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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!

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