Softlayer & Blocking Mail Transport!

I remember when I first entered into the hosting business during 2004, LayeredTech used to be an unbeatable datacenter in the market. They were mostly competing with the ThePlanet at that time and both were market leaders for the users who used Datacenter premises based on monthly rent. When Softlayer started populating some of their automated system like OS reinstall, IP addition, port control etc. using the shared VLAN & BIOS level control with almost all server through the use of KVM (IPMI from Supermicro was fresher in the market, and SL started giving away a Java app ‘IPMIView’ that had access to both console and a fast tty, it used to be DRAC before from Dell, which was eventually developed by Supermicro, I believe they still do), everything started falling a part for LT. LT gradually started focusing on ‘Enterprise Only’ institution. I eventually forgot following LT over the year since 2008.

Since Softlayer had started growing, which they eventually done in extremely fast manner, they merged with multiple companies (ThePlanet was the most notable and talked), and become the largest consumer based datacenter in the world, beating OVH. Since then, I have only seen Softlayer growing, even though with a very high grade price range they have in the market.

Since they were acquired by IBM, there are complains, Softlayer is focusing more on Enterprise Customers. They have started employing several restrictions over the year. The most recent one is blocking Mail Transport & sanctioned countries in US, all over the Softlayer network (Remember Softlayer is used by many as an IP Transit, that possibly mean, you will loose customers or visitors from a non-sanctioned country if his ISP, who is possibly not Softlayer, but utilises Softlayer IP Transit).

Mellowhost, all the way back in 2004 (It had a different branding before, ‘Mellowhost’ had come in operation from January, 2007), started with 3 vessels from LayeredTech. Over the years (2005-06), we had moved to Softlayer as our primary datacenter premise. We had expanded in Softlayer for straight 8 years before we had realised, Softlayer doesn’t exactly have enough options (I will possibly going to post in details what are they) in hardware, that can utilise and bring your web hosting technology to the newest, which helps improving performance of your web server even for the old clients.

Then we basically started focusing on many other providers and geographically spreading our options over last 2 years. We have chosen providers that let us configure the server according to our choice. Not necessary colocation, but if we want, we can purchase hardwares that we want to use for our Servers (Like Crucial MX200 instead of Samsung Evo or LSI with Fastpath or LSI with Cachecade or a premium 8 bay hot-swappable chasis that is not usually done by the provider). We now utilise a complete Cloud like system where we can move our IPs from hardware to hardware whenever we want, with only restarting the virtual network device. Our system allows us to use DRDB, that can be used for network mirroring at any point of time if a client is expecting a high traffic for very specific period and wants to pay for that only.

Even though, we are almost done shifting from Softlayer, we haven’t completely left Softlayer premise yet. We still have two servers with them, one is in Houston (The premise that was previously owned by ThePlanet, used as a Houston based Shared Hosting for Mellowhost) and the other one is in Dallas (where mellowhost.com runs). Server that we have in Dallas, wasn’t my concern to worry as we have been using ManDrill for sometime now to relay our mails from mellowhost.com. So if Softlayer blocks Mail Transport for this server, this won’t be a problem at all. But the problem was with the Houston server that we have. It was indeed in my mind to switch this server to another provider, but to be honest, I have been a great fan of Softlayer over the time, and literally I have been with them since the start of this company, wasn’t at all interested to completely leave the company for my customer’s purposes.

Then again, it was impossible to add an investment for this server in a hosted smarthost like mandrill or sendgrid as the server has a large number of average emails per day. This server has been on board for last 6 straight years, hosting decent amount of long term clients. You should be able to guess the size of the emails that are sent everyday. This is basically why, we deployed an MTA as smarthost in our Psychz Dallas facility and started relaying our mails from the Houston server over 587 TLS port. This basically worked greatly, to be honest, better than expected. We have employed variant type of spam protection in this server as it had a completely different CPU to process everything, most notably ASSP with mailscanner. We were able to reduce the spam in a great number over last couple of weeks through the use of remote Mail Transport. We will have to calculate how feasible it is to employ this over all other servers that we have. Most important problem with this setup is the SPF. User’s spf should use the Relay server and the MTA both in the TXT line. We did the addition using ‘sed’ for all the current users in Softlayer server and notified the clients, but we later realised there are people who uses ‘Cloudflare’, and we had to find them to manually do the update. The process does have a lot of pros and cons, but a survey will possibly let us know how we can use this as an option for our other cpanel premises. While this goes for future, this system is essential right now for our Houston server, as the local mail transport is no more working since 2nd February, 2016, Softlayer blocked Mail Transport out!

