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Server Hosting Providers, Please Think About Distributed Risk
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Server Hosting Providers, Please Think About Distributed Risk

For the last 15 years I have worked with many clients and their hosting providers. Sometimes clients have a server, sometimes just a website hosting account and often a combination of various solutions from multiple providers. In that time I have not found any company which you could describe as different. The only real differential was price and quality of service. Whilst there are different “flavours” a server is either Windows or Linux.

When selecting somewhere to host your website you should always select someone using a dedicated server center. It has always horrified me when I find suppliers (usually very small ones) offering website hosting which have a server or servers in an office connected to the internet using broadband. This office is as safe as any office from burglary, fire, flood, power failures etc assuming the broadband connection is working and fast enough of course.

As time passed I found reliable hosting partners for use with my own hosting requirements and recommendations to others. There has been the occasional problem but nothing serious. One of the hosting providers I have been using is big and not expensive. They have multiple data-centers in different countries and 24/7 telephone support. I know them very well, the things they do well and the things they are not good at.

Multiple clients used servers or shared servers at one hosting center in the USA. Others used servers at a hosting center in Europe. These data centers are of course, everything you could wish for. Redundant power systems, multiple T1 connections to the backbone of the internet, fire protection and suppression systems, flood protection, impressive security. These data centers are so secure that you are not allowed entry, you will never touch or see the server you rent.

We considered that it was unlikely that an entire data center could fail but even so backup processes were used so that USA backed up to Europe and visa-versa.

One afternoon servers and websites located in USA started to go off-line. I quick phone call to US support established they had a problem which was being worked on. Nothing more I could do but wait. Shortly afterwards European websites and servers went down including mine and with it my email. Another phone call revealed that they knew about it and were trying to fix the problem together with the news that I was lucky to get through. Their internal phone system was not working properly either.

For the next few hours systems were up and down, mostly down. I was in the ridiculous position that despite the best laid plans of using data centers in different countries I still had a disaster.

The following day the inquiry started. Eventually I got hold of a techie who knew what had happened. He explained there had been a database upgrade on a product which had gone wrong. This had caused another system to fail. When that happened, a system which managed all the IP addresses for all servers in all data centers reset and everything went off line. Apparently not even the software authors knew about this possibility. At this point I intervened. “Do you mean to tell me that all servers in all your data centers are controlled by one system, whose stupid idea was that”? He acknowledged it wasn’t a brilliant idea.

On the one hand this company had major USP’s because it had multiple data centers around the world. Then someone who presumably loved the idea of implementing new technology products because he could and not should took what was a fantastic distributed risk USP which few companies can match and killed it.

So to all hosting providers please remember if you have the size to offer multiple data centers and in multiple countries please do not implement systems which tie them together that risk bringing them all down when the inevitable happens. If you are looking for a hosting company and like the idea of spreading your risk by using multiple data centers make sure that they do not have an important system linking them together.


Street Talk

In hindsight I was overconfident in thinking I had everything covered. There was no way I could have known that the "safety"· which I assumed I had was based on false beliefs. Thats life! You learn by your mistakes. Thanks for reading

Reply
  about 6 years ago

Hi Rob, Lots of tips. Thank you very much.

Reply
  about 6 years ago
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