All Posts By

Davy Jones

Why A “Dedicated” Support Technician Is A Bad Idea

By | Company News, Technical | No Comments

An emerging trend nowadays is that a lot of businesses have trouble differentiating themselves from their competitors. At this point they usually need to innovate, so they have a “novel” product to sell, or change the way they do business to make themselves more appealing to customers (of course another option is to start slashing prices in an attempt to soak up some of the market, but this simply isn’t sustainable, making it a risky gamble). Anchor is no exception to this – we firmly believe that our success is in no small part thanks to our quality of customer support and technical prowess. One suggestion that often arises when discussing how we can Do It Better is somehow building better relationships with our customers. The better we understand their…

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A great Windows FTP & SFTP Client

By | Technical | No Comments

A question I get asked reasonably often is “Do you know any good free FTP programs?” Yes, I do. It is WinSCP. Some of the cool features are: It does what it is designed to do and does it excellently. SFTP, SCP & FTP support (ditch FTP and use SFTP!) I’ve never seen it crash. Transfer resuming on broken and cancelled downloads. Supports SSH keys, so you do not need to remember another password. Scripting support; schedule your own remote backups or have sane website rollout procedures! The WinSCP site describes it as “WinSCP is an open source SFTP client and FTP client for Windows. Its main function is the secure file transfer between a local and a remote computer. Beyond this, WinSCP offers basic file manager functionality. It uses…

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Australian Domain Name Transfer Policy Reminder

By | Company News, Technical | No Comments

If you follow Australian business news you may have read in the technology news yesterday that auDA has terminated Bottle Domains (Australian Style Pty Ltd) registrar accreditation. This means if you have a domain registered with Bottle Domains or one of its resellers, you will not be able to renew your domain name with that company. It is possible to transfer .au domain names to another registrar within your registration period free of charge. The remaining period of registration will be carried over to that different registrar. Once your domain name is within 90 days of expiring you will be able to renew your domain name. If you would like to transfer your domain name to Anchor Systems, you can complete the free domain transfer process online at https://www.anchor.com.au/domain-name-registration/domain-transfer.py, you…

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Reduce Linux VPS/VM guest memory usage

By | Technical | 3 Comments

Reducing the memory usage in your VPS/VM can be a great way to free up some resources to handle more requests, users or some other metric of win. By default at Anchor we provision our Red Hat & Cent OS VPS servers with a trim memory usage profile by disabling a lot of unneeded services at install time. We do this by using Trogdor (our hardware/software burninator) and Puppet. So just what services do we disable, if they exist on the new VPS? gpm netfs pcmcia sgi_fam yum-updatesd pcscd rhnsd xfs hald hcid or sdpd hpiod or hpssd.py dbus-daemon cupsd You can also reap performance gains by changing how you serve content. For example you can use a cut down high performance web server (nginx or lighttpd) to serve all…

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VMware ESX Guest Disk IO

By | Technical | No Comments

Knowing the state of your disk IO latency in VMware ESX can help you pre-empt performance & capacity issues before the occur. There are a few guidelines you should keep in mind. These notes are directed towards people using directly attached storage. Write latency should be 0, because you have that fancy battery backed controller caching writes, right? Read latency should be under 8ms. Use the smallest stripe size possible for your RAID array setting. This helps keep random IO performance acceptable at the cost of some sequential performance. Do not virtualise very heavy random IO workloads on shared arrays, other guest VMs wont like you for it. Unless you have a very compelling reason not too, use RAID 10. Some other notes, specific to Linux guests are: Mount file…

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I thought web hosting companies were the ones blocking spam

By | Company News, Technical | 2 Comments

We use a Barracuda to keep spam out of our email at Anchor. Having overcome some early teething issues and generally handling it with care it does do quite a good job of keeping spam out of our email to the point that it doesn’t really bother you – most of the time. Perhaps that’s why the delightful email I received from Cosmotel Web Hosting caught my eye this morning – I just don’t get that much spam these days. Note the URL’s use of the words “emailmarketing”, I guess to some that is another name for spam. My quarantine box always has a good collection of spam covering the ever enlightening topics of how to last longer on the job, how to make my schlong – well, long I…

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View from the top

By | Technical | No Comments

The venerable (and still exceedingly useful) top tool is immensely useful for seeing who is consuming all your CPU and memory. However, it’s not so good on showing who is eating your disk IO, or network bandwidth. Unsurprisingly, people have run with the top concept and produced a wide range of other tools: iotop, to show the consumption of disk IO (which we’ve previously covered in detail); iftop, for your network; htop, an enhanced top with bargraphs and other “Sysadmin 2.0” features; mytop, for when there are queries that are killing your MySQL server. All top tools, and worthy of a look. (sorry, couldn’t resist)

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Global connectivity monitoring

By | Technical | One Comment

If you manage a network on the Internet, you are committing to providing connectivity to practically the entire world, while only having direct control over your local connectivity. Worse still, you usually only have good visibility into local network conditions, which makes knowing about (as well as investigating and resolving) connectivity problems from other parts of the world a massive pain. Clever people on the Internet, though, have already noticed this problem and are here to help. My network tool of the week is traceroute.org, which offers a huge list of publically-available traceroute servers sorted by country. You give one of these traceroute servers an IP address or hostname, and they’ll show you how they got to it from wherever they are. If the utility of that isn’t immediately obvious……

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Safely handling RAID failure

By | Technical | No Comments

With hard discs being by far the most common point of failure in servers RAID does wonders for protection against loss of data. With a RAID array in normal operation we’re in a pretty safe place. We know that we can suffer failure of a drive without loss of data or disruption of service. Once a drive has failed however we’re in a slightly more precarious position. Loss of another drive or damage to the remaining drive could easily cause major problems. At this point the only thing that can protect you can against data loss if you make a mistake is your backups – you did configure backups didn’t you? Restoring a damaged RAID array is a task that requires extra caution.  On our range of dedicated servers and…

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Advanced web application monitoring

By | Technical | No Comments

We’ve been using Nagios to monitor an ever-increasing number of services on all of the servers that we own at Anchor for a number of years. For the most part the things we monitor have a focus on those that a systems administrator (us in other words) has to deal with. This includes things like CPU load, memory usage, disc space availability, swap usage, server load, availability of core applications such as web servers, data base servers, mail servers. On a given server we typically monitor anywhere from 5 to 25 different attributes. The end goal of all this monitoring is to ensure that the services on the servers we run are always working. We can take this a step further though, rather than just monitor the components of the…

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