problem with the website’s code, but the developers are adamant it’s a systems problem.

Eventually they solve the problem, a complex one they’ve not encountered before. If this particular problem crops up again, they’ll be able to solve it, but who knows how many other problems may crop up that are new.

They keep having to learn on the job, and learning on the job leads to mistakes.

After a week of glitches, performance is back under control, but not before one of the VCs has pulled their money – nobody wants to be associated with an unreliable service. Jack and Jasmine begin to wonder if this story is one many startups face.

A different way to manage your infrastructure

It’s certainly possible to manage your infrastructure without managed hosting, but the time, resources, and money spent can add up.

Why leave your child in the hands of someone that you’re not 100% sure of to do the best job possible? Of course it’s better than leaving your child completely unsupervised – but only just.

Why not trust your infrastructure with a team of experts who can all benefit from and build on each other’s experience? Why not trust your infrastructure with a team who you know will be responsible for its uptime 24/7/365?

Not only that, but the cost can be significantly lower than hiring in-house systems administrators, or having your developers spend time away from concentrating on your app or website at a critical time when your business needs to move as quickly as possible.

If it were up to me, I’d want to leave my child in the hands of Mary Poppins – and that’s exactly what managed hosting is for your website’s infrastructure.

A Day in the Life of a Tech Startup Founder

It was over 6 years ago that I started EveryCity with my cousin Duncan, and whilst a great deal has changed with my daily routine, it’s surprising what also hasn’t changed! In this blog post I’ll go over some hopefully interesting differences between a day in my life of then vs now…

Location

Office in 2007 [Read more...]

“You don’t look anything like your average sales director … which I mean as a compliment”

Trusted partnership

I attended the ecommerce expo at Olympia last year, where I was introduced to the marketing director of one of the UK’s larger hosting providers, who made this remark to me. It got me thinking. I took him at face value – so what exactly did he mean?

On one level it was obvious: I imagine for most people the idea of a sales director is someone smart, clean cut, in a suit and tie with a massive watch; I am bearded and at the time was wearing a flat cap, t-shirt and jeans. But it was the fact that he was complimenting me on looking nothing like my work role which was intriguing. He was clearly suggesting it’s better not to look like a sales director. Even if you are one. Or, perhaps, more importantly – because you are one.

[Read more...]

3 Apps That Will Boost Your Productivity

DeathtoStock_Wired7

We’ve all had those mornings.

You know, the ones where you walk into the office and sit down to start but then…you just don’t know where to begin.

Or the days when you get so caught up with the small tasks like finding a hotel, or compiling a list, or making a reservation… that you don’t actually get down to what’s important.

Let’s be honest – there are so many productivity killers, it would be impossible to list them all.

Instead, in this blog post I’m going to reveal the three apps that have boosted my productivity, and that I recommend to help boost yours, too.

[Read more...]

Windows XP is Dead

Windows XP is Dead

Artist credit Harvey Finch.

Windows XP is dead.

Or is it? Microsoft may want to pull the plug on its now 12 year old operating system (eons in computing terms), but it seems the world’s once most popular desktop system still has a little fight left in it; perhaps hanging on by a carbon fibre rod rather than just a thread.

[Read more...]

12 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Launched my Tech Startup

Tech Founder

Starting a business is fun, challenging and rewarding, and ultimately you hope it will lead to a sustainable and profitable endeavour for all involved. However, there are always things you learn along the way that you wish you’d known at the beginning.

So, here are 12 things that I wish I had known when starting EveryCity, which by sharing, I hope will help you reach that success point even sooner.

I’d love to hear your learnings too, so don’t forget to post them in the comments.

[Read more...]

6 Takeaways from TechHub’s Branding Event

IMG_1125_1

On Tuesday night I had the pleasure of attending TechHub’s “Stop Chasing! Harness Your Brand to Find Your Customers” event.

A bit of a mouthful? Yes. Worth going to? Definitely.

The event consisted of five speakers: Rosa Glover from TechHub, Jane Cunningham from Pretty Little Head, Simon London from KidRated, and Cat Totty and Jamie Le Grice from moo.com.

There was wine, there was beer, and there was an abundance of tech startups – the EveryCity team and I were in heaven! The only thing missing was pizza, but I guess nothing can be perfect.

These were my six takeaways from the event.

[Read more...]

Everything you ever wanted to know about RAID (Part 4 of 4)

Part 4: Performance Benchmarks

  1. An overview of RAID
  2. RAID Levels
  3. RAID Hardware & Software (including ZFS)
  4. Performance Benchmarks

Welcome to Part 4 of our series of blog posts on RAID – Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks. In this post, we’ll be going through the performance benchmarks we’ve performed using both Hardware RAID and ZFS Software RAID.

Since our entire platform uses SAS Host Bus Adapters and ZFS RAID, rather than using Hardware RAID cards, we’ve split the tests into two sections. The first section covers a fair comparison between HW RAID 5 and 10 plus ZFS RAID 5 and 10 on a Dell Perc H310 HW RAID card. The second tests covers a range of ZFS RAID tests on an LSI 9207-8i SAS HBA, and includes some additional ZFS RAID types (such as RAIDZ2 (RAID6) and Hybrid SSD accelerated pools). [Read more...]

Everything you ever wanted to know about RAID (Part 3 of 4) – RAID Hardware & Software (including ZFS)

Part 3: RAID Hardware & Software (including ZFS)

  1. An overview of RAID
  2. RAID Levels
  3. RAID Hardware & Software (including ZFS)
  4. Performance Benchmarks

Welcome to Part 3 of our series of blog posts on RAID – Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks. In this post, we’ll be talking about Hardware RAID cards, as well as Host Bus Adapters, and finally Software RAID such as via ZFS.

[Read more...]
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