Blogging With Purpose

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“Hey, everyone else blogs so we should do.”

This is most likely the train of thought behind many of the bloggers you find on a typical company blog. Alright, alright, I agree – we’re guilty of the same. The SeeksAdmin blog has pretty much been dead web space, where the management team would come occasionally rant here and there about the most random things.

We’d like to be a little more helpful here in this space – for both our valued clients and the random visitor looking for assistance in a wide range of areas. So herein we’re committed to blogging with purpose! Bare with us as we setup proper categories to properly sort our server administration guides, and other resources. The great guys over at Vissol (review soon to come) have finished our design. After we finish up with that, we’ll be right here blogging away with purpose – helping you!

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Directadmin Server Migration

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SeeksAdmin provides DirectAdmin Server Migration services.  Contact us today for a quote for professional help with your directadmin migration.

Directadmin Server Migration

Directadmin Server Migration Guide

There are millions of articles out there about cPanel server migrations, even about Plesk migrations, however (as far as I know) there is not actually that much about Directadmin server migrations. While migrating a single account from a directadmin server is a relatively simple process, transferring a whole server on the other hand is not so easy and requires you to do some tricky things. This article plans to lay out the basics of the migration process which will help you transfer your websites using directadmin.

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Hello World!

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Hi Guys,

Just a quick update that if you are looking for the old posts I am sorry, we decided to start a-fresh with a new blog and new posts to share with you. Once again we will keep it up to date with whats happening in the company as well as quite a few neat little articles, tips and tricks for managing your servers!

So hope you become a regular reader our blogs, and see you soon!

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Designers A Dime A Dozen

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I am certainly no web designer.  My creativity and skill falls a bit short in that area.  So I always have my eyes open for that talented person or team.  Now like many others, we’ve been screwed over by “designers” that have stolen portfolios from others and disappeared with our deposits.  We’ve even had designers completely rip designs from the web and try to pass them off as unique.

Finding a designer is a daunting task.
We only work with designers that have rave reviews.  They cost more, but you get everything you pay for and more.  And our latest experience, which is underway now is my inspiration for this post.  I’ll save the best for last though.  We have yet to give thanks to good designers we’ve worked with along the way so here goes.

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Security, Security, Security

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With the growth of the internet also came the growth of hacking. It has increased so much so that according to Zone-H there are over 2,500 recorded hacks each day. Some people may be surprised by this figure, others wont be. In my opinion that is not the surprising fact, the shocking fact is that the number of reported hacks is growing by 40% each year!!! Are the hackers getting smarter?

Generally the hackers will get in due to one of three reasons:

  1. Out of date scripts – Everything from Kernels to Apache have updates and a lot of these updates are to fix security bugs. So if you are running out of date scripts with known security holes. A lot of hackers will take advantage of these holes and gain root access to your server
  2. Insecure Scripts – Most of the hack attempts that we have to deal with at SeeksAdmin are due to insecure scripts such as PHPbb, VBulletin or many other common scripts. If these are not kept up to date they are very dangerous allowing a hacker to gain root access.
  3. Insecure Passwords: Not much explanation is needed, if you have a short or weak password it is easier to guess and it can easily be brute forced.

So what can you do? Well keep everything up to date, and use a decent password? It wont ensure that you are 100% secure however it will go a long way to stopping you being hacked.

At the moment SeeksAdmin is concentrating on security and we are trying to raise awareness in security and how to keep your system secure. In accordance with this we are offering a FREE remote scan and a $5 local scan. After these scans you will receive the security holes in your system and we will recommend a few things you can do to help secure your system. We also have free security consultation so if you have any questions please contact us at sales[@]seeksadmin[dot]com

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Managed Servers – Dedicated Server Portal

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Well in the past few months I have really wanted to put an emphasize on selling some Fully Managed servers. There are a few reasons for this, firstly I have dealt with a lot of different data centers, and with a lot of clients and a lot of the time there is a lot of what I will call “lag” when it comes to us telling the client of a problem and when they tell the datacenter to fix it.

