Author Archive: Kevin Hazard

April 23, 2012

Choosing a Cloud: Which Cloud Chooses You?

It's not easy to choose a cloud hosting provider.

In the first post of this series, we talked about the three key deciding factors every cloud customer has to consider, and we set up a Venn diagram to distinguish the surprisingly broad range of unique priorities customers can have:

Cloud Customer Zones

Because every customer will prioritize a cloud's cost, technology and hosting provider a little differently (for completely valid reasons), we mapped out seven distinct "zones" to differentiate some of the basic market segments, or "personas," of cloud hosting buyers. That post was intended to set the stage for a larger discussion on how customers choose their cloud providers and how cloud providers choose their customers, and we're just scratching the surface. We're tackling a pretty big topic here, so as Bill Cosby famously says, "I told you that story to tell you this one."

As a hosting provider, SoftLayer can't expect to be all things for all people. It's impossible to offer a quad-core hex-proc dedicated server for a price that will appeal to a customer in the market for a $49/mo dedicated server.

To better illustrate SoftLayer's vision in the cloud market, we need to take that generic cost v. technology v. hosting provider diagram and give it the "Three Bars" treatment:

SoftLayer Venn Diagram

We're much more interested in living and breathing the Zone 5 "Technology" space rather than the traditional Zone 2 "Hosting Provider" space. That's why in the past two months, you've seen announcements about our launch of the latest Intel Processors, HPC computing with NVidia GPUs, searchable OpenStack Object Storage, and an innovative "Flex Image" approach to bluring the lines between physical and virtual servers. We choose to pursue the cloud customers who make their buying decisions in Zone 3.

That's a challenging pursuit ... It's expensive to push the envelope in technology, customers primarily interested in technology/performance have demanding needs and expectations, and it's easier to make mistakes when you're breaking new ground. The majority of the hosting industry seems to have an eye on the buyer in Zone 1 because they believe the average hosting customer is only interested in the bottom line ... That hosting is more or less a commodity, so the focus should be on some unverifiable qualitative measure of support or the next big special that'll bring in new orders.

As you may have seen recently, GigaOm posted a lovely article that references several high-profile companies in our 25,000+ customer family. We like to say that SoftLayer builds the platform on which our customers build the future, and that short post speaks volumes about the validity of that statement. Our goal is to provide the most powerful, scalable and seamlessly integrated IT infrastructure for the most innovative companies in the world. Innovate or Die isn't just our company motto ... It's our hope for our customers, as well.

We might miss out on your business if you want a $49/mo dedicated server, but if you're looking to change the world, we've got you covered. :-)


April 20, 2012

Choosing a Cloud: Cost v. Technology v. Hosting Provider

If you had to order a new cloud server right now, how would choose it?

I've worked in the hosting industry for the better part of a decade, and I can safely say that I've either observed or been a part of the buying decision for a few thousand hosting customers — from small business owners getting a website online for the first time to established platforms that are now getting tens of millions of visits every day. While each of those purchasers had different requirements and priorities, I've noticed a few key deciding factors that are consistent in a all of those decisions:

The Hosting Decision

How much will the dedicated server or cloud computing instance cost? What configuration/technology do I need (or want)? Which hosting provider should I trust with my business?

Every website administrator of every site on the Internet has had to answer those three questions, and while they seem pretty straightforward, they end up overlapping, and the buying decision starts to get a little more complicated:

The Hosting Decision

The natural assumption is that everyone will choose a dedicated server or cloud computing instance that falls in the "sweet spot" where the three circles overlap, right? While that makes sense on paper, hosting decisions are not made in a vacuum, so you'll actually see completely valid hosting decisions targeting every spot on that graph.

Why would anyone choose an option that wouldn't fit in the sweet spot?

That's a great question, and it's a tough one to answer in broad strokes. Let's break the chart down into a few distinct zones to look at why a user would choose a server in each area:

The Hosting Decision

Zone 1

Buyers choosing a server in Zone 1 are easiest to understand: Their budget takes priority over everything else. They might want to host with a specific provider or have a certain kind of hardware, but their budget doesn't allow for either. Maybe they don't need their site to use the latest and greatest hardware or have it hosted anywhere in particular. Either way, they choose a cloud solely based on whether it fits their budget. After the initial buying decision, if another server needs to be ordered, they might become a Zone 4 buyer.

