<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=1078844192138377&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

Blog

ServerCentral Named One of ComputerWorld’s 2016 Best Places to Work

A company's culture is difficult to define. For some organizations culture is an internal component of their success. It's an intangible element of collaboration and support. For other organizations, culture is the external presentation of their values to the broader communities.

At ServerCentral, we are most proud of the fact that our culture is both. We pride ourselves on being a place where top talent likes to work.

Being recognized as the 16th Best Place to Work in IT in ComputerWorld's 2016 Small Employer segment is a tremendous validation of our culture and commitment to doing everything with excellence. With a growing employee base, we are relentlessly committed to collaboration and supporting each other, our customers, partners and the IT community as a whole.

However, we don’t rest on this – or any other – accolade. To this end we continue to expand our efforts to support our employees with the recent introduction of a comprehensive employee sabbatical program and our ongoing support of each team member's continuing education efforts. We're also continuing to increase our on staff expertise to provide the one-on-one support and value our customers and partners deserve and expect from ServerCentral.

The more we continue to be behind the success of each and every ServerCentral team member, the more completely we can be behind the success of each and every customer, partner and community with whom we work.

See ComputerWorld’s 2016 Best Places to Work list here.

Topics: Inside ServerCentral Marketing

Meet ServerCentral Data Center Technician Dan Arnold

Name: Dan Arnold
Worked at ServerCentral since: July 2013
Years of experience in DC Ops: 8

Tell us about a day in the life of a Data Center Technician. 

DA: I typically wake up around 4 AM to ensure that I am on site and ready by 6 AM. I get a hand-off from the third-shift tech and peruse the queue while sipping that elixir, ambrosia (also known as coffee to the common man).

coffee.gif
Image

What kind of experience or natural curiosities does it take to be successful in DC Ops? 

DA: I was always intrigued by what made things tick. As a kid, my cousins had an Atari. One of their controllers' housing was broken and we had to use the PCB to play Combat and Pitfall. Once I saw what made it function, I was fascinated by the inner workings of the hardware. That curiosity extended for years, even to this day, resulting in many, many tear-downs, rebuilds, and experimentations.

What’s the coolest thing about your job?

DA: If I had to narrow it down to one thing, it has to be the constant evolution of processing and storage technologies. Other than that, the team that we have here is amazing and works very collaboratively. And company lunches. I love food.

What about the most challenging?

DA: Satisfying customers that are in a bind in one way or another. Some are facing downtime for hardware replacements, while others need things done yesterday. Every aspect of this industry is critical to someone at a certain point. It's rewarding when you are able to satisfy the demands of a client that really needs help then and there, especially when you are entrusted to fix a problem.

What’s the best prank you’ve pulled on a fellow tech?

DA: I once connected my Bluetooth adapter for my keyboard/mouse to another tech's terminal. Whenever he typed or moved his mouse, I would counter it, watching out of the corner of my eye. He got frustrated to the point of rebooting his machine a couple of times. Once he discovered my deception, we both had a hearty laugh...at least I did.

Tell me something most people don’t know about working in Data Center Ops.

DA: Sometimes, turning it on and off again really does work. After ensuring that it's plugged in, of course.

Favorite color Skittle?

DA: Green.

Biggest pet peeve?

DA: People that don't wash their hands.

Cats or dogs?

DA: Catdog? Nah, dogs. Dogs look up to man, cats look down on man.

Who is your celebrity doppelgänger?

DA: Aaron Rodgers. I actually get this rather frequently (of course he needs to bulk up a bit).

Name one weird fact about yourself.

DA: I always eat my fries before my burger.

Topics: Inside ServerCentral

Meet ServerCentral Lead Data Center Technician Josh Mills

Name: Josh Mills
Worked at ServerCentral since: April 2009
Years of experience in DC Ops: 10-ish

Tell us about a day in the life of a Lead Data Center Technician. 

JM: I'm in a bit of a weird spot with this one. I was the first full-time tech hired at DFT. Since I've seen our space (double? triple?) in size, I've also done a fair amount of the build-out work myself. That being the case, I can usually fix up any problems in our copper and fiber cabling plants, running cross-connects in the building's 2 MMRs and 4 POEs. Whenever we need to add room-to-room cabling, you'll see me installing it with other techs on manlifts. If you've ever seen us and heard us, no we can't turn off the beepers on them.  

What kind of experience or natural curiosities does it take to be successful in DC Ops? 

JM: I used to think I could make millions of dollars by pulling and terminating cable.  I was also always interested in computers and taking things apart to see what was wrong and try to fix it. After breaking a number of home electronics by the age of twelve, I was finally able to reassemble whatever I took apart!

