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Review: A Small Orange / Cirtex

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  #1  
Old 01-01-2014, 03:14 AM
Kubi Kubi is offline
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Review: A Small Orange / Cirtex


I'll start this off by saying this is a negative review. It's rather lengthy as our experience has been very poor.

Time with ASO/Cirtex: 3 months

Product:

Xeon E3 1260v2
16GB of memory
4x 2TB HDD in RAID10
100Mbps uplink
/28 subnet
Monthly cost: $375

Sales experience:
My initial experience with their sales staff was decent. They were initially quick to respond and very courteous, however they seemed to lack knowledge in the product they were selling (specifically, dedicated servers). After roping in a sysadmin or two we were able to compromise on a plan/price that worked for us (namely the one above). The server built is not available on their website and is custom to our business. We specifically requested the RAID10 for hot swappable purposes (as we run a radio show that is 24/7) and we needed some extra storage for music that would play when a DJ wasn't streaming.

Setup:
It took about a week to set up and install our base image. We chose Centos with a WHM license. The support staff responded quickly to a setup inquiry, but could only acknowledge our ticket being created. They had to escalate to get us any sort of info (mainly regarding the set up time of our server, as we were given a timeframe of 3 business days). Their sysadmin team (which I think is their tier2) is very slow to respond to tickets. After the setup of our server I was having issues with MySQL. I discovered that this was due to some faulty memory modules. It took a few days to get them to acknowledge the fault and replace them and they deemed it necessary to reimage our server, which means I had to start my configurations over again. They said this was due to a faulty image being installed. They never told me when they were done so I had to contact them again to make sure.

Normal operation:
It didn't take long for hard drives to start failing. We lost our first hard drive less than 2 weeks of purchase. Apparently they have some hardware level monitoring on the server that alerted them to the failure. They emailed me and asked if they could swap it. I approved of a hot swap immediately but it still took a couple days to complete. We lost another hard drive shortly after the first being swapped, and another shortly after that. The third situation was completely different. Rather than letting us know we lost a hard drive and requesting maintenance, they shut our server down during a live show to swap the disk without telling us. I'm aware of the implications of swapping a disk live but this is what we bought 4 disks for and I expressed that to them during the first swap..

I contacted support after noticing the server went offline (almost immediately of course, because we were broadcasting). It took 2 hours for them to contact the data center to investigate the issue, despite my request for remote hands to look. After being down for 3 hours I was contacted by one of their sysadmins. He explained that we were supposed to have been notified of the maintenance but that never happened, but for some reason they shut the server off anyways and when they tried to bring it back up the raid card failed. I find it disturbing that no verification was done after shutting off a server and swapping hardware. I digress. I spent the next 2 hours with that sysadmin restoring access to our server and getting our databases restored, as they had become corrupt. I expressed my dissatisfaction with their services and spoke with a manager the next day, whom gave the impression that he couldn't care less about our server. The sysadmin offered to put us on new hardware, to which I agreed. I was later informed that day that it wasn't possible as our server was a custom solution, "So sorry!".

The sysadmin chalked the hard drive failures up to a faulty raid card (which makes sense), but less then a week later, you guessed it, another disk was showing pre-fail warnings. During our week long discussion on how we were going to proceed with the replacement and what we would do going forward, the ticket was escalated to their Director of Technology. He assured us that there would be no more issues, and asked that we give these hard drives "one more chance". So we agreed, and scheduled the swap. Their DC Monkey diligently replaced our disk at the scheduled time, and our server went down, yet again. I made several chats to support, as my email was down, and was told they were investigating the issue. I asked for it to be escalated to a higher priority, and insisted that they ask their DC technician to investigate as there was a scheduled hard drive swap. I was told that there was no such thing as a "higher priority" and that it would "be looked at in the order they made the ticket". I requested to speak with their Director, who was awoken from his slumber (it was around 10pm EST when the server went down). He informed me that the sysadmin who was supposed to be on to take the disk out of the array and monitor the swap never showed up, so they hot swapped a SATA disk (this is a huge no-no) and our entire raid basically exploded.

At this point, I requested that we be provided with the new hardware that we were originally offered. He agreed and they set up a new server for us at no additional cost. Specs:

Dual Xeon E5-2620 @ 2.0GHz
32GB of Memory
2x 256gb SSD in RAID1
2x 3TB HDD in RAID1
100Mbps uplink
/28 subnet

We spent the next 6 hours piecing together the server and restoring backups. Great success! I must note that the power-on hours of the harddrives that failed were all in the thousands. Some were over a year old, we were being given re-used harddrives and being told they were new (I have email proof of this). In retrospect I should have removed the disk from the array myself, but when you have a sysadmin and DC tech scheduled to do specifically that.. you figure they'd at least do their job.

Fortunately we have not had anymore bad hard drives. Although the shenanigans don't stop there!

