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Aug 1, 2018

6 Processes You Need to Mature Your Managed Services

Paul Painter, Director, Solutions Engineering

Are you struggling to rapidly mature your services?

You’re probably not alone.

As Director of Solution Engineering at INAP, I see how tough it can be for my customers. All of them know their particular business sector, and the vast majority are highly technology-literate, but that doesn’t necessarily make managing technology-based services any easier.

IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is a logical process framework to start from and build upon, but even more fundamental is to construct a set of Minimum Written Processes.

In the interest of full disclosure, I did not come up with these myself; this checklist is something that I learned from others during my career—and directly corresponds to concerns and challenges that I hear from INAP customers. What I’ve found through my experience is that if an organization has these minimum processes, it is well on its way to maturing its managed services.

There are six Minimum Written Processes required to have a managed service:

  • Installation
  • Monitoring
  • Troubleshooting
  • Recovery
  • Changes
  • Decommission

Let me explain each in a bit more detail.

Installation

Having a written process for how to install a new customer provides a path for consistency and standardization between customers. This also allows you to implement a new customer without affecting any others.

Consistency can be a double-edged sword though. If your installation process is workable, then you can have anyone in your team successfully implement a new customer. On the other hand, if there is some mistake in your process, you’ve replicated it with every new customer. That being said, even with a mistake in the installation procedure, you have done so consistently and can go back and rectify accordingly. This is far preferable to a random error that requires an audit of all customers. A defined installation process loosely addresses release management within the ITIL management framework.

Monitoring

An effective monitoring plan will let you know when your service has stalled and will include billing and reporting as well. Monitoring data is used for capacity management, which fits within the ITIL framework, as does financial management, which partially comes down to how billing should be done. This can be a flat fee or usage-based. If usage-based, then a feed of data is needed to determine each customer’s usage, which might be gleaned from monitoring systems. For example, many AWS services have charges based on usage, such as with Route 53, Elastic Load Balancing or S3.

Troubleshooting

If you are monitoring the uptime of a service, then you need to prepare your team for what happens when any given alarm is tripped. For example, if a server happens to halt, I want to know about it, and I want my team to follow a troubleshooting process to determine the failure and be prepared to announce the impact to affected customers. Again, in the ITIL framework, this has tentacles into incident management and problem management processes.

Recovery

If I am troubleshooting something, there is a strong chance that there is a component failure and I need to replace something. Put another way, an upgrade can be thought of as a planned recovery effort, so this process has a dual purpose. For example, say I have a failed firewall and a spare on the shelf. The same process used to install a replacement firewall might be identical to installing a higher-capacity model.

Changes

Once you build the environment, part of managing it is adapting to minor changes. Changes for users need to accommodate personnel changes like new hires, departures and name changes. There are also minor configuration changes to be concerned with, such as firewall rule or backup policy changes and the like. What you want to avoid is having to flush and recreate a user or a component configuration; it’s far easier to adopt processes that allow for easy changes. Linking back to ITIL, this addresses a big portion of change management.

Decommission

Customers will eventually stop using one of your services. Many firms lack a process to disconnect and decommission a former customer.

I once worked at a startup firm that was acquired by a much larger one, and in a bout of reverse acquisition, we ended up inheriting the larger line of business—the one we had previously competed against. In the interest of standardization and efficiency, we decided to consolidate the larger firm’s monitoring configurations into our own monitoring tools.

Unfortunately, the larger firm never had a decommissioning process and would just suppress alarms, which put them to sleep but didn’t eliminate them. During the ingestion process, the monitoring configurations were imported, and the suppressed alarms become active. All those monitors tried to poll for old customer equipment, some of which had been gone for years.

We found ourselves going from a manageable number of alerts to several hundred thousand alerts each month. A proper decommissioning process—rather than a workaround—could have saved us a lot of trouble.

It’s not uncommon to have resources reserved for long-departed customers, and it takes audits to determine their departed status. Instead of going through audit cycles, it makes more sense to have a process to notify operations to decommission a recently departed customer.

