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7 Meaningful Improvements for E-commerce

  • Business Talk
  • Cloud


How could you improve your e-commerce business this year? Try these methods to rethink your design, content, and hosting.

  1. Perform a content audit.
  2. Perform a design audit.
  3. Verify mobile usability.
  4. Put new content on your site, especially pictures and reviews.
  5. Retool your product copy.
  6. Use good photos that are not massive.
  7. Get true 100% HA cloud hosting.

What can you potentially add or change about the way that your e-commerce company does business that can make a big impact on growth? Here are eight tactics from online strategists, web developers, and hosting experts.

1. Perform a content audit.

Has some of your content become dead weight? We all know it’s good to have a huge amount of quality content, but sometimes certain pieces or posts will no longer fit with your message. Kathryn Hawkins of Eucalypt Media recommends creating a spreadsheet and marking each content piece to retain, change, or remove. That tactic does wonders for UX and navigability, she says.

You also want to make sure you don’t have a bunch of broken links, advises Steve Silberberg, founder of the weight loss company Fitpacking. Broken links are irritating to individual users and also damage your Google search standing.

2. Perform a design audit.

You also want to carefully analyze all the design elements of your site, such as the fonts, color scheme, and amount of white space, according to Neill Harmer of LightCMS. “These elements reflect a site’s credibility, usability and mood,” he says. “While the use of different fonts enables you to showcase creativity, too many varied fonts can have a discordantly jarring effect.”

You also don’t want to have an overload of too much stuff on any one page. Make everything easy so that people have options but aren’t driven away by TMI – too much information.

3. Verify mobile usability.

If you aren’t presenting yourself correctly for mobile use, you will be unreceptive to the increasing number of people who access your site on their smartphones, comments Kindra Svendsen of Speak Creative. If you don’t use the principles of responsive design, people will likely reroute to another company.

As with broken links, failure to remake yourself for the mobile world will hurt you with Google as well. That’s actually definitely the case since April 21, 2015, when Google Mobilegeddon occurred. In fact, according to David Goldman of CNN, it’s critical to adjust to this major algorithm tweak (which notably does not affect tablet rankings). “The top spot on a search page typically attracts 20% to 30% of the page’s clicks,” he explains. “Positions two to three generate 5% to 10% of the clicks, and links below that receive less than 1% of users’ attention.”

4. Put new content on your site, especially pictures and reviews.

E-commerce businesses have placed too much of their focus in the last few years on social media, says 2 Dogs Design founder Jill Caren. Businesses haven’t been paying as much attention to email newsletters and their own blogs. That shift in focus from site to social has been too aggressive.

You can, however, integrate social content into your site. You want reviews from customers and even images from them all over the place, notes PR specialist Matt Krebsbach of Bazaarvoice. “Not only does this provide vital information that helps customers to make better purchase decisions,” he says, “but it delights your customers with engaging social experiences that drive awareness and influence sales.”

Krebsbach has actually conducted research showing that integrating social information and reviews boosts conversion rate by 3-9% and engagement by 25-40%.

5. Retool your product copy.

You want to be as comprehensive as possible with your descriptions of everything you offer so you are likelier to float to the top on the search engines. Simply transferring in copy from the vendor is a common and very bad error for Google ranking.

You also want to replace wording that is excessively complicated, according to marketer Rafael Rivera of e-printing company PrintRunner. Don’t describe the solution you are offering itself but the advantages of using it.

Video can be effective in getting your message across to some users. Keep in mind it’s all about speed and conveying your differentiators immediately.

6. Use good photos that are not massive.

You must have strong photos, says TorontoVaporizer CEO Nima Noori. Images are absolutely critical to sales. Think about incorporating lifestyle images of your product.

Delivery of the images is key as well, says Tammy Everts of datacenter networking provider Radware. “To make images render more efficiently, ensure they are compressed, consolidated, correctly sized and formatted,” she says. You also want them to be “optimized so that images below the fold are deferred.”

