Web Hosting Industry

This tutorial describes how to install the Dell OMSA (OpenManage Server Administrator) on Citrix XenServer 6.5.

Note: Citrix has spent long hours quality testing their packages.  The method below downloads packages directly from the CentOS-Base repository. While the following method has worked just fine in our lab, we ask you to proceed with caution.

Step 1:
Temporarily disable the Citrix yum repository.  As of this post, Citrix’s repo does not seem to be working properly.

To do so, let’s temporarily move the Citrix.repo file out of the /etc/yum.repos.d folder.
Alternatively, you can also disable the repo within the file itself.

mv /etc/yum.repos.d/Citrix.repo /root/Citrix.repo

Step 2:
Run the following:

yum clean all

Step 3:
Install the Dell OMSA Repository:

wget -q -O – http://linux.dell.com/repo/hardware/Linux_Repository_14.12.00/bootstrap.cgi | bash

Step 4:
Install Dell OpenManage Server Administrator

yum –enablerepo=base install srvadmin-all

Step 5:
Open port 1311 in iptables

nano /etc/sysconfig/iptables

Now add the following line above the second-to-last line that mentions icmp-host-prohibited:

-A RH-Firewall-1-INPUT -m state –state NEW -m tcp -p tcp –dport 1311 -j ACCEPT

Step 6:
Restart iptables

service iptables restart

Step 7:
Start Dell OpenManage Server Administrator

/opt/dell/srvadmin/sbin/srvadmin-services.sh start

Step 8:
Move the Citrix.repo file back to the original location:

mv /root/Citrix.repo /etc/yum.repos.d

Step 9:
You can now access OMSA via your browser: https://Your.IP.Address.Here:1311


If you’ve tried to change the DNS Nameservers on your XenServer machine and are wondering why it keeps reverting back to its previous setting, you’re not alone.  In this blog we lay out the steps on how to properly change your DNS settings in XenServer.

You’ll want to log onto your machine via XenCenter or via console and go to the Local Command Shell:

Local Command Shell

2.  Now you’ll want to run xe pif-list
Take note of the uuid of your management interface.
3.  Now you’ll want to run the xe pif-reconfigure-ip uuid=youruuid mode=static IP=ipaddresshere netmask=subnetmask gateway=yourgateway DNS=dnsserver1,dnsserver2
Press enter and you’re set 🙂

Reconfigure XenServer DNS Nameservers

To begin installation of XenServer you’ll want download the latest Citrix XenServer Install CD, any supplemental packs, and XenCenter.  You may have to login to download the ISO files.  We recommend using PowerISO or any other burning utility that can verify your disc.

To install Citrix XenServer, there are a few requirements that must be met.  Your server must include at least 2GB of RAM.  The processor must be a minimum of 1.5GHz, and support virtualization (Intel® VT or AMD-V™ required for support of Windows guests).    You may want to review the XenServer System Requirements.  Our test machine for this how-to is a Dell PowerEdge 1950.  Before installation begins, you should enable virtualization within your BIOS.

1.  Begin by booting your computer and entering BIOS.  On our machine that is the F2 key:Dell PowerEdge 1950 XenServer Install

2.  Move to the applicable category, CPU Information in our case:Dell PowerEdge 1950 CPU Information

3.  Enable Virtualization Technology:Enable Virtualization Technology

4.  Save and Reboot.  Ensure your disc in the drive and make sure you boot from your CD drive.  If your server doesn’t have a cd/dvd drive, you may have to use an external drive.

When you boot from the CD, you should reach the XenServer installation screen. Press Enter once you reach the screen below to continue with installation.XenServer Installation Screen
5.  You should reach the screen asking you to choose your keymap.  Choose your keyboard layout and continue… in our case, [qwerty] us

6.  The next screen will ask if you need to load a device driver.  Since we are using a Dell PERC card, it isn’t required in our case. Click OK and continue.

