Isle of Man Embraces Digital Currency

BitcoinIn a time when Governments and regulatory bodies are scrambling to get a grip of Bitcoin and other crypto currencies, the Isle of Man is leading the way by thoroughly embracing the technology.

The inaugural meeting of the Manx Digital Currency Association took place on the 1st April. The event was a full house, attended by leading data hosting provider Wi-Manx along with prominent lawyers, bankers, software developers, miners and exchange operators from around Europe and further afield.  The meeting clearly demonstrated the desire for businesses to embrace Digital Currencies and how the Isle of Man was emerging as the “digital currency” place to do business.

The Isle of Man has recently featured in the Digital Currency press due to the work of Paul Davis, Group General Counsel for the Counting House Services group of companies. Paul has sought opinion from the Isle of Man Financial Services Commission (FSC) whose response suggests the Isle of Man is currently positioned as a Bitcoin (and Digital Currency) friendly jurisdiction. The facts and ruling are covered in a recent coindesk article.

There are countless businesses looking to embrace Digital Currencies and the Isle of Man business community is embracing the technology. There are numerous Digital Currency operations already setting up in the Island with several more potential start-ups attending yesterday’s meeting.

The benefits of doing business in the Isle of Man are well documented; world class infrastructure, highly skilled workforce, a can-do attitude in Government, competitive taxation and a reputation as a safe and compliant financial centre. All of these benefits, coupled with a forward-thinking approach to Digital Currencies, positions the Isle of Man at the forefront of the movement. It also shows a certain determination and desire for clarity in a world where Governments and regulatory bodies are struggling to legislate, let alone classify what a Digital Currency is.

Joe Hughes, Wi-Manx MD commented:

As a leading datacentre, hosting and network provider, Wi-Manx is already in discussion with leading exchange operators and software houses about relocating their core infrastructure and Digital Currency operations to the Isle of Man. Our experience in delivering robust, large-scale hosting solutions and embracing new technologies does give us that competitive edge.

Many of the Digital Currency organisations we have spoken to are true innovators, lean and technology focused, who, using their wealth of knowledge and technology know-how, have seized the opportunity. We are able to assist these businesses through a range of colocation, Cloud and dedicated server solutions, leaving them to manage their technical operations. They have a requirement for infrastructure and we can deliver that.

Many other businesses are approaching Digital Currencies, not from a technology angle, but from a commercial standpoint. Joe adds:

This type of business prefers a more hands-off approach to technology. This is where our range of managed hosting solutions are attractive, helping to accelerate product development and reducing time to market, crucial in such a fast moving ecosystem.

If Bitcoin and Digital Currencies are seen as an integral part of your business and you are interested to see how Wi-Manx and the Isle of Man can assist, then Joe invites businesses to get in touch. As an innovative, trusted hosting and technology partner, Wi-Manx can help. Wi-Manx work closely with Government and a network of professional advisors experienced in Digital Currencies.

 

WorldBackupDay

World back up day – press release

How to Protect your Data on World Back Up Day

It shouldn’t take one day of the year to make us realise how important it is to back up our business’s data, but World Back Up Day reminds us to do exactly that.

Today is a day dedicated to encouraging people and companies all over the world to keep data safe and secure by backing up early and often.

With 78% of data loss and corruption caused by software or hardware malfunctions, 11% by human error, 7% by software failure, 2% by viruses and 1% by natural disasters – no matter what preventative measures you take, you simply can’t predict every eventuality. From the most robust firewall to unbeatable threat management, these will do little to protect your businesses data in the event of human error or Mother Nature and her volatile ways. This is why your ultimate data protection and security must come in the form of a backup that gives your business the best chance of recovery.

On an individual basis it is much simpler: MD of Wi-Manx Joe Hughes explains;

Joe Hughes

“A backup is a second copy of all your important files — for example, your family photos, home videos, documents and emails. Instead of storing it all in one place (like your computer), you keep another copy of everything somewhere safe.”

“However, when we begin to apply this to businesses, we see that the sheer amount of data and the importance of this data take back-up planning to a whole other level.

There are a lot of businesses that don’t pay attention to back-ups, until it’s too late.”

Joe asks

“So why is it important for every business to review their back up plans and systems?”

