July 5, 2012

10 Steps to Prepare Your Data Center for the Zombie Apocalypse

Is your data center ready for the coming zombie apocalypse? Data center designers generally do a good job preparing for conventional risks, like earthquakes, fires, floods and hurricanes, but if your disaster recovery plan doesn’t include provisions for dealing with the undead, your risk mitigation strategy has a gaping hole. Data centers are a natural refuge from zombie hoards, but only if you prepare in advance.

Unlike conventional disaster recovery (DR)/business continuity planning (BCP), zombie preparedness has a unique set of goals beyond data protection and business resumption. RPO/RTO goals go out the window when there’s a geek chewing on your skull. I generally recommend hiring a zombie specialist to develop your zombie survival plan (ZSP) but there are steps you can take on your own.

Start with establishing the goals for your ZSP. For most organizations, ZSP goals will fall into 5 categories

  1. Containment – Keep the zombies out
  2. Endurance – Stay alive until the zombies are gone
  3. Sustenance – Don’t go hungry
  4. Eradication – Kill every zombie you find
  5. Repopulation – Breed new humans for the continuation of the race

A good ZSP is measurable and testable. Data centers are used to measuring availability and power usage effectiveness (PUE). Your ZSP needs a similar metrics program. A best practice is to assign weighted values to your ZSP goals, measure them quarterly, and report to executive management on your composite zombie protection effectiveness (ZPE) score. (read more…)

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May 2, 2012

10 Ways to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

Identity theft is nothing new, but the rise of the Internet has turned ID theft into a multibillion dollar international business. There are plenty of companies out there that want to sell you protection services, for a fee, which usually involve some form of monitoring of your credit report and your accounts, plus an insurance policy, but there is little information on how to effectively protect yourself from being a target.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has devoted an entire website to educating the public, and created pithy posters to promote their 3-Ds of identity theft: Deter; Detect; Defend. While detection and remediation are important, the best way to deal with identity theft is to deter it by protecting your information. Unfortunately, the deter portion of the FTC’s website is pretty light:

  1. Shred financial documents before you discard them
  2. Protect your social security number
  3. Don’t give out personal information to unknown parties
  4. Never click links on unsolicited emails
  5. Don’t use an obvious password
  6. Keep your personal information in a secure place at home

This is a fine list, but it really doesn’t go far enough to make it useful. As an example, the government says don’t use an obvious password. Well DUH! They don’t tell you how to create a non-obvious password, how to keep it secure, and how to remember it when you need it.

(read more…)

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January 30, 2012

11 Essentials for the Modern Man

Every man loves gadgets, tools, toys and gifts. I scour catalogs and websites looking for the next cool thing. Occasionally, I find items that become truly essential. Items I use daily and can’t leave the house without. Some of these items are pricy, but there are also several that are less than $10. All of them are top quality and built to last a lifetime. Ladies, with Valentine’s day fast approaching and Father’s day a few months later, look no further than this list to make your man happy.

Saddleback Leather WalletSaddleback Leather Wallet – A man’s wallet is his life. Look in a typical guy’s wallet and you’ll see cash, credit cards, pictures of loved ones, business cards from someone he met in a bar 3 years ago, old fortune cookie fortunes, shopping lists from last Christmas, and receipts from everything he has ever bought. His wallet becomes a part of body, molding to his shape over time. When you have that kind of relationship with an item, you want it to last. There are no better wallets on earth than the wallets made by Saddleback leather. They are beautiful, built to last, and come with a 100 year warranty. That’s right, they are guaranteed to last 100 years. Saddleback also makes the finest briefcases, ipad cases, and luggage around. My iPad case is guaranteed to last 97 years past the useful life of the iPad! I have many of their pieces and will never go back to cheap store-bought leather goods. Buy one of these and you’ll thank me for years to come. (read more…)

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September 9, 2008

IronScale – The Future of Web Hosting?