One Process Doesn’t Fit All

Checklists are great things. I like to go backcountry hiking in the Rocky Mountains, which entails loading up a backpack for a multiday adventure in the wilderness. I usually plan out all the things that I need before I even leave home and have built a standard checklist of things to pack. Some things on my backpack checklist are very specific, such as a water filter, a stove, my sleeping bag. Those items never change.

Then there are items on my list that allow for some flexibility, depending on the trip: for example, 2,000 calories of food per day. My checklist doesn’t have exactly what food to take, just that I need that much. Similarly, this framework doesn’t say exactly what the process will look like for you, just that you need a process for it.

If you are building anything as a service, you will eventually get to these minimum processes. Instead of falling into processes by happenstance or trial and error, it is far better to determine a checklist of minimum processes before releasing a service. Having these defined when you release your service will put you in a far better and more mature position to support the entire customer life cycle.

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Paul Painter

Director, Solutions Engineering

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Feb 7, 2018

5 Reasons Your Website is Loading So Slowly

INAP

What’s Wrong with My Site?

One of the most frustrating internet experiences is a website failing to load promptly. The only thing worse is when that slow website is your own.

Kissmetrics reports that 40 percent of users will abandon a site if it takes longer than three seconds to load. In addition, nearly half (47 percent) of users expect a web page to load in two seconds or less.

When your site is loading slowly, it’s important to diagnose the right issue. You wouldn’t take random medicine without visiting the doctor in the hopes of getting better. Similarly, you’ll want to narrow down the exact issue affecting your site.

There are a variety of different issues that could be causing your site to load slowly. Here are five common reasons you may be experiencing a slowdown.

1. Unoptimized Images

The first common reason for a slow-loading website is unoptimized images. Every image or file on a website needs to be loaded bit by bit. When images are unnecessarily large, they can be a significant drain on your load speed.

Luckily, the solution for unoptimized images is fast and easily managed. This is especially true for what is referred to as lossless images. These are images that can be shrunk down without any perceived loss of picture quality. Bringing your image file sizes down can boost your site speed and performance.

2. Too Many Plugins

Our second offender for slowness can come from too many plugins or addons that you may use in the backend to build your page. Many sites rely on plugins to improve their functionality. Plugins have their place and can bring necessary features to your site. However, using them excessively can slow down your load times and create a poor experience for your users.

If you suspect your plugins are slowing down your site, remove anything non-essential. Curating your site of unnecessary plugins and addons can bring increased speed and performance. Remember, even the most functional site will be ignored if users can’t load it in time!

3. Code Density

Another issue that could be slowing down your site is overly complicated or dense code. If the underlying developmental infrastructure of your site is dense, the harder it is for browsers to process and load. Thus, the heavier your code, the longer it will take for your users to load.

The solution to dense code may involve a little more expertise but is still manageable. Reducing the HTML markup of your site can bring major improvements and can be accomplished by using HTML tags sparingly and only when necessary.

A few simple fixes include removing HTML comments in scripts and any CDATA blocks in script elements. Another suggestion is to remove or collapse any white space within the code.

4. Shared Servers

If you’re on a shared server, your performance may be impacted by other users on your server. No matter how fast the rest of your site is, being in a queue with other users might drag down your speed.

Solving a server issue is simple and straightforward. If you’re on a shared server, you’ll experience immediate improvements in performance by moving to a dedicated server, which means you’re the only user running off that space (Shameless plug: HorizonIQ offers managed services and bare metal solutions on dedicated servers).

Finding the right service for your needs might take some research on your part, but will bring immediate results in terms of performance and speed.

5. High Traffic

Hold the phone.

Don’t websites want to receive high traffic?

The short answer is “Yes,” but sometimes overwhelming site visits can be too much of a good thing. In this instance, the traffic might be more than your server can handle, causing your site to crash.

When this happens, you may need to look at increasing your bandwidth and improving your underlying infrastructure. If it’s simply a case of outgrowing your previous site build up, you’re going to need to move to a hosting service better suited to the number of visitors that you’re receiving.

A Quick Fix for Your Slow Site

A slow site will drain your users and reduce subscribers. Luckily, a few quick fixes can go a long way towards getting you back up to speed.