7. Read the EULA and continue

8.  Choose the disk you would like to use for your Virtual Machine Storage and click OK to continue.

NOTE:  If your drive/volume is larger than 2TB, then you will have to create a partition that is less than 2TB for the XenServer hypervisor.  If you are using RAID 10 and a PERC card (as we have before), Dell’s PERC Configuration tool does not allow for 2 separate RAID 10 partitions.  Since Dell’s PERC Card is a rebranded LSI card, you can create the 2 separate partitions using LSI’s MegaRAID software.  If you are using a PERC 5/i or 6/i you can download it under the LSI MegaRAID SAS 8408E Adapter.  or here: LSI MegaRAID Storage Manager for Windows XenServer Install Virtual Machine Storage

9.  Choose your Installation Source.  In our case, we are using a CD so we choose Local Media.XenServer Installation Source

10.  It will now ask you if you would like to install any supplemental packs.  If you plan on installing any Linux VMs, it is a good idea to install the Linux Supplemental Packs.  There are also other supplemental packs that you can install.  For example, Dell has OpenManage software that can be and installed easily using the OpenManage supplemental pack. We will choose Yes at this screen since we are installing the Linux Supplemental Pack.XenServer Supplemental Packs

11.  It now asks us to verify the installation source.  This is highly recommended to ensure a proper install.Verify Installation Source

It will begin by verifying your XenServer installation disc:
Verifying XenServer Installation SourceThe next page will display if there were any issues with verification.  If verification was successful you may continue, otherwise you may to try burning your disc again.

12. Choose a root password for your server.  This is the password used when connecting to the XenServer host from XenCenter.

13.  Choose which ethernet card you would like to designate for managing your server.  Since our ethernet cord is plugged into the first ethernet port on our Dell server we will choose eth0.  Eth1 shows no link because there is nothing connected to the second ethernet port on the server.  Your server may only show one interface if you have only one card.Host Management Interface

14.  Choose DHCP or enter your Static IP information:
XenServer IP Address

15.  Continue by choosing a hostname.  Unless you chose DHCP, you will also be asked to enter to your DNS Nameservers.

16.  Choose the geographical area your server is in, and then select the City.

17. Next you will be asked to enter the time or choose an NTP server.  I recommend using NTP. I recommend the following NTP servers:

18.  Install XenServer:Install XenServer
19.  Now that the installation has completed, it asks for any supplemental packs. Now would be a good time to insert your Linux Supplemental pack and press OK:
Insert Supplemental Pack

20.  We recommend verifying your installation source in order to test the media. (It will provide the MD5 hashes once you click verify, go ahead and continue)
Verify Linux Pack

21.  Once verification has completed, go ahead and Use the pack and install.

22.  Once install has completed, you can choose to install more supplemental packs or select Skip and it will complete installation:XenServer Install Complete

23.  Once your server has booted you should reach the following screen:

XenServer Configuration Screen

24.  Open XenCenter on your desktop and Add your new server.  Type in your server’s IP, Username: root and the password you chose.

Add Server to XenCenter

For almost three decades now, the conventional wisdom about Macs and viruses has been simple: They don’t get them. Viruses are made for PCs, they say, which means Macs aren’t vulnerable to them. And whenever the latest virus scare goes cycling through the PC world, my fellow Mac users and I can relax, if not outright throw our heads back and laugh.

That may be about to change.

If Macs don’t get many viruses, it’s not because they’re magically or systemically immune; it’s because virus coders usually target the bullseye, the most vulnerable, most populous demographic, in order to give their viruses the widest spread. Historically, that’s meant targeting Windows, which in the past, has had not only many more vulnerabilities, but a much wider audience.

However, two key trends are on the move right now. One, PC users are migrating to Windows 7, which is intrinsically much stronger than its predecessors. Two, OS X is starting to capture a wider and wider market share. Those two factors combined may, very soon, make OS X a more appealing target for coders who want to do harm.

