Posts Tagged 'Support'

November 11, 2011

UNIX Sysadmin Boot Camp: Passwords

It's been a while since our last UNIX Sysadmin Boot Camp ... Are you still with me? Have you kept up with your sysadmin exercises? Are you starting to get comfortable with SSH, bash and your logs? Good. Now I have an important message for you:

Your password isn't good enough.

Yeah, that's a pretty general statement, but it's shocking how many people are perfectly fine with a six- or eight-character password made up of lowercase letters. Your approach to server passwords should be twofold: Stick with it and Be organized.

Remembering a 21-character password like ^@#*!sgsDAtg5t#ghb%!^ may seem daunting, but you really don't have to remember it. For a server, secure passwords are just as vital as any other form of security. You need to get in the habit of documenting every username and password you use and what they apply to. For the sake of everything holy, keep that information in a safe place. Folding it up and shoving it in your socks is not advised (See: blisters).

Want to make your approach to password security even better? Change your passwords every few months, and make sure you and at least one other trusted colleague or friend knows where to find them. You're dealing with sensitive material, but you can never guarantee that you will be available to respond to a server-based emergency. In these cases, your friends and co-workers end up scrambling through bookshelves and computer files to find any trace of useful information.

Having been one of the abovementioned co-workers in this situation, I can attest that it is nearly impossible to convince customer service that you are indeed a representative of the company having no verification information or passwords to provide.

Coming soon: Now you've got some of the basics, what about the not-so-basics? I'll start drafting some slightly more advanced tips for the slightly more advanced administrator. If you have any topics you'd like us to cover, don't hesitate to let us know in a comment below.

-Ryan

October 21, 2011

SoftLayer, The Texas Rangers & The World Series

At the beginning of the baseball season, we gave away tickets for a lucky customer to see a Texas Rangers game, and as a result of that generosity, the Rangers thought it fitting to make it to the World Series. Well ... our little giveaway may not have had anything to do with their success, but we like to think our support helped a little.

Understanding that we have customers and employees who are die-hard St. Louis Cardinals fans, I don't want to turn anyone off with this blog post, but with all of the buzz in the air about the World Series coming back to Arlington this year, I started thinking about the Top 10 Ways SoftLayer is Like the Texas Rangers:

  1. Secret handshakes / fist bumps.
  2. Have a no "I" in "Team" mentality ... In fact, there are no I's in "Texas Rangers" or "SoftLayer."
  3. Teams' leaders (i.e. coach and the CEO) are ... um ... charismatic (to say the least).
  4. Come ready to play on any day that ends in "y."
  5. Strong lineups all the way through.
  6. Texas is home, but both teams do amazing jobs "on the road."
  7. Both have Michaels who like pink.*
  8. Both have Louisville Slugger bats ... The Rangers' bats do great things, while SoftLayer's bats are given to recognize employees that have done great things.
  9. Support is awesome from the customers (fans) to the back office to the team on the field making plays.
  10. Champions of the World, baby!!**

* Apologies to Michael Young, as this statement may not be true as applied to him. Each of my blogs to date has a veiled (or obvious) reference to our CFO, and it was very difficult to think of how to incorporate this reference in a blog dealing with the Texas Rangers, so I may have taken undue liberties for which I apologize.

** The aspirations associated with that last comparison may have strayed me from an unbiased comparison. :-)

-@badvizsla

October 11, 2011

Working on the SoftLayer Dev Team

This post is somewhat of a continuation of a post I made here a little over three years ago: What It's Like to be a Data Center Technician. My career at SoftLayer has been a great journey. We have gone from four thousand customers at the time of my last post to over twenty five thousand, and it's funny to look back at my previous post where I mentioned how SoftLayer Data Center Technicians can perform the job of three different departments in any given ticket ... Well I managed to find another department where I have to include all of the previous jobs plus one!

Recently I took on a new position on the Development Support team. My job is to make sure our customers' and employees' interaction with development is a good one. As my previous post stated, working at SoftLayer in general can be pretty crazy, and the development team is no exception. We work on and release code frequently to keep up with our customers' and employees' demands, and that is where my team comes in.

