Category: Uncategorized

Mask Policy Update

March 4, 2021

This message is intended primarily for colocation customers who visit our facility.   As you may be aware, the Governor of Texas has rescinded the state-wide mandates for wearing face coverings and other measures intended to combat the spread of COVID-19.   Rather than an over-arching rule for when to require these measures and when not to, it is now up to individual business owners to enact policies of their own.   I understand that this may lead to questions as to what the requirements are at various businesses, and to the extent that I can clarify specifically for VIRTBIZ, I wanted to proactively bring you this update.

After discussions with our staff and contractors, the policy at VIRTBIZ will be to continue with a masking policy for all interactions between our staff and clients, vendors, contractors or guests inside our premises.  

This policy applies both ways; to our staff and to anyone else who may be inside the building.   It is a requirement for the continued employment of our staff as well as a requirement for the continued facility access for any other party.  While I recognize that some may have differing viewpoints, this is the policy that made our team members most comfortable.   We are nothing without our team, and their safety and security are of utmost importance.   Therefore, this was an easy decision to make.

If you are visiting our facility, please be sure that you have a face covering with you so that you can wear that as appropriate when you may come into contact with others.  Our team will be doing the same.

We thank you in advance for your continued cooperation.

Chris Gebhardt, President
VIRTBIZ Internet Services

VIRTBIZ and the weather / power crisis

If you are local to our DAL1 (Canton Street) facility, then you are undoubtedly aware of the severe weather and electric crisis that is impacting our region. 

We’ve received some questions over the past few days and I felt it would be a good time to reach out to our entire customer base to let you know how we’re doing and what our plans are throughout the remainder of the weather emergency.

As you may be aware, the entire state of Texas, comprised of over one quarter-million square-miles (or more than 695,000 square km), has been under severe winter weather.   We have seen multiple rounds of heavy snow and freezing precipitation coupled with temperatures as low as 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-17 Celsius), and our area’s infrastructure is quite simply not well equipped for these conditions.   This has resulted in many streets and roads becoming impassable. 

More critically, the extreme conditions have taken a massive toll on the electric grid that supplies commercial power to homes and businesses.   A large number of generation stations have been knocked offline and are unable to be quickly restarted.   This has caused a severe crisis that has caused the largest forced blackout in US history.

While up to 15 million people in Texas alone may have been impacted by this failure, I’m pleased to say that the VIRTBIZ datacenter and HQ has not lost power and is operating normally at this time.   Our status as a critical data facility and strategic location at the intersection of the Dallas Central Business District and Baylor Hospital Complex grids places us far back on the list for forced power outages. 

We have made the following preparations to cope with this situation.

–    Employee schedules have been modified so that only staff members who can safely travel to the facility are on-site.

–    We are housing staff members and their pets who have been displaced with no electricity, heat or water in their homes. 

–    Modifications have been made to our cooling systems to operate as efficiently as possible.

–    Our diesel backup generator has been double-checked and tested and is continually monitored to be ready at a moment’s notice.

–    Our refueling provider is on standby with specially equipped fuel delivery vehicles.

–    We are maintaining continuous communication with our bandwidth carriers to ensure that those that have been impacted by the weather or blackouts will not negatively impact connectivity.

VIRTBIZ remains open and fully operational, although at reduced staffing.   We appreciate your patience if we take a bit longer than usual to handle requests.   At the same time, we are welcoming new customers into the facility who are finding that it may be weeks or months before their workplace is fully restored.  

If you know of anybody we may be able to assist by housing their network in our facility, please reach out or feel free to put them in touch with us.

At this point we do not know the extent of the physical, financial or emotional impact this weather event will have.  I’m hopeful that our customers and their families are remaining safe and warm during this time and am proud to continue serving our customers through this difficult time.