Of course, in no way does that mean “jump ship.” What it means is “be proactive, and be ready.” Outfit your Mac with a professional-caliber virus security program, if you haven’t already, and surf the Web carefully and responsibly. All the usual rules of thumb for minimizing risk still apply; stay away from the Internet’s bad neighborhoods, don’t open spam (especially not attachments), block pop-ups except from sites you trust, and so on.

PC users have dealt with virus threats since the days of floppy disks and dial-up. Should the need arise, Mac users can too.

Ryan Graff

Host Duplex would like to welcome its newest blog contributor, Ryan Graff.

Since earning his degree in film studies, with a minor in writing, Ryan has spent the last ten years working as an editor, writer, filmmaker, video game designer, and, briefly, mental ward receptionist. He has written several screenplays, including the award-winning fantasy Skyhammer, and recently worked as original writer and designer on Konami’s Vandal Hearts: Flames of Judgment. When not at his day job, where he edits text for a game publisher, he works freelance as a script doctor and video editor.

As a member of the Host Duplex blog team, Ryan will work closely together with the core staff to help explore and explain a variety of topics in the web hosting industry. More to come soon!

We talked earlier about the importance of redundancy. Naturally, an equally critical concern is security, both of the data itself and the servers that host it. After all, if you choose the wrong web hosting provider, your e-commerce site might end up stored in their basement or garage.

Host Duplex spares no expense when it comes to protection. Steadfast‘s Chicago data center houses the majority of our servers in the Equinix building, renowned throughout the industry as a fortress to be reckoned with. (Just getting into the building requires a background check, for starters.) There, each server has two power supplies, each with its own feed, battery backup, and diesel generator capable of running each machine for hours. Beyond even that, Steadfast has a contract with a local fuel provider to bring in extra diesel fuel immediately should any major outage ever occur. Not to be outdone, we have our own large stock of parts stored at our facility, ready to remedy any hardware issues at a moment’s notice.

On the software side of the occasion, our automated monitoring system keeps a constant watch for exploits, vulnerabilities, and any suspicious behavior, keeping our live staff alert around the clock. Our management service, should a client choose to make use of it, also installs and configures the client’s firewalls, while at the same time optimizing server performance, running updates, and performing weekly checks across all systems. (Clients always have the option of installing and configuring their own firewalls, of course.)

Together with some of the industry’s brightest minds and strongest facilities, Host Duplex ensures that your data is as safe and rock-solid as it possibly can be.

When you hear the words “customer service,” what comes to mind? Most likely, frustration. Too often, paying customers run up against convoluted voicemail systems, long wait times, and, if they’re patient and lucky enough, disinterested phone reps who may or may not care about the issue, may or may not be able to fix it, and may or may not speak their language.

That’s not to say that there aren’t good customer service reps. There most certainly are. Unfortunately, it’s the negative experiences that tend to stick in our memories more than the smooth and positive ones. Good businesses are aware of that, and take steps to ensure that every interaction with a client goes as smoothly as possible.

Needless to say, that goes double for the business of web hosting, where time is measured in milliseconds, and every millisecond of down time is a potential drain on a client’s income. A paying client deserves stability and security, but more than that, he or she deserves to know that, should any issues ever arise, customer service will be on the job at once.

How It’s Done

To ensure that the dozens, hundreds, or thousands of active clients all receive the attention they deserve, a worthwhile provider uses both live, 24-hour technicians and a system of automated monitors. The automated system keeps constant watch, always on the lookout for anomalies of any kind; should one ever occur, the system notifies the live techs at once with a chain of alerts and notifications. With this system in place, a client rarely has to call in at all.

Treating the Client Right

On those occasions when a client does call in an issue, there are certain expectations of professional courtesy that every rep and technician should meet. A worthwhile web hosting provider treats each client with respect, not only as a paying customer and as an individual, but as someone who’s entrusted a part of their livelihood, sometimes a critical part, to the provider’s care. Whatever the issue might be, a web hosting provider’s customer service and tech support departments have the professional and ethical obligation to guide the client toward a solution, and to do it in a friendly, approachable manner.