7. Get true 100% HA cloud hosting.

You obviously want your site to be engaging with great text and visuals that are laid out in a compelling way, as indicated by the above six elements. Your choice of a cloud hosting provider is equally important, though. Specifically, you want one that has 100% high-availability, where you’ll actually be leveraging the full power of cloud technology.

Specifically, you want distributed rather than centralized storage. Unfortunately, centralized storage is used by most cloud providers. With distributed storage, there is no single point of failure (SPOF). Even if multiple nodes fail, there will be no impact to performance. You also want to take advantage of the superior performance of InfiniBand, a far better choice than 10 GB Ethernet. If your host uses InfiniBand, you benefit from zero packet loss and 10+ times lower latency than the theoretical minimum of 10 GigE.

Want to knock one of these items off your list? Check out the packages we have at Superb Internet, where performance is guaranteed because we never oversell. Learn more.

Trends Critical to E-commerce Growth in 2015

  • Business Talk

Ecommerce 02

This year, worldwide business-to-consumer e-commerce is projected to total more than $1.7 trillion, with mobile purchases representing almost $300 billion of that amount. Obviously every e-commerce business wants to get as big a slice of that market as they can, so they try to stand out and get the attention of consumers, a large portion of whom use mobile devices for shopping.

What are the best ways for a company to outperform its rivals in 2015? The key is understanding eight current trends.

  1. Greater complexity is being built into content, but text still matters.

Many companies are finding that consumers are especially responsive to more dynamic, interactive features on e-commerce sites, comments e-commerce visual specialist Russ Somers of Invodo. What types of content, specifically? “Images that spin and rotate, interactive videos that have clickable elements that allow consumers to learn more about products and purchase them, and guided online walkthroughs of consumer electronics devices,” says Somers.

While Somers is right that sophisticated visuals can be effective at engaging consumers, it’s also important not to forget the basics: words. After all, original copy (i.e., any kind of unique text) is still considered the most valuable form of content by three in five marketers (58%).

  1. Mobile transactions are becoming more common.

A report from Goldman Sachs forecast that almost half of all money made by e-tailers in 2018 will come through smartphones and tablets. Part of the reason that people are increasingly using mobile is because the payment gateways of major brands such as PayPal and Apple simplify the process of logging in and making payments, says identity management executive Patrick Salyer of Gigya.

Many e-commerce companies now see that it is not just common but typical for their customers to access their sites via mobile.

To better serve users that arrives from mobile, it’s incredibly important to use the principles of responsive design, according to marketing manager Matt Winn of Volusion. By making your site responsive, you “provide the best user experience across devices, regardless of operating system or screen size,” he says. “Doing so will ensure a seamless shopping experience, lead to increased site conversions and provide retailers with a more modern branding component.”

  1. Personalized, micro-targeted approaches are yielding a competitive advantage.

Online retailers are better connecting with consumers by using big data to personalize the consumer experience, says digital VP Anees Merchant of Blueocean Market Intelligence.  Companies’ increasingly sophisticated personalization and targeting methods allow them to win bigger share of wallet and create more relevant engagement, she adds.

In fact, a study conducted earlier this year by cross-channel personalization company MyBuys found that half of consumers (53%) say they spend more when their experience is customized.

  1. Consumers now want the product faster.

When people started going online to buy products, the initial expectation was that it came with a downside: you had to wait a few days for it to arrive. Now, some companies, including Walmart and Google, offer same-day delivery, explains Andrew Van Noy of SMB e-commerce provider Warp 9. That speed is creating new expectations.

  1. It is becoming simpler all the time to sell worldwide.

The majority of shopping carts are now designed to allow companies to sell their products internationally, notes e-commerce specialist Steve Power of Bigcommerce. “And thanks to third-party fulfillment services, which simplify the process of shipping products across borders,” he adds, “even smaller ecommerce businesses can now reach customers around the world, tapping into the multibillion-dollar global ecommerce market.”

  1. B2B e-commerce is becoming more competitive.

Business-to-business e-commerce sales will continue to accelerate, according to equity analyst Todd Miller of Sterling Partners. The market has always been dominated by B2C, but businesses are now becoming more collaborative in meeting each other’s needs through integrated distribution networks.

