Archive for the 'A+ TECH TALK' Category

10 Reasons Why Migrating to the Cloud Makes Sense

I had the opportunity to attend and speak at recent KANAConnect events in the US and Europe. I was surprised and delighted at the breadth of discussion and focus placed on cloud computing and the forward-thinking direction of many of the attendees.

One thing that was quite clear and different from what I’d experienced at past KANA events was the overall mindset towards the cloud playing a larger role in the future growth plans of the majority of the companies in attendance.

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Preparing for New Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards

The PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) is in a release cycle this year, meaning version 3.0 will be released shortly. At this year’s recent Community Meeting of the PCI Security Standards Council, much discussion centered on the new version of the standard, which is why both me and our Chief Risk Officer, Jeff Reich, attended.

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Is It Safe?

Some of you might remember the movie Marathon Man starring Dustin Hoffman as Babe.  In it, he is repeatedly questioned by the former Nazi SS dentist, Dr. Christian Szell and asked, “Is it safe?”

Christian Szell: Is it safe? Is it safe?

Babe: You’re talking to me?

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NEW: LT-TV Episode 2 ( Server Security )

WELCOME to Layered Tech’s 2nd Episode of LT-TV… “technology edification for the masses”.   This episode covers Server Security… and we all know there’s a lot to learn about keeping our computers and data safe.  (NO, don’t use your last name or birthday as your password.) Check it out TODAY! >>


Happy National Cyber Security Awareness Month

[By Security Chick : Terry Perkins] October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month.  What better month for me to try my  blogging skills!  National Cyber Security Awareness Month is designed to increase awareness about Internet security.  A good place to start is with good, strong passwords.  Not all Internet sites need to have same strength password.  For example, banking sites need stronger passwords than a news site (some news sites require a login).  As a matter of fact, one of my pet peeves is when a site emails the login and passwords that you have just set up.  Rant – why do I need an email sent with the information that I just set up.   I have sent many a email ranting about just that.  Most of the time I get a response like most people can’t remember there passwords.  Great!  Let’s send it in email – in the same email, login and password.  Sorry, I digress.

Good, strong passwords are 12+ characters and do not contain dictionary words, kids or spouses names, birth dates, pets names and other identifiable information.  Passwords should contain each of the following categories:  upper case, lower case, numbers and special characters.  This is very important.   I use phrases or mantras – okay positive mantras.  Here is an example: Four score and seven years ago, our father brought forth a new nation……..  The password could be 4S&7yrsAofb4th!.  Please don’t use this one.  It is just an example.  When I type my password I am then saying the phrase or better yet positive mantra in my head thus reinforcing the positive thought.  Okay – I admit it.  I’m a little weird.  What do you expect from a security person.

Dual Core vs. Dual Processor

The Mother(board) of all Battles! Geoff Pennington, Layered Tech

When browsing through Layered Technologies’ offerings, you’ll see a lot of reference to Dual this and Dual that… but what does it all mean?  Below summarizes what you need to know.  Let’s start with terminology. 

  • Dual Processors means there are 2 physical processors in the machine.

  • Dual Core means there is 1 physical processor with 2 cores in it.  (You can do the math for Quad Core and Quad Processor… more on this later.)

Now that we know the physical difference between the two, let’s get into some specifics.  Primarily these systems are built to perform in the same light.  Multitasking is multitasking, but there are some underlying effects for both.    

  • Dual Processor has RAM and cache space setup for each processor, so if you have a process running on Processor 1, it’s only getting the RAM of Processor 1.  However, if you have your resources beefed up it doesn’t matter, and your system will run more efficiently because the processes are split between processors and not cores (less burnout). 

  • Dual Core machines are the new light for small business owners, as they are slightly cheaper and provide pretty much the same thing.  The major drawback to Dual Core is your putting the stress of the entire system on one physical CPU, which can be pretty tasking for a little chip.  However, a multi-core system has the ability to handle multiple threads separately yet simultaneously.  This makes multi-core systems perfect for multi-threaded applications.

Don’t get me wrong, any of these problems can be remedied by ensuring you have the proper amount of RAM, and you put some time into task scheduling.  Both setups are capable of doing the same things, but its how you configure your system to run efficiently that matters.  That can be on a Dual Processor or a Dual Core.   

Benchmarks: According to the benchmarks run on the AMD Athlon 4400 Dual Core, the AMD Opteron 248 Dual Processor, the Intel Pentium D 830 Dual Core, and the Intel Xeon 3.0 Dual Processor they all run at very comparable standards.  AMD had better resource efficiency, and Intel had better processing power (surprise, surprise).  The overall winner of the tests was the Pentium D, but with a little research you will see that the difference is minimal, and you should really just look at your setup and figure out what configuration would fit best.    

Have more questions?  Comment here or email me at

What is "The Grid"?

Geoff Pennington, Layered TechThe Grid is a collection of commodity servers that provide a fully functional virtual computing environment.  In this environment, you can use resources which are collected in a pool by AppLogic, to deploy various applications, each containing an unlimited number of appliances.   

