The Five Habits Of Highly Effective Sysadmins

Often, the best way to improve is to study people who’ve already got things figured out. So today, let’s do that – let’s take a look at what all the best sysadmins seem to have in common.

We can always be better, and we should always be looking to improve ourselves. One of the best ways to achieve that is by looking to our superiors – by looking at how some of the best people in our field conduct themselves. Because inevitably, they all have traits they share in common.

Sysadmins are no different. That is why today, we are going to go over some of the habits and practices that make the difference between a good administrator and a great one. How many of them do you follow?

1. They Are Cautious and Disciplined

Do you avoid using root privileges except when absolutely necessary? Do you bother to review what you have entered in the command line before executing it? Do you have a regimen of commands that you enter each time you login, and a set of statistics that you consistently examine each day?

The best sysadmins will answer ‘yes’ to all of the above.

2. They Are Masters Of Prioritization

As a sysadmin, you should eventually develop a sixth sense for whether or not a particular task is more urgent than what you are currently working on. But you should also learn to go beyond that. You should:

  • Automate all non-trivial processes and tasks, such as data backups.
  • Run as few processes and services as possible, disabling anything your systems do not use or need.
  • Develop effective workflow management techniques
  • Work in a way that allows them to immediately move from one task to a higher-priority one without losing progress.

3. They Monitor, Measure, Record, and Document

As a sysadmin, you should always have an ear to the ground where your business’s systems are concerned. Monitor everything, and maintain by-the-minute records of your data – though you should also prioritize the information that is most relevant to you, like disk space or CPU usage. I would highly recommend investing in a graphing tool that will allow you to visualize the data you are recording.

Additionally, document every task you perform, and read your logfiles.

effective sysadmins

4. They Ask “What If?”

A skilled sysadmin knows that their job is never done. They know that even if everything seems to be working as intended, that is often simply the calm before the storm. Software will crash. Their business will suffer a cyberattack. Hardware will fail.

Alright, perhaps I am exaggerating. At the same time, good sysadmins have a plan in mind for every worst-case scenario.

They know exactly how to respond if their organization suffers a DDoS attack, and exactly what to do if one of their servers fails. They have installed security protections that include malware detection and a strong firewall.

And they are always considering – and planning for – new troubles their business’s infrastructure might encounter.

5. They Communicate

The days when the IT department stood as an island from the rest of their organization are long behind us. As an administrator, it is your job to manage your business’s people as much as its systems. You need to be able to work with the people around you, and the best way to do that is by learning how to effectively communicate.

 

Be Effective

So, were you already familiar with the best practices outlined here? If so, great – you are well on your way to becoming an incredible sysadmin. And if not, now you know what you need to do to improve.

Because at the end of the day, everyone should strive to be better at what they do.

Sysadmins: Is Your To-Do System Killing Your Efficiency?

When it comes to working with efficiency, we are our own worst enemies. As an admin, you are no different. The way you handle your work could well be a shot in the foot.

Productivity is hard.

It is not something you can program or configure. Life would be so much simpler if you could simply type in a command and become more efficient – but you cannot. If you truly wish to be better at managing the various threads of your career, you need to work towards it yourself.

Efficiency

Unfortunately, most of us are really bad at it. As an administrator, you are not exempt from that. On the contrary – your job typically involves juggling so many different things that you cannot afford to be the least bit disorganized.

You need to manage user requests. Ensure systems are up-to-date and monitor for unusual activity. Locate and fix bugs. And most importantly, you have to convince your boss that you are indeed working, and not simply lounging at your desk.

A large portion of what a sysadmin does, therefore, involves prioritization. You need to figure out which tasks cannot wait – which things need to be fixed to keep your organization in working order. And in order to do that, you need to optimize your workflows.

An effective to-do system goes a long way towards accomplishing that (and as an added bonus, it gives your boss a visual guide to what you’re doing at any given time). By that same vein, trying to tackle your work without a management tool or process can feel like trying to bail out a boat with a thimble. Some people might be able to pull it off, sure.