B2B e-commerce allows wholesalers and manufacturing companies to offer mobile solutions, streamlining the experience for returning customers and facilitating more efficient support.

  1. Retargeting is becoming fundamental rather than innovative.

Retargeting and going after users who abandoned their shopping carts with tailored messages can now be considered fundamental to online sales success, per Mohita Nagpal of split testing company “According to our research,” she says, “more than 55 percent of online shoppers are open to the idea of purchasing a product they abandoned in their cart if it is offered again at a discounted price.”

Plus, retargeting features are now built into many e-commerce environments, so it is easier to implement the tactic.

  1. Companies are realizing that not all clouds are alike.

Businesses used to simply want to make a decision between using a traditional server environment and going to “the cloud.” Now, more e-tailers are becoming savvier about which specific cloud hosting providers they use.

The most important elements include:

  • Distributed storage – Businesses now realize that distributed storage is preferable to centralized storage so that they can avoid bottlenecks and experience even multiple node failures with no hit to their performance;
  • Infiniband – Similarly, more companies understand that the guaranteed zero packet loss and almost nonexistent jitter of this networking technology represents a considerable improvement over 10 Gigabit Ethernet.

Launching Industry-Best Cloud Servers

The above trends show that there are several major ways in which e-tailers can focus to outpace their competition – such as mobile, personalization, and shipping speed.

It’s also increasingly wise to optimize cloud infrastructure. Beyond the above two elements of a strong cloud, ecommerce companies are looking for solutions that don’t oversell and can in turn offer guaranteed performance.

At Superb Internet, we meet all those expectations – delivering PassMark-rated performance that is typically 4 times better than AWS or SoftLayer on cloud plans with similar specs.

KPI Focus: Know Your SaaS Company’s Key Performance Indicators

  • Cloud

Cloud Capable Devices

What are the most important metrics for SaaS? Here are 5 big ones, one of which is churn. After looking over the metrics, we will review a simple way to reduce churn.

  • Key Performance Indicators
  • Monthly Recurring Revenue
  • Churn
  • Cost per Acquisition
  • Mean Revenue per Customer
  • Lifetime Value
  • Reducing Churn with Speed

Key Performance Indicators

What are the key performance indicators for your company? In other words, what metrics do you most need to watch to figure out the best direction and how you might need to change?

There is a lot of overkill with metrics. Data is helpful, but it quickly makes a situation chaotic and even more difficult to understand if you’re trying to focus on dozens of metrics at once.

As a basic rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to eliminate the amount of metrics you track simultaneously to 10, according to KISSmetrics market analyst Lars Lofgren. Otherwise, you can end up in the classic situation of “not being able to see the forest for the trees.”

“When you’re tracking dozens of metrics at once, it’s nearly impossible to focus on the most important trends and act on them,” says Lofgren. “There’s just too much going on. So help yourself focus, by limiting what you track from the beginning.”

Different businesses will need to look at different metrics, but Lofgren provide a strong perspective specific to software as a service (SaaS) businesses because that’s exactly what his company does. Regardless of that direct relevance to what you do, the broad lesson here is to carefully select five metrics that together can truly serve as fundamental Key Performance Indicators.

Here are the five metrics that have been of most use to KISSmetrics:

  1. Monthly Recurring Revenue

Anyone launching a software-as-a-service company knows that you have to create your app and pour funds into marketing it. Only then can you actually start collecting revenue. The challenge is that once you are getting income, it’s for a small monthly fee rather than all at once. Over time, your startup will potentially be fine – provided that you stay solvent.

KISSmetrics has found that monthly recurring revenue truly belongs within the top five KPI because, as opposed to the flat figure of monthly revenue, it tells you specifically how much the monthly repeat revenue is rising or falling.

This number is actually the most pivotal one, Lofgren explains. “[I]t’s the most important number you should be tracking if you have a SaaS business,” says Lofgren, “and it will serve as your primary benchmark for progress.”