How can it help me? 

The Grid offers full control over your entire environment from anywhere in the world on any PC, and can be done from a SINGLE PC.  There’s no need for multiple admins to control your infrastructure.   The Grid also offers on-demand scalability for both you and/or your end user.  You can, on the fly, scale an appliance or application to utilize more resources for your client or you can add another node to your Grid for more overall resources.   

Another feature is the super high redundancy.  With the automatic failover you have no fear of your application experiencing prolonged downtime due to hardware failure.  Any time a server fails the simultaneous appliance that is running elsewhere on the grid is started up to take its place.    

Lastly, let’s not forget about the snapshot feature.  With this, you can simply build a single application, snapshot it, and deploy it for each and every client if you want to, so you only build a setup once and it’s instantly ready for deploy 100 times over.   

Is it right for me? (Yes or No answers) 

  • Are you familiar with Virtualization and creating virtual environments? 
  • Are your 100% Linux based? 
  • Are you 100% comfortable in a dedicated Linux box? 
  • Is your largest file you want to host on the grid smaller than 1TB? 
  • Have you done any of the demos from 3Tera, or attended Grid U?   
  • Do you have a solution budget of $1500+/mo? 

If you answered “No” to any of the questions above, The Grid is probably not a viable solution for you at this time.  Some of the questions do revolve around your knowledge of how to use the product, which can be compensated with help from other consulting companies, but I write this to see if you can handle the grid in a 100% self managed environment, which is what we provide.  

*Note: VOIP is not a solution that can run comfortably on The Grid* 

Terminology You Need to Know 

  • Virtual Private Datacenter (VPDC) is an array of standard servers and storage devices that have been turned into a scalable computing resource you can use to meet the demands of your application. 
  • Appliance = Web server, or Database server, or Monitoring device, or Load balancer, or Firewall.   
  • Application = A cluster of 2 web servers, 1 database, 1 monitoring device, and a firewall all running interconnected with each other.    

I know the grid is right for me, but which one do I pick???  

Below I am going to list each of Layered Technologies’ packages, then offer some categories you might fit into.  The thing to keep in mind:  If you fit 4 examples of the Gold package and 1 example of Platinum package, you NEED the Platinum package.  There is really no way around it.  The examples are based off of the hardware of each grid.  You can’t make Gold pretend to be Platinum.  It just doesn’t work that way.   

Bronze (Starting at $996 monthly fee) >>

  • You are a start-up company who has a few clients who need hosting space. (500 or less)
  • You are starting a SAAS company and you have LITTLE or no need for live production as of yet.
  • You want to develop your Web 2.0 website and test it with friends, but have no intention of running it live on the net for the world.
  • You need to run a small internal network for your small business which is going to store company databases, maybe run the company website, etc. 

Silver (Starting at $1696 monthly fee) >>

  • You have a SAAS company that needs little to moderate coverage out to the world.  Live production in ½ scale.
  • Your hosting company needs to host 1000 or less clients on small setups and no high resource demands.
  • You are ready to start live production of your Web 2.0 site, and at this time you can’t afford anything higher, but have every intention of upgrading.
  • Your business has grown outside the resources provided in a bronze grid, and simply adding more nodes is no longer price effective. 

Gold (Starting at $2496 monthly fee) >>

  • You want to go full steam on a Web 2.0 site, and your files do not exceed the limitations of a single Gold node (4GB RAM, and 750GB HD space)
  • You want to host a vast number of clients of all sizes on a single interface (2000-5000)
  • You want to provide your SAAS products to a large portion of the internet world;  Provided you fit within the resource bound of the Gold, you can simply live off an expanded Gold Grid for a SAAS offering.   

Platinum (Starting at $3996 monthly fee) >>

  • You have a massive infrastructure that needs to be controlled from a single point of administration.
  • You have a file larger than 750GB that must be hosted on your Grid.
  • You need more than 4GB RAM to deliver to a single appliance (i.e. web server or database) 

Note:  If you’re just wanting to “test the waters”, you might want to consider our Developer Core ($499) or Developer Lite ($349) packages as a place to get acquainted with The Grid.

If you’re still not sure, just let me know, and we can discuss best solution that fits your specific needs. 

Upgrading a VPDC Finally, the last topic to cover is… Once you’re in a VPDC, how do you grow?  Well here are the two options: 

Adding Nodes:  If you’re comfortable in your current VPDC and your appliances don’t need any more resources than a node has to offer, then you can simply add another node to your current VPDC.  You would do this simply by emailing and requesting the addition.  Your node price will be ¼ the monthly cost of your base 4 node purchase.  Just send the email and accept the fee, and we will take care of the rest.  

Upgrading to another VPDC:  If your appliances need more resources than a node can offer -or its’ more price effective to move to the next grid level, as opposed to just adding more nodes then the process is a bit more complex, but not too bad:  First you would place the order for the new package.  (I would recommend at least 1 week prior to your renew date to ensure minimal overlap, but time to get it up and migrated over.) Once the new grid is up, you would just use AppLogic to migrate the data and applications over to the new Grid, then you can submit the cancellation request at least 2 days prior to your renew date.   

