Rackspace has a large clientele base for their cloud products for a reason — it’s because they offer some top of the line products and services. I covered some of what they do in this previous post. Although we covered lots of ground before, that’s just the tip of the Rackspace iceberg. They have other notable products such as Cloud Sites and Cloud DNS. Each of these can be great cloud-enabled products for small and medium businesses that can reduce costs, improve processes, and increase business.

Cloud Sites

If your business relies on web services to create revenue, then Cloud Sites might be your key to success. Rackspace offers robust hosting that allows businesses to keep control of their content but back it up with superior data protection, no hardware worries, unlimited scalability, reliability, and “Fanatical Support.” Here are some of the highlights:

  • An easy to use online control panel is used to set up and manage all features of your account, including registering domain names and selecting servers.
  • The ability to select server builds and components. Some of the available OS options include Linux builds running Red Hat Enterprise with Apache v2.2, PHP v5.2, Perl v5.8, or MySQL v5. You also can choose Windows 2008 Servers with MS SQL 2008, .NET v2, v3, or v3.5 SP1, as well as IIS 7. You can even spread your hosted services across different platforms.
  • Cloud Sites dynamically spreads traffic across an entire cluster of servers.
  • Redundant enterprise Network Attached Storage devices handle site data storage. This hardware includes redundant drives, controllers, and power supplies. The drives are mirrored to each other through a RAID configuration that creates a base level of protection.
  • Scalability is a key to successful cost savings. Depending on the industry requirements, demand for services may increase and decrease seasonally. Retail sales are huge in November and December as internet sales soar. The ability to expand website capacity almost instantly can be the difference between good sales revenue and out of this world sales revenue. At the same time, to install and maintain that capacity for use in January when sales are typically lower is like throwing profits away. Cloud Sites are distributed across an entire cluster of servers, making them scalable when traffic increases substantially. This helps ensure customers can get to the information they want.
  • Reliability is addressed by the way of clustering and redundancy. Server clusters are established based on requirements and traffic, which keeps sites humming. Site data is centrally stored and information is written to multiple locations spanning numerous hard drives.
  • Back-ups are handled by having the complete Cloud Sites FTP structure backed up every four hours, which is then backed up nightly and kept for two days. This data is for Rackspace disaster recovery for the servers. They do recommend local back-ups to ensure your site content is retrievable. They also provide the ability to back-up MySQL or MS SQL databases through their online utilities or by connecting to the servers using desktop software.

There are a few add-ons that are worth mentioning here that can make Cloud Sites more enticing.

  • For a per transaction fee you can have the ability to automatically bill clients via their MasterCard, Visa, or American Express credit cards. Rackspace deposits the payments directly into your bank account each month.
  • Easy to use SSL capabilities that securely encrypt site traffic. It even provides this capability without producing excessive loads on the servers. You can add as many SSL certificates that you require for your site. This service does cost extra, but is a must for conducting any financial or personal data transactions via the web. Rackspace notes that in order to use this service, root-level Apache certificates must be bought by an SSL provider.
  • Microsoft SQL storage via scalable disk space to hold your Microsoft SQL databases. It’s sold in increments of 100 MB and is required to run MS SQL Databases.
  • Domain Name registration can be accomplished through the Rackspace online software for a nominal yearly cost of $10.00. You also transfer already owned domains.

Rackspace handles all the operating systems, server applications, load balancing and security. Their Configuration Management System makes sure that security updates are implemented once they are available. You may want to compare Cloud Sites to dedicated servers however, just to make sure which is the best solution for your situation.

Cloud DNS

The power to manage your DNS through the cloud is also worth looking at. Rackspace offers a full-featured and easy to use API that helps to automate and simplify Domain Name System management. The best part is that it’s free for existing Cloud Servers, Cloud Servers with a managed service level, Cloud Sites, and RackConnect customers.

So let’s look at some of the benefits and features of Cloud DNS.

  • Management of DNS components through a public REST-based API. This provides an easy way to manage domains, sub-domains, and records. Through the API you can list, modify, add, and remove domains and records. You can also import and export domains, providing great flexibility.
  • Cloud DNS provides support for several record types including A, CNAME, MX,  AAAA, TXT, NS, DKIM, SRV, and SPF.
  • There are regional service endpoints in the US and UK to reduce global transit time.
  • Built-in support for multiple nested sub-domains. This allows for growth and offshoots while still maintaining a single site structure.
  • Management of the default time to live (TTL) and resource record TTL values allows for control over service quality.
  • IPv6 compatibility is integrated within Cloud DNS. This will help ensure optimal compatibility as transitions from IPv4 increase.
  • Through the use of a wizard you are able to manage your mail servers, zone delegation and SPF records.
  • There is imbedded support to import and export BIND 9 formatted zone files. This allows you to easily migrate DNS configurations, or zone file domains and records.

Rackspace is a full-service cloud provider that has many offerings for businesses of all sizes. For those that are looking to offload services to reduce budgets, or increase business by leveraging what the cloud has to offer, consider the full range of Rackspace services as you look at ways to enhance your business.