Getting to know InMotion Hosting

A few weeks ago I got an email from a manager at InMotion Hosting reaching out to say hi and answer any questions I had about their service. As the man behind Down.com, I’m always looking for ways to network with hosts and learn more about their servers. Once learning I was less than an hour from their Los Angeles data center, they extended the offer to meet in person, and do an interview for this site – pretty cool of them!

The manager put me in touch with Will Miles, a Data Center Operations and Systems Supervisor who had been with InMotion for over 4 years. We met up for an informal dinner (sandwiches at Panera Bread) during the week, and, in short – geeked out. I picked his brain on what makes their servers more reliable and faster than the others, and he shared some cool technologies they were using (or about to release).

Here are a few takeaways from that conversation…

InMotionWill

What is it like working for InMotion?

Something Will was very proud about was working for InMotion. He’s aware of many other unhappy/incompetent workers at other hosting companies, and is super appreciative to be at InMotion.

Unlike other hosting companies, InMotion is an employee-owned business. The staff is involved in direct bonuses and profit sharing, which gives them incentive to go above and beyond to make their customers happy.

Will said the upper management is very down to earth – they don’t drive fancy cars or have an entitled personality. Instead they reinvest a lot back into the company, always upgrading hardware, etc. This ensures the company is around for many years to come.

Of course he wasn’t going to say anything bad about InMotion while he was wearing a company-issued shirt, but I could tell he truly was proud of where he worked, and enjoyed his job and roles.

How do you ensure your servers are reliable?

After getting to know him and InMotion, I began to ask the questions I was most interested in – the ones that affected the performance of their severs.

At the time of this writing, InMotion came in 4th of 10 in terms of the uptime stats I collect. While this sounds decent, an uptime of 99.95% is still 21 minutes per month of downtime. Some would argue that’s fine with shared servers, but I’d like to see 99.99%

InMotionUptime

While Will agreed that 99.95% could be better, and they’re striving for that, here’s what they’re currently doing to ensure reliable hosting:

  • DDOS mitigation at the ISP level – This means filtering out the bad traffic before if even hits their network/servers. This combats 99.99% of DDOS attacks, but there’s always new threats that pass through
  • Proactive vulnerability mitigation – It amazed me when Will told me that most of the downtime encountered was due to software glitches. Because of this, they have a team actively working to contribute to the server community through patches, upgrades, etc for common software. For example, he said his team had a fix for the Heartbleed vulnerability before a public patch was released (and that public patch incorporated some of their own development). Thanks for fixing the internet, InMotion!
  • 100% SLA coming soon  – One of InMotion’s future goals is to offer a 100% uptime service level agreement. This means if your site is down due to their servers failing, you’ll be reimbursed a portion of your hosting fees. While they don’t have a projected date for this, it is a core initiative they are focusing on every day.

Will also explained that even if everything is working perfectly with their servers and internal network, there are outside network outages that happen all the time that simply cannot be avoided. He pointed me to InternetHealthReport as an example – each row/column is a major carrier connecting to another major carrier, and anything in yellow or red is a problem:

InternetHealthReport

How do you ensure your servers are fast?

Having reliable servers is one thing, but making them fast takes a whole other level of complexity. At the time of this post, InMotion came in tied for 5th out of 10 for server speed.

InMotionSpeed

Here’s what Will and his team are doing to ensure your website loads fast:

  • Constant rebalancing of resources – They don’t put a specific # of accounts per server, instead they’re always monitoring the resource usage of accounts and seamlessly moving them to ensure an equal spread of resource usage. This means if there’s a few account on one server that are in high demand, their system will automatically move them to a server that’s in less demand. One server may host 10 high-traffic accounts, while another has 200 low-traffic accounts. What amazes me is that this is all done transparently behind the scenes – no one is controlling this, and it’s completely seamless – no IP or DNS changes, no downtime.
  • Capping certain resources – While InMotion does offer unlimited disk space (they host a church website that uses terrabytes to stream their video sermons, all on a basic plan), they do cap other resources like bandwidth. I’m a huge fan of this, as there’s no such thing as unlimited resources and I get concerned when I see hosts that advertise this.
  • All SSD storage  – InMotion recently (1.5 years ago) upgraded their entire infrastructure to use SSD hard drives for all storage. Compared to traditional spinning hard drives, solid state drives are up to 50x faster. And since there are no moving parts, they break down less and are more reliable. However nothing’s perfect, and by default everything is protected in RAID, in case any disks do fail.

What would you like us to know about InMotion?

One thing Will was super excited to tell me about was their new High Availability feature on all of the VPS accounts. It’s a free service that’s going to be provided to all new customers (existing customer just need to enable it by asking for it) that ensures your servers are almost always reachable. Without getting too technical, it automatically mirrors your VPS sites across many servers. And when I say mirror, I mean everything – not just your files, but all settings, ip addresses, databases, even memory is identical between all replicated instances of your site. It sounds super impressive!

But they don’t stop there – each of these servers has four 10 gig network cables, ensuring there’s never a shortage of bandwidth. Snapshots are taken at regular intervals, and you can choose to rollback to a snapshot in real time. All of this combined ensure there’s no more than 1-2 seconds of downtime if their systems detect any kind of hardware failure, network stoppage, or software glitch.

I know the focus of Down.com is shared hosting, but as an advocate for speed and reliability for all websites, I couldn’t not mention this VPS feature.

This High Availability feature is currently on a soft release, planned to be rolled out to the general public in April 2016.

Wrapping up

Overall, it was a great conversation. I expected it to last no more than 30 minutes (how long can you talk about servers to someone?), but after an hour flew by I realized I better get home to my family.

As we wrapped up, Will mentioned that InMotion does offer facility tours. If you’re ever in the downtown LA area and would like to geek out at the hardware in their data centers, feel free to reach out to them. I’ll probably be doing this sometime soon 🙂

Thanks again to Will for the interview, Sev for connecting us, and InMotion being transparent about all this.

Results from Down.com are always being updated, be sure to check out the most current report of InMotion’s benchmark stats.

BTW – if any hosts would like to connect with me to do an interview, please reach out – just keep in mind I can’t be bribed to change benchmark stats.

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