Zone 2

Just like Zone 1 buyers, Zone 2 buyers are a pretty simple bunch as well. If you're an IT administrator at a huge enterprise that does all of your hosting in-house, your buying decision is more or less made for you. It doesn't matter how much the solution costs, you have to choose an option in your data center, and while you might like a certain technology, you're going to get what's available. Enterprise users aren't the only people deciding to order a server in Zone 2, though ... It's where you see a lot of loyal customers who have the ability to move to another provider but prefer not to — whether it's because they want their next server to be in the same place as their current servers, they value the capabilities of a specific hosting provider (or they just like the witty, interesting blogs that hosting provider writes).

Zone 3

As with Zone 1 and Zone 2, when a zone doesn't have any overlapping areas, the explanation is pretty easy. In Zone 3, the buying decision is being made with a priority on technology. Buyers in this area don't care what it costs or where it's hosted ... They need the fastest, most powerful, most scalable infrastructure on the market. Similar to Zone 1 buyers, once Zone 3 buyers make their initial buying decision, they might shift to Zone 5 for their next server or cloud instance, but we'll get to that in a minute.

Zone 4

Now we're starting to overlap. In Zone 4, a customer will be loyal to a hosting provider as long as that loyalty doesn't take them out of their budget. This is a relatively common customer ... They'll try to compare options apples-to-apples, and they'll make their decision based on which hosting provider they like/trust most. As we mentioned above, if a Zone 1 buyer is adding another server to their initial server order, they'll likely look to add to their environment in one place to make it easier to manage and to get the best performance between the two servers.

Zone 5

Just like the transitional Zone 1 buyers, when Zone 3 buyers look to build on their environment, they'll probably become Zone 5 buyers. When your initial buying decision is based entirely on technology, it's unusual to reinvent the wheel when it comes to your next buying decision. While there are customers that will reevaluate their environment and choose a Zone 3 option irrespective of where their current infrastructure is hosted, it's less common. Zone 5 users love having he latest and greatest technology, and they value being able to manage it through one provider.

Zone 6

A Zone 6 buyer is usually a Zone 1 buyer that has specific technology needs. With all the options on the table, a Zone 6 buyer will choose the cloud environment that provides the latest technology or best performance for their budget, regardless of the hosting provider. As with Zone 1 and Zone 3 buyers, a Zone 6 buyer will probably become a Zone 7 buyer if they need to order another server.

Zone 7

Zone 7 buyers are in the sweet spot. They know the technology they want, they know the price they want to pay, and they know the host they want to use. They're able to value all three of their priorities equally, and they can choose an environment that meets all of their needs. After Zone 6 buyers order their first server(s), they're going to probably become Zone 7 buyers when it comes time for them to place their next order.

As you probably noticed, a lot of transitioning happens between an initial buying decision and a follow-up buying decision, so let's look at that quickly:

The Hosting Decision

Regardless of how you make your initial buying decision, when it's time for your next server or cloud computing instance, you have a new factor to take into account: You already have a cloud infrastructure at a hosting provider, so when it comes time to grow, you'll probably want to grow in the same place. Why? Moving between providers can be a pain, managing environments between several providers is more difficult, and if your servers have to work together, they're generally doing so across the public Internet, so you're not getting the best performance.

Where does SoftLayer fit in all of this? Well beyond being a hosting provider that buyers are choosing, we have to understand buyers are making their buying decisions, and we have to position our business to appeal to the right people with the right priorities. It's impossible to be all things for all people, so we have to choose where to invest our attention ... I'll leave that post for another day, though.

If you had to choose a zone that best describes how you made (or are currently making) your buying decision, which one would it be?


February 28, 2012

14 Questions Every Business Should Ask About Backups

Unfortunately, having "book knowledge" (or in this case "blog knowledge") about backups and applying that knowledge faithfully and regularly are not necessarily one and the same. Regardless of how many times you hear it or read it, if you aren't actively protecting your data, YOU SHOULD BE.