Chris Gebhardt, President
VIRTBIZ Internet Services

Welcome, eHostDirect customers

VIRTBIZ Internet Services is pleased to announce the acquisition of eHostDirect’s customerbase.  As a 20-year leader in boutique web hosting, VIRTBIZ is uniquely positioned to provide an excellent level of business continuity to incoming customers while also providing a personal touch.  We’re certain that you may have a few questions about what this change means to you, so we would like to provide a few of the most frequently asked questions for you here.

Q: Why is this happening?
A: The management at eHostDirect has made the strategic decision to exit the webhosting business in order to better pursue other focuses.  VIRTBIZ has been the provider behind eHostDirect and the two organizations have worked closely together in order to provide the best service with the least amount of interruption or inconvenience to you.

Q: How does one pronounce VIRTBIZ?
A: VIRTBIZ is the combination of two words: virtual and business.  Therefore, our name is pronounced just like the first part of syllable of those words if they were to be combined together.  Virt Biz.

Q: Who is this VIRTBIZ, anyhow?
A: We are a family-owned and operated business. We have been in business since 1979, and have been in the hosting business since 1996, so you can be confident we will always be around for our customers.  This is not a fly-by-night outfit.  We own and operate all of our facilities from our headquarters in Dallas, Texas.  VIRTBIZ maintains an A+ accreditation with the Better Business Bureau, Top Webhost recognition from the Dallas Business Journal, and a 5-star rating from Facebook and Ask Webhosting.  We provide service for customers on 5 continents ranging from hobbyists to Fortune 100 enterprises.

Q: Is VIRTBIZ reliable?
A: Yes.  Since we are able to control all aspects of the service that we provide from backbone Internet to electrical service and on-site support staff, we can ensure our customers an extremely high level of uptime.   If you would like to see our backbone uptime as reported by independent monitoring services, please visit https://www.virtbiz.com/support/network-tools/

Q: Will my service change?
A: For the moment, nothing will change at all.   In the near future, we will be making across-the-board upgrades to all hosting packages including additional services and faster servers.   We will not be eliminating any existing services that you have – we will only be adding to that.

Q: Do I have to pay more?
A: We will not be adding any new charges to customers who have already paid their annual fees to eHostDirect.  It is very important to us that we honor that commitment.  As accounts are renewed we will work with customers to be sure we are providing the best level of service at the most reasonable rate.  In some cases customers will see a decrease in pricing, while in other cases there may be an upward adjustment to better reflect market rates.  No matter what, if you’ve already paid for your annual hosting, that pricing remains in place for your term.

Q: How will I be billed?
A: Customers will be invoiced via email, much like you are already accustomed to.   You can manage your account and pay invoices via credit card or PayPal via our Customer Portal at https://www.virtbiz.com/customer

Q: What other services does VIRTBIZ provide?
A: In addition to webhosting, we are also a commercial Internet datacenter capable of providing cloud-based services, dedicated and virtual-private servers (VPS), server colocation, website design assistance and more.   We hope you’ll get to know us, and invite you to read more at https://www.virtbiz.com/about/

Q: Where do I go for support?
A: You can gain support via our Customer Portal at https://www.virtbiz.com/customer.  Alternatively, you can use our direct link to our Support Ticket System here:  https://www.virtbiz.com/support/index.php?/Tickets/Submit   It’s not necessary to log in – anyone can submit a ticket.

Of course, we’re sure that you may have other questions for us and invite you to bring those to our attention.  Our dedicated crew is always here to help.

VIRTBIZ telephone contact numbers

UPDATE: 06/23/2015, 8:00AM:  Our “usual” phone number of 972-485-4125 is back online after porting to internal systems

 

SUMMARY:
Our advertised phone numbers are currently offline, and we are working with the impacted carriers to resolve this as quickly as possible.

