MaximumASP and www.MyOnlineToolbox.com

I recently caught up with Brian Javeline, who is co-founder and CEO of www.MyOnlineToolbox.com.  Brian recently made the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine and his company was named by Forbes as one of the Most Promising Companies in America.   He has a great story and is using the services provided by MaximumASP to help build his business in some interesting ways.

Can you tell us a little about MyOnlineToolbox?  How did you get started?
MyOnlineToolbox is a platform for contractors in home repair and remodeling.  Contractors can manage the basics of their business such as estimating, invoicing and collections.  But that is just the software side.  MyOnlineToolbox is also a Business to Business to Consumer collaboration platform that connects contractors, subcontractors, suppliers and homeowners.    I got started after I was selling my interests in www.InvestmentCafe.com, another collaboration platform that targets the private equity industry.  I wanted to find an industry that was maturing towards internet based computing, mobile computing and collaboration.  I then learned about a $150 Billion labor market that can never be outsourced, and one where the vast majority was running its business on paper.  It was a natural opportunity.

MyOnlineToolbox has grown very rapidly.  What’s your secret?
It is based on being ready at the right time.  We began our schematics in 2005 and went through two permutations through 2007.  Then the market started to slow.  Luckily we were able to find a set of angel investors who saw our vision and were able to support us for a very rough economic environment.  We launched the current MyOnlineToolbox product in mid 2008 just when our target audience was beginning to require and embrace online Software-as-a-Service solutions.

This your fourth successful business, what are some key learning’s you can pass along to our readers?
Let me clarify.  This is my fourth venture, where two were hugely successful.  The first was ACT Apparel Software that became an IBM Long Term Success Story.  The third was InvestmentCafe that is still a successful company.  In between the first and third was webTML, a rapid development tool for Java environments.  The webTML venture did not get any traction, partly becuase of Allaire's Cold Fusion coming to market before us and also we released in early 2000 and I do not think we need to discuss how bad that timing was.   What did come out of webTML demise was the birth of InvestmentCafe.com.  And as far as MyOnlineToolbox contractor software is concerned, I rather say that we have been successful bringing the product to market.  But I do have a ways to go in reaching goals of having over 25,000 customers.

MyOnlineToolbox provides Software as a Service (SaaS) to the construction industry, have you seen any unique issues in providing automation to a customer base that typically hasn’t used much IT?
I want to start to be ensuring readers do not think of our business as New Construction.  In fact we target the repair, maintenance and remodeling markets.   The uniqueness of our environment is ensuring the application side is as easy to use as possible.  Our customers are introduced to MyOnlineToolbox by other contractors after hours, or when they are on the road.   The challenge is to ensure that all application features are intituitive and ready to be used without any consulting.   It is very hard to maintain an easy-to-start, easy-to-use  environment as more functionality is added to the system.

What sort of features are important to you in a managed hosting partner?
It has to do with everything separate from the actual servers themselves since so much power is provided at a low cost.  The value of the service relationship is critical.   We wanted to have a company be proactive with all system issues.  We wanted to have tools at our disoposal to monitor our performance.  And most important is that we wanted a good relationship for when the unknowns appear.   We have been with MaximumASP for about 2 years now, and we did have one of those strange issues occur that really tested how MaximumASP reacts when there is a problem.    To be specific, our digital certificate security provider had a Denial-of-Service attack and it brought our server to its knees.   MaximumASP was so proactive in helping us understand that issue, even though it really had nothing to do with them.

Why did you decide to host your business with MaximumASP?
We started with one of your competitors and everything was alright.  The economy changed and they would not give us a reasonable option to downgrade to.  We looked at two companies where we could start off much smaller with a much less financial budget and then be able to scale up when needed.  MaximumASP gave us the compfort level that we could easily scale upwards as our business grows.

ASP.NET 4 Deployed on MaxESP

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Over the weekend we installed ASP.NET 4 on all the servers in our MaxESP server farm. To create a new ASP.NET 4 site, simply choose it from the options when you create a new site. On existing sites, you can change it in your site options.

We’ve been running a public beta for ASP.NET 4 in partnership with Microsoft over the past 5 months. This has allowed us, and our customers, to become experts well in advance of its release. We are excited to put all the new features into the hands of our customers.

