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RapidSwitch Guides

Helpful guides to RapidSwitch products and services

1

What is colocation?

Colocation is a term used when you place your hardware in our datacentre, which we then provide power and a network connection for. if applicable, we can also provide other shared infrastructure features you require (vLANs, SAN storage and so forth).

2

How does it work?

In principle it’s very simple. We provide instructions on how to configure and where to send your appliance. Once it arrives we plug it in and cable it up, and then you’re away! For customers choosing to rent whole racks, you can arrive at the datacentre with your equipment and plug it into the rack yourself.

You can choose a variety of models to buy colocation, depending on what suits your requirements.

  1. Colocate individual appliances on a ‘per U’ basis, with individual power allocations for each.
  2. Colocate a group of appliances and we can tailor a deal based on size requirements and power draw.
  3. Rent a fixed amount of rack space and power from us, and place whatever devices you like in that space, up to the allocated power.
3

What are the benefits?

If you own perfectly good hardware, it doesn’t always make sense to rent from a service provider. You can colocate any device in our datacentres – routers, switches, SANs, firewalls, load balancers – absolutely anything, and as the hardware is yours, you can remove it at any time.

You may also want to mix colocated devices with dedicated appliances from us – for example, if you have bespoke satellite receivers that you want to provide yourself, you could colocate those but attach them to dedicated servers.

4

What are the drawbacks?

As the hardware is owned by you, we won’t replace any of the components in the event of a failure. Therefore that means you either buy spare components from us, or come and swap out any faulty parts.

It’s almost always more expensive to colocate hardware, as we have flexible pricing models where you can pay large upfront fees and reduce the monthly bill, so there are no real commercial benefits unless you want to have a very unique piece of hardware that we’re unable to buy for you (due to exclusivity on a purchasing agreement, for example).

5

How do I get started?

Just get in touch with us to let us know what you’d like to collocate with us and we’ll provide a quote. If you’re happy, we’ll turn that into an order and you can bring your appliances to the datacentre or send them to us.

Discuss Your Requirements
1

What is dedicated hosting?

A dedicated hosting platform is one where we provide all the hardware and give you, and only you, complete access to the platform to configure as you wish.

This could be an individual server, it could be a cluster of servers behind a firewall or load balancer, or it could be a private cloud environment.

The responsibility of the hardware is ours. We own it, we will replace any components or systems that break, and we will ensure it is up and running at all times.

2

How does it work?

You can buy servers from our website, or you can contact us for a more complex or bespoke solution.

We then give you prices for the hardware, we build the hardware for you and install the base operating systems (or you can install your own), perform the initial deployment and then give you full administrative access to the servers.

We won't then store those details (unless we are asked to, to provide a managed service), so the platform is restricted to just you.

3

What are the benefits?

The major benefit when compared to colocation is not having to worry about any components if they fail. We maintain spares of all components and systems on-site and will replace them immediately.

The second benefit is cost and flexibility. There are three main ways to pay for dedicated hosting:

  1. You can rent hardware for a small amount of time and have the flexibility of cancelling when it’s no longer needed, or
  2. You can commit to a longer contract term to reduce the rental fee, or
  3. You can pay a setup fee upfront and reduce the rental fee but still maintain the flexibility of being able to cancel.
4

What are the downsides?

Unless you own your own hardware, in which case colocation may make more sense financially, there aren’t any downsides in choosing dedicated hosting for your business.

5

What hosting do I need?

If you’re not sure what you need then please do contact us. Alternatively, you can build your system on our website or get in touch with a list of bespoke requirements and we will provide a quotation for you.

If you want to take advantage of a long term contract or bespoke setup fee to reduce the monthly fee, please also get in touch with our team. We’d be more than happy to help.

Discuss Your Requirements
1

What is a public cloud?

This is a complex question and if you’d like more detail we can provide links to a series of online presentations that explain what cloud hosting is, but in basic terms it is a cluster of servers that run virtual machines.

As a customer, you have access to your virtual machines, but you don’t have any control or awareness of the underlying hardware. This can be a good, or a bad thing!

2

How does it work?

Public clouds work in many ways and can be built to completely different specifications. We would say that no two clouds are the same, so it is impossible to compare service providers -one provider could build an environment using very old hardware, another provider using new hardware, yet both providers would sell ‘vCPU, vRAM, and disk space’. How can they be compared, and why are they sold at very different prices? This can be very confusing.