We schedule and coordinate all of our portal code updates and perform front-line support for any development issues that can be addressed without the necessity for code changes. Our team will jump on and fix everything from the layout of your portal to why your bandwidth graphs aren't showing.

Our largest project as of late is completely new portal (https://beta.softlayer.com/) for our customers. It is the culmination of everything our customers have requested in their management interface, and we really appreciate the feedback we've gotten in our forums, tickets and when we've met customers in person. If you haven't taken the portal beta for a spin yet, take a few minutes to check it out!

SoftLayer Portal

The transition from exclusively providing customer support to supporting both customers and employees has been phenomenal. I've been able to address a lot of the issues I came across when I was a CSA, and the results have been everything I have expected and more. SoftLayer is a well-oiled machine now, and with our global expansion, solid procedures and execution is absolutely necessary. Our customers expect flawless performance, and we strive to deliver it on a daily basis.

One of the old funny tag lines we used was, "Do it faster, Do it better, Do it in Private," and with our latest developments, we'd be remiss if we didn't add, "Do it Worldwide," in there somewhere. If there's anything I can do to help make your customer experience better from a dev standpoint, please let me know!

-Romeo

October 4, 2011

The Sun Never Sets on SoftLayer

We've always set our sights globally at SoftLayer and this week we've certainly achieved some key milestones. With our data center in Singapore going LIVE, we now have a "digital gateway" for providing our unique cloud, dedicated, and managed hosting solutions to the Asia-Pacific region.

What is even more remarkable is the speed at which we are deploying our new international data centers. In only a few months, all the meticulous planning, logistics and execution were done and customers could place orders. And we're not slowing down. The trajectory path we're on has us expanding faster and farther than we ever thought possible.

Next month we're opening a new data center in Amsterdam, along with network Points of Presence (PoPs) in Amsterdam, London and Frankfurt. Each of these facilities is built and maintained by SoftLayer, and that organic growth is a huge differentiator. We didn't go out and acquire a company to expand our capabilities, and because we're doing the work on the ground, we're able to guarantee the most consistent, best possible service. Every data center - whether it's Singapore or San Jose - is exactly the same. Because of that consistency, our customers don't have to worry about whether the services in the new facilities meet their expectations, and based on the phenomenal provisioning statistics we saw on day one in Singapore, they aren't hesitating to order more.

International Expansion: Currency

Because our global expansion enables us to perform even better for the SoftLayer customers located outside of North America, we wanted to make it easier for those customers to do business with us. As of 8:01 a.m. Central Time today, we support and accept payment in 60+ currencies! This currency support allows our customers to price SoftLayer services in their native currency, and it lets them avoid those pesky exchange fees from their credit card.

Our BYOC (Cloud) and Dedicated Server order forms have been updated with a currency selection on their first page, so once you select a currency, your order form will reload with all pricing displayed in that currency. Existing customers are also able to pay for their existing servers with one-time or recurring payments in our customer portal.

Currencies Supported

ALL - Albanian lek
ARS - Argentine peso
AUD - Australian dollar
BSD - Bahamian dollar
BDT - Bangladeshi taka
BBD - Barbados dollar
BMD - Bermudian dollar
BOB - Boliviano
BZD - Belize dollar
CAD - Canadian dollar
CNY - Chinese Yuan
COP - Colombian peso
CRC - Costa Rican colon
HRK - Croatian Kuna
CZK - Czech koruna
DKK - Danish krone
DOP - Dominican peso
GTQ - Guatemalan quetzal
HNL - Honduran lempira
HKD - Hong Kong dollar
HUF - Hungarian forint
INR - Indian rupee
ILS - Israeli new sheqel
JMD - Jamaican dollar
JPY - Japanese yen
KES - Kenyan shilling
KRW - South Korean won
LBP - Lebanese pound
LVL - Latvian lats
LRD - Liberian dollar
LTL - Lithuanian litas
MOP - Macanese pataca
MYR - Malaysian ringgit
MXN - Mexican peso
MAD - Moroccan dirham
NZD - New Zealand dollar
NOK - Norwegian krone
PKR - Pakistani rupee
PEN - Peruvian Nuevo sol
PHP - Philippine peso
QAR - Qatari rial
RUB - Russian rouble
SAR - Saudi riyal
SGD - Singapore dollar
ZAR - South African rand
SEK - Swedish krona/kronor
CHF - Swiss franc
THB - Thai baht
TTD - Trinidad and Tobago dollar
AED - United Arab Emirates dirham
EGP - Egyptian pound
GBP - Pound sterling
YER - Yemeni rial
TWD - New Taiwan dollar
RON - Romanian new leu
TRY - Turkish lira
XCD - East Caribbean dollar
EUR - Euro
PLN - Polish złoty
BRL - Brazilian real

