Interview with Will Miles – Data Center Operations Supervisor at InMotion Hosting

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Will Miles - InMotion Hosting

The heart of any great web hosting company is its data center operations. And for almost seven years now, I’ve experienced excellent uptime, speed, and support from InMotion Hosting. I’ve also been privileged to see their data center in person and have previously written about my visit there. InMotion has data centers on both the West Coast and East Coast. And I can tell you first hand that their staff are true professionals. Working with top quality hardware, they will do their very best to make sure your websites are successfully hosted.

Recently, I got a chance to chat with Will Miles, the Data Center Operations Supervisor at InMotion, to learn more about what goes on there and about some of the improvements they have recently made as well as what’s in store for the future.

Web Hosting Cat: As Data Center Supervisor, do you spend most of your time at the West Coast Data Center or equally at both places?

Will Miles: I spend the majority of my time here at the West Coast. I do travel back and forth between our East Coast and West Coast facilities. Our West Coast facility is a little larger in size which is why I tend to stay there.

WHC: How many servers does InMotion have in each place?

WM: Here on the West Coast, probably in the area of 2,500 servers–on the East Coast, probably in the area of about 1,200.

WHC: Are the majority of those dedicated servers or shared servers?

WM: For the West Coast data center, the majority of them are dedicated servers. And on the East Coast, the majority of them are Shared and VPS servers.

WHC: What are some of the recent additions and improvements that have been made to the data center this year?

WM: One of the most recent things that we’ve done is we upgraded all of our top-of-rack switches to support full fiber from our core switching network. We’ve put 20 Gigabits–all of our top-of-rack switches that’s across fiber. That’s easily expandable to 40 should a customer require something like that. We’ve done other things like we’ve introduced some light DDoS mitigation. That will help keep a lot of minor security threats out of our network all together. We’ve done that on both east and west coasts alike.

WHC: Can you take us through the support process at InMotion? For example, let’s say someone contacts customer support via live chat or phone. At what point does the data center staff get involved?

WM: Generally, if we’re going to get involved at the data center there would have to be a physical hardware [issue] or inability to access something. Generally, when you open a support ticket through chat or email or phone, you go to a tier one–and if your issue is something that would get us involved, then you would just immediately be escalated to our Systems team. And then we would go ahead and get involved as soon as possible to get your issue resolved.

WHC: One of the cool things I remember you showing me when I toured the data center was the hard drive eraser machine. Can you talk a little about the process you guys use to make sure that old hard drive data is properly wiped out?

WM: We have what is called a Degausser to securely destroy hard drives when a customer is done on a dedicated server. So the way it works is it’s kind of like taking a giant electro magnet and pulsing it about a thousand times to completely destroy the hard drive. That way there’s no data that’s recoverable should a customer’s hard drive fail or they’re no longer on that machine. That way we don’t have any contamination of data or any chance of a customer’s data getting into somebody else’s hands.

WHC: In terms of performance, when would you suggest that someone with a Shared Server account should upgrade to a VPS or Dedicated Server?

WM: A lot of times you have to look at just basically your resource utilization. It’s not really an issue with slowing down or anything like that. Generally if you’re in a shared environment, if you’re experiencing something slowing down, it’s going to be the whole server. It may not even be a result of something you’re doing yourself. The best time to do an upgrade to a VPS or a Dedicated Server would be the time that you don’t necessarily meet the requirements for the Shared plan that you’re on, or if you’re beginning to use too many resources—a lot of times your provider will inform you of that.

WHC: How long does the process take when converting from a Shared Hosting plan to a VPS plan at InMotion? Is there anything that the customer needs to do on their end?

WM: Generally, all you have to do is just let us know and we do it. It’s all behind the scenes. You usually will see no downtime as a result of it. The only exception to that might be if you’re on a shared IP address, we’ll have to put you on your own IP address when you go to a VPS. So you might see a little bit of a change there while your DNS propagates out. But for the most part, you won’t see any downtime as a result from it. And we handle all on the backside for you. There’s no involvement on your side at all.

WHC: What are the data backup procedures like at the data center?

WM: We have in place for our Shared and VPS customers a disaster recovery data option. What that allows us to do is in the event that we have some sort of catastrophic issue with a server, we have all of your data backed up. What we can do is we can bring you up on another server and it will just bring you, as well as all of the other customers that were on that server, live immediately. On top of that, you get your first 10 gigabytes of backup free from us. We can help you get that set up where if you want to do a cPanel backup to it or you want to just backup all of your files to it, or however you want to do it, we can help you get that setup and in place.

WHC: Will you be continuing to expand the data center? What other additions are planned for the rest of this year and next year?

WM: We are definitely going to be expanding. We’re expanding every month. Every single month we’ve put in new racks to help support it. We’re constantly adding new things. Some of the newer products that we have: We just recently put SSDs in a lot of our Dedicated Servers—as you know we already have it on Shared and VPS. Some things that we have coming up real soon: We have created a website building software. It’s called BoldGrid. The idea is that it’s a website software builder that works with WordPress. And it’s very intuitive, very user-friendly. And it works well for the beginner user as well as developers alike.

Be sure to listen to the complete interview with Will on our podcast.