What’s the coolest thing about your job?

JM: I kicked the owner's brother once. I also get to do a lot of unique projects in an industrial setting that's engineered to never fail. We've recently started using air-blown fiber to go from room to room, which beats pulling it by hand. I've taken 26-foot trucks full of customer gear and priceless data from DC to DC during migrations with no major (or minor) incidents. We always have a fun time at work, even during OMG emergencies. Somebody is always able to crack a joke and get everyone in a good mood. 

What about the most challenging?

JM: I am a cable perfectionist. I hate dirty cabling work. It's worse when unlabeled. Also, the new pop machine in the break room breaks down every day. This is no joke!

What’s the best prank you’ve pulled on a fellow tech?

JM: I'M THE GUY THEY PRANK. My car was on Craigslist for two days until I figured out who posted the ad. I still get the random callers asking about it to this day. Oh, and the fantasy football total text count was 527 messages. 527!!!!! 

Who is your celebrity doppelgänger?

JM: Everyone at the data center says I remind them of Charlie Day (Kitten Mittens).

kitten_mittens.gif
Image

Tell me something most people don’t know about working in Data Center Ops.

JM: As techs, we know that if we ever get arrested, we can call the NOC for bail money. We're open 24/7. No excuses. 

Topics: Inside ServerCentral

Meet ServerCentral Infrastructure Specialist Dallas Evans

Name: Dallas Evans 
Worked at ServerCentral since: 2010
Years of experience in DC Ops:

Who is your celebrity doppelgänger?

DE: Definitely a young Brad Pitt.

I can totally see that! Benjamin Button all the way. Now tell me about a day in the life of a ServerCentral Infrastructure Specialist.

DE: I clock in, grab a coffee, and read the data center operations ticketing queue. Once I get a feel for what’s going on, I head out to the pods and start work. I usually grab an early lunch and then it’s back to work until quitting time. 

What kind of experience or natural curiosities does it take to be successful in DC Ops?

DE: It probably helps to be into Star Trek or Star Wars, which might actually start a civil war in the data center someday.

What’s the coolest thing about your job?

DE: Really good benefits.

What about the most challenging?

DE: Language barriers can make requests more difficult, but we always get through it.

Oui. What’s the best prank you’ve pulled on a fellow tech?

DE: A technician just had Lasik surgery, so we made all the fonts on his computer and paperwork blurry (an idea borrowed from Jordan and Lew).

lasik_prank.gif
Image

Ah, the ol' post-Lasik blur. They pulled that one on me my first day at ServerCentral. Talk about hazing...

DE: PUN.

Tell me something most people don’t know about working in Data Center Ops.

DE: There are no windows. Except in the break room.

Topics: Inside ServerCentral

Meet ServerCentral Data Center Technician Lorenzo Martinez

lorenzo-martinez.jpg
[10:45] jamiefaithlowe: i need a fun fact about your dog for your picture caption.
[10:47] Lorenzo Martinez: my wife can't tell who snores louder, me or Frances.
[10:47] Lorenzo Martinez: and in the summer, we take her to all the street fests. she gets all the petting.
[10:58] Lorenzo Martinez: actually, i wish i knew how much attention bulldogs got from women when i was single.
[10:58] Lorenzo Martinez: don't print that.[1]

Name: Lorenzo Martinez
Worked at ServerCentral since: 2012

Tell me about a day in the life of a Senior Data Center Ops Technician.

LM: My day starts at 4:00 AM when my English Bulldog, Frances, decides it’s time for breakfast. I feed her and grab some food for myself. While eating, I read emails to find support requests that need to be addressed that day. I get to the data center by 5:30 AM and talk to the third-shift senior technician about where projects stand, what needs to be addressed, and if there are any emergencies. As other techs arrive throughout the day, I assign tasks to keep things moving along as best as possible. It’s basically rinse and repeat from there until 3:00 PM when I go home.

What kind of experience or natural curiosities does it take to be successful in DC Ops?

LM: You have to be that tinkering kid that broke a ton of things growing up, and you needed to fix them before Mom and Dad came home. At least that’s how it worked for me. It also helps to like reading. If you’re not learning something new, you’re doing it wrong.

Tell me something most people don’t know about working in Data Center Ops at ServerCentral.

LM: Data Center Olympics may or may not exist. 

Hypothetically, which events do you dominate?

Hypothetically:

  • Unplugged-Power-Cable High Jump
  • Failed-PDU Javelin Toss
  • Failed-HDD Discus Throw

What’s the coolest thing about your job?

LM: Finding something that doesn’t work and finally figuring out why. 

What about the most challenging?