I opened a ticket a week ago to inquire about increasing our port speed, as we are noticing that during peak times we nearly cap our uplink. We've taken steps to cache static objects and optimize our sites, but we have a large audience and that isn't necessarily enough. After 5 days of our ticket being transferred to a sysadmin, sales, then to dedicated sales, then for some reason back to regular sales, we started getting somewhere. Very slowly. Now, any provider I know only provides 10/100/1000, so I initially asked for a 1Gbps port, but could easily compromise and ask for 200Mbps if it was available(and I did). I don't need 1Gbps. We were informed that because we do not use our currently allotted 3.2TB of egress they are hesitant to provide us with a bigger uplink. I explained to them that a monthly allotment has little to do with the amount of traffic I need to push through a pipe in a given second. Again, these were traffic SPIKES due to an article being spread online (usually once/twice a week) and are NOT by any means consistent. We were very rudely offered a 200Mbps port for the low low price of $1140/mo! Quite the steal if you ask me.

I have not heard back from them yet regarding an upgrade to our port speed. I'm in the process of reviewing other hosting companies to find someone who values our business and not our wallet. We're very easy to please and the only time I've opened tickets is to get hardware replaced, or if I had a question about something they might provide (bandwidth graphs). Aside from that, I manage the server myself.

tl;dr:

I wish I had known they were bought our by EIC a few months ago. I would not have purchased a server through them. I do NOT recommend them as a provider unless you like scheduling hard drive replacements every week and talking to tech support via chat who's only ability is to open a ticket for you.

I hope I didn't ramble too much and that some people find this review helpful, perhaps it will save some poor soul from making a painful choice.



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  #2  
Old 01-01-2014, 03:29 AM
NN-Chris NN-Chris is offline
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Posts: 240
Thorough review. Appreciate the honesty.

Very dissapointing as ASO always stood out to me as a top tier reputable provider and when I was looking for something myself recently I was looking at their offers. Kind of glad I went another route.

Hopefully you have better luck with another server elsewhere. Should check out WiredTree if you're looking for a solid managed provider.

  #3  
Old 01-01-2014, 03:47 AM
Kubi Kubi is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vect0r View Post
Thorough review. Appreciate the honesty.

Very dissapointing as ASO always stood out to me as a top tier reputable provider and when I was looking for something myself recently I was looking at their offers. Kind of glad I went another route.

Hopefully you have better luck with another server elsewhere. Should check out WiredTree if you're looking for a solid managed provider.
I read very positive reviews about ASO as well, but I think they may have been post-buyout by EIG. Their Director was very pleasant to work with despite my undying frustration with them. Our organization hierarchy is comprised of combat arms soldiers (myself included) and current/past drill sergeants. It was VERY difficult to hold my tongue and not cuss someone out. I will say that I appreciate his efforts to restore our services after the last debacle, but it should not have to escalate that far to get results. A reliable sysadmin and DC tech should have been able to fix that mess.

Honestly, we do not need a managed provider. I am capable of managing a server myself. I'm a Jr. Linux administrator and network ops engineer with a CDN provider. I will admit I was not fully aware of the SATA limitations when it came to hot swap and as we had done them previously, three times, I did not think there would be any difference. I suppose the issue occurred because previously the controller had taken the drives out of the array automatically where as it did not the last time. In that situation I was relying on the person who said they would handle the swap in the first place, which was probably a bad idea.

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  #4  
Old 01-01-2014, 03:52 AM
HRR1963 HRR1963 is offline
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Next time rent a server from a company that is highly dedicated to that like WiredTree, HostDime, Hivelocity, iWeb, phoenixnap, etc...

ASO is mostly dedicated to shared hosting. Leaving the EIG factor out, which really doesnt matter.

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  #5  
Old 01-01-2014, 04:11 AM
NN-Chris NN-Chris is offline
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Posts: 240
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kubi View Post
I read very positive reviews about ASO as well, but I think they may have been post-buyout by EIG. Their Director was very pleasant to work with despite my undying frustration with them. Our organization hierarchy is comprised of combat arms soldiers (myself included) and current/past drill sergeants. It was VERY difficult to hold my tongue and not cuss someone out. I will say that I appreciate his efforts to restore our services after the last debacle, but it should not have to escalate that far to get results. A reliable sysadmin and DC tech should have been able to fix that mess.

Honestly, we do not need a managed provider. I am capable of managing a server myself. I'm a Jr. Linux administrator and network ops engineer with a CDN provider. I will admit I was not fully aware of the SATA limitations when it came to hot swap and as we had done them previously, three times, I did not think there would be any difference. I suppose the issue occurred because previously the controller had taken the drives out of the array automatically where as it did not the last time. In that situation I was relying on the person who said they would handle the swap in the first place, which was probably a bad idea.
For the premium you were paying sounds like you didn't even get half of your moneys worth. For unmanaged - I had a very very good experience with Databasebydesign LLC - great prices and the couple (only twice) I had issues with the server it was back up and ready for me to do my thing within the hour of the ticket.

  #6  
Old 01-01-2014, 04:12 AM
ZachMaC ZachMaC is offline
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Location: Oklahoma City
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I'm sorry to hear about your issues with ASO. May I suggest you try a company that focuses on dedicated servers like stated above. I wish you the best of luck with your next provider.