But most of us will barely keep our heads above the water.

What can you do, though? Implementing a management process for your workflow can feel like a struggle in and of itself. Where can you even start?

Here are a few tips to that effect:

  • Start writing project management reports for everything you do – even if you are the only one who reads them. This helps keep you organized, and ensures that if you abandon what you are doing for something of higher priority, you will be able to remember what you were doing when you return.
  • Find a workflow process that meshes with how you already do things. Maintaining a to-do list should not be difficult, and you should not be spending more time planning your work than actually doing it. Methodologies include:
    • Kanban, which visualizes each individual work item and its progress, usually on a physical whiteboard or other such medium. This is one of the most popular workflow management methods, and there are multiple tools that allow you to incorporate it, including Trello and Taiga.io.
    • Scrum. Though it is primarily an agile development framework, you can nevertheless adopt some of its guiding principles into managing your own workday, including transparency, timeboxing, and holding a daily retrospective of your work.
    • Simply maintaining a checklist of tasks which you can check and update daily.  
  • Take the time to breathe every now and then. One common technique for improving productivity involves working in 25-minute bursts, with 5-minute breaks in between.  
  • Automate as much as you can. You should never be spending a great deal of time or efforts on patching, backups, user and group maintenance, DDoS mitigation, or malware scans – these are all things that can be run on their own, only requiring your intervention if something goes wrong.

Staying productive and on-task can be difficult, especially as a sysadmin. You have a lot on your plate. You need to learn to manage all of it, or you are guaranteed to be on the road to burnout.

Don’t Cry: How Liquid Web is Ensuring Your Security Against WannaCrypt And Other Ransomware

Recently, an unknown group equipped with a leaked CIA hacking tool launched one of the largest cyber attacks in history – here’s what we’re doing to ensure your security.

Several weeks ago, security experts across the world were left aghast at one of the largest ransomware attacks in history. A nasty piece of software called WannaCrypt (better known as WannaCry) surged across global networks, crippling 200,000 organizations in 150 countries.

“This attack was unique in that the ransomware was used in combination with a ‘worm functionality’ to spread the infection automatically,” said Europol Director Rob Wainwright on Peston on Sunday. “The global reach is unprecedented.”

ransomware-2320793_1920

And it’s not just small businesses, either. Banks, government agencies, and even the British Healthcare Industry have all fallen victim to it. Here’s the problem, though – a lot of media outlets are focusing on the WannaCry worm, rather than the real threat.

WannaCry itself was not the issue. As ransomware goes, it’s fairly run of the mill (it can’t encrypt administrative shares, for example). No, what’s frightening is how it was delivered – EternalBlue, a leaked NSA cyberweapon.

EternalBlue uses a vulnerability present in the Server Message Block to gain access to a system. Once it’s done so, it installs a backdoor tool known as DoublePulsar, which then grants entry to the WannaCry worm. From there, you can probably guess how things proceed.

It gets worse. The agency responsible for leaking the weapon, The Shadow Brokers, has threatened to leak another set of hacking tools with similar capabilities. In other words, WannaCry is just the start.

There will be others.

More than anything else, this situation highlights the importance of continued diligence and why it’s essential that we follow security standards in all aspects of our work. At Liquid Web, we’ve done just that. Our security signatures have been updated to defend against the malware, so our office network is fully protected. Beyond this, our security team is constantly researching and updating to protect against new threats.

Additionally, we restrict remote access to our core infrastructure that would allow it to be impacted by ransomware. The Windows team has also verified our WSUS servers and have patched all supporting operating systems on our networks. We’ve pushed that patch to customers using our update policy who have automatic updates enabled as well.

We have confirmed that our managed antivirus solution has definitions specifically for WannaCry and have posted a notice to all Windows customers on an at-risk OS informing them of the ransomware – but also highlighting that as long as they’re using our default policy on updated servers, we’ve got their back. Customers on an EOL operating system can contact us immediately to install a manual patch.  

