Hi all,

After a crazy last 7 months which saw us move hundreds of sites behind the scenes to our new Phoenix facility, while simultaneously growing faster than ever (thank you!), we’ve fallen behind on some important projects. Plus, we’ve worked so many late hours, ‘Walkers’ have been telling us how terrible we look.

The Pause That Refreshes…

To that end, we’re mostly closing the front door to new clients until July 1st to allow us to catch up on projects & recharge our batteries. Keeping you & your sites happy is our highest priority, above even growing the company.

This pause won’t change anything for existing clients. We’ll still happily add whatever sites you need, and provide the same (hopefully) fantastic service you deserve. (The same applies to our web developer friends.)

For folk not yet hosting with us, if you have an existing site, and can hold off for a couple of months that would be wonderful. As we do all the work to migrate your site from your old host to us, they’re terribly time intensive, so pausing them is the easiest way to free up time. If you’re starting a brand new site, ping us through our contact page.

What we’ll be up to…

Here’s a partial list of the projects we’ll be working on:

  • Upgrading the TS web & mail server to SSD – 75% complete
    This will speed up our own sites, and make email syncing much faster – especially for webmail.
  • Roll out PHP 7.1 as an option – not yet started
    PHP 7.1 is about 7% faster than PHP 7.0. This will reduce the time it takes for our servers to do the work to build your pages. (That’s one piece of many that affect page load times.)
  • Improve our CDN – not yet started
    For our busiest sites, and those with heavy traffic in Europe, we’ll be rolling out a CDN server in Paris. And behind the scenes, we have some improvements planned to eliminate some quirks common to CDNs.
  • Implement a CPU pool for super-viral posts – 25% complete
    The goal is to make it so we can quickly bring in extra servers to help share the workload when a post goes so viral that it overwhelms the site’s normal server.
  • “Cold Spare” server – longer term project, but worthy of putting here
    This is a spare powered-off (“cold”) server that is cloned from the ‘real’ server to allow recovery more quickly than restoring from backups. (It’s effectively a third type of backup.)
  • Plus a whole lot of other behind the scenes improvements to make it easier to identify and block bozos, manage your sites, and keep things chugging along happily.

Remember, check our live status page if something ever seems wrong – bookmark it. It’s where we’ll post our hot takes about incidents and issues we see (not just ours), and items not worthy of a post.


We are hiring a junior to mid-range IT position. If you know a sharp, smart, geek with about 2-3 years of Linux experience, who is reliable, friendly, and (somewhat) patient, we’d love to talk with them. Preference is for someone in the Phoenix metro area, but remote is okay too.


Thanks so much for hosting with us!

-TS

 

 

Summary:

The TechSurgeons web & email server will be moved to our new facility March 9th, starting at 11PM Arizona time. Client sites will not be impacted by this move – just *.techsurgeons.com sites and services.

Estimated downtime is 4 hours. Status will be updated as we can at www2.techsurgeons.com and on Facebook.

If the email server move goes well, we may update the web servers and reboot them. Estimated downtime is 10 minutes each, and would affect client sites.


All the details:

We’ve been dissatisfied with the Phoenix facility we’ve colocated our servers at for a while. The original company we chose had been acquired, and the new company has not been performing. Which is why we’d been putting almost everyone on servers at our Quebec facility. (Which we still like for sites where most traffic goes to the UK/Europe.)

On October 7th, we started moving into our new Phoenix facility with all new servers. Since then, we’ve migrated over 350 sites from the old facility to the new Phoenix one, and an additional 100ish sites from Quebec.

All of these migrations have been done one at a time, by hand, completely behind the scenes to minimize any impact on you or your site’s visitors. While incredibly time consuming, it was more successful than we expected, with only a few sites having issues. (Early on, we kinda overloaded the network connection on a couple servers, and had to bump them from a gigabit connection to a ten gigabit connection.)

One of the advantages of the new facility is that we can add additional ISPs for network redundancy. Almost all sites now have multiple “phone numbers” split between two providers – “multi-homed” in geek speak. If someone tries to connect to a site on one, and it’s not working right, browsers are smart enough to try the second.
This has worked amazingly well, but confuses some monitoring tools (sorry Pingdom) which don’t know how to deal with “multi-homed” sites.

Now that all the production web sites have been moved, we’re down to the stuff that can’t be moved without downtime.

The primary goal for Thursday’s maintenance window is of our original infrastructure server. It’s been 711 days since that server has last been rebooted. That’s been too long, but we had a bad experience last time, and are wary of rebooting it unless we’re physically there. The poor thing has been a little flaky the last couple weeks, but we’ve been keeping it going until Thursday.