For this reason, we don’t put our public cloud prices on our website. We have built a ‘true and proper’ public cloud and would rather take the time explaining why our cloud has been built to give you all the key features that a cloud should have, such as:

  • No single points of failure within the platform
  • Complete high-availability for all cloud servers, guaranteeing maximum uptime
  • Enterprise grade, powerful hardware used throughout
  • Built-in automation for controlling your cloud servers
  • Completely VMware based; the market leader for virtualisation and cloud platforms; a proven software platform that can be relied upon
3

What are the benefits?

A public cloud, which is a true high-availability platform with no single point of failure, will almost certainly be a choice for many customers that do not want to build such a platform but do want maximum uptime from their servers.

The main benefit is that the platform is completely managed by the service provider, and if you have discussed how the platform has been built, it should provide complete confidence in its ability to deliver maximum uptime for your servers.

The decision on when to use a public cloud versus a private cloud is based on economies of scale. At the point at which a customer has a growing number of cloud servers, it makes more economic sense to build their own private cloud environment.

4

What are the drawbacks?

Public clouds are a shared environment. This means that customers that need flexibility and the ability to build custom environments may be restricted in what they can do, as they do not have access to the underlying hardware.

As with all shared environments, it is possible that if the service provider is not closely monitoring the activity on the platform, that some users may disrupt the performance of the platform for others.

The final point, which customers are becoming increasingly aware of, is that the performance and capability of the platform depends on the competency of the service provider. As it is a shared environment, you need to either put your trust in the service provider to have built a reliable platform, or find out a significant amount of detail on how it was built and perform your own diligence and analysis.

5

What is the RapidSwitch public cloud?

Our public cloud is a large cluster of servers that are attached to multiple SANs. Our SANs are replicated across multiple sites, so it can be used as a complete DR solution.

We only use high-end hardware, with latest generation servers from HP and Dell, and storage comes from EMC.

Switch gear and back end connectivity is fiberchannel throughout. External connectivity comes from multiple 10Gb connections.

Security is provided by Cisco ASA devices as well as our own internal monitoring suite, which detects any malicious traffic coming into, or trying to leave the platform.

The environment is closely monitored 24x7x365 by a dedicated infrastructure team that are all VMware VCP certified.

Our platform can provide hosting for PCI-DSS compliant environments, G-Cloud customers, IL accredited platforms, and the access and systems are fully ISO 27001 and 9001 accredited.

Users of our public cloud are business only, and there is no contention for resources on the platform.

In short, it is a premium platform.

6

How can I get started?

All customers wishing to use our public cloud platform should contact us for more information and for us to setup your dedicated control panel with access to the platform.

1

What is a private cloud?

A private cloud platform consists of servers that run virtual servers, often attached to shared storage (such as a SAN). The whole of the hardware is entirely dedicated to you, and you have full admin access to all of the hardware. You can control the hardware as well as the virtual machines.

This differs from a public cloud, where customers would have no access to the underlying hardware. In a private cloud, customers can dictate the specification of the hardware and have full admin access to it.

2

How does it work?

A private cloud is NOT a complex environment. You simply choose:

  1. Your server specification. This is something we can assist with.
  2. Your choice of hypervisor. Again, we can assist with this.
  3. Your storage requirements. Of course, we can assist with this also!

Once we have that information we will provide a variety of options for you, even a demo of the control panels available for using VMware’s ESXi (vCenter) and Microsoft’s Hyper-V (System Centre), and give full quotations.

Once you choose your platform we will build it, install the hypervisor, configure the platform and let you start creating your own cloud servers.

3

What are the benefits?

A private cloud is by far the most popular hosting platform available because it offers the potential for maximum uptime, control over costs, and complete administrative control over the hardware.

Once you have a growing requirement for virtual machines, a private cloud is the best commercial option. By having dedicated hardware it reduces costs and there is still the flexibility of being able to scale up and scale out on demand.

There is also no tie-in to a specific virtualisation vendor. Start with VMware but move to Hyper-V or OpenStack at your leisure – the platform is yours to administer and control however you wish.

4

What are the drawbacks?

There are no drawbacks from a private cloud for the vast majority of customers. Unfortunately the marketing surrounding clouds makes understanding the difference between public and private clouds confusing, and service providers always want customers to use their shared environment to improve their own profitability!

