Category Archives: Hosting Services

Bring My Chicken Kebab From the Cloud: A Real World Scenario

cloud food

Cloud computing represents a fundamental technological shift. By allowing businesses to cut costs while enhancing the speed of their systems, the distributed virtualization strategy is being put to use in manifold ways. In academic settings, large datasets are being calculated in short windows of time, allowing researchers to perform analyses that previously were financially unfeasible. In manufacturing, the Industrial Internet is underway, with thousands of sensors facilitating real-time monitoring in production plants. In medicine, misdiagnosis is becoming less common for cancer patients, with doctors cross-checking images of similar biopsies in moments.

These advancements have become possible in part due to optimized speed, which makes the technology compelling to all businesses. As described below, hospitality companies have started taking advantage of cloud-hosted applications to expedite ordering and payment processes.

Typically our “Real World Scenario” series explores interactions between clients and our hosting consultants: questions are answered regarding a company’s search for a new IT environment. However, this installment was inspired by a small restaurant we discovered that is taking advantage of distributed virtualization, enhancing the experience of every customer who walks through its door.

“Servers” in two different fields – a personal story

I recently visited Ahmed Indian Restaurant in Orlando, Florida. The chicken tikka masala and fried fish were outstanding, and I am looking forward to going back to explore the rest of their menu. However, since I am in the information technology field, I was also intrigued by the restaurant’s computing system.

I have been interested in restaurant IT because, in the past, I have found myself accidentally and humorously in competition with the food and beverage industry. In my company, we host servers (i.e., server computers). We have had to adjust pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaigns so that people searching for “restaurant server” and “restaurant host” information aren’t errantly delivered the ads for our site.

Similarly, we ran into difficulty when developing language for a billboard at one point. We were considering the simple message, “Server Hosting Since 1994.” That slogan was scrapped out of concern that we might come across as a restaurant or catering company.

Those two bits of marketing confusion I’ve experienced have helped me relate to restaurants in terms of online presence within the search engines. However, what I was noticing during this visit to the restaurant had to do with their use of distributed virtualization across a number of mobile devices.

Restaurant’s use of cloud app on mobile devices

Cloud computing has greatly expanded the number of mobile applications, allowing significant enhancements in performance so that feature-rich programs can operate quickly. To take advantage of this technology, Ahmed Indian Restaurant uses a point-of-sale (POS) software that syncs data across all devices, so that information is updated simultaneously.

I spoke with the owner of the restaurant about the benefits of the system they are using. The following dialogue is based off of that conversation.

Me: What’s the system you are using here?

Restaurant Owner: The cloud-based software we use is called POSLavu. It is a software, specifically designed for restaurants, that runs on Apple mobile devices such as iPads and iPhones. All of the devices, and all of the transmissions conducted by them, are synced within our Wi-Fi network.

Me: How does it benefit your business?

Restaurant Owner: For one thing, it makes payment easier. We have the option to charge customers at the table if they are paying with a credit card. They can sign the iPad on the spot and automatically be emailed a receipt. Plus, since we have a number of iPads, we can perform multiple customer checkouts at the same time, rather than having people wait for other checkouts to process.

Me: I assume it helps with ordering too.

Restaurant Owner: Yes, that process is also expedited. The order goes directly from the table to the kitchen, sent through the Wi-Fi by the software. Just like with paying, there is no waiting in line to punch in orders because all the servers have their own individual devices.

Me: Are there any other benefits you’ve seen with your customer interactions?

Restaurant Owner: Yes, we can customize the menu by uploading an image for each item. If a customer wants to see how a certain dish looks, we can show them the picture.

Me: What about administrative tools?

Restaurant Owner: We have back-end access, so we can look at reports for weekly and monthly sales – organized by item, server, and a number of other variables. It gives us a better sense of the popularity of our menu offerings and how well servers are doing over time.

Me: Is this system cost-effective?

Restaurant Owner: The system itself is reasonably priced, and it’s also reduced our credit card processing fees.
***
The IT approach at Ahmed Indian Restaurant is now more customer-friendly, and administrative capabilities have been strengthened as well. Applications such as POSLavu often reside on high-speed servers such as our cloud VPS environments. Atlantic.Net has optimized mobile app hosting solutions for any size business and any situation. Both independent restaurants and chains are taking advantage of our hosting solutions for increased efficiency.

By Moazzam Adnan; comic words by Kent Roberts & art by Leena Cruz.

