Month: November 2008

Data backup service

We soft-launched our new data backup service today. That means that it is up and available, but we are not telling too many folks about it. (There is some concern that there will be lots of questions from customers to our support team, etc, so we’re going to start quietly and make sure things go smoothly.)

But, you read my blog, so you get to find out now.

Our goal is to add value to the Internet access products that we provide today, so we are offering free backup to all customers, with a modest limit on the amount of data we’ll store. Currently, this limit is 500 megs totally free – enough for some important documents and a lot of photos.

To give an example, while keeping in mind that photo size varies based upon how many megapixels your camera has, perhaps 150k-200k is a good average for jpeg photo size. Based upon that assumption, the free storage is enough for a few thousand photos. That’s great for someone who makes moderate use of a digital camera.

Of course, you can upgrade from free to paid service, and get up to 50 gigabytes of remote backup for just $4.95 per month.

When you imagine how you would feel if you lost all of the personal data and documents, photos, music etc on your personal PC, I think this is a great value!

You can add multiple PCs, so maybe your primary PC requires full backup, but the other systems around the house might fit into the free allowance. You can mix and match, and currently, there isn’t a limit on how many PCs you can back up as a customer.

Most of us neglect regular backups of the digital data that has become so much more important than it used to be. When photos were on paper, as long as your house didn’t burn down, they would last a lifetime. Now, every now and then a hard drive fails or we accidentally delete something, or a PC or laptop is stolen. Even CD-ROM or DVD backups are not immune to failure, and they must be taken off-site regularly to really provide real protection. That is not convenient, and the blank disks are expensive.

Remote backup over your broadband connection is a great solution to all of these challenges. Your important photos and documents are automatically encrypted on your PC then copied in the encrypted form to our data center for safe storage.

At the very least, everyone should use the basic free service – then, if you’ve got more than 500 megs of photos and other data, it’s probably worth the $4.95 per month to keep all that data safe and secure, so an upgrade makes sense if/when you reach that amount of usage.

It’s easy to set up, and software is available for both Windows and Mac users. Click here to get started now!

Going up?

Contractors crane cabinets into SF06

Lifting cabinets into SNFCCA06 CO

You can’t say our team (and contractors) don’t go the extra mile. Or vertical foot. This morning in the Balboa Park area of San Francisco, we installed two cabinets into SNFCCA06. This CO serves roughly from St. Francis Woods through Ingleside to Oceanview plus some portions North of McLaren Park.

This was a tricky CO that was held up because there is no freight elevator, and the staircase is just too tight to get the cabinet up. These seismic rated cabinets weight in at around 300 pounds with the welded frame only, so they are a bit of work to install. Once each cabinet is bolted down, the solid sides and locking doors are installed.

Today, the build-out of Fusion and FlexLink in San Francisco is over half complete. If you would like service in San Francisco for delivery within the next month, you can order Fusion (residential or small biz ADSL2+) or order FlexLink (business ADSL2+, T1 and Ethernet).

FlexLink, Fusion Online in Five Six Cities

Board Updated 11/19/2008

Board Updated 11/19/2008

I am very proud of our central office installation teams. These folks have been working long hours and are getting great work done. We’re underway in virtually every central office, with many of them pretty far along toward completion.

The network is now live in five six cities, and we are anticipating first customer deliveries in each over the next week or so. If you’re interested in service, you can order now.

The following cities are online today:

  • Santa Rosa
  • Sebastopol
  • Rohnert Park
  • Windsor
  • Healdsburg
  • Petaluma

Updated November 24th, Petaluma is now online.

Areca Tools RPM for CentOS Linux.

We recently started deploying servers with Areca RAID controllers (we had been a long time 3ware purchaser, but recently the cards and the support of them seems to have taken a turn for the worse).

Areca provides a handful of tools for managing their RAID controllers, but leave it to you to deploy and install on your servers how you see fit; that might be fine for a handful of servers, but any more than that and you are going to need some sort of package that is easily installable across your network.

Enter the areca-tools RPM I built for CentOS Linux : areca-tools-1.8-1.el5.sonic.src.rpm .

With this Source RPM you can build the areca-tools RPM for whatever hardware architecture and Red Hat based Linux OS you want. Hopefully this will save you some time if you need to deploy Arecas in the servers you maintain.

Note :  if you want to monitor your Areca’s RAID status from mon, check out the raid.monitor I wrote.

Residential Satellite access pricing drop

Click for residential product info and pricing

Click the image above for residential product info and pricing

As I’ve written in the past, a large number of rural customers do not have access to wired Internet access products.

Satellite access provides a great alternative, but it’s traditionally been pretty expensive for the equipment and installation. This is because it is very advanced radio technology. Unlike satellite TV, which simply has to receive a signal which blankets the US, satellite Internet equipment has to transmit a signal from the dish into space, about 26,200 miles above the earth. That requires a quality radio transmitter, and this has keep costs for the service high.

For a limited time, we are offering discounted equipment and free installation for residential users. At only $99.95 for the initial activation fee, this is a huge savings. The total was previously $345, so it’s quite a drop.

We can only offer this price point for signups taken prior to December 15th, but more importantly, we must install and activate service by December 31st. Because we have limited installation slots, it is likely that the install slots prior to the end of the year will be taken before the December 15th deadline. If you are interested, sign up ASAP!

Satellite broadband is a great upgrade to dialup access in a rural location. No phone line is required, so if you have a dedicated modem line that you can disconnect, consider that savings when you compute your total monthly costs.

You can stop by our office and take a test drive using our demo station, more info here.

For more information or to sign up, see the residential satellite web page for home locations, or the business satellite web page for business premises.