  1. Churn

Sure, it helps to know what monthly recurring revenue is like, but you also need to know that your customers aren’t fleeing. Churn lets you know if you need better retention strategies by giving you the percentage of customers that stop using your service monthly.

You should be concerned if you have a churn rate that is 10% or more. If you do, you need to improve the product. Ask your customers why they are leaving, and survey potential customers so you can better understand their needs.

  1. Cost per Acquisition

You also want to figure out how to use your marketing budget as wisely as possible. The most straightforward way to do that is to figure out the cost per acquisition related to each individual campaign.

Obviously it’s necessary that your figures are accurate, which requires customer analytics, explains Lofgren. “Regular web analytics won’t show you where customers originally came from, only were they came from most recently,” he says. “And when a customer makes multiple purchases over time, there’s no way to know.” Customer analytics allow you to understand customer behavior more comprehensively.

  1. Mean Revenue per Customer

What is the mean or average amount that you make on each one of your customers? You obviously want to get that number up as high as you can.

One of the standard way to do that is with up-selling and cross-selling. You can also get more people on annual plans rather than monthly ones, boosting revenue because customers are paying ahead.

If you can successfully expand this average number, you can increase revenue substantially without having to add a huge amount of new customers. A related metric that is important for e-commerce companies is mean revenue per order.

  1. Lifetime Value

Now by looking at the mean revenue in relationship to churn, it’s possible to determine the lifetime value of your typical customer.

Determining lifetime value can get complex. The easiest way for you to do it in a software-as-a-service business is by simply multiplying the average length of subscription by the monthly average revenue per customer. If you want to refine that metric, also include the costs of supporting and acquiring customers.

Reducing Churn with Speed

Key Performance Indicators give you a sense of how well your business is performing on the market. The fact is that your business will perform well on the market largely because of how well your systems perform. That’s going to be evident in your churn rate, whether you can detect it or not.

“How fast your website typically loads will negatively impact your churn rate if it’s slow,” says tech entrepreneur John Rampton. “If it takes longer than a second or two to load, I’m going to ditch your app for another one.”

At Superb Internet, we use distributed storage in conjunction with Infiniband networking technology, and we never oversell. Those decisions allow us to typically deliver 4 times better performance than AWS cloud instances with similar specs.

Learn more.

By Kent Roberts

Tapping Innovation: How Developers Leverage Cloud

  • Cloud
  • Web Development

What, exactly, is the cloud?

  • Introduction: Developers Key in a Data-Infused World
  • Cloud as a Critical Tool for Development
  • The Role of Open Source
  • True Distributed Cloud for the Best Results

Introduction: Developers Key in a Data-Infused World

Developers are essential to the new economy. First, just think about the scale of data – even from a year ago:

  • Think your post is important? It’s got competition. Every minute, 2.5 million instances of Facebook sharing occur.
  • Do you think search engine optimization might be important? Do you think it might be getting more sophisticated? Every single minute, over 4 million search requests are placed with Google.
  • Do you want to make a living off of your YouTube show? So does your neighbor. Every minute, 72 hours of new video is uploaded to YouTube.

In other words, the sheer amount of raw activity occurring in the digital universe is staggering.

Because that activity is so intense, data is becoming more valuable all the time. Forbes Data Driven Business editor Howard Baldwin points out how powerful data is by looking at two companies, one that is data-based and one that is physical. Baldwin contrasts Facebook to a major airline, United Airlines, which he describes as “a company that actually owns things like airplanes and has licenses to lucrative things like airport facilities and transoceanic routes between the U.S. and Asia, among other places.” Facebook is worth an estimated $200 billion, while United is valued at $34 billion.

Cloud as a Critical Tool for Development

When we talk about developers, the special knowledge may make it seem like a niche profession, which is not at all the case. As data expanded, the job market expanded. There are now 18.5 million developers worldwide. All of these people want the best tools.

One tool that developers have found is obvious for many projects is cloud hosting, which means that you can get whatever resources you want with a credit card. That simple accessibility makes these systems immediately more user-friendly and accelerates projects.