“Poorly designed back-up solutions or mishandled information puts businesses at risk. The obvious answer is that without a back-up system, should your on-site systems fail you have the potential to lose all of your information since your company’s beginnings. How would the loss of customer information, projects, accounting information, or sales and marketing collateral affect your company? For many, it could be impossible to recover.”

Backing up company data is now becoming more important than ever, as we create more and more information every day. In fact, every two days we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilisation up until 2003.

Joe continues

“Backing up your data in a resilient and secure environment, preferably off-site, also protects your data from viruses, theft, hardware failure, accidental deletion and any physical on site disaster such as fire or floods.”

But what can businesses do on World Back Up Day?

“We want to urge businesses to use this day to take a quick look at their back up procedures and systems and also to just undertake some key research into back-up solutions on the market. Data storage solutions are changing every day so it is important for IT managers to keep ahead of the curve.”

“In 2014 they will be under pressure to protect and secure data in resilient environments that guarantees virtually no downtime. The need for reliable and instant disaster recovery and business continuity solutions that promise 99.99% up time will continue to drive businesses to reconsider their data storage options over the next 12 months, and subsequently invest in virtualisation.

Virtualisation, in the computing sense, involves creating virtual versions of resources such as operating systems and computer storage. Many businesses are now using cloud storage and back-up solutions to limit the amount of hardware on site and keep cost management under control.“

For more information on back-up solutions, or for a free review of your back up procedures, contact Joe Hughes at Wi-Manx today on 01624 641188.

 

 

 

 

Wi-Manx appoints Tim Cass as new CTO

Wi-Manx CTO

Tim Cass – Wi-Manx CTO

Local hosting, network and internet service provider Wi-Manx have appointed Tim Cass as their new Chief Technical Officer to aide with the company’s ambitious growth strategy.

Bringing years of industry experience to the role, Tim will be responsible for every aspect of the businesses’ infrastructure which is supported by their state of the art datacentre. His appointment marks significant expansion for the business which remains the only truly Manx owned network and hosting solutions provider.

Joe Hughes, Managing Director at Wi-Manx welcomed Tim to the team:

“Wi-Manx is committed to service excellence and this core value remains at the heart of our operation. We are delighted to have someone of Tim’s calibre joining our team. Tim has a proven track record in the hosting and datacentre space, something that Wi-Manx were keen to benefit from.

Tim now heads up a team of skilled engineers who are responsible for the intricate details of the Wi-Manx infrastructure, including our own Heywood House datacentre. He will play a pivotal role in the expansion of our business into new markets and I am sure he will build on our reputation for delivering high levels of service and technical innovation.”

Offering a wealth of knowledge from his previous positions with Domicilium and Netcetera, Tim was an early pioneer of the island’s burgeoning E-Gaming industry during the turn of the millennium, which saw him pave the way for the island’s future infrastructure, creating a resilient road map that has helped transform the Isle of Man into a leading E Business destination.

Speaking of his successful past experience, Tim says.

“I have always been passionate about IT solutions and in 1999 I firmly believed the future lay in networks, datacentres and hosting. I made the decisive move from the finance sector just when the unprecedented growth of E-Gaming started on the Isle of Man.

This early involvement meant I formed a key role in helping develop the extensive datacentre and network infrastructure that now underpins one of the most successful industries in the Isle of Man’s history.”

Looking to the future of Wi-Manx, Tim comments:

“When Joe was appointed Director at Wi-Manx, I knew the company would be on the track to success. I had always appreciated their honest, direct and solution orientated approach to business.
The opportunity to work at Wi-Manx was a very attractive proposition for me; being able to collaborate with such a talented team of people always creates a highly dynamic and exciting working environment. I am delighted to be joining Wi-Manx having seen them emerge as a real challenger in the marketplace.”


For more information contact:
Laura Daly Press Contact 0844 875 0003
About Wi-Manx

Wi-Manx owns and operates its own Isle of Man datacentre and provides solutions for the most demanding of hosting environments. Delivering a range of hosting, voice, internet and datacentre services to several markets, the business remains the only truly Manx owned network and hosting solutions provide on the Isle of Man.

 

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Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery Awareness Week

Quick note to say the Wi-Manx hosting, broadband and voice networks are fully operational. The outages experienced elsewhere today have not affected us in any way because of our resilient network architecture.

As part of Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery Awareness week we’re inviting businesses of all sizes to get in touch for their free Risk Assessment Review!

Call us now on 01624 641188 or email business@wimanx.com.