New UPS project update

We are in the process of building a third massive UPS for our datacenter in Santa Rosa, and a number of big parts have recently arrived. This project has been underway for over a year now, and is a really large undertaking.

The new custom engineered breaker panel board arrived this week, and we now have most of the components on site. Construction has begun on the physical mounting of the equipment in our power room. We are excited about the new power delivery capacity that this project will provide, allowing for over double our current power load.

If you’re interested in seeing the images in the gallery below, you can click for a medium sized version, then click on the medium one for full size.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Rewinding power costs

Efficient datacenter cooling results

Efficient datacenter cooling results in reduced costs

Our green datacenter cooling system has established a great track record since deployment. Our 2008 total utility costs are projected to come in very near 2006 levels, despite huge growth of equipment in the datacenter.

So, more servers in 2008, but far less power used to cool them. That is green and cost effective! Our growth in power consumption is ongoing, but the trend line has taken a nice step downward due to the investment in efficiency.

For more info on the innovative Bell Products Core4 system at, see this article.

Fusion and FlexLink network build update

Our network build teams are making very good progress on the 19 central offices which we are building out in the first phase. We have had teams in San Francisco, the East Bay, Sacramento and all around Sonoma County over the last month and a half. Here are a few photos of cabinet load-in to a San Francisco central office, plus an update of our hand-crafted build status board.

Cooling is key

As noted in the MOTD last night, we had a brief cooling failure in our Santa Rosa datacenter. This turned out fine. We had staff on site, and we have learned some things that will prevent this particular failure in the future.

For those interested in the technical reason for the failure, during the multiple power transitions from utility to generator and back, the variable frequency drives (VFDs) on the four redundant air handlers sensed an over-voltage condition and shut down to protect themselves. To address this, they have now been re-configured; if they have a failure now, they will wait eighty seconds for power to stabilize and re-start automatically.

The interesting thing though was that this presented an opportunity to see what really happens in a large datacenter without AC for a brief period of time. Total cooling downtime was 15 30 minutes, and during that time, the temperature rose 15 degrees. The room is typically kept at 69 degrees fahrenheit, so this pushed the ambient room temperature to about 85.

Meanwhile, in-cabinet temperatures for cabinets with a lot of equipment in them nearly touched 100 degrees F. That’s just ten to twenty degrees prior to when we expect equipment to begin failing, so this was a close call for us.

Datacenters are challenging environments to design. You need fully physically redundant Internet connections, plus fire suppression, physical and electronic security, power backup and redundant cooling. We’re very pleased with the efficiency of our new AC system and it’s VFDs, and it’s clear how critical it is from this incident.

Phishing warning

We are seeing more reports from customers about “phishing” emails. These are attempts to steal personal information by misleading you into replying with sensitive personal or banking data.

One type of message claims to be from itself, and says something along the lines of:

> We are currently carrying-out a maintenance process to your
> account to fight against SPAM MAILS,to complete this process and if
> you are the rightful owner of this account you required to reply with
> below information of your email
> User Name here:(**********)
> Password here(**********)

I love it. Well written stuff, “you required to reply”! Another example:

> We are currently upgrading our data base and e-mail
> account center. We are canceling unused web mail email
> account to create more space for new accounts.
> To prevent your account from closing you will have to update
> it below to know it’s status as a currently used account.
> Email Username :
> Email Password :
> Date of Birth :

It’s funny in a way, they say “to create more space”, like “it’s getting crowded over here on the Internet, sorry, we’ve got to delete you to make more room in the tubes!”

Another message attempts to create credibility via a signature line, “COMFIRMATION CODE: Technical Support Team. Another, “Sonic Support/Maintainance Team TSR. I am not sure what a “Team TSR” is, but if we meet them, I can assure you the real staff will beat them soundly at a game of Street Fighter.

The point is, there is an urgent call to action that is totally contrived, but which is intended to get people to react.

They are simply trying to fool customers into providing sensitive information. When these phishing emails arrive, we react and block them, and we block the reply address so any responses customers might send do not make it back to the phish’s sender, but it’s an ongoing and reactive process.

Please, don’t be fooled. will never ask for your password. We will not ever email and ask for it, and we will not call you and ask for it. (BTW, when these type of things are done over the phone, it’s called “social engineering”, as opposed to email, where it’s called “phishing”. Either way, think before you respond!)

The senders are hoping to gain access to your email box. They would presumably then use this to attempt to gain access to online banking and other sensitive resources. Always use a strong password for your email, and never give it to anyone under any circumstances.

Phishing is a growing problem on the Internet, with criminals engaging in all sorts of ruses in an attempt to steal personal and banking information. The Department of Justice advises email users to “stop, look and call” if they receive a suspicious email.

  • Stop: Resist the urge to immediately respond to a suspicious email – and to provide the information requested – despite urgent or exaggerated claims.
  • Look: Read the text of the email several times and ask yourself why the information requested would really be needed.
  • Call: Telephone the organization identified, using a number that you know to be legitimate.

If you have been “phished”, and believe that you have provided sensitive information about yourself through a phishing scam, you should:

  • Contact the business or financial institution affected.
  • Contact the three major credit bureaus and request that a fraud alert be placed on your credit report. The credit bureaus and phone numbers are: Equifax, 1-800-525-6285; Experian, 1-888-397-3742; and TransUnion, 1-800-680-7289.
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at or 1-877-382-4357.

Consumers should never provide their personal information in response to an unsolicited telephone call, fax, letter, email or Internet advertisement. Don’t get hooked by fraudulent phishing attempts!

To learn more about phishing, see the Wikipedia phishing page.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]