Flexibility is another key benefit that developers get from the cloud, explains Megan Swanson in Wired. “The cloud … means that developers can quickly increase their demands on the infrastructure if they need to test some code or run much larger data sets than originally expected,” she notes. “The cloud is elastic and can accommodate almost unlimited demand.”

Before the cloud era, the challenge of creating applications to work on different types of servers slowed down the process for developers. Huge amount of time were lost as they figured out hardware specifications and molded apps to fit the infrastructure. Today, it’s a snap to get everything underway.

Plus, cloud is familiar to recent college graduates who have been working with the cloud already. It makes the transition easier when these young programmers start their own companies or jump into development positions.

Developers also don’t have to worry about security nearly as much when they work with a long-established and respected cloud provider. Rather than being fundamentally responsible for security in-house, their system is already protected by an organization whose reputation relies on its ability to ward off intrusion.

The Role of Open Source

Another aspect of development that is often part of cloud projects is open source, comments Swanson. “Sharing the code for operating systems and basic utilities, and contributing to debugging and trouble-shooting, means that individual developers can spend more effort on applications,” she says.

Open source is effectively the antithesis of vendor lock-in, making it much more possible to migrate to other hosting services. It is essentially coder-friendly, making it unnecessary to learn a comprehensive new set of rules when transitioning to another job or when a workplace decides to use a different host.

Open source, used in conjunction with cloud, unleashes the potential of your developers. Since they aren’t getting ensnared in hardware and networking concerns, they can center their efforts on building incredible programs to benefit users.

True Distributed Cloud for the Best Results

Cloudy itself is an incredibly powerful technology, as established above. As Swanson puts it, “The era of cloud computing has enhanced the epoch of the developer,” adding that the technology “lets [programmers] focus on making applications that create new functionality, new business opportunities and even new industries.”

You want to make sure that the cloud you use is truly cutting-edge, though. Distributed storage is absolutely essential, but centralized storage – a dinosaur remnant of the mainframe era – is used by the vast majority of cloud providers.

Why is distributed storage preferable?

  1. No single point of failure – Even multiple node failures have no impact on performance.
  2. No bottlenecks – The design of distributed storage is simply superior.
  3. Much, much faster – Local disk I/O that puts centralized storage to shame.

By combining distributed storage with InfiniBand networking technology, Superb Internet offers cloud the way it should be – typically delivering 4 times better performance than AWS plans with similar specs. Get “100% true HA” cloud today.

By Kent Roberts

Toward a Fully FISMA-Compliant Federal Cloud

  • Cloud


FISMA compliance is a fact of life for federal agencies. However, many agencies aren’t meeting regulatory requirements with their cloud computing services.

  • What is FISMA?
  • How to Achieve FISMA Compliance
  • FISMA Cloud Compliance Has Holes
  • The FISMA-Compliant Cloud

What is FISMA?

The Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) was passed by U.S. Congress to create a management structure in order to safeguard federal data, systems, and properties against environmental disasters, cyberattacks, and human error. FISMA was a piece of the Electronic Government Act of 2002.

FISMA gives certain agencies regulatory powers to maintain data security throughout federal systems, explained Margaret Rouse in TechTarget. “The act requires program officials, and the head of each agency, to conduct annual reviews of information security programs,” she said, “with the intent of keeping risks at or below specified acceptable levels in a cost-effective, timely and efficient manner.”

How to Achieve FISMA Compliance

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) outlines the process to meet and maintain FISMA compliance:

  1. Using the security category definitions from FIPS 199, figure out what the impact level is for the data you want to secure.
  2. Determine the basic mechanisms that are necessary.
  3. Further improve your security stance with a vulnerability analysis.
  4. Record the various controls that you determine must be in place.
  5. Deploy whatever tools and strategies are necessary in a test setting.
  6. Explore how well the systems you adopt are working.
  7. Calculate the risk associated with implementation and the argument for it.
  8. Confirm that the system is ready for live deployment.
  9. Perform ongoing tracking – continuous monitoring – of the protections you implemented.