IronScaleIt was the shot heard round the hosting world. Last month, my good friends at RagingWire announced their latest offering, IronScale, which has the potential to fundamentally change the hosting business. At least, that’s what the press release and the voice mail I received from Doug Adams, their head of sales claimed. Now, I’ve been doing business with RagingWire for almost 8 years, and I often tell people they have the best designed/built/run data center in Northern California, so I know they offer great services. I’m one of their only three-peat customers (I’ve put three different companies into their facility) and I’ve never been disappointed. Still, I tend to discount terms like “game-changing” as marketing fluff. I’m a “show-me” kind of guy. So they did.

Today I had the pleasure of an on-site demonstration and walk through of the IronScale service. I am impressed. On the surface, it is a typical managed server hosting offering. You rent one or more dedicated servers in their data center and they provide the operating system, network, internet bandwidth, security, etc. Pretty common stuff, and pretty boring. Why did I drive to Sacramento on one of the hottest days of the year for this (110F)? Well, you have to look beneath the surface, which I did, to see what they are really offering. At what I saw was awesome. (read more…)

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January 8, 2008

Windows is better than Unix/Linux, sometimes.

Well, I agreed with Bill’s last article, until I read the part that said “Windows is better than Unix/Linux.”

Oh wait, that was the first sentence.

Now, if Bill had said “Windows is better than Unix/Linux, sometimes.” or perhaps if he had stretched and written “Windows is better than Unix/Linux — most of the time,” I may have agreed entirely.

Look, I’ve been a fairly OS neutral IT Manager for many years. If you’ve ever used CP/M, Xenix, DOS (any flavor), Novell, Windows (old school pre 3.11), OS/2, Windows, Linux, Solaris (SunOS), HP-UX, AIX, OS/400, Windows 9x/NT/2k (etc.) and now Vista (bleh), and so on, you’ll understand that every OS has features where it will excel. Every OTHER OS will have features that leave the other OS in the dust.

The key to success here is to identify where the use of one OS will benefit you more than the use of another OS. (read more…)

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January 7, 2008

Top 5 Ways Windows is Better Than Unix or Linux

Windows is better than Unix/Linux. Now that I’ve incited volumes of hatred from my Unix/Linux brethren, let me clarify my stance. I work with massively heterogeneous environments. For the past 10 years, every company I’ve supported has utilized at least 3 different operating system platforms including multiple versions and flavors of Linux, Unix, Windows, with some mid-frame (As/400) and Novell thrown in for good measure. The experience has taught me to choose the best tool for the job, rather than get religious about a platform. There are many functions that Windows performs better than *nix, and the *nix community should embrace them.

I hire a lot of Unix/Linux sys admins. One of my favorite interview questions for them is: “Name 5 ways Windows is better than Unix/Linux.” This is a great stress question, because most *nix guys think Microsoft is the devil. But Microsoft remains the most successful software company in the world. If you cannot recognize the areas where Microsoft excels, you are artificially narrowing your view of the world, which means you aren’t making the best technology decisions for your company, which means you can’t work for me (To be fair, I also ask Windows guys to name ways Unix/Linux is better than Windows). As a public service to *nix admins everywhere, I offer this list of 5 ways Windows is better than *nix. There are many others, but I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much info at once. It might overload your system, and cause a kernel panic. 😉

  1. Windows XP is the best productivity desktop
  2. Windows 2003 Active Directory Service is the best directory service
  3. Windows DNS is the best internal DNS server
  4. Exchange 2007 is the best groupware application platform
  5. Windows has better hardware support with vendor-supported drivers

Let the flame wars begin! Seriously though, I stand by each of those pronouncements. For those of you who haven’t run screaming from the room, my reasoning is below: (read more…)

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June 5, 2007

It’s Still the Latency, Stupid…pt.2

Buy this book!In part 1 of this series, I established the problem latency can cause in high speed networks. What one reader correctly referred to as “big long pipes.” To summarize, in large bandwidth networks that span long distances, network latency becomes the bottleneck that retards performance. The reason for this the impact of network delays on TCP windowing. In part, 2 I will discuss what to do about it.

