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State of Site5: August 2014

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Hello Everyone!

August has been a busy month so far, which explains why this post is slightly late to get posted this month (and sorry for the delay too!). Without further ado, let me jump straight into the updates on everything that we have been working on:

  • Our CRM backend is almost ready and is actively being tested by staff. A lot of improvements were made by our engineering team based on feedback and feature requests from staff.
  • Meanwhile, Our current CRM backend (that powers Backstage) received a major upgrade to its underlying hardware. We’re very happy with its performance since the upgrade!
  • We are developing a new account migration tool internally that aims to greatly improve the way we migrate accounts from server to server.
  • We continue to have several job openings, including two new positions on our Marketing team, so if you know of anyone who could be a good fit for any of the advertised positions, please do have them apply!
  • As we had mentioned back in July, we are testing a good outbound spam filtering solution to significantly reduce incidences of servers getting blacklisted. We have made good progress on that front and the solution will be fully tested soon.
  • We have started collecting a lot of customer service statistics and metrics to help gauge support performance and identify where we need improve. Over the long term this will hopefully improve your support experience significantly!

That’s it for now. If you have one more minute to spare, I would invite you to check out this cool project that we sponsored on Kickstarter to Revolutionize Website Design Curriculum in High Schools. We’re quite proud of this initiative!

See you in the comments!

State of Site5: July 2014

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Hello everyone!

It’s July and where I live is hot and humid now, but I’m not complaining after the winter I had! Beach weather is here and the skies are clear. But that won’t stop me from getting you up-to-date on what Site5 has been up to over the last month, like:

  • Work has begun on finding ways to make backups and restores quicker. Disk sizes are getting larger, and customer disk usage is increasing as well. So we are starting to look for ways to improve our backup and restore times to make sure we can recover from major failures if they occur.
  • Another important issue we are addressing is improving outbound mail reliability. We are looking for ways to prevent servers from ending up on blacklists, reducing mail downtime and delivery delays. We expect to make significant improvements to this problem this month and next.
  • Testing is underway on a new system that will allow us to build VPS templates automatically. This will allow us to better test and offer new VPS templates more quickly, especially for Unmanaged VPS!
  • Work on our new CRM backend continues at a good pace. There has been more testing, some feature requests from staff, and more bugfixes. We are taking our time because we really want this to be a flawless experience for everyone – our customers and staff.
  • Don’t forget we are sponsoring Joomla Day Minnesota! It’s happening on July 19, 2014.
  • We currently have seven job openings, including both Customer Service Specialist and Technical Support Specialist positions! If you are reading this, then I’m confident you have what it takes to work here. Apply today!

As you can see, we are still hard at work on behind-the-scenes items that will make the customer experience smoother and faster. Until next month, I leave you with this:

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”
- George Bernard Shaw

Site5 Sponsors the First Annual Joomla Day Minnesota

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joomla

If you have never been to the Midwestern region of the United States, a trip to Minnesota should be on your agenda this summer. On July 19, 2014, Minnesota will be hosting one of the largest Joomla events in the industry. Joomla Day Minnesota is an entire day dedicated to learning, teaching and networking with Joomla professionals.

Joomla Day Minnesota will feature lectures made by leading Joomla experts in the industry. In addition to these lectures on Joomla and future Joomla improvements, Joomla Day will also offer workshops for learners of all experience levels. Duke Speer, the Master of Ceremonies for the Joomla Day event is known to the Joomla community as a passionate website designer and advocate for not-for-profit organizations. Also joining Duke for lectures at Joomla Day are Keynote Speakers, Rod Martin, Luke Summerfield, and Victor Dover.

Joomla has established itself as a leading content management system. Built as a framework for the creation of powerful websites and online applications, Joomla has become a popular choice amongst many developers in the tech industry. Joomla has been participating in such programs as the Google Summer of Code program every summer, and has been expanding into more cities to provide more Joomla events for designers, developers and businesses.

Joomla Day hopes to encourage web developers and coders of all ages to network, learn and share ideas about the Joomla framework. Joomla has one of the largest brand communities and followings in the open source community. Members of this community share articles, techniques and current events in Joomla magazine, one of the only open source magazines in the industry. Joomla Day Minnesota is one of the newer venues for the Joomla Day community meetups, but will certainly not be the last.

