Published by Angelo Livanos on Sep 21 2015
Cloud computing has significantly impacted the way we do business. No longer do companies need to outlay large amounts of money investing in in-house server equipment.
But that being said, poorly managed cloud resources can quickly add up if you are not aware of all the bits and pieces you are paying for.
Below are a few things to keep in mind when reviewing your cloud setup.
Pay as you go
This, in most cases is a standard feature but always worth checking with your provider, you should only pay for what you are using, If your server is only running for 2 days a month, your bill should reflect that. Customers who are running test and development environments could potentailly slash their bills significantly by powering down servers that do not always need to be on (also ensure your provider offers storage that persists while a server is switched off).
What currency will you be billed in?
This may not seem like a big deal but in todays economic climate, currency conversion can really sting. While writing this blog, $1000 of servers procured from a US provider charging in USD would work out to cost me $1395 AUD!. Where possbile, look for a provider who can bill you in your local currency to ensure you dont get hit with infinitly variable bill shock.
Backups are important to any DR strategy, but how many do you need? the reason i ask you to consider this is becuase backups consume space which you will be billed accordingly for by your provider. There is no simple single answer to this question but as an example, if the data on your servers is mostly read-only and not frequently changed, a daily backup with 7 retention copies may be considered overkill.
Gone are the days of buying a physical 1TB HDD that over time you plan to fill. The great thing about on-demand cloud is that you can provision resources as you need them. As an example, if you believe that over a year you will be progressivly storing up to 1TB of data, you could consider simply adding 100GB addtional storage volumes only as you need them, this means you are not paying for unused capacity untill you need it.
Ninefold are here to help
We are here to do our part to help manage your cloud costs. For the rest of September, we are offering new customers a 30% discount off your invoices with us for the rest of 2015! Click here to get started.
Published by Ninefold Alumni on Sep 4 2015
Cloud technology is everywhere, we see it pop up 50 times a day in our LinkedIn feed alone, I thought it would be good to actually take a step back and unpick some of the cloud computing jargon we hear daily. What does it all actually mean?
I like to keep things simple, so let me try to simplify the tangle of definitions currently floating out there.
Iaas, Saas and Paas
Well, here’s a confusing one to begin with! Why Iaas over Paas? Why Saas over Iaas? Do we all understand the difference? Maybe, maybe not. Here’s my interpretation, for what it’s worth.
IaaS is ‘Infrastructure as a Service’. It means we at Ninefold provide an infrastructure to you, the customer, as an ongoing service and not as a one-off hardware purchase. OPEX versus CAPEX for you accountants out there. That infrastructure includes data storage, CPU, memory and networking. However, what a self-service cloud like Ninefold means is that this is all available through a user interface where the customer has instant access to provision and configure the infrastructure instantly.
PaaS is 'Platform as a Service’. This is similar but not quite the same as IaaS as it is still about providing a virtual cloud computing infrastructure. PaaS differs by having a software layer on top of the IaaS as an intermediary between the customer and the infrastructure itself. Therefore, although the software may make some tasks easier, it may lack the flexibility that comes with direct access.
SaaS is 'Software as a Service’. This is a further step above Iaas and PaaS where you use software that happens to be powered by the cloud and is accessible online. Salesforce is a great example of SaaS.
Public, Private and Hybrid clouds
Public cloud computing is where you run a virtual infrastructure entirely through an external cloud provider like Ninefold. This would be a typical scenario for startups or people who have fully migrated their data centres into the cloud.
Private cloud is where a cloud computing environment is run internally on your own hardware infrastructure. This can often be as simply as running KVM, VMware or Citrix Xenserver to configure your infrastructure to offer cloud flexibility to your internal IT department.
A hybrid cloud leverages both private and public cloud.
As customer accounts at Ninefold are kept entirely separate and all virtual resources are dedicated (ie; are not impacted by the activities of other users), there is often very little benefit to a private cloud but plenty of additional hardware expense. We might call it public cloud computing, but it’s still virtually (pun intended) as private as your traditional server infrastructure.
Horizontal and vertical cloud compute
This really can be simplified as the difference between the number of cloud servers you’re running compared to how powerful these servers are. If you have ten web servers and you need to accommodate a period of heavy traffic, then you may want to add another ten servers to your server farm to deal with this increased demand. This is horizontal scaling. However, if you decide to scale the size - and therefore the memory and CPU of those servers - from 2GB to 4GB, then this is vertical scaling. Ninefold enables you to do both. Of course, you can also scale down the resources you use once demand dies down. You could shutdown the ten VMs and keep them on standby or decease the vCPUs and memory on each server. This can be done via our API or using our UI interface.
