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      GratITude: Keeping Customers Online In the Face of Disaster


      Today, we’re kicking off our GratITude Series, highlighting the hard-working members of our data center and IT teams in essential roles powering a connected world. Their dedication enables our thousands of global customers to successfully operate their businesses in good times and in times of immense challenge. None of us could do what we do without them, and here we’ll share their stories.

      When Texas was hit with a winter storm this February, nobody imagined it would lead to a regional disaster. But as the power grids failed, pipes froze and burst and gas deliveries ground to a halt, thousands were left scrambling to fulfill their most basic needs. In the aftermath, officials are looking to figure out why the situation escalated to a crisis so rapidly, but for those on the ground during the storm and its aftereffects, what mattered in the moment was finding the way forward. In our Dallas flagship data center, the INAP team put in the hours to keep our customers online. What did it take to get through this crisis without one failure?

      The Dallas Data Center Team

      INAP data centers offer full redundancy and reliable network connectively, among other benefits, to guarantee uptime to our customers. To meet this guarantee, Dallas Data Center Operations Supervisor Billy Boland and Regional Infrastructure Engineer David Thornton were on-site 24/7 for several days through the storm and the aftermath to keep the Dallas flagship data center up and running. Both men credit the tenure of the majority of the Dallas team and years of cross training as two factors that saw them through the disaster without dropping a single customer.

       

      Boyd and Thornton
      Billy Boland, Data Center Operations Supervisor, and David Thornton, Regional Infrastructure Engineer, were on-site 24/7 through the storm and the aftermath to keep customers online.

      “I’m the only facility guy here in Dallas,” said Thornton. “Billy and his team, they’re the data center engineers. They work primarily with the customer, but they support me. Then on top of that, I’ve been cross training them on multiple things for years.”

      That cross training would prove key in getting through the long hours it took to weather the storm. Cross training, and years of experience that gave Boland and Thornton the problem-solving skills to get through an unthinkable crisis.

      Boland has been with INAP since 2011 and will be celebrating his 10-year-anniversary in September this year. He’s been working at the Dallas facility since it opened, starting out as a data center engineer and progressing to his current position as the data center operations supervisor. Thornton has been with INAP nearly as long, joining the Dallas team in 2012. Although he self-effacingly calls himself a “glorified maintenance man,” in his role as regional infrastructure engineer the facility is his responsibility—anything to do with the building itself, including the power, cooling, plumbing, paint, carpet, light bulbs and more.

      Prior to joining the INAP team, both men picked up expertise via differing avenues. Boland started out in telecommunications installation, which could have taken him down any number of routes in his career. As luck would have it for INAP, he went the data center engineer route and has been able stick around and move up in the company.

      Thornton began his career as an electrician in the local Dallas market before going overseas with the military. In Iraq, he learned all about critical infrastructure—how to maintain bases, how to keep equipment running and how to “MacGyver” it when needed. After traveling the world with the military for 10 years, moving through various disciplines into construction management, he settled back down in the states at the behest of his wife and started his position with INAP.

      “I wanted a nice, simple job,” he said with a laugh.

      Of course, the job became anything but simple in February.

      The Disaster, Problem Solving and All the Right Decisions

      Texas has seen its fair share of winter weather over the years. And like any data center, the Dallas team has a backup plan in place for failures, utility outages and cold weather. What was different in this case was that the power grid began to collapse at the outset of the storm. Rolling outages were the biggest issue for Thornton and Boland. Typically, they could run backup generators that function on diesel fuel, but the power outages also affected the refineries and fuel vendors. And because the cold was so unexpected, the fuel vendors didn’t have the antifreeze additive in their fuel.

      The issues compounded with gas stations running out of fuel, hotels filling up because homes didn’t have power (and then half of the hotels not having power) and food and water shortages. Once the storm passed, the region was still dealing with the aftermath for days.

      Boland surveys the exterior of the data center in the days following the storm. Despite clear skies in the aftermath, infrastructure failures impeded gas deliveries and other essential services.

      Fortunately, INAP leadership had the foresight to have Thornton and Boland book hotel rooms ahead of the storm, before space filled up. This allowed them a respite from the data center to rest, dry off and warm up from working outside in the snow and cold.

      “The hotel didn’t lose power,” Boland said. “Insanely, it didn’t lose power.”

      “Having the hotel paid off,” added Thornton. “When the winter storm hit, it was 24/7 for us for two or three days. We were dealing with one issue after the other. The power going on and off didn’t have a major impact to our critical systems because our facility is designed for that, but little things were occurring that we had to deal with.”

      Both their experience and the cross-training Thornton has done with the Dallas team also helped them overcome the difficulties they were facing. Not only was Boland able to back Thornton up in the 24/7 facility work, but they were able to make the right decisions in the moment to keep the data center running. In a rolling blackout scenario, the logical choice would be to switch to the generator full-time to keep the power flow consistent. However, with the fuel vendor issues, this was not a viable option. They realized this early on and worked to conserve the fuel they did have, rather than go on an extended generator run. Several data centers in the area did make the choice to do an extended run, however, and ended up dropping customers.

      “If we had done an extended run, we wouldn’t have made it,” Thornton said.

      Their decision kept the data center up and running. “We never dropped anybody,” Boland added.

      Dallas Flagship Snow
      The exterior of INAP’s Dallas Flagship data center in the days following in the storm.

      It’s easy to quip that “teamwork makes the dream work,” but in this case, when the going got really rough, the team was able to see things through.