Here are a few questions to help you determine whether your data is endangered:

  1. Is your data backed up?
  2. How often is your data backed up?
  3. How often do you test your backups?
  4. Is your data backed up externally from your server?
  5. Are your backups in another data center?
  6. Are your backups in another city?
  7. Are your backups stored with a different provider?
  8. Do you have local backups?
  9. Are your backups backed up?
  10. How many people in your organization know where your backups are and how to restore them?
  11. What's the greatest amount of data you might lose in the event of a server crash before your next backup?
  12. What is the business impact of that data being lost?
  13. If your server were to crash and the hard drives were unrecoverable, how long would it take you to restore all of your data?
  14. What is the business impact of your data being lost or inaccessible for the length of time you answered in the last question?

We can all agree that the idea of backups and data protection is a great one, but when it comes to investing in that idea, some folks change their tune. While each of the above questions has a "good" answer when it comes to keeping your data safe, your business might not need "good" answers to all of them for your data to be backed up sufficiently. You should understand the value of your data to your business and invest in its protection accordingly.

For example, a million-dollar business running on a single server will probably value its backups more highly than a hobbyist with a blog she contributes to once every year and a half. The million-dollar business needs more "good" answers than the hobbyist, so the business should invest more in the protection of its data than the hobbyist.

If you haven't taken time to quantify the business impact of losing your primary data (questions 11-14), sit down with a pencil and paper and take time to thoughtfully answer those questions for your business. Are any of those answers surprising to you? Do they make you want to reevaluate your approach to backups or your investment in protecting your data?

The funny thing about backups is that you don't need them until you NEED them, and when you NEED them, you'll usually want to kick yourself if you don't have them.

Don't end up kicking yourself.


P.S. SoftLayer has a ton of amazing backup solutions but in the interested of making this post accessible and sharable, I won't go crazy linking to them throughout the post. The latest product release that got me thinking about this topic was the SoftLayer Object Storage launch, and if you're concerned about your answers to any of the above questions, object storage may be an economical way to easily get some more "good" answers.

February 23, 2012

How to Get the Best Customer Service (Anywhere)

Shelves of books have been written about providing great customer support, but I haven't seen many written about how to get great customer support. Lance wrote a quick guide called "The 8 Keys to Successful Tickets" in May 2007, but because there have been over 730 blog posts between that post and this post, I thought I might take a shot at the topic again without stealing too many of his ideas. When you work with a service-based company, you're probably going to interact with customer support representatives regularly. During these interactions, your experience will not be defined by your question or the issue you have. Instead, it will be defined by how you present your issue.

It can be extremely frustrating when a server goes down or a script isn't working the way it should. When something like this happens, my gut reaction is to get upset and throw my keyboard. I've also noticed that when I am angry, I have a difficult time trying to explain my problem to technical support. I know I'm not alone in that regard, so I tried to pinpoint the most important points to remember when contacting customer support. While some of the explanations below are more SoftLayer-specific, each of the tips below can be used in any situation where you need customer support.

  • Remember there's a human on the other end. It doesn't matter where the customer support representative is; they're human, and their responsibility is to help you. I don't have any empirical data, but human nature tells me it's easier to be nice to someone who is nice to you. Once you realize there's a person on the other end of the phone trying to do his/her job, it's a little easier to thank them in advance for their help. It may seem insignificant, but if you thank me in advance for my help, I'll subconsciously work harder in an effort to deserve that gratitude.
  • Don't assume your request will be ignored. I'm surprised by the number of people who start or end their e-mail with, "No one will probably see this, but ..." or "Not that anyone cares, but ..." Don't assume that you'll be ignored. That assumption just creates overarching negative tone; it isn't a "reverse psychology" play. The support process can be defined by the expectations you set for it, so get started on the right foot and expect that your questions will be answered and issues will be resolved.
  • Don't start with a threat. "If you don't do this, I'm going to report this to my bank and other authorities," or "If you don't respond within 25 seconds, you'll be hearing from my lawyer." It's not uncommon to hear things like this in the first message in a ticket. It's much easier to help someone who seems easy to help. Invoking lawyers does not make your ticket seem easy to address. :-)
  • Provide useful, descriptive and relevant information. This tip can be tough since it's hard to understand what information is "relevant," but think about it before you send a support request. If you are having trouble logging in, then "I can't log in. Any ideas?" is not quite as clear as "Whenever I try to log in, the login screen just reloads without an error message. I know my username and password are correct. Any ideas? Thanks." That extra information will help considerably and will reduce the number of back-and-forth e-mails between you and the support representative.
  • Don't write overly detailed, wordy support requests. The longer your e-mail, the more difficult it is to read, diagnose and to respond. A representative has to read the entire ticket to find what's meaningful and figure out exactly what's wrong. Since they're trying to help you, you want to reduce their burden. You want to make it as easy as possible for them to help you. So, be clear, concise and brief. If you've got a couple different issues for support to look at, break them out into individual tickets. Different issues may need to be addressed by different departments, so multiple issues in a single ticket can lead to delays in responding to specific issues in the ticket.
  • More Tickets ≠ More Support. The flip-side of the above recommendation is that you shouldn't create multiple support tickets for a single issue. While it seems like you're drawing more attention to the issue and creating a sense of urgency, you're really slowing down the support process. Support representatives might be addressing the same issue in parallel or information might be lost between tickets, elongating the time to resolution.
  • Escalate your tickets smartly. If you think a ticket should be handled differently or if you would like a supervisor to look into a specific issue, you should always feel free to request escalation to a manager or a supervisor. The best way to make that request is to update your open ticket, initiate a live chat or place a call into the technical support phone line. If you aren't satisfied with your support experience, then we aren't either, so we want to hear from you.