In a perfect world, we’d all associate customer service not with frustration and disappointment, but with hardworking, courteous professionals who’d help us out right when we need it most. For now, what we can do — right here in this business, where customer service is crucial — is work toward that ideal by setting an example every day.

When choosing a web hosting provider, it’s tempting to go with the cheapest possible option. After all, why pay anywhere from $10 to $40+ a month when you can pay five bucks or less?

Well, several reasons.

Since the early days of the internet, fly-by-night providers — and even a few of the larger, more established ones — have been offering ridiculously low prices, often packaged together with impossibly lofty promises (check out the earlier entry on “unlimited” bandwidth). Before signing on with that kind of deal, here are a few things to consider:

What Rock-Bottom Prices Really Mean

  • A provider’s hardware budget comes, in large part, from their hosting fees, or lack thereof. A provider who charges pocket change isn’t likely to have much more than pocket change for maintenance, upgrades, or overhead. It’s not uncommon for budget providers to host their clients’ sites on ramshackle custom-built machines, machines that often fail, without enough redundancy in place to keep their clients’ sites up when they do go down. It goes without saying that even a few hours’ down time can cost an e-commerce site hundreds, thousands, or more in lost business — much more than they “save” on hosting fees, and that’s if a few hours is all it takes for the site to come back.
  • On a related note, a provider who skimps on hardware isn’t likely to spend much on customer service either. When it comes to e-commerce, tech support has to be decisive, effective, and immediate — and more than that, a paying client has the right to know that it will be. Sadly, there’s an entire genre of stories about poor customer service, much of it online. A fly-by-night provider might take hours, even days or longer, to answer back, and may or may not be able to solve the problem. In the worst cases — they’ve been rare, but they do happen — entire websites have been lost.

Bargain-bin rates are certainly eye-catching, and they may appeal to your pocketbook, but be aware of those long-term costs, and always read the fine print.

When you invest a little extra, you’re investing in better hardware, ongoing upgrades, higher security, capable customer service, and, above all, reliability. What it all adds up to is peace of mind, and that’s something more valuable than any discount.

Hello all.

I wanted to step in and provide some advice (while trying to be as unbiased as possible, of course) for those of you shopping for web hosting providers.

While there are hundreds of hosting providers out there, there are many areas you should research when it comes to your next hosting purchase. I’ve personally read and heard hundreds of horror stories. Believe me, asking questions and taking your time will save you hours (sometimes days) of time and effort, not to mention headaches.

I listed some topics and questions to ask and think about when making a decision on your next web hosting provider. These are especially important if you’re generating income from your site.

1. Background
What type of technical background do their employees have? Are they a legitimate company? Have they incorporated? Are their employees in-house or do they outsource? Ask questions. Call them, email them, chat with them.

2. How long have they been around?
You would be shocked at the number of fly-by-night operations around. Hosting companies come and go more often than you can imagine. Horror stories about them are scattered all over the internet, stories so bad that they’re almost unbelievable. Some of the clients we’ve brought in were burned in the past by those same companies, and burned badly. In the worst cases, the companies lost all their clients’ data, which is especially heartbreaking since several of them depended on their websites for their sole source of income.

3. What do their clients (past and current) say about them? Read reviews.
Google is your friend. Search forums. Do they have a Facebook page? Read testimonials.

While doing your research on reviews, be wary of fake review sites. There are many of them. I’d avoid the ones that display “Top 10 Hosting Companies” on their homepage, etc. Many of our competitors like to create their own hosting review sites, and consistently rank themselves at the top.

4. What is the average response time to support questions? (Experienced techs are key!)
Response time is important. You don’t want to be waiting until the next day to hear back. Resolution time is more important. There are companies who boast about a quick response time, but what good is that going to do if the issue is prolonged and hasn’t been resolved? This is where it pays to go with a company with knowledgeable techs.