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Long Time No Blog – Lots of changes

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Well its been a long time since I last graced myself with having to write a blog post, and I guess that is due to many reasons. One of them being the fact that I was away for 2 months in Australia for a little bit of business, and the other is that I have been busy adding new features to the site to make us one step above everyone else. Before I start talking about the new features that have either been introduced or will be introduced soon, I would like to set out the idea that this blog will receive at least 3 blog’s a week. However, only time will tell if I can actually keep up with that.

One of the big changes that has happened recently was the new website and the price structure changes. I think I will just tell people why we changed the prices a little. The reason for the change was because managing a cPanel system is so much easier than managing a system with no control panel or plesk, but we were charging the same price. This basically meant that it was hard for us lower response times and keep the quality high. We did not change the prices for clients on the old price plan because we have a policy that your price will never go up, only down!

Along with the new webdesign we have added a few new features and plans that will soon be hitting it big time (we hope). The first one of these I will talk about is reselling Softlayer servers. I have been a fan off Softlayer ever since I got my first server with them which was quite a while back now near when they started. So recently we started to resell their services with our administration slapped on top. We do not mark up the price of the server, and you get a discount on our administration plans. So everyone wins :D

One thing that I am excited about is the outsourcing, we have just started to offer outsourcing but with a bonus above everyone else. Every admin that is part of our outsourcing team has spent at least 4 months on the seeksadmin helpdesk, so you can be pretty sure they can deal with the hardest of problems. We believe we are competitively priced, what that means is that we are not the most expensive out there but not the cheapest.

I have a lot more news, but for now I will leave it at this and give me something to post about in future blogs.

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Basic SSH Security

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There are a few ways to sort server security, but one of the major ways to harden your server is to secure SSH. On a default machine you login as root directly, on the default port. This means you are susceptible to brute force and all other sorts of attacks. What I am going to write about is a short and simple guide about how to secure your SSH and what this does. You don’t have to do all of these although I would deeply recommend doing the steps below.
1. Changing SSH Protocol

I guess a good place to start would be what are the differences between the two SSH protocols (1 and 2), as not many people know this. You don’t need to know, but I think that you should know the reasons you are doing this. I will try to cut the crap out of it and keep it simple. Basically SSH2 uses separate protocols for transport, authentication and connections, splitting all your data up making it just that little bit more secure. It also has stronger cryptographic integrity checks and has better encryption. Basically what I am trying to say (but in tech talk) is that this is one change you should always make. Now lets get on to making the change.

Step 1) Use nano, pico or vi (your favorite text editor) to open up /etc/ssh/sshd_config for editing

Step 2) Find the Line #Protocol 2,1

Step 3) Uncomment the line and change it to

Protocol 2

2. Changing the SSH port

This is what we like to call security by obscurity, it is one extra thing the hacker has to guess before he can get in, although practically a port scan would be able to find the port. However i have found that changing the port does stop a lot of brute force attacks from occurring.

NOTE: Make sure you add the port you want to use to the firewall AND/or add yourself to the allow list so you can connect to the port and don’t lock yourself out.

Step 1) Again open up /etc/ssh/sshd_config with your favourite editor

Step 2) Find the line #Port 22

Step 3) Uncomment the line and replace with the following (where port 2777 is a random, unused port)

Port 2777

NB: To find out if the port is being used use the comand lsof -i:portnumber eg lsof -i:2777

3. Disable Direct Root Login

Unlike the other steps we have used this requires a bit more than editing the config file, but its not hard so dont worry about it. Again this is a little of security by obscurity adding an extra layer the hacker/cracker has to get through if he wants access to your machine, making that bit harder.

A lot of other guides you will see will tell you to add a cPanel account etc etc, but lets just make it easier shall we.

Step 1) Type the following in SSH replacing username with a random username eg sekadmin

adduser sekadmin

Step 2) Now lets give sekadmin a password

passwd sekadmin

You will now be given a password prompt twice. Make sure the word is not a dictionary word, I would recommend looking at my password article for the best password.

Step 3) Now we need to give sekadmin, the correct privileges so he can su – to root.

Step 4) Open up /etc/group with your favorite text editor. Find the line that starts with “wheel” and add your username on at the end of the line. Then close and save the file.

Step 5) Now you will need to test the login works so create a NEW ssh session and try to connect using the username that you just created. Once logged in type “su -” and then the root password to see if that works. If it works everything went ok and you continue on to the next step

Step 6) Once again open up our favourite file /etc/ssh/sshd_config in your text editor

Step 7) Find the line #PermitRootLogin yes, uncomment it and change it to no.