      “The team being what they were, we were able to lean on each other for different things,” said Thornton, “And we were able to identify upcoming issues and adapt.”

      INAP is endlessly grateful for the Dallas team members and their resilience and problem solving in the face of this unforeseeable situation. They are an asset to the company and our customers who rely on our services to power their infrastructures.

      Laura Vietmeyer


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      Using Prisma With PostgreSQL


      How to Join

      This Tech Talk is free and open to everyone. Register below to get a link to join the live stream or receive the video recording after it airs.

      Date Time RSVP
      May 19, 2021 11:00–12:00 p.m. ET / 3:00–4:00 p.m. GMT

      About the Talk

      Connecting and grabbing data from our databases is always a difficult task. We will use Prisma (which just came out of beta) to model, connect to, grab data, and view our database contents.

      What You’ll Learn

      • How to model a database schema
      • How to CRUD on a database
      • How to view contents of a database

      This Talk Is Designed For

      Developers that want to connect to their database more easily. Prisma will make database connections easy.

      Prerequisites

      • Knowledge of connecting to databases
      • Basic knowledge of databases

      Resources

      Prisma.io [Docs]
      Set up Prisma [Quickstart]
      DigitalOcean Managed Databases [Docs]

      To join the live Tech Talk, register here.



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      6 Reasons Why Your Small Business Needs a Website Now


      Expecting to lure in customers without having a digital presence is like moving to a deserted island and hoping all the neighbors pop over for a visit. If you don’t place your small business somewhere where people can easily find you — like the internet — they just aren’t going to.

      According to market research, a majority of respondents reported going online to find products and services from small businesses, and only 8.4% said they found new places to shop by walking into brick-and-mortar stores.

      It’s clear that the best way to show off your business to a potential customer is with a professional website. Still not convinced? Here are six important reasons why your small business needs a website.

      We Support Your Dream

      Whatever your online goals, we’ll be right there with you, making sure your site is fast, secure, and always up. Plans start at $2.59/mo.

      1. Influence Customers While You Sleep

      When you don’t have a business website, you limit your influence to the physical location of your storefront. Consequently, this also places restrictions on the times when you can engage with and influence your customers.

      However, if you’ve got a stellar website up and running, loyal customers have access to your business 365 days a year  — whether you’re selling a product, running a blog, or promoting your personal brand.

      And imagine this: If you’ve utilized search engine optimization (SEO) best practices when building your site, people who have never even heard of your business will be able to find you via a search engine. Bringing in a steady flow of potential buyers is every business owner’s dream!

      2. Access a Global Audience

      Ninety-three percent of consumers are only willing to travel up to 20 miles to make routine purchases. And 87% said they won’t travel more than 15 minutes. This means if you only have a brick-and-mortar store, your customer base is limited to people who live within a 15–20-minute radius.

      The takeaway: if you want to spread your message far and wide, you’ll need a website.

      3. Harness the Power of Positive Reviews

      While most consumers head online to find a business, the second most powerful influencer in purchasing decisions is word of mouth. That can mean recommendations from family and friends, but it also extends to helpful reviews from strangers who have experience with a product or service. In fact, a cool 90% of customers say their buying decisions are affected by online reviews.

      So how can you harness social proof? Simple. Collect all those good reviews, testimonials, and accolades you’ve stacked up and publish them on your website to wow potential customers.

      In this case, it’s OK to brag.

      4. Become a Trusted Expert

      A storefront only goes so far when building a brand. But a custom-built website gives you access to the billions of people who are surfing the web every day.

      In addition to getting exposure, your online presence will help you establish yourself as an industry authority. By sharing credible blog content, expert insights and tips, helpful videos, and, of course, all those five-star reviews, you’ll be building a brand that customers trust and want to engage with online. And the good news: There are lots of social media tricks to help you make the most of your time on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

      When you think of your brand, don’t limit it to your logo or your storefront. Instead, consider the possibilities you have for growth and scalability when you get online.

      Looking to Launch Your Web Presence?

      Whether you need help finding a target audience, choosing the right social media channels, or writing a blog post, we can help! Subscribe to our monthly digest so you never miss an article.

      5. Make Selling and Marketing Easier

      When you invest in a website, marketing and sales become a whole lot easier. For example, rather than asking your sales team to cold call, you can set up an online marketing campaign that captures leads from people who are actively searching for products and services like yours. This means your sales team can pitch and sell directly to people who want what you’ve got.

      Furthermore, digital marketing — whether it be paid search, SEO efforts, social media marketing, or content marketing — allows you to connect with consumers who are searching for you.

      Think about it this way: 81% of shoppers conduct online research before making a purchase. If you invest in creating great content for your website, you’re giving those savvy shoppers the facts they need to make a decision. And better still, you’re controlling the messaging.

      6. Attract Local Customers

      Earlier we talked about accessing a wide range of customers, but what if your business is looking to stay small and local? Do you still need an online presence?

      Yeah, you do!

      Why? Because 72% of consumers who did a local search ended up shopping at a store within five miles. This means that even if you are simply looking to attract a local audience, a website can do wonders for your business — even if it’s as simple as providing directions to your store and the hours of operation on an About Us page.

      TL;DR: A website is a vital tool for your small business. And with DreamHost’s easy-to-use WP Website Builder, you can build your own small business website in minutes — no coding required! So forget that empty island. Let DreamHost help you get your business online today.



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