Cloud bursting is a term often thrown around that I particularly like. This is really the gem in the crown for cloud computing in my opinion.
Remember you only pay for what you use. Imagine this: it’s nearly Christmas and you sell customised Christmas cards. Your busy period is unlikey to be January, but December is likely to be a mad rush. You need compute resources to deal with increased customer demand in the weeks up to Christmas but for the other ten months of the year you won’t need anywhere nearly the same level of resources. A more efficient way is to burst into the cloud. Cloud bursting enables you to spin up, manually or automatically, cloud compute resources to cover your busy period and then once this period is over simply power down or completely remove the compute instances.
You can spin up on demand and only be charged for the period you ran the servers. It can be as little as an hour or as much as a year.
Cloud Compute versus VPS
VPS stands for virtual private server. A VPS runs on compute hardware with allocated resources, shared or explicit. Sometimes a VPS server can run on one dedicated physical server. It can be configured with high availability but doesn’t always allow you to easily manage your compute resources. So VPS is similar to cloud computing, but not as scalable or flexible.
Cloud compute gathers a large number of resources, compute, network, storage etc and presents this to the end user so they can leverage the entire service to scale and provision quickly using either a user interface or an API. Cloud compute runs on large and powerful clusters, configured with redundancy and high availability as standard, enabling virtualisation of compute assets on demand over the internet.
This is similar to cloud bursting, but is really for the dedicated cloud user or cloud junkie. Cloud storming is when you leverage a number of different cloud service offerings for your own compute environment.
Why would one do this? Benefits such as redundancy, reduced latency in different geographical locations, or to be in a relevant operating time zone.
These are just some of the most common terms and I’m sure some of you may disagree on my definitions. Let me know what bits of cloud jargon I’ve missed or offer your alternative definitions in the comments below.
Published by Angelo Livanos on Aug 7 2015
In the Beginning
When Ninefold first launched in 2011 we provided multiple methods customers could use to get in touch with our support team, these were Phone, Email and a Ticketing system which was common for many tech service providers at the time. For the most part this worked really well, on an average day the team would receive new cases via a 60/40 split of tickets and phone calls which would be actioned and managed accordingly.
So why change what was working? a system was in place that could quite easily be left as-is. In previous roles I have been in, these methods were considered tried and tested and few were keen to deviate from this. At Ninefold we wanted more from our customer experience, a quicker way to engage with our clients both reactively and proactively.
Enter live chat
At this time website live chat modules were relatively new to the mainstream market, they were often quite unstable, had limited customisation options did not provide great functionality for either the customer or the support operations team (think reporting etc.). After trialling a few solutions we landed on LiveChat which is developed by https://livechatinc.com/, since then the Livechat team have been really great in listening to our feedback as they further developed their product.
With this new channel implemented we noticed a few things:
Firstly, we found a dramatic shift away from our support/sales phone number, the feedback from customers was that the chat window was easier to initiate, staff provided quick responses + from a troubleshooting perspective customers were now able to supply error outputs and other crucial information which was not possible via a phone call. Feedback from our staff was that they enjoyed the closer relationships they were now building with our clients, often customers would pop online just to say hi which was very rewarding.
Secondly, from a customer acquisition standpoint we found an influx of sales based enquiries come through on our homepage that we were previously not being contacted about, new prospects who may just be browsing or doing some research that were not inclined to call a sales phone to get an answer to perhaps a really small and simple question. Many of these chats were being initiated on the signup form for our site, having livechat embedded here allows our staff to now answer and overcome any queries that may have stopped a customer from proceeding due to uncertainty.
A terrible business buzzword, but in all honesty, like all support teams, we needed a way to measure that this new support method is working. We could look at the number of chats we are taking or even the amount of time customers need to wait before getting an operator (which we do monitor) but we landed on 2 key metrics.
1) As a simple temperature check we enabled a thumbs up/down rating which customers can interact with during each chat. This helps us identify any support quality issues quickly.
2) At the end of each chat every customer is invited to participate in a survey which is designed to determine our NPS (Net Promoter Score), there are countless articles on the methodology of NPS but essentially it seeks to find out if customers would recommend you to others + if their issue or question was resolved.
We have found that the introduction of LiveChat has provided excellent growth in customer satisfaction and we are always tweaking our implementation do even better.