Attacks like WannaCry are only going to grow more common as time goes on. You need to do everything you can to protect yourself from them, including choosing a host that takes your security seriously. Liquid Web is (and will continue to be) that host – we’ve got your back, no matter what kind of threat your business faces.

Contact us today and we can discuss what we’re doing to protect our customers against existing and future security threats.

Supporting Random Logic Games As They Rocket Up The iTunes Charts

After only a year and a half in business as a mobile and social game company, Random Logic Games, suddenly saw one of their games quickly rise up the ranks in the iTunes App & Google Play stores. In January of this year, their Guess the 90’s game exploded in popularity, triggering a much-needed expansion of their hosting environment. Since then, their new and expanded environment has been able to sustain other games in their product line growing in popularity, including their Guess the Emoji game, which is now listed in the top five free games in the iTunes App and Google Play store.
Random Logic Games
President of Random Logic Games Andrew Stone said Liquid Web was recommended to him back in 2012 by a friend who remarked on our reliable hosting and Heroic Support. At the start, Stone said, his company required a basic setup for hosting, which consisted of a single dedicated server. However, after the Guess the 90’s game rocketed up the charts and their server’s concurrent users increased 60 times over from 50 per day to 3,000 per day, he was in need of a more powerful solution.

“It was an insane increase,” Stone said. “We were scrambling to handle the traffic. At the time we knew very little about servers and relied on the Liquid Web team to help us out.”

After studying the setup that was supporting Random Logic Games, our technicians recommended a more powerful environment with the following features:

The OCFS2 volume provided Random Logic Games with managed file replication, allowing their files to update across multiple nodes automatically. In addition, the load balancer directed the flow of their now very high traffic volumes. Since implementing the new setup, our team has worked closely with Random Logic Games over the last few months to refine and optimize the settings to ensure everything is running at peak performance.

“At this point our setup can handle the traffic we’re seeing,” Stone said. “Liquid Web’s support has been excellent. There is always someone to answer the phone and emails. We’re looking forward to continued growth.”

With all the hard work that the team at Random Logic Games puts into their trivia and word games, we’re proud of their recent success and are happy we were able to help them scale up their hosting environment to support their new needs. With the support of our OCFS2 cluster, load balancer and the hard work of our Heroic Support team, we’re confident that Random Logic Games can continue growing – and we’ll be here to support them every step of the way.

Pairing a Powerful Reseller Plugin with the Private Cloud

WHMCS Plugin for Storm Private Cloud
If you’re a web hosting reseller and you haven’t taken advantage of our latest product release that marries the easy-to-use WHMCS plugin with our feature-laden Storm Private Cloud, then you may be missing out. Our WHMCS plugin allows resellers to integrate their accounts with our Storm Platform API and provides them with the capability to easily resell our Storm on Demand, Liquid Web VPS, SSD VPS, and Bare Metal products. Since its release, we’ve received an abundance of positive feedback from our customers that were already enjoying the many benefits of our Reseller program. The addition of the powerful WHMCS plugin to their reselling business not only simplified their operations but also enhanced their customer relations.
Tecknologics
One of the early adopters of the plugin, Tecknologics, has been grateful for the ease of use and the positive feedback they’ve seen from their customers.

“We started using the Storm Private Cloud and Storm Billing WHMCS plugins when they were first released,” said Tecknologics CEO Balaji Sankaranarayanan. “Since then, the happiest moments for us have been when our clients praised their ability to order, monitor, and manage their cloud instance easily, along with other services they avail from us. Your plugins have really taken the stress off our shoulders. Now that we have effortless deployment of server resources, we are able to focus more on sales and support.”