Virtualization for Academia: 4 Advantages of KVM & 2 Tips on Multiple IP’s – A Real World Scenario

academic research tech joke

For those taking part in academic projects, KVM (kernel-based virtual machine) represents a cost-effective, fully customizable way to create a hosting environment for your applications and data. KVM is a free, open source virtual private server (VPS). Basing a KVM server in the cloud has the added benefit of enhancing collaborative capabilities for access by additional researchers and other relevant parties. Continue reading

LAMP Box in a HIPAA Compliant Platform: HIPAA Hosting Without Breaking Your Bank – A Real World Scenario

cheap hosting comic

As healthcare organizations are well aware, it’s necessary to make sure all technology meets the rules set forth in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Providers, medical plans, and clearinghouses of EMR data are all considered covered entities under HIPAA, meaning they must be compliant or undergo hefty fines. Any covered entity has the option of working with a business associate, an outside organization that handles data and can be held responsible for certain aspects of compliance. Continue reading

Predictive Analytics, Predictive Modeling, and the Parameters of the Predictive Cloud for Your Business

cloud server humor

Certainly cloud computing is growing astronomically, much of it in the public cloud (the standard model). However, a trend has emerged in which businesses are shifting from the public cloud to a managed private cloud (not always necessary, as described below). The reason that is occurring is that the companies desire more predictability, both in costs and performance.

This new trend is not just about reliability and the IT budget but is a part of a broader focus on prediction throughout the business community. The tools made possible by predictive analytics and predictive modeling allow businesses to develop in more sophisticated and conscientious ways than ever before.

Predictive analytics and predictive modeling

Predictive analytics, according to TechTarget, is a form of data mining that helps you predict how your business and your industry will develop. In predictive analytics, you take a predictor – any measurable factor – and analyze it to determine how it will likely change over time. Sample fields in which predictive analytics are used are insurance and finance. Predictors for car insurance companies, such as the driving record and gender of the driver, help insurers quantify risk. The same is true for investment companies looking at predictors to gauge stock market trends.

Predictive analytics become more complex when predictive modeling is used by an organization. A predictive model takes a number of different predictors and analyzes them using a specific model (essentially a formula to generate future data as accurately as possible). As data is fed through the statistical model and predictions are generated, the system is tested and adapted as needed.

Predictive models are not always set up as straightforward formulas. In some cases, software is used to allow a neural network (a network of computers designed to approximate the human brain) to analyze the data in a more refined way. An example of predictive modeling is in the field of spam filtering. Gmail uses an algorithmic model to make an educated guess about whether an incoming message should be marked as spam.

Why predictive analytics are important

Predictive analytics is by no means a new practice (as indicated by the insurance and finance application above), but the ability to use it wisely creates a more significant competitive advantage in the age of big data. As Predictive Analytics Times indicates, the data about your business can tell you what fails and what succeeds so you can move forward with a carefully calculated approach.

You can use it across your entire business. Customer needs can be met more quickly and with less error. You can streamline your operations. You can use it to determine what individuals will do – customers and employees – as well as what organizations will do – your own, affiliates, and competitors. Overall, you won’t make as many mistakes if your business is guided by a predictive model that is strong, versatile, and flexible.

How to use predictive analytics

To take advantage of predictive analytics, you don’t need to create your own software unless you have specialized requirements. SAS, SAP, and IBM all have predictive analytic tools, as do many other software companies. Each of the programs works by assessing all of your data – sales, operational, and even social media numbers – and then plugs it into prebuilt predictive models.

The vendors listed above have robust solutions that can meet the needs of enterprises. However, not every company needs an enterprise solution. Small businesses can take advantage of scaled-down, cost-effective predictive offerings from Emanio and Angoss. Both of those solutions can be run on a PC rather than a server.

Interesting predictive situations

Information Management provides two interesting scenarios in which predictive analytics have been used:

  • The US Special Forces utilized Dean Abbot’s predictive models to garner a better understanding of recruits. An expert in the field of analytics, Abbot says the primary consideration is how much to weigh different factors. Balance is best achieved by looking at the results: look at the data for various successful members of your staff to create a predictive model for hiring new employees.
  • Geolocation of users allows you to develop a better predictive understanding of your customers’ behavior. Social media companies use location data to determine prominence of posts and better tailor advertising.

The predictive cloud

Probably the main reason some businesses have become frustrated with the public cloud is that many cloud hosting providers (CHPs) are not transparent. Bills can seem erratic: it’s difficult to have a sense of what they will be from one month to the next.