Colocation Series #5 – Cooling

Stulz CRAC UnitEquipment hosted in a datacentre generates heat. To ensure the uninterrupted operation of the equipment, sufficient cooling needs to be provided in order to maintain an optimal operational environment. Maintaining temperature is a key consideration but it is also important to maintain the right humidity and airflow levels.

Datacentres utilise air-conditioning units, also known as Computer Room Air Conditions (CRAC) or Computer Room Air Handlers (CRAH) units. These are larger, more fault-tolerant and higher-end versions of your office air-conditioner. CRAC units come in many sizes, form-factors and utilise a range of different cooling concepts but the purpose remains the same: to remove the heat, cool the environment and in some cases, maintain the optimal humidity levels.

From a simplistic standpoint, CRAC units blow out cold air which keeps the room and the equipment cool. The actual definition of cold does vary and the actual temperature is generally determined by the provider. ASHRAE (the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) releases various recommendations and white-papers relating to optimal temperatures of operation in a datacentre environment. This process is also undertaken by a number of ICT equipment vendors and air-conditioning suppliers. In short, there is no single right answer.

A temperature between 20 and 22 degrees was generally considered the norm. Since then, in the pursuit of higher levels of efficiency, many of the old attitudes towards cooling have changed. Numerous recent studies have proven that servers are far more tolerant to marginally higher temperatures and therefore can quite happily run effectively at temperatures exceeding 24 degrees+. Google is widely believed to operate their servers at intake temperatures of ~27 degrees, far higher than your average server room. The catalyst for this rise in temperature is energy efficiency, environmental factors and, ultimately, cost savings.

The complete datacentre cooling lifecycle is outside the scope of this article but I have included some links below which outline a number of topics. Within this article, I will briefly outline how the Heywood House datacentre is cooled, how the environment is monitored and how Wi-Manx utilises free-cooling to achieve higher levels of efficiencies and a lower PUE.

Heywood House Cooling

Our Isle of Man datacentre uses a combination of cooling technologies:

  • Cold aisle containment
  • Chilled Water
  • Free Cooling

Cold-Aisle Containment

Cold-Aisle containment in our Isle of Man datacentre

Aisle containment is a system designed to ensure separation of hot and cold air in a datacentre environment. Wi-Manx uses a cold-aisle containment system alongside high-end CRAC units from the renowned manufacturer Stulz. Cold aisle containment means the cold air is distributed into an enclosed corridor at the front of the racks and the exhaust air is expelled to the rear. The aisle concept ensures the front and back of the racks are fully separated. The separation achieved through the aisle system delivers higher levels of efficiencies when compared to traditional systems. The cold-aisle concept is explained here.

Chilled Water

Our datacentre uses a chilled water system. This system uses chilled water that flows around the datacentre in a secure, steel pipe-work system. This water is then supplied to the CRAC units which then use this to cool the datacentre environment. Chilled water is one of the most common systems used in datacentre environments as it is proven to be reliable, energy efficient and supports a variety of cooling deployments.

For the water to remain chilled, it needs to be cooled by an external device – this could be in the form of a chiller or a dry-air-cooler. Outdoor dry-air coolers leverage the free-cooling concept.

Free Cooling

Free Cooling is a term coined to describe a means of leveraging the natural environment and ambient temperatures to aid air conditioning systems. In effect, if the outdoor temperature is 19 degrees C and the indoor temperature is to be maintained at 22 degrees C, then it makes sense to try and use the temperatures as they exist outside of the datacentre.  Free Cooling is a large topic in itself with many different technologies and definitions that vary from vendor to vendor.

The Free Cooling used at Heywood House consists of high performance dry-air-coolers which use the ambient temperatures of the Isle of Man to cool the chilled-water loop.

pdufeature

Colocation Series #4 – Rack Power

A typical datacentre rack is supplied with one or two power feeds. When two supplies are presented to a colocation solution, these would normally be an ‘A’ and ‘B’ supply. Two power feeds increases the level of resilience due to the fact they would normally be fed from different master PDUs, UPS systems and even generator systems. This end-to-end separation eliminates any single points of failure which is an important consideration where ensuring the highest uptime levels.

In our Heywood House datacentre, we typically provide one or two 16A or 32A supplies to the rack. The connector utilised is an IEC60309, also known as a commando socket.