Staff Interview: Joshua Priddle

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This week we get to talk to Joshua Priddle, one of the wonderful Software Developers here at Site5.

Where are you from?

I’m from a small town called Galway in upstate New York.

Where do you currently live?

I currently live about 30 minutes south of where I grew up in a larger town called Clifton Park. I’m about a 5 minute drive from everything I need, which is really convenient.

What’s your position with Site5 and how have you found it so far?

I’m a software developer. I’ve been with the development team here for 3 years, and I absolutely love it! The team is really diverse, especially when it comes to their programming experience and opinions on tools and technology. We all help each other learn and grow as developers, which is one of my favorite aspects of my job.

Tell us how your typical day goes!

I’m not an early morning person. I usually wake up around 9am, clean up, then have a little caffeine and a small breakfast while I read email and Hacker News. I start my shift at 10am and spend the day working on bug fixes or new features for one of our various projects. This can vary a bit depending on the task. Sometimes I have to research new tools or work with staff/customers to isolate the cause of a bug.

When I feel a piece of work is ready to deliver, I open a pull request on GitHub and ask the rest of the team to review and offer any suggestions on how it could be improved. Once that is done the changes are accepted (or merged in developer parlance) and uploaded to the appropriate website.

Since the other people on the team are more or less following the same process, I also take time to review their work and offer any suggestions I might have. Peer review is one of our best tools to prevent bugs and help each other learn.

After I’m done for the day I like to leave my office for at least an hour to unwind, then I usually end up back there working on my own projects or gaming.

How do you approach your job?

Before I write any code, I always try to clearly understand what problem a feature or bug fix is solving. Without a clear objective, it can be very easy to add code that is out of scope, not yet necessary, or doesn’t adequately solve the problem at hand.

Once I’ve determined what my objective should be, I try to implement a feature or bug fix with the simplest possible solution. Complicated code is harder to maintain and incurs a higher maintenance cost in the long run. Every line of code we add has a certain maintenance cost, so I always try to keep that in mind when I am working.

Requirements can change and other developers on the team might have different ideas on the best way to accomplish a task. It’s important to keep an open mind and not take offense if code has to be abandoned or changed after receiving feedback.

How did you come to be a software developer?

I started designing simple websites about 15 years ago when I was still in high school. In 2006 I started working at a local VoIP company as a technical support representative and got really into Linux and systems administration. I eventually learned how to work on the VoIP platform and billing system. From there I realized I enjoyed programming more than designing, and I continued learning as much as I could.

Do you have any spare time to work on your own projects?

I have a fair amount of free time to work on my own projects. Programming also happens to be one of my favorite hobbies, so I tend to work on things that are useful to other developers or help me with my job. Some of my projects end up being used in our software, and I often get to work on those during my normal shift.

What’s your most satisfying experience at work?

Helping people is the most satisfying part of my job. The software I work on reaches all of our staff and our customers, and I enjoy fixing bugs or working on new features that make their lives easier.

We use a lot of open source software and maintain a fair bit of our own. It’s always great to contribute to a project we rely on or to hear that one of our projects has helped another developer.

How do you like working remotely?

I love working remotely, especially in the winter months! We can get a lot of snow where I live, and it is awesome not having to shovel a car out early in the morning when it snows. I usually listen to music while I’m working and I’m able to listen at any volume without worrying about distracting coworkers. I do sometimes miss the social interactions from working in an office environment, but overall I find I am able to focus better without the distractions of an office.

Advice for people aspiring to your role?

Never stop learning! Technology moves fast, and you really have to make a habit of learning new things in order to keep up, especially in the software world. At the same time, never be afraid to admit you don’t know something. There are always people who can help you if you are willing to learn.

Any trends at the moment worth following?

I’m a huge Apple fan. Until now software for Macs and iPhones/iPads has been written in Objective-C, which can be difficult to learn. They’ve just released a new, simpler language for developing apps, Swift. I’m really looking forward to trying it out myself and seeing what other developers make with it.

Site5 Sponsors “Rails Girls Summer of Code”

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Photo by Anika Lindtner

Photo by Anika Lindtner

Due to the increasing trend of open source projects and programs for coders of all ages, many economic experts have called this decade, the “Decade of the Nerd”. Many open source projects now hold events that have become a yearly tradition. Many of these events are held to encourage young adults to learn how to code. These programs are purely educational, allowing students of all ages to learn to code and spend hands on time playing with and learning new technologies.