5. How many clients are on each server? What is the average load on the server?
I’ve seen companies pack as many as 5,000 clients into a shared environment onto one machine. Yes, it may be a fast server, but any more than a few hundred small sites is asking for trouble. I like to call these companies “shared jam operations.” You’ll see this with providers who offer plans at <$5 per month. Things may be great at first, but as they pack on more clients, you’ll quickly notice the performance decline.

6. Where is their datacenter?
The geographic location itself isn’t always important, but are they in a legitimate datacenter and not in their own basement?

7. Do they provide network redundancy?
Who are their network carriers?
Note: As a heads up, be wary of ones that use Cogent as a primary carrier.

8. Power redundancy?
Ask for more details; how far do they go to ensure constant power? A battery backup from Best Buy won’t do anything to keep your site online. How often do they test their generators? Have they been performing maintenance and replacing the batteries in their UPS (Uninterruptible power supply) systems?

9. Hardware Redundancy?
Do they offer RAID? If you’re not familiar, RAID provides protection against the failure of a hard drive.

What types of hard drives do they use? Are they consumer grade drives or enterprise grade? While performance between some consumer grade and enterprise grade drives are nearly the same, consumer grade drives have a much higher failure rate, and you’d be surprised at the number of providers using them. Enterprise drives are thoroughly tested and built with better components.

10. What type of technology do they use? (Control Panel, Virtualization Technology)
Does it include 1-click installation of popular apps/software?

Everyone is going to sell you on their control panel. It may not be the most important factor. IMHO as long as it is very secure, easy to use, and does not affect performance, you should be fine. cPanel is the most widely-used control panel in the hosting industry today, and it has been for years. We use them because it is the most tested and secure system available. Plesk is another very reputable control panel company.

If you are purchasing a VPS or going with cloud services, be sure to read up on their virtualization technology. Some systems are built much better than others, but all have their pros and cons. A VPS is much better than being on a shared platform, and all of these technologies provide isolation from other clients in one form or the other. We chose XenServer technology because it provides the most isolation of anything available today. IMO, it’s even better than dedicated servers because of its scalability. You can dedicate more CPUs, RAM, and/or hard drive space, all on demand.

11. What type of scripting/programming languages does your site require?
If you are having your site designed, be sure to ask your developer what programming language they are using. Is it PHP, ASP, ColdFusion etc? If you are using ASP, you’ll want to be hosted on a Windows platform. (There are some providers that have managed to provide ASP using Linux, but I wouldn’t recommended it.)

12. Feature set
What features do you require? WebMail, email forwarders, 1-click installs? Be sure to ask the host if it is included in their packages.

13. Bandwidth and Disk Space
In the last 5 to 7 years, there has been an ugly trend in the hosting industry. Many companies are now using the terms Bandwidth and Disk Space simply for marketing. The average shopper looks at the numbers. Most will ask, “How much disk space am I provided with?” “How much bandwidth?” A number of companies advertise 1TB of disk space, 3TB or even worse, “Unlimited Disk Space, Unlimited Bandwidth. All for less than $10/month.” Think for a second; is that possible? If it were true, Facebook would be on this $10/month plan. Clearly, it’s not. It’s all about numbers.

Once you go above a certain threshold with a provider, it’s very likely you’ll be suspended — or sometimes even terminated — for either too much CPU usage or resources. Read the fine print. Many companies state that if you use 10% of the server’s resources, you may be suspended or terminated immediately. IMO, if you plan on expanding, you should avoid these “unlimited” plans altogether.

Hopefully, these questions will help your decision making.

We pride ourselves on service, support, and provide personal attention. (Yes, I know it sounds cliché, but read our reviews, and check our Facebook page; it’s true.)

If have questions about about us or hosting in general, please feel free to contact us anytime 24/7 by phone. 312-957-6000 or call us toll-free 877.7.DUPLEX

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