The benefits for Resellers of using the WHMCS plugin alongside our Storm Private Cloud are multitudinous and include the ability to:

  • Automate deployment of Storm Private Cloud instances
  • Customize hosting packages and instance sizes
  • Maximize profit with integrated billing and price control

In addition, as Tecknologics discovered, customers of resellers will have much more autonomy with their hosting accounts. These benefits come with the already present benefit our basic WHMCS plugin, which allows customers of resellers to deploy/restart/restore server, automate cancellation requests, manage domains, automate emails and billing, and integrate merchants to Paypal and other tools.

We work hard at Liquid Web to ensure we are providing our customers with everything they need to be successful. To that end, we’ve ensured that the benefits provided by pairing the WHMCS plugin with our Storm Private Cloud are innumerable. If you are interested in learning more about how these two features can improve your reseller business, feel free to contact us at 800.580.4985 and see how our Heroic Support can help.

Have you taken advantage of the powerful WHMCS plugin? Tell us your story below!

Featured Client: Next Place, Real Estate Search Engine

Next Place
The house-hunting process can be an exhausting one, especially if you’re using more than one of the numerous search engines that are available. Next Place is looking to improve that experience, at least for those in the Australian real estate market. A real estate search engine, Next Place has separated itself from the competition by providing all of the available Australian and New Zealand properties into one easy-to-use site. Their success has garnered attention, particularly from the likes of their new investors John Corrie of Morgans Stockbroking and Michael Millner, Deputy Chairman of the publicly listed Brickworks Limited (ASX:BKW). Those investments have Next Place looking forward to developing even more rapidly.

The recent investments in NextPlace.com.au are a testament to the growth they have seen in the Australian real estate market, where they have become a disruptive force among their competitors. Next Place stands out in the market with their unique website offering two main search features.

  • Draw Your Search – allowing users to draw out a specific area in which they would like to find a property.
  • Simple Language Search – allowing users to use “plain english” phrases, numeric values and the minus symbol to exclude features.

Case StudyWe provided Next Place with many advantages including reliable infrastructure, access to our 24/7/365 Heroic Support, proactive monitoring, software and database services, high availability, managed engineering, and scalability planning. Our technicians worked with the Next Place team to build their hosting environment on the Liquid Web Storm Platform, which allows them to easily maintain their fast and comprehensive real estate service. Read our Next Place Case Study to learn more about the details behind their hosting environment. Our Storm Platform provides them with the ability to instantly create and destroy instances, providing them with a neverending stream of new deployments crawling 400% more agent websites than they were previously able to reach. This, in addition to the excellent support and hosting advice Next Place has received, has made Liquid Web extremely valuable to Director Dan Tarasenko.

“It seems that these engineers can see around corners and quite often advise me on — or implement solutions to — my problems before they even appear,” Tarasenko said.

We’re excited to be working with Next Place as they continue to grow and take the Australian real estate market by storm.

Giving Back with Office Supply Startup Chalkfly

Chalkfly Logo
Do you remember the last time you bought office supplies? Did you drive to a big box store, shuffle through the many aisles, wait in a long, slow line, and finally drive home feeling frustrated with the whole experience? If so, then you know that shopping for office supplies can be mundane and time consuming – but Chalkfly has changed it for the better. Utilizing Liquid Web’s Storm Platform, the Detroit-based startup has turned the office supply industry on its head with an easy-to-use eCommerce website accessible by schools, businesses and the general public.

The online office supply startup was launched by brothers Andrew and Ryan Landau, with the goal of creating a forward-thinking, socially responsible business. The brothers saw potential in the office and school supply industry, but wanted to innovate how people shopped for those supplies in a way that also addressed larger issues. This gave way to a unique mission that has propelled Chalkfly into the spotlight with articles in Forbes, Inc. Magazine, TechCrunch and Mlive.com.

Chalkfly.com HomePage
The resulting outcome was an easy-to-navigate website that only serves as the tip of the iceberg for Chalkfly. The company also offers 365-day returns, incredible customer service, and free next day shipping. What really sets Chalkfly apart from their competition is their policy of giving back to teachers nationwide. Five percent of every purchase goes to the customer’s teacher of choice, helping to alleviate the out-of-pocket costs many teachers pay for school supplies.

