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I recently had a bit of a problem with a server I had been using. The file system crashed and I did not have very good backups of my work. The server was with SoftLayer.Com who I have found to be very good, price competitive (if you check the specials and chat to one of their agents you can normally get a good deal) and their support is good to.

Luckily for me SoftLayer support managed to recover everything for me and I was back in business, but during the two hours it took to recover everything I was thinking about what I needed to do if the file system could not be recovered.

I had backups spalttered across different machines, none of which were completely up to date. Databases were not properly backed up. All this on top of the set up time for the OS etc. It was not a pleasant two hours.

As it happened I had been planning on an upgrade to this server anyway, and had already looked at a couple of SoftLayers partners for managed services, so as soon as the file system was recovered I started shopping for a new server and support contract.

I got a good deal on the server itself from Softlayer, and went with BobCares.com for support. I had read about other companies who were supposedly better in forums etc, but it is easy to spoof a forum post, and BobCares were listed as a SoftLayer partner, so I went with them. There was no price difference between these companies, it just came down to who I thought would be better. I also contacted other Softlayer partners, but BobCares services most closely matched what I was looking for.

I took out a monthly pro-active server plan and paid additional fees for server setup and migration.

As I was in a hurry the guys from BobCares started work before their usual processes were complete, i.e. before I had properly registered everything I needed to. I was very grateful for this, but, this action combined with some of their staff taking annual leave resulted in things getting a bit anarchic. I was having different people ask me the same questions, tickets were splattered all over the place, I just got the impression it was chaos.

The BobCares website itself is pretty grim looking, and the company actually seems to be owned by another company PoorNam which I guess is an Indian outsourcing company. Most of the staff seem to be in India, which I guess is how they deliver the service for the price they do.

However, after a week or so of chaos and a few misgivings on my part, everything was set up properly and what would have been “normal business” (had they not jumped through a few hoops to get things moving quickly for me) ensued.

I created an account of SoftLayer so that they (BobCares) could raise tickets, reboot and access recovery mode via the SoftLayer portal, in the event that they got locked out of SSH etc.

They are now providing 24/7 monitoring, optimising performance, applying patches, sorting out proper backup routines / dissaster recovery etc.

I have raised a couple of tickets and seen them go off to SoftLayer to get support there, so I know that process is working well. Last night I had a routing problem, raised a ticket with BobCares and went to bed, this morning I could see the conversations that had taken place between BobCares and Softlayer and the problem was resolved for me.

So far Im very very pleased I went with BobCares. They are a little disorganised at times, and their website, web forms and some of their processes could definitely be improved upon, but, they seem to have very good helpful people who know what they are doing, and offer a service that is actually affordable to me.

For some time I did not think I could afford a managed service like this, and in the UK that is certainly the case, but by offshoring BobCares are able to offer a very valuable service utilising skilled server admins at a price that a small startup company can afford.

I will update this post from time to time… hopefully things will continue to go well with it!

For now I am still enjoying my new found freedom from worrying about / meddling with a crumbling server!

A few weeks ago I requested a link exchange with the author of a few blogs related to some of my own.link-trading-promo.jpg

The author replied to say he would exchange, but wanted to conduct the exchange via his new link exchange system, Lavalinx.

I was pretty skeptical about another link exchange system, having found others overrun with really low quality sites.

What is interesting about Lavalinx is its ability to triangulate link exchanges between different pages.

Furthermore you can automate link exchanges by inserting some PHP code into your site / blog, so that when you approve your link exchanges (via the Lavalinx control panel) they are automatically inserted into your site.

You can also configure multiple pages for your link exchanges making it easy for site owners to exchange contextual links, i.e. you are not trading links of spammy “Links” or “Friends” pages.

To get their ball rolling Lavalinx are offering 500 free account’s on their system, after which they will move to paid subscriptions.

I have already traded 5 links with this system and have probably declined another 5-10. That may not sound a lot, but they currently only have 100 members, when they get up to 500++ a lot more exchanges will take place.

Furthermore, I did not have do do anything to get those link exchanges… just signed up and waited for the requests to come in, so even this small number has made it worth while joining.

Also, they were decent exchanges… relevant sites of a reasonable quality, and the fact that it is to become a subscription based service will hopefully keep it that way.

I hope Lavalinx works out, partly because I got a free account, but mainly because it would be a really convenient service, particularly if you want to launch and back-link few small sites for SEO purposes.

The person I was speaking to at Lavalinx also mentioned that they have secured further investment for their product, and plan to develop their system further, something Ill have to keep an eye out for…

They still have some free accounts available if you want to try Lavalinx for yourself.

If you need free stock images for your website, blog, presentations etc. then the best free site around is stockXchng.fish1.jpg

StockXchng has been around for some time but really seems to have come into its own over the last year.

They claim to be the “leading free stock photography site” currently listing 313484 free images with 400 – 500 new images being listed every day!

They have over 25000 photographers submitting images and a lot of them are very good!

I have found a number of good free images suitable for use in banners etc.

There are premium or paid images listed too, starting at $1 per image. These are actually hosted on a sister site StockXpert are to a very high standard.

If you are prepared to pay one or two dollars for your images then istockphoto.com is also a very good source of stock images, with a much larger selection than stockXchng / StockXpert but alas, no freebies.

A lot of people write about the benefits of niche blogging, namely the ease with which you can get a site to rank in Google for niche terms, and the financial benefits of good Adsense clicks and affiliate sales opportunities. A problem few seem to address is how to get good back-links for a niche [...]

WP-Omatic is a wordpress plugin I have been using for several weeks on another site. Although it is in Beta it is a lot of fun, I have really enjoyed playing with it, and even took the time to make a small donation to the author. What WP-Omatic does is scrape RSS feeds. It does [...]

This is my third, and possibly final post on automating website browsing!! My previous two posts were Automate Website Browsing which discussed a browser containing a scheduler, so you can set it to browse sites at different times of the day, and Automatically Browse and Test Websites with Firefox which discussed the Salenium plugin for [...]

The market in Web Design templates is changing, its becoming ‘free’. I recently did a site for someone who had paid for a template, which, whilst ok was only as good as the average template available from the Open Source Web Directory. I have seen a few people ‘reselling’ templates for commercial companies, and to [...]

I am going off topic a bit here but I thought Id do a quick post on the benefits of touch typing! I spend a lot of time typing, at work and home, typing E-Mails, Blog Posts, letters and documents, programming, using chat clients… a lot of button pushing! I learned to touch type around [...]

I have been reading a few blogs and forums discussing seo recently, and my favourite so far is Busin3ss has both a blog and forum discussing black hat seo. The blog has a few tips and tricks, but the really useful stuff is all in the forum, which can be found by reading about YACG [...]

My last post discussed the Selenium IDE plug in for Firefox, which can be used to automate website browsing for testing purposes. A limitation of Selenium as an automated browser is the lack of a scheduler, which would allow you to browse sites at set periods. If this is something you want to do, then, [...]

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