Here are a number of features that allow Atlantic.Net to provide our customers with a predictive cloud, so that their hosting environment is always consistent:

  • real-time billing information
  • per-second billing
  • no hidden fees or stealth upcharges
  • no charge for inbound traffic
  • 1 TB of free outbound data transfer.

The above parameters apply to all our public cloud plans. Predictive spending comes standard, and you can utilize our managed services for your infrastructure as desired.

By Brett Haines; comic words by Kent Roberts & art by Leena Cruz.

Compare Atlantic.Net Cloud VPS Hosting – Important Considerations (Comic)

server humor

A typical question one of our customers asks us is, “What is your advantage over other cloud providers?” We know at Atlantic.Net that we are just one of many options for cloud hosting. There are numerous ways in which we set ourselves apart. Here are some of the hallmarks of the service that makes Atlantic.Net the best cloud hosting provider in the industry:

We give you your own kernel.

With our Cloud VPS, every server created has its own kernel. In contrast, many providers offer their users a shared kernel, significantly reducing the amount of control customers have over their server environments.

We bill on a per-second basis.

Per-second billing is especially beneficial for large server deployments. However, per-second billing is an advantage to every customer. The cloud is incredibly elastic, which means that you have access to additional resources on a moment-by-moment basis. If you need additional resources beyond the limits of your plan, you simply bump up the parameters within your control panel.

What’s important is how long that higher rate remains in effect. With us, the second you start needing additional resources is the second you start paying at a higher rate. Based on the second you ramp your resources back down, you stop paying at the higher rate. In contrast, many cloud hosting providers charge per hour, so a higher rate would remain in effect throughout whatever hours they are needed.

We provide free backup.

We back up your entire site, applications, and any other elements of your network, completely free of charge.

We provide Windows servers.

Many cloud hosting providers only offer Linux servers, which doesn’t meet the needs of many organizations. Now, to be clear, Linux is extraordinarily popular and is used by companies as large and powerful as Facebook, Google, and Amazon. However, some businesses want to use Microsoft for reasons such as the following:

  • integration with the broad spectrum of Microsoft applications;
  • ability to incorporate pages created via ASP and your database into FrontPage; and
  • resilient, high-performance SQL server databases.

We provide additional IP Addresses.

Sometimes businesses need more than one IP address, and we can accommodate them. A sample situation in which you might want to have an additional IP:

  • 2 nameservers should have two different IP addresses, according to Request for Comments (an Internet Engineering Task Force publication);
  • the second IP can be used when installing SSL certificates
  • the second IP can also be used for IP-based hosting (hosting an additional site using the same cloud VPS).

We have been in business for almost two decades.

When you look for affordable hosting, you may be afraid of doing business with fly-by-night companies. Atlantic.Net has been in business since 1994, with a long and impressive history of rapid growth and other accomplishments.

We provide other hosting solutions in addition to Cloud VPS.

It’s good to know that you can create a hybrid solution as needed. For example, you can use cloud VPS in combination with colocation or dedicated servers. You can also combine a cloud VPS with managed services. You can even transfer your system from the public cloud to a private cloud, or vice versa.

We offer easy and highly secure server deletion.

If you need to take a server off-line, you can delete a server with us in less than 10 seconds. We have tested other hosting providers in which it took about 17 minutes for the server to clear. Not only does that mean the task is completed more quickly, but you also aren’t paying for the extra time.

Beyond time and money, your provider should have strong security practices with regards to server deletions. Some hosting providers use outdated security protocols such as LVM (logical volume manager). Atlantic.Net has state-of-the-art security for server deletions that are clean and total.

We have competitive pricing.

Our cloud servers are reasonably priced, starting at only $0.005 per hour.

We own and operate an SSAE 16 TYPE II certified data center.

Many hosting companies are not in control of the data center itself. We are. Furthermore, our facility has been professionally audited and is highly secure, through stipulations set by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).

We offer cPanel.

We previously covered why cPanel is such a great tool for those administrating a cloud VPS hosting account. Here are a few highlights:

  • Prominent and familiar – Either cPanel or its integrated cousin WHM are used by almost 2/3 of hosting companies, as of 2011.
  • User-friendly – It offers a feature-rich platform, controlled through an interface designed for ease-of-use. Modules can be added as needed.
  • Control – Because cPanel is so widely used, it’s easy to switch from one hosting provider to another. You don’t get stuck in a single hosting company’s proprietary software.
  • Support – Beyond the support provided by Atlantic.Net, you can also use cPanel’s knowledge base or the broad online community of cPanel users. You can visit cPanel support directly or try an online forum such as DaniWeb.