Tips on getting started
- Shop around, there are many platforms available to suite different applications.
- Consider where you would like to put a chat window, look at your site analytics to determine where users are spending the most time and build chat triggers around these pages.
- Think about the times you want chat to be available as this may impact your rostering
- Ask for a demo of the interface your support team will be using, you want something easy to use and ideally cross platform.
- Ensure your have the staff bandwidth to man this extra channel or considering bringing on a dedicated agent.
- Review your staff tone of voice when operating in chat, you want all staff to have a unified approach, this is important as they are the frontline of your product/service.
Published by Angelo Livanos on Jun 18 2015
Does bad support make you mad? It makes us mad! Our friendly support team treats customers the way they would want to be treated.
Since our inception in 2011 we have worked hard ensure our customers have a great time using our product and that if they ever need to reach out to support, they are greeted by a friendly and knowledgeable team.
Our secret sauce is the people we hire, it’s more than just a long list of qualifications, it’s about personality and passion. Our team come from technical customer service backgrounds and each individual is empowered to provide the best service they can with the many tools at their disposal.
Over the past 6 months we have undertaken several projects to help our support team serve you better, these include:
Tighter integration between our portal, infrastructure and CRM which means our staff get a fuller picture of a customer during each interaction.
Streamlining of the ticketing process including improvements to alerting, escalation and the introduction of ticket priority categorisation.
An overhauled service status page for improved incident management (status.ninefold.com)
New documentation to assist both new and existing customers (help.ninefold.com)
Introduction of NPS (Net Promoter Score) to gauge customer satisfaction and help keep our finger on the pulse.
Over the past 3 months our support team have achieved an NPS score of 63 which is considered world class in the IT/Telecoms space (Go team!) and represents the hard work our team put in each and every day.
We continue listening to our customers and investing in product, UX and process improvements. Make an impact, send us your ideas for improvements to email@example.com .
Angelo Livanos - Ninefold Support Team Lead
Published by Ninefold Alumni on May 11 2015
Unless you have been living on under a rock, on Mars with headphones on you will probably know that the number of available public IPv4 addresses is getting critically low. This has been coming for some time now so it should be no surprise.
The group responsible for public IPv4 allocation in Australia (APNIC) implemented their final /8 policy on the 15th of April 2011. A /8 range has over 16 million possible IP addresses, which might seem like heaps however there are so many devices that can connect to the internet these days that even these final 16 million addresses may run out quite quickly.
The ‘Final /8 Policy’ that APNIC implemented last year means that all new and existing APNIC account holders are only available to receive a maximum /22 from their final /8 block. A /22 range will give a total of 1024 public addresses…. not many really.
For companies that have a legitimate need for public IPv4 addresses (like Ninefold) only being able to get a single /22 from APNIC (which we did many months ago) means that there are only a few options for us.
Option 1: Move to IPv6. This is on the cards, we received our first /48 range from APNIC a while back and are developing an IPv6 plan at this moment.
Current best practices are to break up a /48 into /64 chunks. This means we have 2^16 subnets, or 65,536 individual subnets. Each subnet could then have 2^64 hosts per subnet, that’s this number 184,467,440,737,095,516,16. Impressive.
Option 2: Request more IPv4 from a service provider. Being part of Macquarie Telecom has its benefits. We can easily get more IPv4 addresses from them without much fuss. However sooner or later they will also run out and the IPv6 option comes into play.
There is one final option that I found out about a while back. There are a few companies springing up which deal in transferring IPv4 addresses between companies for a price. This came about a few years ago when Microsoft paid Nortel $7.5 million for around 660,000 IPv4 addresses. That’s about $11 per IP address. So based on that, there are a few websites where you can logon and apply for blocks of IPv4 addresses for a price.
Just for fun I went through the process of seeing how many addresses I could get and how much it would cost. I requested a /18, that’s 16,384 IP addresses. The price? Just a mild $163,840. That’s $10 an IP address. Microsoft paid $11 so I guess I got a bargain.
This is bad news for smaller ISP and new companies coming online. A /22 from APNIC won’t last long for an ISP. This means they will need to be IPv6 from the start, which may be difficult since not all service providers are supporting it just yet.
For anyone who needs bulk IPv4 addresses the ‘black market’ isn’t really a feasible option. Some of the bigger Telco’s in Australia still have plenty of addresses left to go around for a number of years so there is no need to panic.
IPv6 is here and ready to go, we just need some of the bigger ISPs in Australia to pick up the slack and get it running.