As you can see, the prescription is not too complicated: Prepare yourself to receive the best support and help us provide the best support, and you're much more likely to receive it.


February 13, 2012

Logic Challenge: SoftLayer Server Rack Riddle

After I spent a little time weaving together a story in response to SKinman's "Choose Your Own Adventure" puzzle (which you can read in the comments section), I was reminded of another famous logic puzzle that I came across a few years ago. Because it was begging to be SoftLayer-ized, I freshened it up to challenge our community.

In 1962, Life International magazine published a logic puzzle that was said to be so difficult that it could only be solved by two percent of the world's population. It's been attributed to Einstein, and apparently Lewis Carroll is given a claim to it as well, but regardless of the original author, it's a great brain workout.

If you haven't tried a puzzle like this before, don't get discouraged and go Googling for the answer. You're given every detail you need to answer the question at the end ... Take your time and think about how the components are interrelated. If you've solved this puzzle before, this iteration might only be light mental calisthenics, but with its new SoftLayer twist, it should still be fun:

Einstein's SoftLayer Riddle

The Scenario: You're in a SoftLayer data center. You walk up to a server rack and you see five servers in the top five slots on the rack. Each of the five servers has a distinct hard drive configuration, processor type, operating system, control panel (or absence thereof) and add-on storage. No two servers in this rack are the same in any of those aspects.

  • The CentOS6 operating system is being run on the Xeon 3230 server.
  • The Dual Xeon 5410 server is racked next to (immediately above or below) the server running the Red Hat 6 operating system.
  • The Dual Xeon 5610 server uses 50GB of CloudLayer Storage as its add-on storage.
  • The Quad Xeon 7550 server has no control panel.
  • The Cent OS 5 operating system is racked immediately below the server running the Red Hat 5 operating system.
  • The server using 80GB NAS add-on storage is racked next to (immediately above or below) the server with two 100GB SSD hard drives.
  • The server running the Red Hat 5 operating system uses Parallels Virtuozzo (3VPS) as a control panel.
  • The server running the Windows 2008 operating system has two 100GB SSD hard drives.
  • The server using Plesk 9 as a control panel is in the middle space in the five-server set in the rack.
  • The top server in the rack is the Dual Xeon 5410 server.
  • The Xeon 3450 server has two 147GB 10K RPM SA-SCSI hard drives.
  • The server using 20GB EVault as its add-on storage has one 250GB SATA II hard drive.
  • The server with four 600GB 15K RPM SA-SCSI hard drives is next to (immediately above or below) the server using 100GB iSCSI SAN add-on storage.
  • The server using cPanel as a control panel has two 2TB SATA II hard drives.
  • The server with four 600GB 15K RPM SA-SCSI hard drives is racked next to (immediately above or below) the server using Plesk 10 (Unlimited) as a control panel.
  • One server will use a brand new, soon-to-be-announced product offering as its add-on storage.

Question: What is the monthly cost of the server that will be using our super-secret new product offering for its add-on storage?

Use the SoftLayer Shopping Cart to come up with your answer. You can assume that the server has a base configuration (unless specifically noted in the clues above), that SoftLayer's promotions are not used, and that the least expensive version of the control panel is being used for any control panel with several price points. You won't be able to include the cost of the add-on storage (yet), so just provide the base configuration cost of that server in one of our US-based data centers with all of the specs you are given.