HorizonIQ’s data center services can help address the infrastructure problems you might be suffering from crowded servers or bandwidth issues. Our unique solutions allow you the flexibility and scalability to keep your website running at top speed, giving your end users an optimal online experience.

Contact us today to speak with an HorizonIQ representative about how we can help your website move as fast as your business.

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INAP

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Dec 6, 2017

3 Signs Your Business Might Need Managed Storage

INAP

How to Win the Storage Wars

New technology is both a blessing and hindrance in the IT world.

Data is becoming more complex and businesses are demanding faster access to larger amounts of digital information. As a result, new equipment is constantly being developed which can accommodate more speed, storage and performance.

This new technology is great if you’re in the market for all new equipment; but let’s be honest, you’re probably not. And even if you are looking to do a full upgrade of your systems, investing in top-of-the-line equipment is likely a more expensive solution than most businesses are comfortable spending.

The result is a less than optimal solution which may not seamlessly integrate into your existing environment and cause more problems down the road. Plus, you risk untimely disruptions and downtime while deploying your new infrastructure. And we won’t even get into changing SLAs and business priorities.

Fortunately, there is a solution which can provide the options you need with the convenience of passing the grunt work to someone else: Managed storage.

Does Your Business Need Managed Storage

Managed storage is a service that allows all aspects of your data storage – from monitoring to maintenance – to be administrated and supervised within your environment. This reliable and high performing solution combines flexibility and scalability with the speed and efficiency you need to keep your applications running smoothly.

It doesn’t matter which industry your business occupies, you will likely have a need for managed storage. The bigger question isn’t if you need managed storage, rather when you will need it.

[Tweet “The bigger question isn’t if you need managed storage, rather when you will need it. #managedstorage”]

Here are three big signs your business might be ready for a managed storage solution today.

1. Your Current System is Outdated

Just like how a new car loses value the moment you drive it off the lot, your IT infrastructure can quickly become outdated after it’s deployed.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the innovation and speed at which new technology is unveiled. Just look each fall when the major cell phone companies release their latest and greatest devices.

It’s not feasible or practical to replace your storage system with each tech advancement, so some IT departments are getting by with patchwork improvements or continually adding capacity to legacy systems. This may temporarily solve the problem, but with limited flexibility, you will run into more problems when you inevitably need to scale up your storage capacity again.

2. You Are Constantly Playing Catch Up with Your Storage Plan

Did you know the International Data Corporation (IDC) estimates that enterprise data doubles every 18 months?

If you’re not adequately planning for this surge of digital information, you’ll soon be faced with a situation that involves investing more of your budget to storage instead of spending capital dollars elsewhere, which could negatively impact the overall performance of your business applications.

Even if you have a solution in place, are you proactively managing your storage capacity and performance? For instance, your environment should allow you the flexibility to seamlessly scale out when you reach your capacity limit. If you’re not planning with your current and future needs in mind, you’ll always be playing catch up when it comes to your storage solution.

3. You Don’t Have Time to Properly Manage Your Storage

It’s no secret that running an effective IT infrastructure takes time and hard work. In addition to maintaining the upkeep of your equipment, you are constantly monitoring performance and storage to ensure your website and applications are running optimally to provide the best experience for your end users.

And when you do need to evaluate your storage lifecycle, you may find the process is lengthy and complex ­– providing insufficient data that’s not conducive to making an informed decision.

If you’re looking for a solution that can streamline the storage management process by making proactive decisions using predictive analytics, and allowing you more time to focus on your core business, you might want to consider managed storage.

Why INAP’s Managed Storage Solution Makes Sense for You

INAP offers a storage solution that meets or exceeds all of the standards you’d expect and require from a managed hosting provider. Our service provides performance, reliability (99.9999% availability) and security, with proactive flexible and scalable options so you’re never caught off guard when you are running out of space. Plus, our team of experts provides all the maintenance to keep you operating 24x7x365, so you can focus your time and resources on more important business matters.

Contact us today to learn more about how our managed storage solution can improve your performance and efficiency.

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INAP

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