This summer, Site5 is teaming up with one of these programs, the Rails Girls Summer of Code. Similar to Google’s Summer of Code program, the Rails Girls Summer of Code is dedicated to promoting diversity in the open source community and teaching girls of all ages programming skills. Site5 is proud to be a sponsor of this program because it’s such an important global initiative that promotes diversity in the open source community.

The Rails Girls Summer of Code Program promotes the “learning by doing” philosophy, and encourages girls of all ages and experience levels to learn how to code and pursue something they are passionate about. The program runs for three months and is made up of teams who are offered the chance to work on an open source project of their choosing. Each team is funded by a wide array of tech sponsors such as Site5, Github, Google, Envato, New Relic and Honey Badger. Each sponsored team has three months to work on any open source project of their choosing with the help and support of talented and highly technical volunteers. Sponsors who choose to support the Rails Girls initiative can help the teams in many different ways. From offering office space, or sponsoring a team as a whole, these business can all be very helpful and inspiring.

Rails Girls has taken to various social media platforms, such as Twitter, to promote the Rails Girls initiative and to spread the love for open source programming. It is here that the Rails Girls team have found individual sponsors as well as many business sponsors. By promoting the Rails Girls program and featuring well known women in the open source community, the Rails Girls team hope to inspire and encourage young women to pursue their dreams in the tech world. The cultural dynamic seems to be changing for the better. Many young girls are becoming confident in showing their peers how smart they are and how working hard and pursuing your interests can lead you to live a successful and fulfilling life. The Economist said it best, “Those square pegs may not have an easy time in school. They may be mocked by jocks and ignored at parties. But these days no serious organisation can prosper without them. As Kiran Malhotra, a Silicon Valley networker, puts it: “It’s actually cool to be a geek.”

Like many of the businesses that support the Rails Girls coding program, Site5 is on the hunt for potential employees. Women tend to be a minority in the coding community. The passion and the knowledge of these young girls can open many doors for them here at Site5 and other well known tech companies. Many students have benefitted from the connections they have made during the Rails Girls program. Laura, who was featured on the Rails Girls Summer of Code blog, found herself to be a college graduate with a dream job, “Last summer changed my life. I never expected this and now I’m moving to Hamburg to work as a graduate developer at ThoughtWorks. I couldn’t have done it without the Rails Girls Summer of Code and my mentors.” Hearing stories like this is exactly why Site5 takes an interest in these types of educational programs.

Staff Interview: Andre Faca

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In this week’s staff interview we speak with Andre Faca, a veritable Linux expert from Portugal, who is currently a Senior Support Manager with Site5.

Where are you from?

I was born in Barreiro, Portugal and this is usually the place I refer to when I’m asked where I’m from. I did however move quite a few times before becoming an adult and returning back to my origins, so I still have strong ties to other countries/cities. Belgium could be an example, where I still retain quite a few friends and family members.

Where do you currently live?

I live in a small town in the outskirts of Moita, Portugal.

What’s your position with Site5 and how have you found it so far?

My official title is Senior Support Manager and my primary role is to manage one of our technical support teams on a daily basis.

This means mentoring and guiding technicians, being ready to resolve complex issues as they arise along with other very common management responsibilities.

I can honestly say that I do love what I do. It’s definitely been a challenging position as it does require great communication, leadership and technical skills to be up to task; but it’s very rewarding because you’ll end up invariably expanding your technical skillset and also developing your social skills much further than you would on a 100% technical job.

Tell us how your typical day goes!

My day starts at around 6:15AM (localtime). I normally get up and I go directly to the kitchen to get my 2 espresso shots. Once my caffeine habit is taken care of, I turn on my workstation and log into the various intra/extranet sites that I need on a daily basis.

I then start my actual workday by quick-scanning my mailbox to check for & reply to anything important that requires my attention or intervention.

Usually when I’m done with the mailbox, I get an instant message from the manager that is going to pass on the department to me, in order to discuss ongoing events; as well as anything interesting that occurred during the night.

Then, it’s time to assign tasks and queues to everyone on my shift in order to ensure that everything is balanced within the department (this includes phone support, live chat, helpdesk and migrations).

Once that part is complete, I go through the usual administrative work and attend any meetings that I might have scheduled for the day (quite a few per week!).