Other Methods

There are also some other methods that you can use. One of the other methods I like to use is binding SSH to an IP. If you do this, the best thing to do is use a spare IP that is not being used by a website. This will offer the most security.

Another great thing to do is to disable password logins totally and use an ssh key. I will not write anything about that here, because it can be a blog post on its own for a rainy day ;)

AFTER all changes

To make all your changes take effect you will have to restart ssh

service sshd restart

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Outsourced Support

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As one of our new features is outsourced support I thought I should say a bit about it. First off back in the day when I worked for a big hosting company at a datacenter, it was all on-site staff and they had a great thing for it and everyone was happy, but then the management changed and of course so did the staff. But instead of staying “on-site” they were one of the first hosting companies to start outsourcing.

Obviously at first this made me pretty angry, and I didn’t like the outsourcing market because they stole my job. But almost 8 years on now, I have had a lot of experience in many manners with outsourced staff. The experience I remember most was in 2002-04 where I was the team leader of a team which was outsourced so located in Pakistan. I obviously was not to thrilled, but I needed a job so could not turn it down. I was scared that their language would be terrible, that they would be lazy and not very skilled due to the low pay. I basically thought all of the bad things you could about outsourcing staff, but that all changed.

I will admit the first few weeks were a bit rough, fitting in and getting the staff to listen to me, but once we got over the first few hurdles I was pretty surprised. Firstly they were skilled and worked insanely hard – I would hire them over most other admins I have worked with, if I didn’t prefer on-site staff. They were efficient, quick, and learnt very quickly. Okay so that’s good you may say, but whats the point if their English is no good? Well… it was. It was pretty good. It was not as good and as fluent as someone who’s first language is English, and sometimes they sounded a bit over professional and not personal, but overall it was great. What was even better was that if I corrected them they never made the mistake again. It was like a dream team…. And there went my fear of outsourced hosting and I believe in it so much that I have even started offering it on our website.

Some companies do need on-site techs and it is a much better situation, but in my honest opinion, for the smaller companies it is a much better situation, its more cost efficient and allows companies to focus on other things, like sales or new services. I guess this post was for once a bit of an “advertisement” so I think I will cap it off with if you have any problems or questions, just ask us. We can even set up interviews now for outsourced staff, so it would just be like hiring your own staff member.

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Passwords

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A common problem for many people is remembering their passwords and at the same time making it cryptic enough. I thought I would share my password “remembering” techniques with you, which will help you keep things secure. There are three main methods you can use and I will describe that below.

Rhythm/Pattern

Now it may sound weird to have rhythm in your password, but when you think about it, it isn’1 too strange. It is all about memory, and you are more likely to remember a password when it has some rhythm to it, that you can remember. For example remembering a password such as

sardines0012a

is not going to be easy. (At least I dont think so). Whereas if you have a password with rhythm/a pattern

sand00handx

its much easier to remember.

Words

Another method that can also be very easy to use is to remember a word and then add your birth date on the end. An example of this is

Seeksadmin1980

This is very effective and very easy to remember as its 2 very memorable facts. It is also pretty hard to guess unless you know what word I had use and what number (it doesnt have to be birthdate, it could be the date you ordered the server)

Pattern

Now this is my favorite and preferred method. This is also different to the pattern/rhythm method i described above. So what is it about? Well that’s pretty simple, you make a pattern on your key board. Here is an example

!@#$%67890

if you are very clever you will have noticed that is holding the shift key pressing 1 to 5 and then letting go of shift and pressing the rest of the numbers. It is very easy to remember as its just a pattern on the keyboard. It does not really require you to remember each number/letter just the pattern. The last example ill give is

zaqwsx.;[]‘/

Which is z -> q, w->x ,->[, ]->/. This type of password is pretty much impossible to guess, and yet in my opinion is one of the easiest to remember.

Other Tips

Vary the methods you use of remembering your passwords and of course vary the passwords you use. Whether its something simple such as changing 1 digit for each server or adding the server name on the end of the password, it is important that the servers have different passwords. If you have a secure password, this is one less way a hacker can gain access to your system.

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