Prepping for GDPR

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GDPR

On 25th May 2018 the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes in to force.

This tasty legal meal updates our Data Protection Act, and takes the protection of personal data to a new level.

This law brings data protection down to simplicity – a single set of rules for every organisation to follow.

And a single set of rules that members of the public can be aware of, to ensure that their personal information is being protected.

We like the GDPR.

It’s a simple set of rules that bring clarity and reassurance.

But even simple rules need to be prepared for.

So we are getting ready for GDPR.

Are you?

The non-compliance fines are eye-wateringly large.

Getting better connected

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Today is a big day for us.

We have moved to a new primary telecoms provider.

We’re going to keep the former provider as our backup, in case of emergencies.

But having two primary backbone telecoms providers servicing us here at astrahosting.co.uk, is a massive benefit for us to pass on to our customers.

This improvement is a significant step on our way to moving from Tier 2 to Tier 3 datacentre accreditation.

Yep, it’s a big day for us.

Consulting consultants

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I was on a phone call with Gartner yesterday.

Gartner, as you are probably aware, are the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company; possibly the largest firm of IT consultants on the planet.

Anyway.

I was talking to Gartner about them undertaking a review of our services.

They were enthused with what Astrahosting.co.uk are doing, and like the way we are doing it.

When I asked Gartner about the offsite backup protection that most companies have, they said their research shows that most small-medium employers either have no offsite protection, or have inadequate offsite protection.

So I asked what their research indicated was the recovery rate for most small-medium employers, after a break-in, or a fire, or some other disaster.

This was their response:

1 in 4 businesses never recover from a disaster
1 in 4 businesses never recover from a disaster

Chilling. And not in a good way.

Banking on a Bank Holiday

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Today is Monday, 2nd May 2016.

It’s the May Day Bank Holiday in the UK.

The British weather has done the usual May Bank Holiday trick of giving us four seasons in one day.

We’ve had sun, gales, rain, hail, and sleet.

All plans I had for taking one of the motorbikes out for a trip around the lovely British countryside have been abandoned.

The kitties have enjoyed a day of napping in front of a roaring log burner.

I too have spent much of the day in front of the roaring log burner, but I have been more productive than the snoozing kitties.

I have been working remotely on to the infrastructure in our datacentre; building an enhanced layer of technical and system monitoring for our private cloud hosting servers.

And then I wrote the ‘How does your private hosting work?’ page.

Then I did some online banking.

As I moved money between my savings accounts and current accounts, and paid a bill, I couldn’t help thinking how easily my bank’s mobile app has made my life.

I wish I could say the same about the British weather.

Security. Our concern. Every one of us

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On the one hand we are told (especially by David Cameron, PM), that encryption is a Very Bad Thing, and the less encryption we have, the better things will be (for the Government who wants access to all of our data).

On the other hand there are hundreds of thousands of people out there in the world who are trying to hack our systems for fun.

And there are a smaller number of people out there who, with much more determination and with many more powerful resources than the first group, are trying to hack our systems for money.

I use the word ‘our’ in those two paragraphs to show that the hacking targets for these people include every single individual, and every single business in the UK.

What can we do about this?

What can individuals or businesses do?

As individuals, we need to be careful.

Don’t use obvious passwords, and don’t use passwords that are easy to guess.

If you do have trouble remembering passwords, and the name of your cat is really all you can recall, then at least spell Tiddles’ name like TiDDl35! (see what I did there?)

And yes, you need to consider encrypting your hardware.

And if you are a business?

How do you protect your corporate self, and all of your data, and all of your customers’ data from theft?

And how do you protect your systems from being locked out, and being held to ransom?

Well, if you don’t have the time or the staff to roll out and manage a changing set of high-end encryption standards, then you let us do it for you.

Our hardware is bare metal encrypted.

Our systems are software encrypted.

And your data will be safe and secure if you use us as your Backup as a Service.