LM: Bring promoted to a senior data center technician required having to find that insanely minuscule line between supervising your coworkers while still being friends. 

What’s the best prank you’ve pulled on a fellow tech?

LM: ServerCentral has a fantasy football league and a number of the techs are in it. There's a particular tech who isn't fond of fantasy football or us talking about it as much as we do. We posted his phone number somewhere and said people could text him for fantasy football advice. That resulted in him getting upwards of 500 text messages in a single weekend. At the end of the season, we threw him a party with streamers and confetti all over the office. We baked him a football-shaped cake and presented a trophy that was six feet tall. He's 5'7".

Favorite color Skittle? 

LM: I once found a purple Skittle that looked like me. I tried selling it on eBay, but no one bid on it. I ate it.


[1]  [10:58] jamiefaithlowe: technically, you have to say something is off the record before you say it.
[11:00] Lorenzo Martinez: you're right. i should've remembered that from years of journalism school.
[11:02] Lorenzo Martinez: go ahead and use it...i'll just tell my wife to not read the caption. :-)

Topics: Inside ServerCentral

Meet ServerCentral Data Center Technician Chris “The Centaur” Dunn

chris-dunn.jpg

Name: Chris "The Centaur" Dunn
Worked at ServerCentral since: 2011


Years of experience: 40+

Tell me about a day in the life of a Data Center Ops Technician.

CD: *BUZZ* Please replace this broken hard drive.
*BUZZ* Please interconnect these two rack switches that are in the same rack.
*BUZZ* Please see why my server won’t boot.
*BUZZ* Please interconnect these two rack switches that are across the room from each other.
*BUZZ* Please hook a KVM spider to my server and make sure its turned on.
*BUZZ* Please interconnect these two rack switches that are in different computer rooms.
*BUZZ* Please help us figure out why this switch port does not work.
*BUZZ* Please interconnect these two rack switches in different data centers.
*BUZZ* Please construct this 20-cab cage and have it ready in 4 days for a deadline.
*BUZZ* Please configure all the rack switches so they talk to each other and have good link lights.
*BUZZ* Please replace this broken hard drive.

What kind of experience or natural curiosities does it take to be successful in DC Ops?

CD:  
It helps to not only see the blinking lights blink, but to know why they are blinking and when they shouldn't. In other words, it's good to know why something works at all.

Tell me something most people don’t know about working in Data Center Ops at ServerCentral.

CD: There are three people named Chris in DC Ops, and 6 total in ServerCentral. There is occasional confusion.

What’s the coolest thing about your job?

CD: There is always something new to do or learn. And you never know what you will find under the raised floor.

What about the most challenging?

CD: One of the more interesting challenges, and one we take pride in, is helping some customers figure out the best way to accomplish what they are trying to do.

What’s the best prank you’ve pulled on a fellow tech?

CD: Showing up for work. ;)

Cats or dogs?

CD: Cats.[1]

Biggest pet peeve?

CD: Sloppy people.


[1]  The views and opinions expressed herein do, in fact, reflect the views of ServerCentral.

Topics: Inside ServerCentral

Meet ServerCentral Data Center Technician Beau Breeden

Tell me about a day in the life of a Data Center Ops Technician.

BB: Things never get boring around here. I’ll move from a Linux install to a RAM upgrade to running fiber all before lunch. Every ticket that comes in has different requirements, priority, and difficulty. Thankfully we have such a wide pool of knowledge on hand from the various techs on duty that we rarely get stumped.

What kind of experience or natural curiosities does it take to be successful in DC Ops?

BB: You have to want to expand your knowledge, and no task can seem too menial. When a customer's equipment and data is on the line, you have to treat each ticket like it’s the most important thing in the world because chances are, it is to that customer. 

What’s the coolest thing about your job?

BB: I’d say the coolest thing about my job is being able to physically match equipment in the data center up to the companies that people are using on a day-to-day basis. It's neat to see where data actually lives.

What about the most challenging?

BB: Some projects are pretty big and can be challenging to deal with. But all of my fellow coworkers are more than willing to lend a hand and get the big projects knocked out fast. 

What’s the best prank you’ve pulled on a fellow tech?

BB: I can't say I've done anything this devious, but some of the techs put another tech's car on Craigslist for $500. He was getting calls for weeks. 

Deep dish or thin crust?

BB: I'm from Baton Rouge originally. Thin crust all the way. [1]


[1]  The views and opinions expressed herein are those of Mr. Breeden and do not reflect the views of ServerCentral or any true Chicagoan.