Bonus Question: If you ordered all five of those servers, how long would it take for them to be provisioned for you?

Submit your answers via comment, and we'll publish the comments in about a week so other people have a chance to answer it without the risk of scrolling down and seeing spoilers.


February 10, 2012

Amsterdam Data Center (AMS01): Does it Measure Up?

SoftLayer data centers are designed in a "pod" concept: Every facility in every location is laid out similarly, and you'll find the same network and server hardware connected to the same network. The idea behind it is that this design makes it easier for us to build out new locations quickly, we can have identical operational processes and procedures in each facility, and customers can expect the exact same hosting experience regardless of data center location. When you've got several data centers in one state, that uniformity is easy to execute. When you open facilities on opposite sides of the country, it seems a little more difficult. Open a facility in another country (and introduce the challenge of getting all of that uniformity across an ocean), and you're looking at a pretty daunting task.

Last month, I hopped on a plane from Houston to London to attend Cloud Expo Europe. Because I was more or less "in the neighborhood" of our newest data center in Amsterdam, I was able to take a short flight to The Netherlands to do some investigatory journalism ... err ... "to visit the AMS01 team."

Is AMS01 worthy of the SoftLayer name? ... How does it differ from our US facilities? ... Why is everything written in Dutch at the Amsterdam airport?

The answers to my hard-hitting questions were pretty clear: SoftLayer's Amsterdam facility is absolutely deserving of the SoftLayer name ... The only noticeable differences between AMS01 and DAL05 are the cities they're located in ... Everything's written in Dutch because the airport happens to be in The Netherlands, and people speak Dutch in The Netherlands (that last question didn't get incorporated into the video, but I thought you might be curious).

Nearly every aspect of the data center mirrors what you see in WDC, SEA, HOU, SJC and DAL. The only differences I really noticed were what the PDUs looked like, what kind of power adapter was used on the crash carts, and what language was used on the AMS facility's floor map. One of the most interesting observations: All of the servers and power strips on the racks used US power plugs ... This characteristic was particularly impressive to me because every gadget I brought with me seemed to need its own power converter to recharge.

When you see us talking about the facilities being "the same," that's not a loosely used general term ... We could pull a server from its rack in DAL05, buckle it into an airplane seat for a 10-hour flight, bring it to AMS01 (via any of the unique modes of Amsterdam transportation you saw at the beginning of the video), and slide it into a rack in Amsterdam where we could simply plug it in. It'd be back online and accessible over the public and private networks as though nothing changed ... Though with Flex Images making it so easy to replicate cloud and dedicated instances in any facility, you'll just have to take our word for it when it comes to the whole "send a server over to another data center on a plane" thing.

While I was visiting AMS01, Jonathan Wisler took a few minutes out of his day to give a full tour of the data center's server room, and we've got video and pictures to share with more shots of our beautiful servers in their European home. If there's anything in particular you want to see from AMS01, let us know, and we'll do our best to share it!


P.S. Shout out to the SLayers in the Amsterdam office who offered their linguistic expertise to add a little flair to the start of the video ... From the four employees who happened to be in the office when I was asking for help, we had six fluent-language contributions: English, Italian, French, Dutch, Polish and German!

**UPDATE** After posting this video, I learned that the "US" server power plugs I referred to are actually a worldwide computer standard called C13 (male) and C14 (female).

February 7, 2012

Social Media Exclusive: Bobblehead Bonus

SoftLayer has a unique culture. As SLayers, we get company-inspired tattoos, we outfit ourselves (and our families) in SoftLayer gear, we take part in goofy videos, and every now and then, someone gets a shower of 10,000 bouncy balls.

