Category Archives: General

Outsourced IT

Years and years of trying to find the right it solution for my businesses has had me doing some amazing and really stupid things.

I ran my own servers from my own data centre for many years – until someone stole a server! Yes, they stole a server. Thank goodness for encryption and backups but I can tell you it was my worst nightmare. Then the Internet got a bit better and we could move some computers to other people’s data centres – better security, better UPS facilities and, dare I say it, better support.

Then it all got way too expensive – charging for bandwidth – chocking bandwidth and the list goes on. Back to my own systems. Well, not exactly, it was a migration from my hardware in someone else’s data centre, to virtual hardware anywhere in the world I wanted it located, with unlimited bandwidth and free upgrades. The downside – well at first there wasn’t one – I had RAM, HDD which they converted to SSD for better speed and many, many processors. The support was first rate and the control was all mine.

Then along came the privacy laws, data protection laws and EU directives – now we had to get permission from people and in some cases governments to be able to host somebody’s personal information outside of the country they were resident in. Mass panic as we moved the data back within the borders almost tripling our infrastructure requirements.

As electronic security got better and the data protection laws were understood, it got easier to have data in one place provided you had all the right security and permissions in place. I now have a full set of IT Infrastructure that is all outsourced, secure and complies with many ISO standards, EU directives and US and UK data privacy laws.

If you want to know more about how we can help you with your infrastructure, help desk, application hosting or data backups, please drop us an email and we will arrange a consultant to give you a call and assess your requirements.

Your own Private Dropbox

I recently had a customer ask me to sync files automatically to their website from a program on a laptop. Not too difficult I thought, Dropbox or Google Drive does that without even blinking.

So I set the service up in Dropbox BUT when it came to accessing the files, I could only access the file I had a link for – fine for file number one but the link within file number one to another file within the same directory structure was not available. Ugh.

This is a second edit – what I forgot to mention was another requirement, they needed the uploaded files to display as html files in a browser, not be downloaded or saved or anything like that. Dropbox can do that with a ?raw=1 option – good to know if you ever need to link to a file that needs to run in a browser. I couldn’t get it to work with Google Drive. Please bear in mind my IT technical skills are that of of a mainframe programmer from the early 80’s 🙂 so I know how to find the stuff and implement it but don’t ask me to actually figure it out!

A quick Google search (I love the Interweb) and I find that if you have a Public folder in Dropbox you can share files and the relative file links are valid too. Oh wait, you needed a Dropbox account prior to 2012 to have a Public folder that works like this. Ugh.

Fortunately I have one, but unfortunately my client can’t write to it without an upgrade. Ugh!

So I started looking for a Windows equivalent of rsync, then realised I need to figure out how to do cron jobs in Windows and then decided to just kill myself already. Seriously, my eyes were melting and my brain was fried at the disregard purveyors of solutions have for us mere mortals. They install all sorts of shyte, assuming their software is the only software that needs to run. I killed 3 installations of Windows before giving up. I’m not a moaner so I won’t publish their names BUT be forewarned.

I then stumbled upon openCloud. An open source, free alternative to Dropbox and Google Drive. Wow, it installed within 4 minutes (the initial install I did was 4 hours because I installed a full linux server on a VM box and did update, upgrades and all that jazz). When it came to production time, I installed it on my production Linode server in exactly 4 minutes with an apt-get install command. Done! Configuration took another 10 minutes. I even figured out how to share another directory on the server so that the website and the local software program were looking at the same data – absolutely fantastic.

I won’t even attempt to try and explain how to do it here – read their documentation – if you can install an app you can install this baby. It works on local networks, the Internet and anywhere you need two directories synced. You need a server but your Mac OS X machine can be that if you want it to.

My quick spread of love for open source – I have a happy client and I have just discovered a new way to run all my project documentation without the need to beg the staff to send in the files, or backup or ever worry about losing info.

So pop over to http://opensource.org/ and start taking control of your files on the Internet.

Operating Systems

In the world of open source the variations of Linux operating systems that are available are staggering. Beside Linux there are some Unix systems that are also available, many are FREE too.

Starting with my favourite Ubuntu Linux is a class act to follow. They have server editions, desktop editions and they are even talking about getting into phones operating systems – how cool is that?

There is a great article here: How-To Geek website which will cover most of the stuff you need to know about Linux and the distributions such as:

Ubuntu – my soul mate
Mint
Debian – close second in my life
Fedora
CentOS
openSUSE
Red Hat
Mageia
Arch
Slackware – Arch and Slackware are minimalistic distros without any fancy installs, etc
Puppy – this is a distro that can help revive some old computer hardware

I really just want to give you a resource to look up Linux distributions. As with an choice of operating system you must make a strategic decision based on your requirements and not on the features of the system. Figure out your requirements first and the choice will be obvious.

Start of something great

This is the first article in what we hope will become a monthly article and then hopefully weekly and daily.

The objective of this site is to bring knowledge and problems with solutions, hopefully, to a wider audience on a specific topic – open source software. We want to explore the open source world and we want to help inform those without budgets how to do some spectacular things with FREE open source software.

Join us for the journey.