In the meantime, please make note of our numbers in case you need to contact us:
VIRTBIZ Office: 214-461-2601
VIRTBIZ FAX:  214-461-2606

FURTHER INFORMATION:
We have maintained our 972-485-4125 office number and 972-485-4140 fax number since 1997.  When we moved locations in 2001, and then to our own building in 2007 we received new landline numbers due to moving into different service areas.  For continuity purposes, we kept the old numbers and had them ported so that our customers were not required to learn new numbers for us.

In 2007 we ported the 972-485 numbers to a service provider simply for call-forwarding.  Keep in mind this was at a time when VOIP was just becoming mainstream, and the world of phone numbers was different than it is now!

The carrier responsible for our forwarding has apparently encountered difficulty with their trunking.  Inbound calls began to fail the morning of Friday, June 19.  Unfortunately, we have not been able to achieve any meaningful response from them on restoration of service.  Over the weekend we have made arrangements to bring the numbers in-house to our own systems.  This requires porting the numbers away from the outgoing carrier, and on landlines this process can take a few days.

We anticipate our regular numbers that everyone knows and loves to be restored shortly.  In the meantime, we want to be sure our alternative contact numbers are in your hands.

VIRTBIZ Office: 214-461-2601
VIRTBIZ FAX:  214-461-2606

We hope that you have not been caused any inconvenience or confusion by this issue.
As always, thank you for your business.  We’re proud to be your service provider.

Texas Flood: How is your datacenter?

No matter where we are from, one thing we have in common is we love to talk about the weather.  Here in Dallas, the weather has certainly given us plenty to talk about lately.  May 2015 set a new record as the wettest May in our history.  The massive amounts of water caused flash floods that stranded motorists and unfortunately resulted in four deaths.  Just this week, government officials have acknowledged that the flooding danger in Dallas County is very real.   Now that we are in mid-June, we are receiving a soaking from the remnants of Tropical Storm Bill.

With all this water, we have heard from a few customers who want to know one thing:  How safe is VIRTBIZ from flooding?   The answer: We are quite safe.

When we selected the site for our DAL1 datacenter, we used a number of different metrics in evaluating properties.  One key factor was how susceptible to flooding the site might be.

Dallas datacenter flood

The VIRTBIZ datacenter sits high above any flood projections.

A number of other Dallas datacenters and colocation facilities are located near the Trinity River.  In fact, we are aware of one facility that has had floodwaters up to their building and generator.   Even with the record amount of rain we have seen, the Trinity River has not hit it’s 100 year, or even 10 year flood stage.   When that event does occur, that facility may be unusable and equipment located there could be knocked offline, or worse, underwater.   Although property prices and construction costs were lower in that area, we eliminated properties neighboring that facility straight-away.

There are also Dallas colo facitilies that have sprung up along I-35 and the John Carpenter Freeway.   We evaluated properties in this area, but discounted them from consideration due to the risk of flood.  After the events of the last few weeks, we can be glad we did.

When we selected our Deep Ellum datacenter location, there were many factors that went into the decision.  Chief among those factors is the risk of flood damage.

Our DAL1 facility is well away from the Trinity River, and enjoys the relative elevation of the Deep Ellum area.  For starters, we sit a full 30 feet higher than the 800-year flood projection and over 40 feet above the 100-year event projection at street level.   In the event of a “natural flood” (ie: excessive rain, or the Trinity river breaks its levees) VIRTBIZ is certainly at higher-ground.  This renders us safe from flood risk.

But that’s a flood caused by Mother Nature.   We know there can be other causes of flooding.  Perhaps you’ve heard the story about the Dallas datacenter that flooded when a water-main ruptured.  Our building is further elevated from street level.   In fact, our building was constructed to be “dock high”, and this places the entirety of our floor a full 4 feet above street level.   This is why you have to climb a small set of stairs to get into our building.  If a nearby water main was to break, the run-off would flow harmlessly down the street and into storm drains.   There’s no risk of the water spontaneously jumping up 4 feet and into our door.