FISMA Cloud Compliance Has Holes

Federal agencies rely on outside IT organizations that manage infrastructure for them, many of which are cloud computing environments.

Agencies are always doing everything necessary to make sure that the IT systems they have in place, especially cloud ones, are completely aligned with federal code. While agencies do in some cases have procedures in place to control relationships with service providers, they often don’t meet all requirements — as indicated by the 2014 Congressional report on FISMA, made available to the public in February.

In fact, more than half of the agencies that have service provider systems in place were not meeting all the stipulations of FISMA, said Nicole Blake Johnson of FedTech Magazine. “Of the 17 inspector generals who reported that their departments have programs in place to manage contractor systems,” she wrote, “only eight IGs said those programs had all the required elements.”

The departments weren’t specifically named in the report, but the nine other inspector generals admitted that their contractor programs were not aligned with one or more of these three aspects of the federal law:

  1. Four departments said that they did not get proper verification that their safeguards had been adopted correctly for security and compliance.
  2. Three departments had not put together a comprehensive inventory of their IT environments by outside parties in the public cloud and elsewhere.
  3. Six departments had data in public cloud and other contractor-managed environments that didn’t qualify as compliant with NIST parameters, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) policy, and FISMA.

FISMA compliance is based in part on these other elements of the federal security rules, especially NIST.  “NIST standards are the foundation for the government’s Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP),” said Johnson. “The program standardizes security assessment, authorization and continuous monitoring of cloud solutions used in the government.”

The report additionally mentioned that some departments are not properly outfitted or staffed to be able to monitor risk within cloud systems – but that FedRAMP exists to address that weakness. Once FedRAMP confirms an agency’s system, continuous monitoring is initiated – but continuous monitoring must be backed up by vendor practices (practices that effectively make them FISMA-compliant).

Every 30 days, FISMA-compliant providers must complete vulnerability scans. If anything is amiss, it must be fixed within 30 days. Previously, quarterly assessments were allowed in some cases, but everything is now monthly to coordinate the FedRAMP system with that of the Department of Homeland Security.

Although some agencies are not abreast with requirements, 81 agency systems are now FedRAMP compliant. 26 agencies said that they have used “provisional authority to operate” documentation by FedRAMP to determine vendor compliance.

“It isn’t clear how many systems are required to meet FedRAMP standards,” Johnson explained, “but one of the program office’s top priorities this year is increasing stakeholder engagement, including the number of agencies implementing FedRAMP.”

Public cloud and other systems offered by service providers currently represent 8.5% of the federal computing budget, per the White House’s 2016 budget proposal.

Along with continuous monitoring, other elements of FedRAMP’s mission include automation of its documentation (to speed deployment) and updating its guidelines to support developments in cloud systems.

The FISMA-Compliant Cloud

Want FISMA-compliant cloud?

At Superb, we deploy a defensive, in-depth approach that extends from the physical to the network and system layers, utilizing security technologies and best practices that meet or exceed NIST 800.53 rev3.

By Kent Roberts

Neighbor Stealing Your CPU vs. 4-in-1 Machine

  • Cloud


  • Cloud Providers Treating Customers Like Barflies
  • Scout’s Explanation of Steal Time at AWS
  • How Much is Steal Time Affecting You?
  • Movie Tickets Analogy
  • Importance for Web Apps
  • 4-in-1 Cloud VM

Cloud Providers Treating Customers Like Barflies

Almost all cloud service providers are overselling their resources to a ridiculous degree. They don’t provide real resource guarantees because they don’t want to: it’s easier to pack in as many customers as they can, especially since that terrible service quality is so standard in the industry.

The quality of what you are getting in a cloud service at most providers is like bathrooms at dive bars (enter at your own risk). If everyone in the dive bar market is agreeing not to raise their cleanliness level into the Not Completely Disgusting range, customers are less irritated when they walk into another cesspool. Dive bars are designed for barflies: you can get the bar atmosphere for cheap, but don’t expect to be treated with respect.