If you are a Softlayer client, and going through the same pain of blocked mail transport, then you are in the same ship as we are, and probably want to use a relay like we did through a cost effective channel unlike ManDrill or Sendgrid.

Misconception about Server Specification!

“Oh! Damn! That server seems pretty cheap, giving me 12GB RAM, dual intel xeon 5430, so, lets go and purchase it” – aย  big misconception to judge a server specification looking at their cpu and the ram size in current web hosting industry. I have been playing a lot in Webhostingtalk and some other hosting forums these days and found people are asking the same question everyday, which server is going to be right for me. Here I will go through some basic idea why the idea of users are biasing everyday and how to judge a proper server specification.

Continue reading “Misconception about Server Specification!”

Reducing CPU usage for WordPress users!

WordPress is one of the most demanding content management system of recent days. Most of the users these days use wordpress for their blogs or websites. Around 85% sites of our servers are using wordpress and most of the clients are utilizing multiple wordpress blogs for their business. WordPress has been found to be using pretty good sum of CPU and Memory. Today’s shared hosting environments are more limited based on the CPU and memory rather than the Space and Bandwidth. It is always a wiser choice to spend little amount of time to reduce the overall cpu usage. This makes the blog running faster and hosting companies feel good to host sites which are nicer to their CPUs ๐Ÿ™‚ Here are some tips to reduce the CPU usage on a wordpress blog and improve the site performance.

Continue reading “Reducing CPU usage for WordPress users!”

Confusing server load average explained!

Server load average is a pretty big word in web hosting industry. Customers trust servers with least CPU load. Moreover, I have seen they feel very secure when they are on a server averaging a cpu load lesser than 1. I am very familiar with a question on live chat desk from the new customers saying, what is your average cpu load. Now let me go into deeper in this discussion and see if I can find something new for you.

Continue reading “Confusing server load average explained!”

New R1Soft nodes online!

In lastย  couple of weeks, we have logged a couple of IO issues with the backup servers. It seems, it was needing a couple of hardware upgrades and a network upgrade too. We have finally decided to use Limestonenetwork for our R1Soft backup servers. A reason of not using Softlayer this time is to use a different network to keep the backup away from SL network for maximum security. We have already completed the migration of R1Soft backup to the new nodes with better hardware and network capability to improve data transfer and IO process. I have tried to defrag the backup spaces to see the IO performance, it seems around 6 times faster than before right now. Mellowhost is intended to provide the best performance for your business with continuous data security. Please do not hesitate to provide your feedback if you feel any of the specific area of the service needs to be fixed.

Thanks for using Mellowhost and experience the best hosting solution!

Rsync with Custom SSH Port

We are running R1Soft as our backup software for last 4 months. We have converted almost all of our servers into R1Soft. But we still have couple of very old server (Aging 4 years) who are using Rsync. We have recently moved our backup server and found that changing the SSH port for the backup server was necessary. By default, rsync command won’t work with custom SSH port as it assume the SSH port is set to 22. To use a custom port you need to use the attribute ‘-e’. Here is an example of using Rsync with Custom SSH port 2287:

rsync -vrplogDtH -e “ssh -p 2287” /home root@76.76.76.76:/backup/

Just posted it thinking it might be useful for some users ๐Ÿ™‚

Twitter is Awesome!

I have always been a fan of facebook. I got some photography habit and uses facebook to communicate with my photography friends. But recently I was thinking to start social networking with Mellowhost customers. It has never been such interactive like twitter while you are planning to communicate with your customers. The 140 character blog posts, in other word a twitter status really makes a better communication than facebook wall. IMO, the less configuration, approval headache are making the twitter better place to share status. If you haven’t join with me yet, you can follow me here: http://www.twitter.com/mellowhost

Happy Twitterring

Here we are!

Welcome to Mellowhost Informal Blog. It was in my idea all the time to start something going to let our clients know what is going inside Mellowhost. How we operate this company and what are we planning to innovate next. Mellowhost has started his Journey in the Winter of December 2006. To tell you guys the truth, we have always been going on a conventional way of hosting. According to my personal believe, other than our top class support experience and server performance, there wasn’t anything innovative added till December 2009. We have been launching different innovative ideas since last december and plan to implement it more all through 2010.

Thanks for being with Mellowhost for so long and wait!! more to come ๐Ÿ™‚