The next time your customer, manager, friend, competitor or co-worker asks you how protected your critical data infrastructure is from flood, you can confidently let them know “oh, we’re good!”   Although most people don’t think about a flood until it’s in the news, your VIRTBIZ team considered flood safety from the very beginning.

 

Network Maintenance Notification for 05/22/2015

MAINTENANCE WINDOW BEGIN:
Friday, May 22, 2015 12:00AM CDT

MAINTENANCE WINDOW END:
Saturday, May 23, 2015 4:00AM CDT

SCOPE OF WORK:
We received notification today at 2:51PM CDT from one of our network carriers, Level3 Communications, of emergency network maintenance on their equipment.  This work will take place between Midnight – 5:00am Central Time on May 23.  The reason for the maintenance has been given as “Hardware – Card Reseat.”  This activity will cause the Level3 network to be unavailable to users during that time.

OPERATIONAL IMPACT:

Minimizing impact to our customers is of key importance.  Routing across the Level3 network will be interrupted for up to 5 minutes at some point during the maintenance window while hardware is replaced and BGP reconverges.  Customers who are served at remote sites by a provider that employs extended route caching may experience periods of being unable to connect to hosted assets.  Please be advised that while our team will do everything possible to minimize this, we are unable to take responsibility for networks outside our control.

We appreciate your patience and understanding with the late notification.  We are providing this information as quickly as possible to our users.

Energy Efficiency at the datacenter

A datacenter is notoriously power-hungry.  The electricity required to power a small room full of servers and the associated costs of removing the heat that they generate may be equal to the energy requirements of several households.   Electricity is by far the largest operational cost of a datacenter.  It follows, therefore, that a datacenter is responsible for a fair amount of resources.   At VIRTBIZ, we are cognizant of this fact and we have undertaken several projects with the dual aim of containing overhead costs and being good stewards of our planet’s resources.

While leveraging technologies such as virtualization and replacing older equipment with more energy-efficient gear are obvious choices, paying attention to the somewhat less-exciting infrastructure can also provide good results.  Here are a few of the things that have been implemented throughout our operations:

  • CRAC/HVAC systems.  We make extensive use of closed-loop, liquid-cooled CRAC (Computer Room Air Conditioner) systems.  In contrast to conventional air-cooled systems, liquid-cooled systems use a heat exchanger that removes the heat from the refrigerant system.   By using a constantly cooled water supply, our indoor CRAC systems operate at peak efficiency at all times.  Whether it’s 20 or 120 degrees outside, the inside units always perform as if it’s 80 degrees.   By maintaining a closed-loop system, we do not lose any water to evaporation.  Our DAL1 datacenter has been recycling the same 300 gallons of water since 2007.  We also maintain a strict preventative maintenance schedule to ensure that systems are always operating at maximum efficiency.

    LED Lighting

    Replacing old-style lamps with LED has reduced power consumption from lighting by 88%

  • LED lighting conversions. VIRTBIZ has committed to a full-scale LED lighting conversion program which will be completed by mid 2015.  All office-area and datacenter lighting is being moved away from older fluorescent technology.  Through the careful selection of fixtures and lamps, we have reduced power consumption from our lighting systems by over 88%.  In addition to the power savings, LED upgrades result in more usable light in the datacenter and office areas.  While some of our upgrades have included the complete replacement of older fixtures, most of the upgrades have been retrofitted to existing infrastructure through the creative engineering of our staff.
  • Demand-Response participation.  As a datacenter, VIRTBIZ is a large electricity consumer.  When there is an event with the power grid that would otherwise lead to brown-out or blackout conditions for consumers, VIRTBIZ is called into action by the state’s grid operator, ERCOT.  Through our demand-response partner EnerNOC, we will transition off the grid and onto our own generator power.  VIRTBIZ is one of hundreds of large-capacity facilities such as other datacenters, manufacturers, and hospitals that participate in demand-response.  By removing load from the grid, that electric capacity is then available for consumers.