The basic philosophy shared by many cloud providers and dive bar owners is: “Everyone else is providing something awful, so why don’t we?”

Just as the result of that philosophy leads to dirty bathrooms in the dive bar, it leads to steal time at a cloud provider. Resources aren’t guaranteed, so what you purchase represents the maximum you can experience during a burst. Your resource availability is inconsistent because sometimes the guy next to you is using the CPU that you need.

The alternative to that scenario is to provide guaranteed resources so that there is no ambiguity, everything is consistent, and you can achieve the equivalent of four machines in one. After all, we’ve all read plenty of articles about how great cloud is. How about your provider doesn’t water it down so that you can actually leverage its full potential? Like walking into a bathroom where you aren’t afraid of catching malaria, cloud without the threat of CPU theft is highly preferable.

Scout’s Explanation of Steal Time at AWS

Before we get into our 4-in-1 VM model, let’s look at one tech company’s discussion of steal time – so rampant that they speak of it as if it’s a given.

“If you deploy to a virtualized environment (for example, Amazon EC2), steal time is a metric you’ll want to watch,” says Derek of application monitoring company Scout. “If this number is high, performance can suffer significantly.”

As a feature, steal time is calculated as a percentage – the portion of time the CPU for your VM is waiting for a physical CPU to become available because another VM’s CPU is using it. In other words, it’s standing in line – personally, one of my favorite activities.

The basic way that cloud works is that you and other VM customers share resources. That’s not a problem if there are guarantees. In the case of other providers, though, your neighbor can burst into your CPU, and all you can do is stand there, humming a pretty tune.

How Much is Steal Time Affecting You?

When someone burglarizes your house, you file a police report and report it to your homeowner’s insurance. In order for the police and your insurance company to know what’s been taken, you need a list of stolen property. Similarly, you want to assess the damage with steal time if your cloud provider allows it. How much is being taken?

On Linux, run the command top.

In terms of CPU, you will see a line that lists percent idle (%id), percent I/O wait (%wa), and percent steal time (%st). “If %id is low, the CPU is working hard and doesn’t have much excess capacity,” Derek explains. “If %wa is high, the CPU is ready to run, but is waiting on I/O access to complete.” The final metric gives you your steal time.

Movie Tickets Analogy

Derek gives the example of attending a big Hollywood movie. If you go to a blockbuster movie that is likely be sold out, you will have a similar experience as you have at a cloud provider where steal time is rampant.

There is one person selling tickets, and two lines. This is how the steal time metric would apply to your situation when you want to get into the movie:

  • 0% steal time – You are going to the movies on a weekday afternoon. Although the ticket clerk is alternating to sell tickets to each of the two lines, you don’t have to wait at all.
  • 50% steal time – You are going to the movies on a weekend night. Half of the time, you will have to wait for the ticket clerk while someone else receives service instead.
  • 100% steal time – You go on a weekend night, and the cash register is not working. Everything is stopped.

Importance for Web Apps

Derek notes that getting rid of steal time is particularly critical for web applications. “For tasks that need to be performed in real-time, like rapidly serving many web requests,” Derek says, “a 4x decrease in performance can cause major backups in request queues, which can lead to outages.”

4-in-1 Cloud VM

Consider this scenario for a contrast: when your cloud provider does not oversell resources, it is equal to TWO dedicated servers set up in a redundant high-availability, real-time duplication fashion (itself expensive and time-consuming to set up
and maintain) sitting behind TWO redundant load balancers.

In other words, by buying just one cloud VM from that true 100% HA provider (us), you get the equivalent of four dedicated devices; two redundant load balancers (LBs) and two redundant/real-time duplicated dedicated servers. If you get our Dedicated Cloud, then that is equivalent to multiple such sets of 2 servers and 2 LBs, one for each VM that you create.

How do you know you’re protected? We never, ever oversell, as explained on our cloud page: “Quantities are limited so once the servers are full, you can request to be added to a wait list until more servers are brought online.”

By Kent Roberts

Image via Flickr user *sax