The most common objections are:

  1. Thinking it is difficult to manage your own virtualised environment. It isn’t, and the software provided by virtualisation vendors is making it easier all the time.
  2. Being locked into the hardware. This doesn’t have to be the case – by using servers on a 30 day notice period for cancellation and our shared SAN infrastructure, you can have as much flexibility with the hardware on a private cloud as a single dedicated server.
  3. Thinking the environment can’t scale. This is a misconception and misunderstanding of what a cloud is. A public cloud is simply a private cloud but shared by different people. Public clouds are no more scalable than private clouds and vice versa.
  4. "Paying for what you use" is possible with a public cloud. This is true – but in reality it only suits a very small number of applications. How many of your servers can be turned off completely and are only needed for an hour at a time? Very few applications have these needs, and the ones that do will often not make up the whole of your business The idea of scalability and only paying for resource is also a misconception – it will often be more costly to scale on a public cloud than within a private cloud.
5

How can I get started?

Contact us if you’re not sure about your requirements and want to learn more about private cloud solutions and how they work. We can also provide a demo at our datacentre and show not just the control panels, but the physical infrastructure behind ‘a cloud’ as well.

If you already know what you need then please get in touch and we’d be delighted to quote for your own private cloud solution.

1

What is a switch?

A switch is a network device that receives traffic coming into your server and sends traffic out from your server. It will sit in front of your infrastructure and all hosting providers will have one or many switches in front of your servers.

2

Dedicated or shared?

The majority of customers will be connected to a shared switch, where other customers are also connected to it. This is standard practice and there are no significant drawbacks to it, but there are also situations where it will be better to have your own switch:

  1. When you want to create a private network between multiple servers. Instead of running vLANs across our network, you may want to plug all servers into your own switch
  2. If you wish to bond network ports together (for added resilience, or sometimes capacity) then your own switch is the best way of doing this, together with configuring the NICs on your servers
  3. To run your own clustered environment with dedicated switchgear
  4. In order to completely segregate your hosting environment from the rest of the hosting provider’s network, so that you are completely unaffected by anything else happening in the network (for example, a DDoS attack)

Option d is often what is provided for clients having their own rack, but can also be provided for clients that want to completely segregate themselves from others on the network and have their own dedicated connections to our core routers.

3

What switches can you provide?

We can provide a variety of switches, from gigabit to 10Gb, iSCSI and fiberchannel capable. If you’d like any more information about switches or networking setup, please feel free to contact a member of our team.

1

What is a firewall?

Firewalls are devices that go infront of your infrastructure and provide protection for your hosting environment. The rest of your environment then plugs into the firewall, either directly or via switches.

2

How does it work?

The device often comes with a proprietary operating system and enables the end user to control a number of things, namely:

  • Who can access the environment (specific IPs, users etc)
  • Where the environment can be accessed from (secure VPN tunnels, specific IPs etc)
  • Blocking access to others (from specific users to whole IP ranges of countries)
  • Preventing access to specific services (by closing network ports to prevent third parties scanning your network for backdoors and loopholes)
3

What are the benefits?

A dedicated firewall provides complete control over your environment, in one place. Instead of running software firewalls on every single server, you can control all your security from one device. This is particularly useful when running multiple servers or having security policies setup for a whole organization.

4

What are the drawbacks?

As a firewall sits in front of your infrastructure and all traffic going to and from your infrastructure needs to pass through it, it becomes a very important piece in your environment. As a result it is often worth having a pair of firewalls for maximum uptime, in the case that one may fail.

5

Should I get a dedicated appliance or used a shared firewall?

Many hosting companies run shared firewalls in front of their infrastructure and provide users with a control panel that plugs into the firewall to allow some level of customization of security. This is generally a more affordable option for the end user and creates a lot of profit for the hosting provider.

However, due to the limitations of the control that end users have over the platform, it can restrict the ability of the end user to tailor security profiles to their own needs. In addition it places a lot of onus on the hosting provider to be able to respond and manage an issue. Further, some hosting providers don’t run their firewalls in pairs, and so if the firewall goes down for any reason, it will bring down all customers connected to it.

6

Will a firewall protect against DDoS?

No, a firewall will not protect against a DDoS attack. Quite simply, the firewalls available are not able to cater for enough traffic or have sufficient power to process all the packets of information that a DDoS attack would send. For more information on how to protect against DDoS attacks, please contact a member of our team.

7

What firewalls do you provide?