Our company culture is no accident; it has grown organically from the day SoftLayer was born, and the executive management team has been instrumental in showing that it's okay to have fun when you're at work ... and the company's phenomenal growth speaks to that philosophy's success. The latest example of tomfoolery came in the form of customized bobbleheads of many of members on the SoftLayer management team:

SoftLayer BobbleheadSoftLayer BobbleheadSoftLayer BobbleheadSoftLayer BobbleheadSoftLayer Bobblehead

Because we happened to have ten extra sets of these bobbleheads, we thought some of our customers might enjoy building a collection of their very own. If you places a new order in the next few months and you're one of the first ten SoftLayer customers to email your order information to the social media team at, we'll send you that month's "Bobblehead Bonus":

  • February 2012 - Lance Crosby, Chief Executive Officer
  • March 2012 - Tom Blair, Senior Vice President Global Sales
  • April 2012 - Nathan Day, Chief Scientist
  • May 2012 - Duke Skarda, Chief Technology Officer
  • June 2012 - Sam Flietman, Chief Operating Officer
  • July 2012 - George Karidis, Chief Strategy Offcier

To keep everyone on the same page, here are the "official rules":

  1. One Bobblehead Bonus per SoftLayer account per month.
  2. Order must be placed in the same month the bobblehead is requested.
  3. Bobblehead Bonus request email must be sent to and it must include your SoftLayer account number, order number and the shipping address you'd like us to use.
  4. The bobbleheads will be awarded on a first-emailed, first served basis.
  5. Only 10 bobbleheads are available each month.

If the set I have in my office window is any indication, having a complete SoftLayer bobblehead collection will make you the envy of all of your friends and coworkers. The idea behind this fun little giveaway is to reward you for being an engaged, loyal SoftLayer customer.

Let's be honest ... You've probably been on the fence about ordering a new cloud instance or dedicated server, so what more do you need to hear than "Free SoftLayer Bobblehead" to get you to pull the trigger?


P.S. We've also got a few bobbleheads earmarked for employees who contribute to the SoftLayer Blog. If you're a SLayer and you want your own set of bobbleheads, you better start writing!

February 3, 2012

Server Hardware "Show and Tell" at Cloud Expo Europe

Bringing server hardware to a "Cloud Expo" is like bringing a knife to a gun fight. Why would anyone care about hardware? Isn't "the cloud" a magical land where servers and data centers cease to exist and all that matters is that your hardware-abstracted hypervisor can scale elastically on demand?

You might be surprised how many attendees at Cloud Expo Europe expressed that sentiment in one way or another when SoftLayer showed up in London with the infamous Server Challenge last week. Based on many of the conversations I had with attendees, some of the most basic distinctions and characteristics of physical and virtual environments are widely misunderstood. Luckily, we had a nice little server rack to use as a visual while talking about how SoftLayer fits in (and stands out) when it comes to "the cloud."

When we didn't have a line of participants waiting to try their hand at our in-booth competition, we were able to use it to "show and tell" what a cloud hardware architecture might look like and what distinguishes SoftLayer from some of the other infrastructure providers in the industry. We're able to show our network-within-a-newtork topology, we explain the pod concept of our data centers and how that streamlines our operations, and we talk about our system automation and how that speeds up the provisioning of both physical and virtual environments. Long-term memory is aided by the use of multiple senses, so when each attendee can see and touch what they're hearing about in our booth, they have a much better chance to remember the conversation in the midst of dozens (if not hundreds) they have before and after they talk to us.

And by the time we finish using the Server Challenge as a visual, the attendee is usually ready to compete. As you probably noticed if you caught the Cloud Expo Europe album at, the competition was pretty intense. In fact, the winning time of 1:08.16 was set just about twenty minutes before the conference ended ... In the short video below, Phil presents the winner of the Cloud Expo Europe Server Challenge with his iPad 2 and asks for some insight about how he was able to pull off the victory:

Being the international debut of the Server Challenge, we were a bit nervous that the competition wouldn't have as much appeal as we've seen in the past, but given the response we received from attendees, it's pretty safe to say it's not the last time you'll see the Server Challenge abroad.

To all of the participants who competed last week, thanks for stopping by our booth, and we hope you're enjoying your "torch" (if you beat the 2:00.00 flashlight-winning time)!


December 15, 2011

Fighting SPAM and Abuse on a Global Network

For better or worse, one of the most engaging posts on the SoftLayer Blog is "We are a No-Spam Network," written by Jacob Linscott in June 2007. When it was posted, it celebrated a completely clear Spamhaus listing page – quite an accomplishment for a large hosting provider (for reasons I'll illustrate below). Since the post was published, it has become a hotbed of conversation about any and all abuse-related issues. Google "SoftLayer SPAM," and you'll see the post show up as the second result, so a lot of Internet passers-by will come across the post and use the comment section as a platform to share abuse-related concerns they have for us.