Read the Chalkfly Case Study
The success Chalkfly has seen with their unique business model relies on a flexible and scalable online presence. Chalkfly was able to set up their hosting environment on our Storm Platform, a Liquid Web cloud product with many flexible features. Their eCommerce site was expected to undergo a number of traffic spikes, due to press coverage, approaching school years and other factors. Our Storm Platform provided them with a scalable environment that is more than capable of handling any number of traffic spikes, and also allows them to test and develop on the demand. In addition, Liquid Web’s 24/7/365 on-site Heroic Support ensures they have no problem reaching a highly trained technician who is familiar with their specific deployment and is on hand to address any of their needs.

“LiquidWeb provides us reliable, scalable hosting that has grown with our company, coupled with fast and knowledgeable tech support when we need it.” – Evan Steiner, Director of Engineering

We’re proud to work with Chalkfly as their business grows and hope to see even more success for them in the future. If you’d like to learn more about how our Storm Platform can help your business grow, feel free to contact our team via LiveChat or call at 1-800-580-4985.

What teacher would you support by purchasing office supplies through Chalkfly? Let us know in the comments below!

Celebrating Customer Relationships: Our 5 Favorite Customer Support Stories

Celebrating Customer Relationships
This Valentine’s Day we’re celebrating our customers (that’s YOU!). We know our customers depend on our services to keep their businesses running and that’s something we don’t take for granted. To commemorate the special customer relationships we’ve built, we talked to a few of our support techs to hear about their favorite customer interactions over the years. The stories we heard often required the techs to go above and beyond our traditional services – we call this “Best Effort Support” – and sometimes the questions our callers had didn’t even relate to the web hosting industry! However, we are devoted to helping all of our customers. In the interest of lending a helping hand our technicians have done some pretty extraordinary things to keep the Heroic – and Valentine – spirit alive.

  1. Digging For Data

    Lost data is bad, but it’s even worse when an old partner is the one who deleted that data. Unfortunately, one customer had all of his data deleted out of spite by an ex-partner. Desperate, he called Liquid Web for help, hoping beyond hope that we would find a way to recover what he’d lost. It looked unlikely at first that we would be able to help, since even the customer’s backups were gone, until our support tech found an old external backup server. The support tech found the server by tracing some information deeper and deeper in a series of logs and was even able to piece together the password for entry. At the end of the day, all that digging for data led to one very relieved customer.

  2. Recipe Swapping

    Often during conversations with customers, our support techs find themselves making new friends. After solving one customer’s issue, our support tech learned about the customer’s affinity in the kitchen. The ensuing brief conversation ended in recipe swapping – and a happy customer. We also have it on good authority that the recipe our support tech received was delicious!

  3. Have A Drink On Me

    When particularly difficult issues arise, we encourage our support techs to work as long as they need to on the issue to solve it for the customer. When one customer lost data due to a broken update, a few of our support technicians stayed many hours past their shift to solve the issue. When the data was recovered, the customer was so grateful he sent a surprise gift the next day: a thank-you bottle of scotch.

  4. Tractor Parts R US

    Sometimes we have people who call in confused about the services Liquid Web offers. One of our support techs answered a call from a man who needed to find a specific part number … for his John Deere tractor. Once the support tech realized the man had called the wrong number, he kindly provided the man with John Deere’s website, phone number, and even looked up the part number he was looking for in the first place. Definitely above and beyond!

  5. Can I Have Your Number?

    Web hosting is an industry that not everyone understands, and we occasionally get phone calls from people who assume a company that hosts websites is also a directory of online information. One support technician had such a call from someone who needed the phone number for a local plumber. The technician, realizing the caller had confused Liquid Web for an Internet directory, simply looked up the number and provided it. The caller was grateful and our support tech was happy to help.

We’re happy to take all of your phone calls and emails regarding any topic because we love our customers and value the relationships we’ve built with them. If you have a question regarding our services, feel free to pick up the phone (800-580-4985), send an email, or start a LiveChat. We’ll be more than happy to talk you!