Topics: Inside ServerCentral

ServerCentral Makes Inc. 5000 List for Sixth Consecutive Year

ServerCentral ranks no. 4026 on the 2015 Inc. 5000 with a three-year sales growth of 72% 

CHICAGO, October 22, 2015 -- Inc. magazine ranked ServerCentral no. 4026 on its 34th annual list of the fastest-growing private companies in America for the sixth year in a row. Started in 1982, this prestigious list of the nation's most successful private companies has become the hallmark of entrepreneurial success.

The list represents a comprehensive look at America’s independent entrepreneurs, including Yelp, Pandora, Timberland, Dell, Domino’s Pizza, LinkedIn, and Zillow.

"The story of this year’s Inc. 5000 is the story of great leadership. In an incredibly competitive business landscape, it takes something extraordinary to take your company to the top,” says Inc. President and Editor-in-Chief Eric Schurenberg. “You have to remember that the average company on the Inc. 5000 grew nearly six-fold since 2012. Business owners don’t achieve that kind of success by accident."

ServerCentral’s Inc. 5000 profile can be found at http://www.inc.com/profile/servercentral.


The 2015 Inc. 5000 is ranked according to percentage revenue growth when comparing 2011 to 2014. To qualify, companies must have been founded and generating revenue by March 31, 2011. They had to be U.S.-based, privately held, for profit, and independent--not subsidiaries or divisions of other companies--as of December 31, 2014. (Since then, a number of companies on the list have gone public or been acquired.) The minimum revenue required for 2011 is $100,000; the minimum for 2014 is $2 million. Complete results of all Inc. 5000 companies can be found at www.inc.com/inc5000.

Topics: Press Releases Inside ServerCentral

What It's Like to Work at ServerCentral

We couldn’t be more proud of the staff we have. As luck would have it, they like us too! We asked our employees, "What's your favorite part about working at ServerCentral?"

Here's an uncensored look at their replies:

On Fridays, it's the beer fridge. The rest of the week, it’s 401k matching and healthcare.

John Macchia

Friday afternoon Cards Against Humanity games…that moment when you realize you share same twisted sense of humor as some of your coworkers!

Nevila Qylafku

When there’s a problem, we have a culture of being up front and getting the issue resolved. Everyone works hard to get the job done.

Chris Dunn

All the free food, working with super cool peeps, tons of time off, and the laid back culture.

Teddy Jeong
 

The ability to install and tinker with the latest and greatest equipment is fun and exciting. The benefits given to employees really show what a class act ServerCentral is.

Bryan Yocum

I came here for the food. Haha.

Evan Ruffini

Free health insurance for a single person is probably the #1 biggest one. Good work/life balance.

Chris Haun
 

ServerCentral is a place you can make change. There’s no attitude of ‘this is how we’ve always done it.’ If you have an idea or better way to do something, it is heard and taken seriously. We’re all in it together. Everyone who works are ServerCentral takes ownership and is focused on moving the company forward. There’s no passing the buck, talk of ‘that’s not my job,’ or internal politics. Upper management rewards and recognizes employees for exceptional work.

Carli Coleman

Single-employee insurance premium covered by the company and the HRA. And birthday lunches. YUM!

Padraic Connelly

Not only are you surrounded by some of the best talent in the industry, everyone is given the opportunity to prove themselves. New ideas can come from anyone in the company. Even brand new employees are heard if they have an idea that should be explored.

Paul Armenakis

Free employee colo and a fully covered cell phone.

Chris Grahn

Wearing jeans to work, tied with getting reimbursed for classes that make me better at what I do.

Jamie Lowe


If you’d like to join a winning team and spend your time being happy to come in to work each day, check out our open positions. We'd love to have you.

Topics: Inside ServerCentral

Shellshock: Behind The Scenes

By now, you've probably heard about the bash vulnerability that's kicking around on all major news sources. Even today, CVE-2014-6278 remains exceedingly relevant to many environments—and it's only one of a handful of new weaknesses found beyond the original bug.

Quick Recap If You Haven't Heard of This "Shellshock" Thing Before

This vulnerability was initially disclosed on September 24th. Patches were made immediately available by most OS vendors, but early on September 25th, it was disclosed that the patch was incomplete. Updated patches were available later that day. These are treated as two separate vulnerabilities and are referenced by:

If the last update you applied was on September 24th, you may still be vulnerable.

There many blog and news articles that already do a great job explaining the in-depth technical tails. I can recommend the following:

It's absolutely critical that all externally-facing systems be updated ASAP. We also recommend doing a full review of internal infrastructure in some not-so-obvious places, like wireless APs and out-of-band management devices. Make sure to run the latest updates on shellshocker.net and https://shellshocker.net/shellshock_test.sh.

