Aug 052018
 

The RISC OS friendly ISP needs the help of its RISC OS friends.

At the start of last month, Orpheus Internet suffered an outage – on 1st July, the company’s servers became unreachable, apparently due to a network IP address issue.

That day was a Sunday, of course – and Richard Brown reported on the company’s news page that “It would be nice if this can be rectified on Sunday but I doubt it. I would expect services to gradually resume during Monday and reach 100% Tuesday-Wednesday.”

To make matters worse, the company had completed a mail server upgrade only the day before, and was anticipating that some customers would need a little help ensuring their software would reflect the change; Richard’s advice was to ring if necessary – and not only did he make himself available, but said that R-Comp’s Andrew Rawnsley could be contacted by users of Messenger Pro if necessary, because he had a three or four step solution to an issue some users may experience.

With the initial issue resolved, it then emerged that a key server had suffered a software problem as a result, so that needed to be dealt with, and that couldn’t be done until the next day – the Monday. And by 4:00pm that day, all the company’s servers were back online, though due to the way the internet works, it may then have taken a day or so for things to settle, with (for example) some emails arriving late.

And only after allowing a day for that could those customers who may have needed assistance due to that mail server upgrade finally be able to receive it. To quote Richard Brown once again in later comments:

Orpheus Internet has always wanted to be secure, reliable and to offer the very best of service to our customers. On the weekend of July 1st 2018 we failed to meet those targets for the first time since I took over the company a decade ago.

That comment comes from a new page on the site that appeared subsequently to that weekend – a page entitled Crowdfunding.

The upshot of that page is that Richard has, for some time, wanted to duplicate the company’s servers – which would allow them a way to offer a failover, so that if there are any problems affecting any of the main servers in London, the secondary ones could be brought up to ensure customers are not affected. The company has also been asked by three or four customers if they can host/co-locate their own servers and to provide virtual services.

To that end, the company has looked at taking space in various locations, but concluded that the monthly costs of doing so would be too prohibitive – Orpheus is, after all, only a very small player.

Another option would be for Orpheus to create its own small, dedicated DataCentre near its home base – and this is the option that Richard feels is the ideal one. Two buildings have been found that he feels would be ideal for the purpose – they are in a favourable location, and there would be a one-off fee for their ongoing use.

As well as that one-off fee, the buildings themselves would need some work to make them suitable to house the equipment; they would need to be made secure, with windows blocked, an alarm system, etc. Then there would need to be a standalone power supply – for which Richard has been given a staggering estimate of between three and a half to four and a half thousand pounds, and for a supply that wouldn’t cover a huge distance – and a suitable UPS to provide backup. The list goes on.

Armed with a plan of action, Richard has looked at finance options. The costs, while not an insurmountable amount, are more than he or the company can currently afford. He has approached various lenders, who agree that the plan is sound, but who also say they are not currently lending to small companies, or cite the market sector as being too volatile, etc.

With the more direct and customary finance options therefore ruled out, Richard has decided to follow a path that is currently in vogue in many sectors – as the title of the page linked above clearly indicates: Crowdfunding.

He has already discussed the plan with many customers, with a positive response, and is asking that people promise either to make a donation, or provide a long-term loan, with the goal of funding the DataCentre project. The target figure is £15,000, which should cover the costs based on quotes received for all of the work as at 3rd July, and funds will only be requested from those who have promised them if and when the total amounts offered reach that goal.

Given Orpheus Internet’s history, and Richard’s long support of RISC OS (including his efforts along with those of Andrew Rawnsley to keep the Southwest Show going), this strikes me as something worth considering if you are in a position to be able to help – in which case, give Richard a call on 01702 462 385, or send him an email.