This server is responsible for:

  • mail.techsurgeons.com
  • webmail.techsurgeons.com
  • portal.techsurgeons.com
  • www.techsurgeons.com
  • support.techsurgeons.com

We will start the shutdown process at 11PM. It will take about 30 minutes to shut the server down and disassemble it. Then 30 minutes to drive it to the new facility. Once we get it there, figure 45 minutes to reassemble and mount it. And then something between 15 minutes and 2 hours for it to come back up.

Yes, we’ll drive carefully, have a fresh backup of the server, and have extra hardware on hand in case the server doesn’t come back up correctly. Those should mitigate the worst case scenarios. (In a future maintenance window, we’ll upgrade the server itself.)

During the downtime, mail destined for us should just queue up. The email protocol says that sending mail servers should retry sending mail for at least 3 days.

If the mail server move goes well, there’s some other maintenance we’d like to do, but nothing is as urgent.

Please understand that we won’t be very reachable during this time. We’ll put up a status page at the soon to be created www2.techsurgeons.com, and try to post updates on FB to keep folk informed.

Wish us luck!

-TS

Hi all,

We’ve updated all hosted sites with the NextGen Gallery plugin installed to the latest version. There was a significant security hole in older versions, which would have allowed an attacker to retrieve info from the site’s database.

More here: https://blog.sucuri.net/2017/02/sql-injection-vulnerability-nextgen-gallery-wordpress.html

-TS

 

 

Howdy all,

The latest update to Yoast SEO will break sites running on PHP 7.0 – our default version. We’ve (hopefully) disabled updates for that plugin by changing permissions on the folder to “read-only”.  As soon as we hear of a fix, we’ll change its permissions back, so it can be updated.

-TS

 

 

This is the first in a series of posts designed to help explain how computers and the Internet work in plain English. This series was inspired by our friend Mercedes M. Yardley.

Have you ever wondered how your web browser can find a website like Google automatically?

You can’t just key a name into your phone if they’re not a contact, your TV won’t find the latest episode of “Bones” automatically. (Yes, your Tivo/DVR might but they’re computers too.) How can your computer do it?

The answer is a near-magical background service called “DNS” (Domain Name Service). Its purpose is to save you from having to remember that www.techsurgeons.com is really 140.99.58.98. That number is called an “IP address.” (I’ll explain IP Addresses fully in a future post.)

So DNS is a Rolodex for keeping track of computers. Yes, sometimes us computer geeks do make things easier for everyone.

When DNS is broken, you’ll see an error similar to this:

DNS is elegantly simple in how it works.

Every domain (techsurgeons.com, abrokenlaptop.com, etc.) declares a few servers that definitively know the names and numbers for all the computers that belong to that domain. These are “authoritative name servers”. An authoritative name server can handle DNS for many domains.

A bunch of large Internet companies manage special servers to keep track of every domain and their respective authoritative name servers. These are “root name servers”.

For each root name server, there are thousands of authoritative name servers. Imagine the root name servers as the point of a pyramid and the authoritative name servers as the pyramid’s base.

That’s pretty much how the server side works. On to the client (your!) side.

Your ISP (usually your phone or cable company) manages servers for their clients to use for doing DNS lookups. Don’t worry, it’s a lot of trouble to try and track what sites you visit. Yes, your router (that device that connects your computers to the internet) might also run a DNS lookup server and if so, it would go between Steps 2 and 3 below.

Let’s go over what happens when you enter the name of a web site in your browser.

Step 1) You enter “techsurgeons.com” into your web browser.
Step 2) Your browser asks your computer if it knows our IP address. If so, you’re off and surfing.
Step 3) If not, your computer asks your ISP if they know it.
Step 4) If not, the ISP’s name server asks any root name server the name of our authoritative name server. It then gets the info from our authoritative name server and answers your computer’s query. In case you ask again, your ISP will save the info for a while.

So instead of everyone needing ginormous servers to keep track of every device on the Internet, this system allows for lots of little servers to pass each other only the information needed. The only big servers needed are the root name servers.

So what do you think, was that sufficiently educational without being too confusing? Your feedback will guide the depth of these articles.

And if there is anything you’d like us to write about, let us know.

-TS

DeGreekifying Technology

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I was talking with my friend Mercedes M. Yardley a few days ago about all the spam she receives and when I asked if her ISP used any tools to block some of it, she didn’t know and said that “computer talk is Greek to me”. Now she’s a brilliant author that could master Greek […]

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Welcome to the new Techsurgeons Site

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Thanks for taking the time to visit us. After helping many of our customers implement websites of their own, we figured that we should redo our archaic site.  The new site is pretty basic.  We’re using WordPress with the wonderful Thesis theme.  We chose WordPress and Thesis because we needed a simple solution, we’re far […]

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