Dealing with latency can be tricky business. The methods used to mitigate the impact of distance depends on many factors including the services being accessed, the protocols being used, and the amount of money you want to spend. What works for a home user does not work for a multi-national corporation. In general, there are 4 approaches one can take to deal with latency:

  1. Tweak the host TCP settings
  2. Change the protocol
  3. Move the service closer to the user
  4. Use a network accelerator

The first and least effective method is to tweak the TCP settings on your hosts. I say least effective for several reasons: It is hard to determine the correct TCP window size; not all operating systems support the RFC 1323 extensions; you may not have control of all the hosts; available bandwidth may change due to network congestion. Most importantly, some time sensitive applications such as VOIP will still exhibit problems in high latent networks, even if you tweak TCP. Still, if you are a home user on a big long pipe, this is the only option for you. Changing TCP is OS specific. Slaptijack.com has an excellent series on TCP tuning operating systems. Below are links to his specific guides as well as other sources: (read more…)

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May 31, 2007

It’s Still the Latency, Stupid…pt.1

Buy This Book!One concept that continues to elude many IT managers is the impact of latency on network design. 11 years ago, Stuart Cheshire wrote a detailed analysis on the difference between bandwidth and latency ISP links. Over a decade later, his writings are still relevant. Latency, not bandwidth, is often the key to network speed (or lack thereof).

I was reminded of Cheshire’s article and the underlying principles recently when working on an international WAN design. What Cheshire noted was that light signals pass through fibre optics at roughly 66% of the speed of light, or 200*10^6 m/s. Regardless of the equipment or protocols you use, your data cannot exceed that theoretical limit. This limit equals the delay between when a packet is sent, and when it is received, aka latency.

In the US, we tend to focus on bandwidth and carrier technology when ordering circuits, completely ignoring latency. For instance, when choosing between cable and DSL for your house do you ever ask the carrier for its latency SLA? Maybe you should. Using a cable connection a ping to www.google.com in Mountain View, CA from my house (137 KM) yields an average ping time (aka round-trip time or RTT) of 73ms. The theoretical latency for this distance (round trip) is 1.37ms meaning my cable connection is roughly 50 times worse than the theoretical limit. No surprise that Comcast focuses on bandwidth and not latency in its marketing. (read more…)

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February 10, 2007

Cingular BlackJack For Free!!!

Amazon is now selling the BlackJack for FREE!!!CLICK HERE. Amazon changes its specials frequently, so I would not expect this deal to last. As we’ve discussed, this is a great phone.

With a 100% rebate, how can you lose? Order today.

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December 11, 2006

e-Tipping – How To Keep Your Favorite Blogger Blogging

100.jpgWriting a blog is hard work! Having spent the past four months working on this site, and scanning the blogosphere looking for useful articles, I’m convinced that most bloggers do not get enough credit for the incredible information they provide. One of the stated goals for edgeblog is to provide useful, original content as a way of giving something back to the Internet community, rather than just linking to content found elsewhere. Creating new content every week is a tough job, but we welcome the challenge.

With that said, I want to actively promote the concept of e-Tipping. e-Tipping is a way to pay the blogger back for the hard work they have put into their blog, similar to leaving a tip at a restaurant. There are several ways to leave an “e-Tip”:

  1. Click the ads!!! – Most blogs these days have ads. If you like the article you just read, visit the site’s sponsors. The blogger will make, on average, about $.05 per click…not much of a tip, but it adds up when a lot of people are reading your blog. UPDATE 06/01/2007: It is against Google’s terms and conditions to directly ask people to click your ad links. I respect Google and their terms, and would not want to circumvent their business model. Most Google ads are contextually related to the blog article. So, if you find an article valuable, take the time to look at the ads. If you are interested in any of the products, by all means click the ad, but please do not click ads soley for the purpose of driving up click revenue for the blogger.
  2. Donate – Many blogs offer paypal links. If you find the articles especially useful, make a small cash donation. This is often the best way to support a blogger if you want him to provide you with specific additional information.
  3. Leave a Comment – Blogging can be a lonely business. Comments show you care. They also make articles seem more relevant to the next reader.
  4. Digg/Slashdot/Link the article – Bloggers want traffic. The more the better. Also, Google ads pay for page views, as well as clicks. Help the blogger promote their site, and they will continue to create great content.
  5. Read the rest of the blog – Chances are you found the blog from a link aggregator. If you find the article useful, click out to the parent site, and scan some of the other articles. You’ll probably find other articles of interest, worthy of your time and e-Tips. (read more…)
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