Happy Valentine’s Day, customers!

Uniting Engineers Across the World

CrazyEngineers
According to the team behind the online community CrazyEngineers, it is engineers with crazy ideas that will change the world – and they prefer the word crazy, not insane. Crazy gives a positive spin to engineering, and the team encourages all of their members to strive for dreams that others may consider whacky. After meeting their team, we knew CrazyEngineers was a perfect fit for Liquid Web. Using our platform, the startup has been able to grow into able to grow into one of the largest and most successful engineering sites in the world.

The startup, which began in November 2005, has evolved into a popular destination for engineering professionals and students around the globe to exchange innovative ideas, share knowledge and otherwise help each other. With engineers from very diverse backgrounds, they are able to offer new and different perspectives for those who need it. They welcome anyone with an interest in engineering and technology as a member, regardless of their education level or profession, and currently have thousands of members from over 180 countries.

The goal of their online community, to connect engineers and help them work constructively on projects, has been able to grow even more with the help of Liquid Web. CrazyEngineers switched to Liquid Web after a negative experience with another host. With so many positive reviews for Liquid Web and how quickly we answered his questions, Founder & CEO Kaustubh Katdare decided to make the switch. We provided Katdare and CrazyEngineers with reliable infrastructure, access to our 24/7/365 Heroic Support and Proactive Monitoring, software and databases services, high availability and scalability planning. Katdare says that our Heroic Support was what originally attracted him to Liquid Web.

“On several occasions [the Heroic Support] has gone out of the way to help,” Katdare explained. “I think it reflects your culture – and that keeps me glued to your company.”

We’re proud to support CrazyEngineers in their efforts to connect engineers across the globe!

Congratulations to backstitch!

We’d like to send a hearty congratulations to backstitch, one of the startups supported by the Liquid Web Incubator Program, on the release of their latest update, backstitch 2.0! The Detroit-based company serves as an outlet for people looking to create their own, customized homepage, and is a testament to the positive outcomes possible through our Incubator Program.
backstitch
The company allows users to create an all-in-one page tool to aggregate their customized content, and through this they have generated a bit of acclaim from news outlets like TechCrunch Magazine, Fox Business and CBS Detroit. Their latest update includes a multiple platform capability, a filter bar for enhanced search, and automated organization of content. This growth can be partially attributed to the powerful, flexible hosting our Incubator Program has provided, which also helped backstitch handle the increased traffic their new popularity has created. Co-Founder of backstitch, Jordan Warzecha, explained how Liquid Web’s support boosted the capabilities of his venture:

“The freedom to utilize Liquid Web’s excellent hosting products has opened the door to a faster, easier and more powerful offering for our users. With access to on-site staff, 24/7, they also have kept up with the long hours we’ve put in to achieve these advancements with backstitch 2.0.”

We’re proud of backstitch for the growth that they’ve experienced, just like we’re proud to support other entrepreneurs and startups through our comprehensive Incubator Program. Our program is specially designed to help kickstart ventures and entrepreneurs through free hosting, infrastructure and mentoring during their critical beginning stages. Benefits of the program include:

  • Up to $25,000 in free hosting
  • Heroic Support® team available 24/7/365
  • 24/7 Proactive monitoring
  • Cross-promotional opportunities
  • Infrastructure, software, and database services
  • High availability and scalability planning

The power of Incubator Programs such as ours is evident when you look at backstitch’s successes so far. Both backstitch and Liquid Web are confident in our partnership and we know the enhancements brought forth by this latest release will continue to advance their mission to reduce the noise of individuals’ online lives. In addition, our mission to further the development of entrepreneurs is also right on track – and we are always on the lookout for more startup ventures.

If you’d like to learn more about the Liquid Web Incubator Program, please call our Sales Team at 1-800-580-4985.

Learn More About the Liquid Web Incubator Program