We provide 24/7/365 live support.

Have a question now about cloud VPS hosting? Contact us by phone, email, or live chat anytime.

By Kent Roberts

Encrypting Data to Meet HIPAA Compliance (Comic)

HIPAA compliant hosting joke

If you are an IT professional or otherwise have knowledge of Internet standards, you are probably familiar with SSL (secure sockets layer) security certificates and the concept of encryption. Essentially, any encryption method scrambles data using an intricate codification system and decoding protocol. In the case of SSL certificates, for example, a public key is held by the server and private key is provided to each user. Continue reading

How Load Balancing Works, with Explanation and Sample Types: Perceptive, Fastest Response Time & Weighted Round Robin (Comic)

load balancing humor

Load balancing methods have expanded and increased in sophistication tremendously since the advent of cloud computing. The cloud is a structure that is built fundamentally to optimize the balance of loads on the individual devices that make up the cloud network. However, this piece is more of an introduction, so we will focus on the basic idea of what load balancing is, along with extrapolation into three sample types: perceptive, fastest response time, and weighted round robin.

Finally, we will get into a basic explanation of the primary load balancing challenge in a cloud environment: heterogeneity.

Load balancing definition

Load balancing allows you to easily balance the amount of work that is being performed across a number of different pieces of equipment or sections of hardware. Typically loads are balanced across a number of different servers or – within one server – across its hard drives and CPUs. If you use more than one device or piece of software to accomplish load-balancing, that backup equipment will make your system more reliable via redundancy.

Probably the most common way in which load-balancing is understood is as a way to meaningfully separate the incoming requirements of Internet protocol (IP) visitors accessing a website or application. Load-balancing was invented and has been refined for various reasons: better performance and speed of each device, making underutilization (failure to take advantage of the resources on each machine) less of a problem, and keeping individual machines from hitting their threshold and potentially starting to drop requests.

Load-balancing is critical for a busy site or network, when it’s difficult to know the amount of traffic that will be accessing the servers. (You can see how this process relates to cloud computing and its focus on wide distribution of resources and work.)

Standard load-balancing scenario & Global Server Load Balancing

Usually the structure of load-balancing involves multiple web servers. If one of them gets overstressed with too much of the overall load, the requests move on to another machine to be fulfilled. You can see how this decreases latency – processing lag time – because you’re essentially turning a bunch of disparate servers into one big balanced whole, like a superserver (but perhaps not quite as heroic). The load balancer determines what servers have the most capacity to handle incoming requests.

The request for data comes in from the end-user to the router. (In some situations, the router itself functions as the load balancer; however, the router is not enough for a high-volume organization.) The request is sent from the router to the load balancer. The load balancer then forwards it to whichever device is most likely to fulfill the request fastest. That machine (server) sends the information to the load balancer, which then is transferred by the router back to the end-user.

Another major function for load balancing is that it allows continued operations even in the event of problems which would otherwise be interruptions: routine maintenance or failures (note, however, that you do have the option of 100% uptime). If you have a number of different servers powering your site or application and one of them breaks, your end users will not know that has happened because they won’t experience a problem. Your backend solves the problem by sending the request out to another machine in your server farm.

One type of broader load-balancing is called Global Server Load Balancing, or GSLB. With this strategy, the work is sent out to server farms in various regions of the world. Again, we see major similarities to the core concepts of cloud computing.

Three basic methods for load-balancing

Three types of load-balancing are Perceptive, Fastest Response Time, and Weighted Round Robin. The first method takes data from the past and the present to determine which device is the most likely to be available in the given situation. Obviously “Perception” only works well if the algorithm is extremely sophisticated, and it’s always possible to run into problems because there’ll always be exceptions to the rule.

Fastest Response Time is a real-time strategy. The load balancer basically pings each server to determine which one is performing at the highest level. It’s sort of like asking for a volunteer to handle the work.

The Weighted Round Robin approach allows one server after another to perform the work, but it also “weights” each device according to its power. Again, you can see how the concept of weighting applies to cloud computing.

Load balancing: the special issue of cloud computing

Load-balancing in a homogeneous environment is relatively simple because everything is standardized. The atmosphere is controlled, and the math is simple. The nature of heterogeneous architecture, which is typical of a cloud, makes load-balancing much more complicated. The reason it gets more complicated is because of the discrepancy between different devices: how healthy they are, how much capacity they have, and where they are located.

Success with load balancing, whether you use the cloud or not, is all about having a strong team of experts on your side, such as the certified engineers at Atlantic.Net.