Free ASP.NET 4 Beta Account

net-asp.net-bl We just launched a free hosting account based on MaxESP for those wanting to test out ASP.NET 4 and Visual Studio 2010 in a hosted environment. Visit http://aspnet4beta.maximumasp.com/ to create your free account. Here are the specs:

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 / IIS 7.5
  • .NET Framework 4 Beta 2
  • 1GB disk space
  • 50 MB SQL Server 2008 database
  • MS Deploy Access
  • FTP over SSL Access

We allow you to create one website and also give you an extra DCU so you can test your website in a scalable environment. Sign up now!

DotNetNuke Fusion Partner Program

We are delighted to announce our participation in the DotNetNuke Fusion Partner Program. We first started hosting DotNetNuke five years ago, on September 29th, 2004. We’ve been there from the get go as they’ve grown alongside us, so being one of their Gold Partners in their Fusion Partner Program was an obvious decision.

You can now purchase DotNetNuke Professional Edition directly from us. The Professional Edition of DotNetNuke has all the features you know and love about DotNetNuke plus:

    • Advanced Content Approval Process – Administrators can create custom workflows with an unlimited number of states and reviewers
    • Google Analytics for Marketing – Support for advanced Google Analytics functionality such as visitor type, landing page, role, or referrer segmentation
    • Granular Permissions – Page, module and folder level extended permissions provide more granular security rights
    • File Integrity Checking – Checks files in the installation and reports any inconsistencies which may impact website reliability
    • Web Server Farm Support – New caching provider delivers more efficient resource usage in web farms
    • Health Monitoring – Pings the website periodically to identify failures and will notify the site owner. Also ensures the site stays in web server memory for faster user accessibility
    • Vulnerability Database – Maintains a vulnerability database for each product version to easily identify potential issues

We are also members of the Microsoft WebsiteSpark program which allows professional web developers visibility, support and software with no upfront cost. Combine Microsoft WebsiteSpark, DotNetNuke and our Microsoft Hosting Partner of the Year award winning hosting, and you have the ideal platform for your business.

Check out this video to see how easy it is to use MaximumASP and MaxESP to get your DotNetNuke website up and running in minutes!

MaxESP Features Part 1 – Secure SSL VPN

Making sure that you can publish your content and manage your site securely was one of our top priorities while developing MaxESP. Typical shared hosting relies on unsecured FTP for publishing, resulting in your content being sent in clear-text across the internet. With application content containing secure and sensitive information such as encryption keys and passwords in their content, we wanted to ensure that you could publish your content in a secure manner while using MaxESP.

To accomplish this we’ve done two things. The first is to enable FTP over SSL. But not every publishing application supports FTPS. So we’ve included a secure SSL VPN with every MaxESP account. If you’ve already have a MaxESP account, simply log into the MaximumASP Account Center and click the VPN tab. This page will guide you through the requirements needed to connect via our SSL VPN and directs you to the SSL VPN.

We’re very excited about this feature, and not just for MaxESP. We’ll soon be rolling this out to all MaximumASP customers. This will allow all kinds of new possibilities for new and existing customers to securely manage their hosted applications.

Announcing MaxESP

maxesp Sorry for the lack of updates of late, but it’s been for a good reason. We’ve been hard at work creating our latest product, MaxESP.

MaximumASP started in 2000 doing shared hosting, and over the years we’ve grown into doing dedicated server hosting, virtual server hosting with our MaxV product, and soon we’ll be doing co-location at our new data center. But we haven’t forgotten where we came from, and MaxESP lets us get back to our roots.

We still have customers looking for a secure and scalable solution that is easy to manage and easy on their budget.  So we’ve taken our nine year's experience doing web hosting and combined that with our expertise in cutting-edge Microsoft products like Windows 2008 R2 and IIS 7.5. Like all of our offerings, it is supported by our excellent support staff, and built upon our proven infrastructure.

Our goals for creating this product were simple. Make it flexible, easy to use, highly available, secure, reliable, and PCI compliant. In the next few days we’ll keep posting more details on the features that we’ve built to accomplish those goals.

In the meantime, we’ve opened up a private beta for our existing customers. Shoot an e-mail to support@maximumasp.com with your account id and we’ll get you a beta account created. If you are a software vendor that would like to verify that your application is compatible with our environment, let us know and we can get an account built for you. We definitely want to make sure we support as many applications, frameworks and libraries as possible.