Updates, updates, updates

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Just as you, our customer, ensures that all of your software on all of your:

  • laptops
  • desktops
  • tablets
  • mobile phones
  • fileservers

is fully updated, and patched to the highest levels (you do this, don’t you?), we also ensure that everything in our infrastructure is fully protected.

How hard do we work at protecting our infrastructure?

Very hard.

In the full month of January 2016 (1st – 31st), we deployed 54 security updates/patches on our systems.

That’s not one patch deployed 54 times, those are 54 different patches/updated applied across our infrastructure.

Every operating system, every Office product, every piece of software that we use, and that you, our customers uses, must be the most up-to-date, most secure, most robust product that exists.

Because if it isn’t, then we have failed.

And we are not in the business of failing.

Switch it off and back on again

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At 01.30 we rebooted server c2.

The whole process of unmounting the virtual servers (VMs) and virtual functions, powering down the hosting server, powering up the hosting server and remounting all of the virtual functions took 118 seconds.

The downtime to our users, during these 118 seconds was nil.

But one of our customers has asked the question ‘Why do you switch it off and switch it back on again?’

This is quite a clever question.

In the hosting world, where we deal with physical servers and VMs, which are supercomputers when compared to the average high-spec desktop or laptop, we reboot our machines for a few reasons:

  1. to clear temporary functions out of the processing memory (out of the thinking space)
  2. to clear temporary files out of the hard disks (out of the storage space), and
  3. to ‘bed in’ software upgrades and patches to the physical servers and VMs

None of these reasons are unusual; they are ‘business as usual’ tasks that every organisation routinely carries out.

So that’s why.

We will reboot at least one of our servers at least once a week.

And we will continue to offer our users an uninterrupted service (even at 01.30) when we do it.

 

The beginning

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This is the first post in the astrahosting.co.uk blog.

I thought I should begin this blog by sharing with you the timeline that has got the company from concept to the point where we started trading.

In early January 2015, after 20 years of building and delivering datacentre projects for the public, for the private, and for the academic sectors, I decided I could deliver quality, inexpensive datacentre services to small and medium businesses. I began planning the infrastructure that I felt the planned astrahosting.co.uk Tier 2 datacentre needed to have. I wanted infrastructure that I, as a highly experienced IT professional would want a datacentre to have, if I was hunting around, with a view to buying these services.

In February 2015 I found the perfect premises for the datacentre. I began buying and installing the infrastructure (climate control, network, routers, server racks, servers, UPSs).

In March 2015 I prototyped the operating system, physical servers and virtual servers (which technical people call VMs). The prototyping helped me to improve the planned infrastructure, and update and improve my designs.

In April 2015 I began recruiting technical staff to support the company. We rebuilt the primary hosting servers, which included changing the operating system, and adopting a new control panel for our future users.

In May 2015 we streamlined the processes that we had developed to build the servers and the services that we wanted to offer. Instead of designing and building rigid, inflexible systems and procedures, we became agile in the design and deployment phases.

In June 2015 we started testing. We began testing the hardware to try and break it. We began testing the operating systems to try and break them. We began testing the VMs to try and break them. And we began testing our networks, to try and break them. We tried to break the way we built, the way we configured, and the way we handed our services and our servers over to our customers. And as we tested everything, we improved everything. And we continued to improve everything. We got better with every test.

By the time we got to October 2015 we couldn’t break anything any more.

In November 2015 we built our own backup & restore servers. Then we built real-time replication between our Production hosting servers and our backup hosting servers. This gave us high availability, so that we had failover from one set of servers to another. Then we spent two months testing these new services and new servers.

And that brings us up to Christmas 2015. We had nothing left to test. We were unable to find anything that we could break.

So we had a great holiday.

We decided that Monday 4th January 2016, fittingly, the first UK working day of the new year, would be the perfect day for astrahosting.co.uk to open the doors, and go live.

And that’s how we got astrahosting.co.uk from concept to ‘live’.