We can supply any range of firewalls from the Cisco line up, the most common being the ever-popular Cisco 5505 through to a pair of Cisco 5515-X devices. For enterprise customers we can provide the larger firewalls as well.

1

What is a SAN?

A SAN is a storage device. In simple terms it is a box of hard drives that is connected to by other servers that (often) do not have disks in themselves.

2

How does it work?

Inside a server, hard drives are connected to the motherboard via a cable (or to a RAID controller via a cable). A SAN is connected to a server via a cable, so the storage for the server is simply outside of the server.

3

What are the benefits?

A SAN allows multiple servers to connect to it, meaning that all the servers can share the same data. It’s like having the same hard drive shared across multiple physical servers.

As a result of this, it means that if you had one server crash, another server can still be accessible in order to retrieve the data on the SAN. This is important for hosting environments that require maximum uptime. One of the other major benefits is that a SAN is designed purely to be a storage device, so every component in it is designed to maximize the performance and reliability of your data.

4

What are the drawbacks?

As all your data is on one device, it can be problematic if the SAN failed. This is why SANs are built with a lot of internal protection against failure, as the vendors know that the device is crucial to any environment.

5

Should I have a dedicated SAN or use your shared SAN?

There are multiple considerations to this question:

  1. Do you need complete control over the whole SAN? Some requirements may demand this, in which case there is no option but to have a dedicated SAN.
  2. Do you need a lot of storage? Our SAN is a very high-end SAN so the cost per GB will be higher than a low end SAN, which may be more suitable to very large storage requirements.
  3. Do you want the flexibility of a short term commitment? Our shared SAN space can be taken out for short term projects, whereas a dedicated SAN almost always involved a 36 month commitment due to the cost of the infrastructure.
  4. Do you need complete customization of the infrastructure? Our SAN offers multiple storage speeds but you may need to completely customize your own environment, in which case a dedicated option is the best choce.
6

What SANs can you provide?

We supply and support SANs from EMC, Dell (including Equallogic and Compellent), NetApp, HP, and PureStorage. If you’d like to know more about our SAN offerings please feel free to contact a member of the team.

1

What is a load balancer?

A load balancer is a device that sits in front of your hosting environment and receives all traffic from external sources. It then distributes the traffic across multiple servers, so that your servers are not overloaded and/or in the event of one of your servers failing, traffic is automatically redirected to other servers.

2

How does It work?

The load balancer receives all traffic and then, using rules that are configured on it, decides where to send traffic according to traffic type or how it should distribute load (e.g. 50/50 between 2 servers, or send all secure https traffic to one server and http traffic to another).

3

What are the benefits?

A load balancer will assist with very busy environments as it can distribute network load between multiple devices, meaning that servers or applications that get overwhelmed with a lot of traffic can cope during peak times. In addition it offers resilience against failure, as if a device fails then it will intelligently route traffic to another device in your cluster without end users noticing downtime.

4

What are the drawbacks?

As a load balancer sits in front of your infrastructure and all traffic going to and from your infrastructure needs to pass through it, it becomes a very important piece in your environment. As a result it is often worth having a pair of load balancers for maximum uptime, in the case that one may fail.

In addition, adding a load balancer to a environment will split traffic down different paths. Sometimes, particularly with multiple databases in an environment, data can become out of sync (if data being written to a database down path A is not being mirrored for traffic going down path B). This can mean that more complexity is introduced into the setup as it becomes necessary to synchronise data across multiple databases.

5

Should I get a dedicated appliance or used a shared load balancer?

Many hosting companies run shared load balancers in front of their infrastructure and provide users with a control panel that plugs into the load balancer to allow some level of customization for the end user. This is generally a more affordable option for the end user and creates a lot of profit for the hosting provider.

However, due to the limitations of the control that end users have over the platform, it can restrict the ability of the end user to tailor specific load balancing profiles to their own needs. In addition it places a lot of onus on the hosting provider to be able to respond and manage an issue. Further, some hosting providers don’t run their load balancers in pairs, and so if the load balancer goes down for any reason, it will bring down all customers connected to it. If you’d like more information about how to load balance your environment please feel free to contact a member of our team.

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I feel that I have to congratulate you on the following: 1. Fast setup 2. An excellent control panel, informative and user friendly 3. A perfect setup for the server with all the right settings that allowed me to install and setup yum repositories and webmin/virtualmin in under 15 minutes!

Promitheas Christofides