For a quick preview of MaxESP, check out this overview video.

Web Platform Installer

MaximumASP is excited to announce the  roll out of Microsoft’s just released Web Platform Installer (Web PI)  to all of our Dedicated server and MaxV customers. So what is Web PI? It is a really cool tool Microsoft developed making it super easy to download, install and keep up-to-date with the latest components of the Microsoft Web Platform, including Internet Information Services (IIS), SQL Server Express, .NET Framework and Visual Web Developer. Additionally, you can install popular open source ASP.NET web apps with the Web PI.

The Web PI really takes the guesswork out of dependencies for applications and where they need to be found for download. To start using it all you need to do is double click the link on your desktop.

Check out our  short 2 minute video demonstrating how easy it is to use! You can also read Microsoft’s blog announcement.

What's Inside?

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Popular Web Apps

Install free popular ASP.NET and PHP web apps such as DotNetNuke and WordPress.

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.NET Framework

Install the latest version of the .NET Framework. This includes everything you need to work with ASP.NET.

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IIS and Extensions

Install the latest version of IIS, including latest IIS Web extensions like IIS Media Services.

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SQL Server

Install the latest version of SQL Server 2008 Express. This includes both the database engine and tools.

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Visual Web Developer

Install the latest version of Visual Web Developer Express, Our full featured free web development tool.

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Extra and Goodies

In addition to everything above, the Web PI also includes the latest community version of PHP for Windows.

95th Percentile

If you've logged in and seen our new bandwidth UI, you've probably noticed a new piece of data labeled "95th percentile." One of the new features of the new bandwidth system is tracking bandwidth by megabits per second (mbps). For our higher bandwidth customers, this method can be used instead of tracking based on the total amount of data transferred.

To gather this data, we take a sampling every five minutes which will give us a roughly 8,640 readings per month. We use this data to figure out how much of our pipe you are using and then bill you on that value. To get this reading, we take the 95th percentile of the data. This is also called Burstable billing.

The 95th percentile gives us a value which roughly tells us that 95% of the time, the usage is below this amount. What we do is take all of the data we gathered up over the month and sort it. We then take the top 5% of the values and throw them out. The highest value that is left becomes your billable utilization.

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The advantage for the customer is that the peak values are thrown out. Many of our higher bandwidth customers use a steady amount of bandwidth, but periodically they need to burst up. Let's say, for example, every morning at 8:00 am you need to replicate many gigs of data from your local servers up to the web servers hosted at MaximumASP. This process only takes about 30 minutes. With burstable bandwidth, we’ll allow you to get as much bandwidth as needed to accomplish this process as possible. And, as long as this temporary spike in traffic accounts for less than 5% of the total data, we won’t penalize you.

New Feature - Backup Job Status

For customers receiving our Tier 1 or Tier 2 weekly and daily backups, you'll now find a new tab on your dedicated server page. With this page you can track the status of your backup jobs in addition to the amount of disk space you are using against your allocation quota.

One of the new features on the page is the graphical history of each backup job. Here's a sample chart:

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You'll notice that when the first job ran, it consisted of new files to be backed up and a number of "RFE files" or "redundant file eleminations." The next day more new files were added to the files from the previous day's job. After that day, since there weren't many new files being added to the server, we see that the majority of files being backed up daily for the rest of the month are identical to those on the previous day.  Only a small percentage of files being backed up are considered RFE files.

RFE files are files that already exist on our backup cluster. Files such as the windows system files only need to get backed up once for all users of the backup cluster.  Furthermore, they do not count against your backup quota for your server. RFE combined with HLZS data compression drastically reduces the time required to perform backups.  The use of RFE files also reduces the amount of space required to store your backups.

For more information on how our Backups work we have a KB article on how MaximumASP Dedicated Server Backups work.

Please be aware that, for some customers, there will be some missing report data around the 12th of September. The reporting data was lost while moving the data to our production environment.  This action did not affect your backup jobs.

New Case Studies from Microsoft and Dell

MaximumASP has recently been featured in case studies by Microsoft and Dell for our work with Windows 2008, SQL 2008 and the new virtualization technologies.