It's amazing to say that we are truly a global company operating on three continents. Our success and future growth are tied to these new international capabilities. We will move aggressively and open more data centers, so stay tuned. With our global aspirations taking flight, I'm reminded of the saying that, "the sun never sets on the British Empire."

Speaking of flights, I've got to get to the airport ... My flight to Amsterdam is leaving in a few hours.

-@gkdog

September 21, 2011

UserVoice: Tech Partner Spotlight

This is a guest blog from UserVoice CEO Richard White. UserVoice offers a complete customer engagement solution that gives businesses a simple process for managing customer feedback and support functions all from a single, easy-to-use environment.

What NOT to Do in Support

The fact that you're reading this blog post means you probably understand social media. You probably also understand why providing great customer service is important, so I'll spare you that as well. What you may not know is that there are much better tools to provide outstanding customer service than the ones you're already using. Here are four big tips for you as you're planning your support channels:

1. Don't build a custom contact form.
Building a custom contact form on your website takes valuable time and resources away from your core business. Instead, sign up and get a widget from UserVoice (or one of our competitors) and in less than 30 seconds you'll have a contact form that supports any number of custom fields you want to add, allows you to append your own customer-specific metadata, supports attachments and, most importantly, will auto-suggest relevant FAQ articles even before the customer submits the form.

2. Don't use shared email for customer support.
It's true that you can take managing customer support via a shared email inbox pretty far. You won't really feel the pain until a couple of issues slip through the digital crack because it wasn't clear who on your team was responsible for following up with the customer. But why go through that? These days you can choose from a number of inexpensive, purpose-built tools, like UserVoice, targeted at companies that want to provide better customer service. Starting at $5/mo you can have a complete support solution that will grow with your business when you are finally ready to add that 2nd or 3rd support rep to your team.

3. Don't waste time gathering feedback on message boards.
Scanning message boards to gather user feedback sounds like a good idea, but it's really painful. Forums are both noisy and insular. Someone posts "I want you to add X" then a few people reply "+1" but then someone else says "I think X is good but only if you do Y to it." Very quickly you don't know what anyone really wants. And you especially don't have an easy way to follow-up with people directly. Worst of all, you're only hearing from a vocal minority. Casual users won't go into your forums and won't wade through 10 pages of +1's to add their voice, they'll just give up.

UserVoice Feedback gives you a better way to harness customer feedback and turn it into something useful. It starts with a simple prompt: How can we make ___insert_your_company___ better? Customers give their feedback and vote up the best ideas. It's easier for customers to get involved and give you feedback, and it's much easier for you to follow-up and keep these important customers in the loop.

4. Don't hide from your customers.
This really should be the first recommendation. The sad fact is, people still don't expect great customer service, and they certainly don't expect you to be ready and willing to listen to their feedback, especially with that small gray "contact" link buried in your footer. Show customers that their experience and their feedback is important, nay, vital to your business. Put a big link at the top of the page, or a widget on the side of it. Something that tells people you're not "business as usual." Show them you really care.

