A Hawk Host Summer of Fun

Posted By: Brian Farrell

Last Updated: Thursday August 30, 2012

Summer is pretty neat. The weather is nice and warm, people are generally in better spirits, you can spend all day and night outside, and perhaps best of all, summer means baseball season. In these trying times it can be difficult to stay on task and focused, especially when just outside your window is a gorgeous August day without a cloud in the sky. While we’ve had an enjoyable past few months here at Hawk Host, we’ve also been quite productive. So, what in the world have we been up to?

Introduced FlashCache + SSD Server Builds

As part of our newly launched semi-dedicated hosting plans (more on this later) we also introduced a new technology with it. Originally developed by Facebook engineers, Flashcache is a kernel module that improves MySQL performance significantly. There is a lot more to it (on the tech side) which we’ll be posting about in the next week or so in another blog post, but for now we’ll stick to the basic explanation. In addition to using Flashcache we’re running either a 64GB or 120GB SSD on all server builds using Flashcache. The SSD + Flashcache make for a very, very fast hosting experience for the semi-dedicated hosting plans. We also have VPS nodes running this setup and we’ll be looking into it for our future shared hosting machines as well.

Semi-Dedicated Hosting Plans

This one had been in the works for quite some time, though we finally sat down and made sure it became a real product. Meant to be a step between our shared hosting plans and a VPS, our new semi-dedicated plans offer more resources than a standard hosting account while removing the necessity to manage your own server (as you would with a VPS). The plans include more CPU, higher mail limits, more frequent backups and a few other added benefits compared to shared hosting. So far the plans have been a great success and we’ve had some very positive feedback from our customers who have either signed up or upgraded to the new plans.

There is a more thorough writeup here about our semi-dedicated plans from when we launched them. We also had an active discussion on our forums that covered a lot more details and questions some of our users had.

PowerDNS with cPanel and MyDNS

To me, it seems like it was ages ago we launched our second DNS cluster. Looking back through our internal notes (and my most reliable timekeeping source, our blog!) it looks like it was only about a year ago. Since then we’ve launched two additional clusters, primarily to support our international growth into the Amsterdam and Singapore hosting markets. While we were able to grow out the additional clusters with relative ease, we starting to run into issues with our original DNS cluster, which contains a whole lot more zone files than any of the other clusters.

After a bunch of R&D by our system guys and a lot of long, frustrating experiments we finally decided on a PowerDNS solution with a cPanel/MyDNS backend. Ever since this has been deployed we’ve not seen a single issue (knock on wood!) with any of our clusters and have seen a rather sizable improvement in performance as well. If you’re curious, Cody (our CTO and resident server guru) went into more details on setting this up here: PowerDNS with cPanel and MyDNS

Website Changes

We’ve been actively making changes to our website, mostly content based but some visual changes as well. For example, we added some additions to our navigation and surrounding areas, as seen below:

Navigation and Banner Changes Navigation and Banner Changes

We added our semi-dedicated services to the navigation, made a more pronounced ‘Contact Support’ option, and added links to like us / follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. In addition to the header changes, we also made wholesale changes to our footer:

Website Footer Changes Website Footer Changes

Before this change our footer was one, monolithic horizontal line across the bottom of the page. This new footer is not only aesthetically appealing, it also allows us to provide easier navigation to all of our services + list more quick relevant links to areas of our site.

These changes came compliments of the awesome folks over at Thinglet, specifically Nuri. The same team also designed our latest business cards so we’ve been nothing but thrilled with their results.

Internal Development / Company Changes

While most of our recent changes are related to releasing new products and services while making changes our customers can see, a significant amount of time has been spent improving our internal operations as well.

For starters, we’ve developed a number of in-house scripts that help us with our most common issues and tickets. We’ve  improved on our abuse auditing scripts, which better assist us in identifying malware on customer accounts, outdated software they may be running, or other vulnerabilities in their sites/applications. We’ve also added scripts to help us identify users abusing system resources, find out why a system is lagging, and locate sources of potential problems.


What I talked about above are the ‘big ticket’ items that we’ve done, things we think people will either find useful to know or enjoy reading about. We’ve also made a few minor changes, including:

Our “Fun in the Sun”

Life can’t always be about work. Every so often we do step outside the confines of our respective offices and have a regular day out. So far this summer our most ’notable’ outings have been our trip to Hosting Con in Boston back in June, the summer development games for the Buffalo Sabres, and most recently (and perhaps most thrilling) was our skydiving outing.

We Jumped Out of This We Jumped Out of This

This was my first time skydiving, and it was quite the experience. I struggle to come up with the words to describe a 30 second freefall from an airplane at 10,000 feet, only to be followed up with a 4 minute descent to back to the Earth. I will say one thing though, it is very quiet that high up in the air. There is a joke to be had about us ‘flying like Hawks’, so if any of you witty readers have a one liner, let us hear it.

Back to Earth Back to Earth

We will more than likely be creating a Flickr or Instagram account in the next few weeks to post more pictures of our summer activities, though in the mean time these two should do.

Wrapping Up

The year is far from over, and I suspect there will be at least a few more announcements about changes and new services we’re offering. We still have a number of ideas pending from our trip to HostingCon, our internal issue tracker is chalk full of employee contributed ideas + additions we’re excited to push, and as always we’re looking at ways to improve on our existing technologies and customer service.

Have an idea for us, or see something you think we can improve? You should let us know! We’re extremely receptive to feedback, so please give us a shout on our forums, send us some feedback, or comment on this post.

We hope everyone is enjoying the rest of their summer! :)

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