At this point you are actually unable to connect any equipment to the rack supply – to do so, you will need an rPDU (rack power distribution unit). A PDU is, in effect, akin to an extension lead. The PDU plugs into the rack supply (IEC309) and presents a number of outlets (typically between 8 and 24) to be used by your in-rack equipment.

Type of PDUs

There are three main types of PDUs (explained below):

  • Basic / Dump PDUs
  • Metered PDUs
  • Smart/Switchable PDUs

Basic PDU

A selection of Eaton Rack PDUs

These PDUs consist of several outlets.  These could be C13, UK or US socket, with each outlet typically rated between 8A and 16A. A basic PDU is considered dumb as there is no form monitoring or control of the outlets. Some basic PDUs do feature a local LED current meter so the operator can view the current when observing the PDU in person.

Metered PDU

Metered PDUs are very similar to basic PDUs with one key difference. A metered PDU would typically feature a controller board, an Ethernet port and a built-in web server. The controller circuitry is able to monitor the current/load of the main input and each individual outlet. This functionality provides real-time data on the power usage and power characteristics. This data can then be accessed through a web interface or more commonly using the management protocol SNMP. Metered PDUs allow you to keep track of when and where your power is being consumed, an important consideration given power is now one of the key costs components in a datacentre environment.

Smart PDU

Building on the features of the Metered PDU, the Smart PDUs take it one step further. While the metered PDU allows you to monitor the status of individual outlets, a Smart PDU enables you to control individual outlets, powering them on and off and enabling you to power down your equipment remotely. These features are typically accessed through the same web interface, SSH or using SNMP.

Smart PDUs are popular with colocation customers who wish to retain full control of their equipment remotely without having to engage datacentre staff.

Wi-Manx uses metered, fully-managed Smart PDUs with all of our shared colocation packages. Using our secure API, customers can also control their allocated PDU ports through our customer portal.

PDU selection

The rack PDU will be rated to a maximum of 16A or 32A, so it is important that the total load never exceeds this rating. The rating ultimately determines the size and load-requirements of the connected equipment. You would normally size the PDU and the rack supply to the envisaged load within the rack.

For example, a typical 1U rack server may use 1A of power.  Connecting 24 x 1A servers to a 24-port 16A PDU is not possible nor would it be recommended. It is important to size your PDU accurately for today’s load and to also plan for any envisaged growth. The metered and smart PDUs make it easy to monitor load and they can be configured to alert you when you are approaching your limit or experience an overload condition.

This overload could be you approaching the limit of your PDU’s capabilities or it could be a logical limit such as the power commit you have negotiated with your colocation provider.

Determining the PDU size and power requirements

This is one of the most common questions we come across when dealing with our datacentre colocation customers – how can they forecast their power requirements?

In most cases, the number of devices and therefore the quantity and the type of power ports is known (e.g. 8/16/24, IEC or UK plug). Although this information has been considered, often the actual power load has not been calculated.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to estimate the power draw of your equipment.

Tools

Dell Energy Smart Solutions Advisor (ESSA)

The ESSA tool enables you to simulate your hosting solution and therefore determine the power demands, both today and with increased load. The tool is available here.

HP Power Advisor

HP makes a tool that, like the ESSA, enables you to forecast power requirements. You can access the tool here.

Other vendors

Many vendors will quote the power and current requirements on their data-sheets. These figures are often the highest, worst-case figures yet do not reflect real-world deployments. In these cases, the recommended route would be to use an inline meter (plug-through or clamp-on) and take real-world measurements to determine the exact power requirements.

Connector Type

In the UK, datacentre PDUs usually have two types of outlets for equipment; UK Plug and C13 (IEC 60320). C13 is the most common power connector when it comes to rack-mountable servers, network and security equipment. Most equipment will feature a C13 socket and come supplied with an IEC lead.  In the majority of cases, certainly in the case of colocation, the customer would use an IEC power lead to connector their equipment to the rack PDU.

Occasionally there are devices that require an AC/DC adapter and therefore a UK plug would be required.

Some PDU manufacturers do build multi-port PDUs that feature both IEC and UK plug sockets but this flexibility can add to the cost. The compromise is a small (e.g. 4 or 6) port UK plug PDU attached to your existing C13 PDU.

IEC and UK plug PDUs are the most common.  However, for expansion, you can purchase PDUs with IEC60309 which enable you to daisy chain further PDUs (provided you do not exceed load limits).