I started UserVoice because I wanted to make doing all of these things simple so that companies could focus on what really matters: building their products and communicating with their customers, not setting up all this stuff. I hope you'll find it as useful as our thousands of existing customers have in getting you back to work. :)

-Richard White, UserVoice

This guest blog series highlights companies in SoftLayer's Technology Partners Marketplace.
These Partners have built their businesses on the SoftLayer Platform, and we're excited for them to tell their stories. New Partners will be added to the Marketplace each month, so stay tuned for many more come.
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 WebInnovatorsGroup.com 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.

-Kevin

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

September 7, 2011

3DCart: Tech Partner Spotlight

This is a guest blog from 3DCart Co-founder and CEO Gonazlo Gil. 3DCart is a technology partner with a robust eCommerce platform hosting thousands of merchants all over the world ... And it's clear they have an enduring drive for innovation and value.

Company Website: http://www.3DCart.com/
Tech Partners Marketplace: http://www.softlayer.com/marketplace/3dcart

5 Must-Have Features in a Hosted Ecommerce Provider

In 1997, the concept that would eventually become 3DCart came into existence. I developed 3DCart with the idea of putting every single ecommerce tool and resource at the fingertips of web entrepreneurs so anyone with a computer could start their own online store. Today, we're still going strong, and we pride ourselves on launching new ecommerce features before the competition has a chance.

The market for shopping carts has exploded over the past decade. If you're considering the ecommerce business, choosing a shopping cart can get overwhelming. Because not all ecommerce software solutions are created equal, we've put together a list of five must-have features for aspiring entrepreneurs to consider when choosing a hosted ecommerce provider.

1. PCI Compliance to Protect Customer Information
You hear about it on the web, on the television, in the magazines: cyber-theft. Recent instances of online fraud (like the hack of Playstation's network) have caused online shoppers to stiffen up when it comes to sharing financial information. For your sake and the sake of your customers, it's important to put the minds of shoppers at ease as soon as they discover your brand.

Born from new rules created by the Payment Card Industry, PCI compliance standards are stringent guidelines for ensuring your online store is up to code in terms of security. The last thing you need as an online storeowner is responsibility for losing sensitive personal data to fraudsters. Beyond general culpability, you run the risk of losing trust in your brand, which could sink your business entirely.

The process for reaching PCI compliance is vigorous and expensive. That's why most ecommerce software providers undergo PCI compliance measures on their own — so online stores can offer security to their customers. It offers a little more peace of mind on both sides of the business relationship and ensures your transactions go through smoothly.

2. 24/7 Phone Support for Peace of Mind
You've worked with software companies before, so the possibility of 24/7 phone support might seem like a laughable service. True: not many software companies are in the business of employing an onshore support staff to have the phones manned all hours of the day. But that doesn't mean they aren't out there.

Not too long ago, 3DCart noticed a chance to further differentiate our company from the competition to offer 24/7/365 phone support for free to all of our customers. The idea behind the value-add was that your direct support lifeline shouldn't end just because business hours are over. It's been an extremely successful service for us, as well as for our customers.

Think about it: an online store doesn't close when the lights go out — especially if you do international business. The ability to connect after hours with a support team in the most extreme cases (downtime, bugs, etc.) is a huge factor and one that many customers cite as a reason for choosing our company.

3. Scalability/Adaptability to Handle Growth
The most successful online stores will inevitably have to scale up their ecommerce offering. Therefore, scalability becomes a huge criterion for finding the right hosted ecommerce provider.

But the ability to scale hosting volume as the business grows organically isn't the only important factor. If your store runs a promotion or gets a mention in a high-profile publication, it'll need to handle heavy traffic spikes. After all, you wouldn't want your store to crash right as it peaks in popularity.

A lot of hosted ecommerce solutions advertise scalability—but how do you know that they're telling the truth? A good way to find proof is to run through the company's case studies, usually hosted somewhere on the site. You're bound to come across one that demonstrates a specific instance of on-demand scaling. If that's not enough, contact the subject of the study directly for confirmation.