Testing for CVE-2014-6271 Vulnerability

A quick test to see if you are vulnerable to the original September 24th CVE-2014-6271 is to run the following via ssh/console:

env x='() { :;}; echo vulnerable' bash -c 'echo hello'

If you are NOT vulnerable, that will print:

bash: warning: x: ignoring function definition attempt bash:
error importing function definition for `x' hello

If you ARE vulnerable, that will print:

vulnerable hello

Testing for CVE-2014-7169 Vulnerability

Testing for CVE-2014-7169 is more involved.

The following is an example of an exploitable system vulnerable to CVE-2014-7169:

test@vulnerable:~$ mkdir empty test@vulnerable:~$ cd empty/ test@vulnerable:~/empty$ X='() { function a a&gt;\' bash -c vulnerable bash: X: line 1: syntax error near unexpected token `a' bash: X: line 1: `' bash: error importing function definition for `X' test@vulnerable:~/empty$ ls vulnerable test@vulnerable:~/empty$

The following is an example of a patched system not vulnerable to CVE-2014-7169:

test@patched:~/empty$ X='() { function a a&gt;\' bash -c vulnerable bash: vulnerable: command not found test@patched:~/empty$ ls test@patched:~/empty$

Note the file named "vulnerable" in the newly created, empty directory. When the same payload is ran on a patched system, this file is not created and the directory remains empty.

If you test vulnerable to either test, please update your bash packages ASAP. If you're a ServerCentral customer, please contact us should you need assistance or advice.

How Something like This Gets Handled Behind the Scenes at An IaaS Provider

09/24 10:30 AM:

See a bash vulnerability announced, it might be big but very little information is immediately known. These notices come across dozens of times each day, but each much be evaluated to see if it applies to our environment, and how severe an impact if so. Bash is certainly ubiquitous but generally an attacker must have authenticated system access in order to exploit it. Sounds nasty, but since it most likely requires an authenticated user to actively exploit this reduces the attack surface considerably. Make note to watch it more closely, prepare for 11am meeting.

 

09/24 12:30 PM:

Check on it at various security forums and industry news sites. Start to realize this is going to be big, and get creative in thinking what may be exploitable by this bug.

 

09/24 1:00 PM:

Local public mirrors server has been force-updated to latest released patches on all available Operating Systems.

 

09/24 1:20 PM:

Industry peers in technical roles at our customers, vendors, and competitors begin exchanging information and testing tools. New attack vectors are identified in real-time and the realization that this exploit is extremely serious begins to set in.

 

09/24 1:30 PM:

All-hands-on deck escalation to update all externally facing systems - regardless of if we knew specific applications were vulnerable or not. Puppet utilized to automatically deploy updates on large server farms, and forced-updates applied on all individual application clusters.

 

9/24 2:30 PM:

All servers updated, more in-depth internal auditing begins and systems updated as deemed appropriate.

 

9/25 10:30 AM:

Read news that the initially deployed patch is incomplete, confirming rumors spreading overnight. While the initial patch fixed the most obviously exploitable portion of the code, there remain functions which are still vulnerable in some situations. Fix seems to be more complex than the first, and is some time out.

 

9/25 10:00 PM:

Updates to most worldwide mirrors start hitting for CVE-2014-7169.

 

9/25 10:30 PM:

Public mirrors server is synced with all major OS distributions. Internal departments notified that systems must be immediately updated.

 

9/26 11:00 PM:

External-facing services updated, updates ongoing for internal equipment. Puppet updates already installed on large clusters.

 

9/27 11:30 AM:

All departments confirm updates applied and testing clean. Ongoing internal assessment for embedded systems.



Lessons Learned

  • Treat public mirror repositories as front-line services. Current update methods are too slow to pick up changes (on both our mirror server and on many others worldwide) to mainline repositories. Fixes for this should be implemented both on the server and client side for robustness.
  • Automation is good. Continue implementing in more areas.
  • Formal inter-departmental notification processes can speed up response times.

While this issue is still ongoing, some general conclusions can start to be drawn at this time. The scope of long-tail software that may in some way use bash in an insecure manner has yet to be known, and we will likely see exploitation of this flaw for years into the future as new holes get exposed.

The most prudent thing to do on any machine that has bash installed is to ensure bash is patched to the most up to date version. While some combinations of application and OS are less vulnerable than others, it is too early to be sure of anything. The safest course of action is to immediately patch all vulnerable bash installations.

Conclusion

Each major exploit is a major opportunity for evaluating your organizational and technical capacity to address major issues in a safe and timely manner. This vulnerability is no different, and we expect to continue learning moving forward.

Topics: Inside ServerCentral