PDU Form Factor

There are two common form factors – horizontal and vertical. The vertical PDUs are mounted in the rack vertically. There is a variation known as “zero-U” which is a low-profile version of the vertical PDUs. Vertical PDUs fit snugly within the rack using the minimal amount of rack space.

Deciding whether to use horizontal or vertical really depends on the preference of the user. Often customers will opt for two vertical PDUs, sometimes one on either side or often on the same side. Other users will opt for multiple horizontal PDUs spread throughout the height of the rack.

Why monitor rack power?

Electricity costs money. The more power you consume in a datacentre, the more it costs the provider and, accordingly, the more you will be charged each month. Technology vendors are constantly developing more modern equipment with far higher power efficiencies. It is for this reason that many datacentre tenants opt for the most modern, efficient ICT equipment saving money in the long run.

A modern Quad-Core Intel CPU when compared to a 2-year old CPU will use a fraction of the power and a far higher level of performance. It is worth using the tools mentioned in this article to estimate the power draw of your legacy equipment against some of the newer server models.

Next article

In the next article, I will explain datacentre cooling and how Wi-Manx uses Cold-Aisle containment to provide an efficient, environmentally controlled hosting environment.

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Isle of Man Broadband & Big Data

Shows “average” daily user downloads (in GB) by post-code area.

Each month we process millions of rows of information relating to our broadband network. This data is stored in multiple database systems and results in several hundred GB of data in its raw form. We then feed this data into several other systems for further processing. This data is used for troubleshooting, enforcing broadband caps and it also used by our business customers for monitoring their own usage.

The data we collect  includes information such as the amount of time spent online and the volume of data downloaded/uploaded. We do not collect any data relating to the type of content or the content itself.

Big Data is a term that is getting bounded around a lot at the minute. You can learn more about Big Data here. Our data is perhaps not as big as other data-sets, however it is a good starting point!

We thought it would be fun to do some basic data analysis using our anonymous usage data.

As a starting point, we have broken the Isle of Man broadband usage data down by post-code area. In time, we could introduce other variables such as the weather and public holidays.  In the future, and following additional analysis, we should be in a position to answer a number of very important questions :

  • Why do people in Maughold download more than Port St Mary?
  • What region of the Island spends more time browsing?
  • Does the Isle of Man weather impact browsing habits?

I have included an example showing “average” download amounts “by user” for Sunday 22nd December 2013.

In time, we may produce a “real-time” broadband heat-map. This would simply be in the form of a coloured map. This would show real-time activity on our broadband network by post-code area. This may show visual patterns relating to the weather, power-cuts, (rare) network outages and similar trends.

 

 

 

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New Promo Video

We have just finished a new promotional video about Wi-Manx and the Isle of Man. You can view the video below.

web_filtering

UTM Firewalls : Control internet access within your organisation

fwThe majority of today’s businesses permit some form of employee internet access. This could be an integral part of their job, to serve as a job aide or to simply enable staff to check their personal e-mail or browse the web during their lunch breaks.

Whatever the reason, there is a risk that unrestricted internet access could lead to a lack of productivity, expose the company’s IT infrastructure to unwanted threats or act as a conduit for unwanted data leakage. Web-filtering and content control at the network edge can go some way to controlling internet access in a modern business environment. A UTM (Unified Threat Management) Firewall is the perfect solution to control and monitor Internet access.

Solutions

There are a number of solutions and technical solutions that can be used to control internet access and screen content for viruses, malware and similar exploits.

Historically, the most common solution was to use a HTTP proxy and all employee web requests were sent through the proxy software. These solutions were typically licensed by the user, required a degree of administration and end-user devices had to be configured to use the proxy.

Gateway-level web filtering

A Firewall device serves as the gateway between the company network and the Internet. Many leading Firewall vendors quickly identified an opportunity. As their devices resided at the network-edge, this could be considered the ideal place to both filter and control web-traffic. Most modern UTM Firewalls now employ some form of web-filtering and content-control as part of their standard offering.

Wi-Manx extensively use Fortinet Firewalls as part of their datacentre and managed service deployments. This article will outline the key features of the Fortinet solution, how they function and how these translate into tangible business benefits, saving money, improving productivity whilst eliminating threats. In all cases, we would recommend a Fortinet Firewall as a key component and part of a multi-layered approach to security.