Customizability falls under this category as well. The more dynamic the shopping cart, the more control you have over your brand. Simple ways to manage your content are important and should be easy to manipulate with an intuitive CMS.

4. Comprehensive Feature Set for All-In-One Functionality
If you have a good business plan and know what you're going to sell, you probably already have a good idea of what features are going to be most crucial to your business. But that doesn't mean you won't need other features — some of which you might not grasp the importance.

Below are a few features that make the ecommerce experience a much more efficient, connected experience:

  • Autoresponders
    Setting and forgetting autoresponders is a great way to add some automation to your marketing plan. If you sell perishable goods for instance, you can set an automatic email to send to the customer when the lifespan of the product is up. It greatly increases the chances that they'll replace the item through your store.
  • Customer Relationship Manager
    Since you're hosting all of your data in the cloud, a built-in CRM platform is an important part of collecting analytics on customer behavior. You probably won't need all the functionality of Salesforce; a built-in CRM that has a lot of the same functionality automatically collects the data you need through your online store.
  • Great Marketing Tools
    Outside the box marketing tools like "Daily Deals," "Group Deals" and "Name Your Price" features greatly enhance conversion rates and make the selling process even more effective.
  • More Ways to Pay
    If you offer more payment portal integrations than your typical shopping cart, you give customers the option to pay using a comfortable, familiar process that increases the likelihood they'll make a purchase. Popular options include PayPal, Amazon Payments, Google Checkout and Authorize.net.
  • Partner Integrations
    To make a store more efficient, some shopping carts offer integrations with shipping resources (FedEx, UPS), fulfillment services and tax software. A direct data feed reduces manual administration and helps your store stay as efficient as possible, saving you time and money. You might even get discounts for services booked through your ecommerce provider.

5. Low Fees for a Lower Overhead
The pricing for hosted shopping carts usually revolves around bandwidth and feature sets, but there's a pitfall that some online store owners don't notice until it's too late: per-sale fees. There are some hosted shopping cart software platforms on the market that charge a percentage of every sale.

Another cost that new online storeowners run into is a setup fee. It's usually unnecessary and a way for the vendor to collect extra revenue. Pricing should revolve around hosting costs, feature sets and extra services like storefront design, period. Remember to check for hidden fees if you're evaluating an ecommerce software solution.

3DCart's Foundation
The five criteria listed above form the foundation of 3DCart software. Over the years, we've found that our customers have some of the most influential voices in the ecommerce industry. We've built a community on those voices that plays a huge role in defining how we do business.

If you're looking to break into the online retail industry and want a proprietary shopping cart that offers you the insights you need to keep your business growing smoothly, give us a shot for free.

-Gonzalo Gil, 3DCart

This guest blog series highlights companies in SoftLayer's Technology Partners Marketplace.
These Partners have built their businesses on the SoftLayer Platform, and we're excited for them to tell their stories. New Partners will be added to the Marketplace each month, so stay tuned for many more come.
August 18, 2011

Subtract Server. Add Humor.

Once in a blue moon, a SoftLayer customer has to cancel a server. Sometimes their business is growing and they're moving up to more powerful hardware, sometimes they need to consolidate their equipment to cut their costs, and sometimes their reason can't really be categorized. In this case, a happy customer with a few dozen servers decided he needed to shut one down, and the explanation he gave would clearly fall into the third category:

Initial Ticket

Customer
I would like to cancel this server on August 20th, 2011, but not before that date. Anytime on this date will be okay.

We no longer have a need for this server and would like to cancel it before our next billing period. Thank you for your help in this matter. Please send me an email when this server has been canceled on August 20th, 2011.

She's been with us for a long time, but things just aren't working out ... She's become a gold digger. It's her, not me. Please let her down easy. I don't like punking out and having someone do my dirty work, but I'm afraid she might be violent. Diamond rings hurt when you get hit with them.

SoftLayer
I'm sorry to hear things did not work out for the two of you. While your safety is important to us, I must ask that you end this relationship via official channels.