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  #7  
Old 01-01-2014, 05:07 AM
NateN34 NateN34 is offline
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Posts: 312
Wow, that is horrible! Not only bad service, incompetent staff, but insane prices...

Definatley will avoid this hosting company.

  #8  
Old 01-01-2014, 02:11 PM
Kubi Kubi is offline
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Join Date: May 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HRR1963 View Post
Next time rent a server from a company that is highly dedicated to that like WiredTree, HostDime, Hivelocity, iWeb, phoenixnap, etc...

ASO is mostly dedicated to shared hosting. Leaving the EIG factor out, which really doesnt matter.
Thank you for the recommendation. Choosing a provider is rather difficult as you don't always see their true colors until you've become a customer. I'll be emailing a couple of these companies to see where we go from here.

  #9  
Old 01-01-2014, 06:46 PM
FastServ FastServ is offline
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There aren't any hot swap limitations on SATA (it's part of AHCI specifications). Especially if you're using a hardware RAID card and a proper hot swap chassis. I've swapped countless SATA drives (both with and without hardware RAID) without any such problems over the years.

The problem with SATA in RAID is trying to use common desktop-grade disks (lacking TLER) on hardware cards. They will drop like flies.

The primary issue, at least how I see it, is negligence compounded by low quality hardware.

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  #10  
Old 01-01-2014, 06:48 PM
Kubi Kubi is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FastServ View Post
There aren't any hot swap limitations on SATA (it's part of AHCI specifications). Especially if you're using a real hardware RAID card. I've swapped countless SATA drives (both with and without hardware RAID) without any such problems over the years. The primary issues with SATA in RAID is trying to use low quality desktop-grade disks on hardware cards. They just won't last.

The primary issue, at least how I see it, is a combination of negligence compounded by low quality hardware.
The explanation I was provided with was that SATA drives can not be hot swapped unless they are first removed from the array. We're using an LSI SAS9260 card. Is that not the case? If so that just opens a whole new set of questions. Namely, why were we misinformed.

  #11  
Old 01-01-2014, 06:54 PM
FastServ FastServ is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kubi View Post
The explanation I was provided with was that SATA drives can not be hot swapped unless they are first removed from the array. We're using an LSI SAS9260 card. Is that not the case? If so that just opens a whole new set of questions. Namely, why were we misinformed.
You can just swap it out. Most LSI cards (the 9260 for sure) will automatically assign the new disk as a hot spare and begin the rebuild on it's own - so long as the new disk has an empty partition table and no existing RAID metadata (e/g/ new or previously wiped clean). It's generally 'safer' to use megacli to remove the disk from the array before pulling it, but not required... and even so it wouldn't require a shutdown. The ONLY reason you would need to reboot or shutdown the server to swap a disk, is if the drive trays were not in fact hot swap and the chassis had to be opened.

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  #12  
Old 01-01-2014, 06:59 PM
Kubi Kubi is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FastServ View Post
You can just swap it out. Most LSI cards (the 9260 for sure) will automatically assign the new disk as a hot spare and begin the rebuild on it's own. It's generally 'safer' to use megacli to remove the disk from the array before pulling it, but not required... and even so it wouldn't require a shutdown. The ONLY reason you would need to reboot or shutdown the server is if the drive trays were not in fact hot swap.
I do recall them being able to hot swap one of the disks without taking down the server. Which would indicate to me that the trays were hot swappable. I'm not largely hard drive savvy but it seems we have standard desktop drives in the server. Model: ST3000DM001-1CH166. I suppose this is just another reason to take our business elsewhere. Thanks for the clarification.

  #13  
Old 01-01-2014, 07:02 PM
FastServ FastServ is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kubi View Post
I do recall them being able to hot swap one of the disks without taking down the server. Which would indicate to me that the trays were hot swappable. I'm not largely hard drive savvy but it seems we have standard desktop drives in the server. Model: ST3000DM001-1CH166. I suppose this is just another reason to take our business elsewhere. Thanks for the clarification.
Indeed, those disks are not going to work well on most RAID cards especially LSI. The load from rebuilding the array is usually enough to kick another one out, and you'll end up going down. At this point you would have had to 'force' the incomplete array back together in the RAID BIOS, hence your downtime and subsequent data corruption.

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  #14  
Old 01-01-2014, 07:12 PM
Kubi Kubi is offline
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Originally Posted by FastServ View Post
Indeed, those disks are not going to work well on most RAID cards especially LSI. The load from rebuilding the array is usually enough to kick another one out, and you'll end up going down. At this point you would have had to 'force' the incomplete array back together in the RAID BIOS, hence your downtime and subsequent data corruption.
That's unfortunate. Next this I'm going to find out is that our server is actually a shuttle box connected to a series of daisy chained power strips that go to one PDU port.


Last edited by Kubi; 01-01-2014 at 07:12 PM. Reason: typo
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