I hope this answers all your questions, but if not, feel free to post here or contact any of us directly. 

Take care everyone. ~ Geoff Pennington, LT Sales

Private Racks: Plan for Growth

Geoff Pennington, Layered TechWhen it comes to private racks you want to make sure to plan ahead.  If you have 6U worth of equipment now, you will want to get a larger rack unless you plan to NEVER grow, and who does that?  Our private rack offerings start at ¼ for 6U worth of space, and grow from there to ½ rack with 12U, and full rack with 24U. 

 “How will I know what I need?”

First off, you must develop a plan for your infrastructure.  I realize planning for 3 years in advance is not easy, but keep in mind the immediate future at least.  Below I will cover a few situations to give you an idea of how you should start.

  • If you have 1-4 servers with no infrastructure then a ¼ rack will suffice, because you have at least 2 more slots for growth. 

  • If you have 2-4 servers with at least 1 piece of infrastructure (firewall or load balancer) you should probably go for the ½ rack to plan for expansion.  This will give you plenty of room for expansion, as with this type of setup quick expansion is typical.

  • If you have 6-10 servers with no infrastructure then a ½ rack will suffice.
  • If you have 6-10 servers with infrastructure a full rack is the way to go.

  • From here, we get into the big stuff.  Typically at this point you can foresee your growth, and you can plan accordingly.  If you need a full rack get one!  Don’t try to stuff everything into a ½ rack to save some money.  You will lose out a lot more in the long run.  Migration fees, relocation downtime, IP changes, and other issues that come with having to move for growth cost a lot more than the upgrade. 

 “What do I do when I start?”

So you have one server now, and you need to add a switch, or maybe add 2 more servers and move to a rack.  This is where the planning is most important.  Because to get this upgrade, you’re going to have to move anyway, so why not move to your final location first, instead of having to do the whole painful process again later? 

Another option instead of moving would be to setup an identical setup inside a private rack and configure it and move data over in the time your servers overlap, but then your paying for a month twice anyway. 

All in all, sometimes you can’t get the full setup right away, and that’s ok, but plan for the required steps of migration early.

Have a question?  Ask and yee’ shall receive (an answer =) `~ Geoff Pennington

What's in a Switch?

Geoff Pennington, Layered Tech             

Private Switches / Network Switches


I’d like to take a few minutes to cover the topic of Network Switches. This by no means covers all the options of our switching solutions, but if you know more about it than this, then you should be able to put together your infrastructure just fine. 


From our customers, we get everything from “What is a private switch?” to “How can it help my infrastructure?”  Hopefully below will answer both.


What is a Dumb Switch?

A “dumb switch” is used to describe the simple 8 port switch that does no high level routing, or security.  It is, in all actuality, just a dumb piece of hardware that works as a connection point; much like an outlet in your house does for electricity. 

  • Back-End Dumb Switch

  • What this switch will do is connect your servers on a back end network so you can setup a private network on internal IPs and communicate between your servers for free.  This is a great option for anyone running a huge database they want to keep off the public net, or maybe you just need the two servers to talk without running up your bandwidth.  This is the typical setup you will get if you do not specify otherwise when ordering servers and switches with Layered Technologies.

  • Front-End Dumb Switch

  • This type of switch will be placed in front of all your servers to serve as a single point of access to your solution.  A front-end switch will also act as a gateway for your bandwidth so all of your servers behind the switch will act as one big pool of bandwidth.  This option is selected by hosts who want to ensure that the unused BW of a single server can be used by another high traffic server, should the need arise.  This is also more secure, especially when paired with a firewall.

  • Combining Dumb Switches for Improved Performance?

  • With that in mind, do not think that you couldn’t combine the two.  You are more than welcome to setup a front-end switch to pool your bandwidth then setup a backend switch to access your database.  You can even choose to hook that database up to the front end or not. 

What is a Private Switch?

A private switch is a connection point for all of your servers on a rack — or in a particular order.  If you just place an order without specificying, we will set you up with a dumb switch, so you’ll be sharing that switch connection with others.  If you order 2 or more servers you can purchase your own private switch to connect your servers together and/or to simply improve your connection time. There are almost endless options when setting up a switch (ask any network architect), so once you get your chance to work with one this will make a bit more sense.


What is a Private Rack?

A Private Rack is a piece of hardware that is dedicated to your servers and your servers only.  The private rack comes with a private switch on the front end, and can be configured however you’d like on the network side.  The default is always a backend dumb switch.  You will need a private rack if you plan on growing beyond the 2 or 3 servers you have now, or you have a large infrastructure you want to set up.  The private rack is also great for guaranteeing you have space available when you grow.  As you know, it’s always a good idea to plan ahead!


I hope this sheds some light on the networking world and helps you in deciding how to setup your solution.  As always your comments are welcome, and if you have a question please let me know! 


Take care everyone.  Geoffrey Pennington


Have a topic you’d like covered?  Just let me know >>