Please submit an official cancellation request by going to Sales --> Cancel Server and proceeding through the cancellation steps. The server will be reclaimed at the end of your billing cycle on August 22nd.

Please let us know if you have any questions.

Customer
She always tried to make it hard for me to break up with her. Done!
 
SoftLayer
Glad to hear things went smoothly. Things don't always do, but we knew you could pull through it. :-)
 

Official Cancellation Request

Customer
Word to your moms I came to drop bombs, I got more rhymes than the Bible's got Psalms.
 
SoftLayer
Thanks for your unique note, definitely was a nice break from the norm.

We're glad to continue being part of your success!

Please contact us should future needs arise.

Customer
Thanks, it was a subtle reminder to get out your seat and jump around.
 

Let this be a lesson to all of you: Get out your seat and jump around.

-@khazard

August 17, 2011

SendGrid: Tech Partner Spotlight

This is a guest blog from Tim Falls of SendGrid, a technology partner that provides cloud-based email infrastructure for reliable delivery, scalability, real-time analytics and flexible APIs for customers who want to focus on driving their own growth and profitability.

Company Website: http://sendgrid.com/
Tech Partners Marketplace: http://www.softlayer.com/marketplace/sendgrid

Understanding the Value of [Email] Infrastructure Services

The Fall of DIY ... As We Know It
Today more than ever before, businesses depend on third party services to operate efficiently and achieve their objectives. As a business leader, you have countless web applications and software as service solutions at your fingertips, which collectively address just about any problem or demand imaginable. Examples include cloud-based file storage, cloud and dedicated web hosting, recurring billing applications, online HR management portals, APIs for telephony and geo-data, and managed email infrastructure and delivery services. Startups and established corporations alike can utilize these tools quickly and simply with a credit card and a few clicks on a trackpad.

So, what does this mean, and why is it worth recognizing and appreciating? Well, it means that your life is a lot easier than it was 10 years ago. And if you fail to recognize the opportunities and advantages that these resources offer, your competitors will soon leave you in their proverbial dust ... if they haven't already.

The gist:

  • You don't have to do everything yourself anymore ... So don't!
  • Be the best at what you do, and rely on other experts to help with everything outside of your realm.

The Email Puzzle
Let's face it. Email sucks. Not email in and of itself - obviously, it is an essential part of our lives and is arguably one of the most transformative communication tools in human history. But, from a business standpoint, the implementation and maintenance of an effective and efficient email system is truly a nightmare. If there is one thing that web developers across the world can agree upon, it may be this: Successfully integrating email into a web application just ain't fun!

To better understand the challenges developers face when integrating email into their web applications, let's look at an example (fresh from my imagination). Through this discussion, we'll uncover the clear advantages of working with a partner in email infrastructure and delivery.

Let's say you're building PitLovabull.com -- a social, online community for dog owners. Sound lame? Well, it's not ... because it's "different." As the clever name indicates, it's specifically for pit bull owners and advocates. Community members interact with each other and your company in a number of ways: Forum discussions, photo sharing, commenting, direct messages, the "give a dog a bone" button (think "like") and buying cool doggy stuff. Each of these features involves email notifications ... "Sporty's owner just responded to your forum post on Healthy Dog Diets." "Barney's owner just tagged your puppy Stella in a photo." "Thanks for purchasing a new collar for Boss! We'll notify you by email when your package has shipped!"

After six months of grassroots marketing, tens of thousands of passionate pit bull owners have joined your community, and your email volume has grown from 800/week to 8,000/day (that's almost 250k/month!). As a budding bootstrapped startup, you cut costs wherever you can, and you choose to manage your own email servers. You quickly find out that server costs grow substantially as you send more mail, customers are complaining that they aren't receiving their email notifications, and your support team is stretched thin dealing with confused and frustrated customers. The end result: Poor deliverability is directly (and negatively) affecting revenue! What's more: You have no insight into what is happening to your emails - Are they being delivered? Opened? Are links within them being clicked? Have you been blacklisted by an ISP?