By 2:30PM (localtime), it’s time to start to “pack my things” just like you would at any physical office.

For me that would be to submit my daily report, follow up on any dicussions going on in our internal network that require my attention and a last check on everything/everyone under my supervision.

I can then clock-out and enjoy the rest of the day!

How do you approach your job?

I’ve always approached my career as the number one priority; as I don’t think I could be happy in the real sense of the word without being (at least somewhat) successful professionally.

This hasn’t changed and I could very well be considered a “workaholic” by some as I do have a difficult time to “disconnect” at times.

I usually keep a close eye on how everything is going on my department (even if I’m off shift) and checking my work email is one of the last things I do before putting the phone down and falling asleep.

How did you come to be a Senior Support Manager?

That’s quite a long story but I’ll try to shorten it to a few lines.

It all started about 12 or 13 years ago, when a friend of mine asked me to help him out on his support operations in exchange for “free everything.”

He told me the company was really small and I’d respond to about 3 to 5 tickets per day if that much (I’d just be there to cover for my friend when he went to sleep).

Even though I had absolutely no experience in Linux at the time, I was pretty experienced in web development and also knew the control panel very well; so I decided to take the offer and help him out.

From there I started to learn more and more about the systems and how everything worked. It didn’t take long before I was running my own self-managed servers and selling web hosting as a complementary service to my web development services.

I was later hired by a US based company to help them to monitor their servers/network along with providing some technical support to their clients as well.

With that, I had “officially” become a full time System Administrator, while still continuing to do some freelance web development work on the side every now and then.

Do you have any spare time to work on your own projects?

Definitely. One of my personal projects is to simplify the initial installation as well as the auto-installation & configuration of per-designated applications for Fedora and CentOS/RedHat Enterprise Linux.

What’s your most satisfying experience at work?

Hard to choose, I could number a few — but one of the best feelings in the world is accomplishment. That great feeling when you “save the day” for someone (or much more than that) .

How do you like working remotely?

I am probably not the best person to respond to this, as I’ve always worked remotely (and probably always will) so I’ll always advocate for it. :)

Advice for people aspiring to your role?

Learn. Knowledge is power, but also an eternal journey. Stay humble and try to evolve constantly. If you can’t remember the last thing you’ve learned, it’s time to start learning something new.

Any trends at the moment worth following?

The rise of “smart” devices and artificial intelligence is certainly something to keep an eye on as it’s growing exponentially — and I’m sure we haven’t seen anything yet :)

Host Your Website in Hong Kong!

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I am pleased to announce that we have added Hong Kong as an option for shared, reseller, and both managed and unmanaged VPS hosting! This provides us a third hosting location in Asia!

As with our other location options, there are additional costs. These costs are as follows:

If you are interested in having your existing account migrated to a new location, you can fill out the form located in Backstage and our migrations team will be happy to take care of this for you. There is a one-time fee of $5 for us to migrate an existing account.

If you have any suggestions for locations, please let us know in the comments!

State of Site5: June 2014

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Hello everyone!

Welcome to June. It’s been beautiful weather for the past few weeks in my neck of the woods, and hopefully you’re experiencing the same where you are. Here is what we have been up to over the last month:

  • We have been putting attention into our knowledge base to reflect the ever-changing web hosting landscape. This will ensure all our knowledgebase articles are up-to-date and new articles are added where necessary.
  • Work on our new CRM backend continues at a good pace. We just completed a few more tests, fixed a few more bugs, and will be continuing our tests to ensure a flawless experience. The next phase will build on all this work and make sure we have all the features necessary.
  • We have been developing new tools for automating contact with you, our customers, about issues pertaining to your account. Once this system is live, we will be able to send you targeted information directly about your account, such as when a new version of WordPress or Drupal has been released.
  • We have fully made the switch to a new server monitoring system and taken the old one offline entirely. This has really boosted the visibility we have into server performance, uptime, and much more.
  • We are also sponsoring Joomla Day Minnesota! If you’re in the area, you should absolutely check out this great conference taking place July 19, 2014.
  • We currently have six job openings, including four Customer Service Specialist positions! I know you have what it takes, so apply today.

This month’s update reflects how much of the work we’re doing is going on behind the scenes. A lot of these things will eventually be unveiled and announced, so hang tight! Until next month, I leave you with this:

“There is only one way to happiness, and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.”
- Epictetus

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