That engagement is a double-edge sword: It's good because we hear the concerns people have. It's bad because the post was meant to be a celebration of the continuous work that the abuse department does, and uninitiated visitors seem to consider it a unilateral claim that we've beaten spam once and for all. In the course of responding to comments on that post, I shared an analogy to convey what it's like to run abuse for a large hosting provider:


Let's say you're the security manager for a huge mall. This mall has 100,000 stores with people walking in and out 24x7x365. In this scenario, there are "good guys" and "bad guys" who walk into and out of the mall, and every person looks exactly the same. Some of those people are store owners while others are customers of those stores. As the security manager for the mall, you want to maintain the safest, most well-maintained mall in the world, so when you find bad guys walking in and out of your mall, you do everything you can to kick them out and keep them out. Sometimes those bad guys are store owners who attract and send the wrong crowd; sometimes they are bad guy customers of a good guy store owner.

How would you manage your mall? It's not possible to differentiate whether a store owner will be a good guy or a bad guy when they're applying to lease space in your mall, so you can't "keep the bad guys out" in that regard. You can't have a security team of 100,000 people monitoring what's happening in those 100,000 stores, much less have someone individually check the millions of visitors streaming in and out of the stores. What's a security manager to do?

If you look at how Las Vegas casinos address that concern, it's clear that your best bet is to install security cameras and have a team monitoring them all the time. You might not be able to watch everything at the same time, but you can document what's happening around your mall and respond if you notice something unusual (or if someone calls in to report that they've seen bad guys coming from a store in your mall).

That's the position we're in.

SoftLayer Abuse Team

SoftLayer's network is the mall, the stores are servers, the store owners are our customers (who are often responsible for several "stores"), and the good guys and bad guys are traffic into and out of the network. We try to differentiate good guys and bad guys, but even if we know that all good guys have purple eyes and all bad guys have neon green eyes, it's still difficult to look 26,000+ store owners in the eye every day as they're walking into and out of the mall.

We staff a team of people intent on clearing the bad guys from our mall, and we know that even though good guy store owners may inadvertently host their own bad guy customers, they want to remove those customers from their store as well, so they appreciate us helping them pinpoint those customers so they can be removed.

We keep an eye on our security cameras and get our security guards to the stores where bad guys are reported as quickly as possible. If no one reports that the people coming out of store #73,403 are all bad guys, it's hard for us to know that they aren't good guys ... Which is why we encourage anyone and everyone to report abuse-related concerns to so we can mobilize our security force.

As Edmund Burke once said, "When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle." Or more colloquially, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

Given that illustration, the abuse team deserves a LOT of credit for the work they do behind the scenes. They are constantly investigating reports and working with customers to get remove any and all content that violate SoftLayer's MSA, and too often, that can be a thankless job. Fighting abuse is an ongoing process, and while the nature of the beast might suggest the overall war will never be won, we're always getting faster and stronger, so the individual battles are easier and easier to win.


September 8, 2011

Boston Startup Scene - WebInnovatorsGroup

We love startups and entrepreneurship communities that help startups become successful. Startups are usually all about innovation and approaching existing problems in a new way ... And if you're familiar with SoftLayer's "Innovate or Die" motto, you know that we're cut from the same cloth. We've partnered with incubators like Tech Wildcatters to provide up-and-coming companies with a year of $1,000/mo hosting credits along with a little SoftLayer expertise sprinkled in for good measure, and we are happy to support community partners like non-profits and user groups where new ideas are born every day.

Given our commitment to the startup community, when we heard that a sponsorship opened up for the September 13 WebInnovatorsGroup quarterly meeting, we jumped on the chance to get involved. WebInno events are fueled by a long-standing community of Internet and mobile entrepreneurs founded by David Beisel, and while I could tell you everything I know about what they're doing in Boston, the best person to hear from is David himself:

Boston + Entrepreneurs + Technology + Beer ... It was a no-brainer for us to be a Gold Sponsor of WebInno31.

Visit to learn more about the WebInno community or head straight to the WebInno31 registration form to reserve your spot at Royal Sonesta Cambridge on Tuesday, September 13, at 6:30pm.


P.S. If you have a startup community or an ongoing event like WebInno that SoftLayer can be involved with, leave a comment on this blog or let us know on Twitter: @SoftLayer

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