Upon deep reflection, you realize that your developers are spending more time on email than they spend building awesome features for the community! Plus, you find yourself, the CEO/Founder of the company, researching mundane crap like ISP rate limits, Sender Policy Framework, DKIM, and the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 — a few of the less-than-interesting aspects of email that must be understood in order to achieve optimal deliverability of your notifications and newsletters.

Luckily, you just hired Joey, a fresh, young hacker who's active in the developer ecosystem and always on top of the latest technologies. While exploring PitLovabull's web hosting control panel on your SoftLayer servers, he discovers a better alternative: The Softlayer Email Delivery Service &ndahs; a hosted and managed email infrastructure that's already built for you! Joey signs up with a credit card for $150/month (which covers a full 250k emails/month), changes a few settings on your web application, and within minutes all of your email is being relayed through SendGrid.

May All Your Email Dreams Come True
A few months go by ... Email is in your customers' inboxes. Deliverability is being tracked and displayed on your web dashboard, along with open and click rates, blocks, bounces, spam reports and unsubscribes. Customer Support receives fewer emails, calls, and IM chat requests. Engineering is busy implementing a backlog of feature requests (not doing email stuff). Sales are gradually increasing and overall customer satisfaction is higher than ever.

Empowering Developers
But wait, it gets better! After researching SendGrid's APIs, you recognize the potential for extreme customization, in the form of internal and external features. Internally, the SMTP API allows you to assign a "category" to each of your emails (password reminders, purchase confirmations, etc.) and in turn collect unique statistics for each category. Externally, the Parse API allows you to receive incoming emails to your web app. In a single day, Joey codes up a new feature, and now any community member can email a picture of their pup to post@pitlovabulls.com, include a caption in the subject line, and the picture and caption are automagically posted to that user's profile!

The New Meaning of Do-It-Yourself
We all know it's difficult to trust a third party to handle the critical elements of any operation. With the help of proven SaaS models that employ advanced technology, cloud-based infrastructures and dedicated experts, companies can now feel more comfortable moving into a modern mode of doing-it-themselves: Pay a nominal monthly fee to a service that handles email (or recurring billing, or telephony), and let the service do the dirty work and liberate the brains of your brilliant developers so they can focus on innovating with the tools available to them.

I hope this story helps entrepreneurs and business leaders think smarter as they build their dream. The lessons illustrated in the context of email apply across the board. We're in a fascinating time, where building an internet business has never required less capital and has never allowed for the laser focus that is afforded to companies today. Open your toolbox, work smart, and build something that people love!

-Tim Falls, SendGrid

This guest blog series highlights companies in SoftLayer's Technology Partners Marketplace.
These Partners have built their businesses on the SoftLayer Platform, and we're excited for them to tell their stories. New Partners will be added to the Marketplace each month, so stay tuned for many more come.
July 19, 2011

PHIL's DC: A Tour of the Facility

In the second episode of my self-made documentary series about the birth of a revolution in hosting, I explained how Lance and I mutually decided that a better course of action would be to build a data center for the future's future, and I sketched out the basics of effective data centering. Lance sent the keys to the new non-traditional facility, and I jumped at the chance to give a tour of the amazing digs.

Because I wanted to make sure to document as much of the process as I could for this documentary film (I'm coming for you, The Social Network), you're experiencing the tour as I explore the space for the first time, so I hope you find it as magical as I did. Note: I took the liberty of acquiring suitable transportation to give you the most professional "tour" experience.

You'll note that the facility features several important characteristics of the best data center environments:

  • Heightened Exterior Security
  • Data Center Operations Area
  • Weather Tracking Station
  • Tech Support Center
  • CEO Suite
  • Redundant Bandwidth Providers
  • Multi-phase Power
  • Power Generator
  • Built-in Cooling
  • Crash Cart Station
  • Vaulted Ceilings (for warm air circulation)

Now that I've got the lay of the land, it's just a matter of drawing up some plans for server racks, plugging in some servers and getting some customers to experience the newest wave of hosting innovation!

-PHIL

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