In a typical home or office, the easiest way to reduce electricity consumption (and the resulting carbon footprint) would be to simply turn off devices that are not in use.   In the case of a datacenter environment, the very nature of the operation necessitates computers and associated devices remain constantly powered.  VIRTBIZ continues to strive for efficiency wherever possible, which helps to contain costs so that our pricing to our customers remains as low as possible.  Maintaining optimum efficiency is also in keeping with our commitment to be responsible with our use of natural resources and the environment.

 

DAL1 Datacenter, Then and Now

In 2006, VIRTBIZ operated from 3 locations: our business office in Garland, TX and two separate datacenter facilities in Downtown Dallas.  We were approaching the end of our lease agreements at our business office and one of the datacenter locations.  As our growth continued, it became clear that consolidating operations would be advantageous, and we began a site search for what would become our new corporate headquarters and primary datacenter.

After touring many potential locations, we found what would become our DAL1 facility at 2805 Canton Street in Dallas.  Among the many things that attracted us to this building was the space that the previous building owner had used as a meeting hall.  In that roughly 4,000 square-foot space, we envisioned the first phase of our datacenter.  The room featured the basics, which were a heavy-load concrete floor, 13 inch masonry walls, and 10-tons of dedicated HVAC which would be sufficient for our initial operations.

DAL1, Phase 1 as it appeared in early 2007.

DAL1, Phase 1 as it appeared in early 2007.

Today the space looks much different.   We have added half a megawatt of electricity, installed heavy-duty flooring, added 120-tons of air-conditioning, and constructed a power vault to house transformers, UPS and battery backups and generator control.  Perhaps most notably, the room is now filled with equipment racks and cable raceway.

DAL1, Phase1, early 2015

DAL1, Phase1, early 2015

Of course, this is just a quick walk down memory lane.  You can see all the details about our DAL1 facility if you’d like.  Or you can learn about our DTX901 and MEM1 facilities as well.

 

March 22, 2015 Street Closures

We want to make our customers aware of street closures that will take effect on the morning of Sunday, March 22, 21015.  Datacenter operations will not be impacted and staff will continue to be on-site.  Customer site access may be inconvenient during these closures, however.

  • Canton Street from Young St to Exposition Ave:  7:00AM – 9:15AM
  • Commerce Street from Exposition Ave to Market Street:  7:00AM – 10:15AM

These closures will accommodate the Dallas Rock N Roll Half Marathon.  Full details about the event, including an interactive closure map, are available on the organizer’s website at THIS LINK.

Datacenter position marked by the star

Datacenter position marked by the star

DAL1 Facility Maintenance

VIRTBIZ contractors will be performing regular maintenance at the DAL1 facility in the next few days.   We pass this information to our customers for their planning purposes.

Thursday, January 29, 2015
10:00AM – 1:00PM Central

Preventative Maintenance will be performed today on UPS systems. No downtime or disconnection of critical load (ie: datacenter racks) is planned or anticipated. Our contractor will be performing regularly scheduled checks of UPS systems, rectifiers, inverters, static switch and power supplies. Full backup power will be maintained via diesel generator.

Saturday, January 31, 2015
8:00AM – 1:00PM Central

Cleaning crews will clean and polish our hard-surface floor areas at the DAL1 facility. Datacenter and server room areas will be treated with static dissipative finish. Floors that are being treated will not be accessible while the surface is being treated or while the product is curing. We have worked with our contractor to perform work in stages so that no area of the datacenter will be inaccessible for long periods of time. In addition, due to the high airflow in the server room, liquid-based products tend to dry faster than in a normal environment.

For the safety of our customers and staff, we will restrict customer entry to the datacenter while work is ongoing. If you have business at the DAL1 datacenter on Saturday morning to early afternoon, please use the building’s front door access and our staff will be glad to escort you to your equipment.

Thank you for your patience as we perform this work to keep our facility in top shape.