By Brett Haines; comic words by Kent Roberts and art by Leena Cruz.

Most Common HIPAA Violations & Tips to Stay Compliant

humor healthcare hosting

The Security and Privacy Rules of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protect every patient’s health information. Healthcare providers, health plans, and health clearinghouses are the three categories of organizations that are considered covered entities under the Act, so all businesses in those industries must be well aware of HIPAA requirements. Continue reading

Cloud computing application: forklift weight & usage data (& comic)

cloud web hosting data joke

The speed and agility of cloud-based web hosting has change the playing field in many industries, expanding the possibilities of technological application. One obvious example is medical research. Phys.org reports that the cloud is being used in genetic profiling research to allow for a much faster and less costly analysis of DNA sequences. Wu Feng, a computer scientist at Virginia Tech, notes that data analysis generally has become more sophisticated because of the speed and scope of the cloud.

Businesses are slowly beginning to grasp the vast potential of the cloud and how it might be applied for a competitive advantage in their industry. In a completely different corner from medical research, freight software and technology company Integrated Visual Data Technology, Inc., recently approached us about a cloud-based solution for their business. Let’s explore the nature of the business and how our hosting solution was effective.

Weight analysis & employee monitoring

Integrated Visual Data creates software and devices that log weight and other usage data for various freight-handling trucks: pallet trucks, lift trucks, and various kinds of tilt and level indicators. The machines allow information about usage of the trucks to be monitore by operators, as well as stored and accessed by management.

Weight data is helpful for general operational analysis and record-keeping, but the systems created by IVDT are useful in a completely different way as well. The company has an additional feature that can be added to any of its equipment as desired: an alert system for “rough vehicle handling.”  This system notifies management of the following parameters related to each lift truck:

  • excessive speed
  • overloads
  • extended periods of idling
  • windows during which the truck is underused
  • integration with scheduled break time.

In fact, Integrated Visual Data’s customers can add whatever parameters they want to capture and analyze. The company customizes the software so that individual business needs are met.

SkidWeigh is the general umbrella name for IVDT’s product offerings. The system is based on an organized system of modules, which are basically packaged chunks of code that are easily moved in or out of a system (similar to a desktop application on a PC). Building the system based on modules makes tailoring the technology simple, and it also makes operating the system friendlier to the end-user.

The SkidWeigh system is also apparently unique. According to Integrated Visual Data, its devices are the only ones available that show the user of freight equipment a slew of information related to material handling on a moment-by-moment basis. That same breadth and detail of information, plus additional analysis and notifications, is accessible to management. This feature allows those in supervisory positions to monitor forklift utilization at a distance, alerted of any problems in real time.

Crafting a cloud hosting solution

Integrated Visual Data contacted us in December to help make the delivery of its data more efficient and cost-effective. They wanted to use a cloud server to upload data from the forklift onboard weighing systems. Using the cloud would allow the end-user to access the data much more quickly. It also would allow real-time analysis to get more complex because slow load times (i.e., high latency) are much less of an issue with the cloud. Management would have access to all weight and usage information – including rough handling details – in real time.

IVDT asked for our input so that we could customize a solution based on parameters they described. Integrated Visual Data has over 200 different algorithms for its technology, and it customizes its software regularly for customers. Our business has a similar approach to clients. We have a wide range of hosting plans with preestablished parameters, but we can also tailor infrastructures. In other words, it was a synergistic partnership because the two organizations held similarly adaptive philosophies.

Public cloud vs. private cloud

Cloud technology is itself highly adaptable. However, often when businesses use cloud hosting – with what’s often standardly thought of as “the cloud” – they are taking advantage of the public cloud. In that scenario, many different businesses share the same servers, with the cloud technology keeping all of the server requests organized and distinct. Just as traditional virtual private servers (VPSs) are sections of one physical machine, the virtual machines of the cloud are made up of multiple sections of a variety of physical machines.

Integrated Visual Data, due to the sensitive nature of its data, needed its own private cloud. The company required its own firewall and virtual private networks (VPNs), and they wanted managed hosting services so that our team of security and efficiency experts could monitor their system and keep it running smoothly. The best option was a private virtual machine (VM), connecting multiple physical servers with cloud technology so that data computation and analysis could be as fast and complex as possible.

IVDT is just one of the many companies that we assist with custom cloud solutions every day. At Atlantic.Net, we have been in business for 20 years and continue to grow because our technological focus is matched only by our customer focus.

By Kent Roberts; comic words by Kent Roberts & art by Leena Cruz.