Who Needs Hardware? The Planet's Got Your Infrastructure

By Lauren Simonds | Posted July 09, 2008

The Planet is a self-managed, dedicated hosting company known for providing access to world-class IT infrastructures to small and medium sized companies. In simpler terms, it physically houses, runs and maintains the servers and networks that its SMB customers use to conduct their businesses.

Until recently, the company provided self-managed hosting and worked strictly with the hardware layer. It didn't involve itself with managing the software or applications running on the servers – the SMB customer did that. But now all of that's changed.

The Planet has announced two services, Planet Alpha Dedicated Servers and Planet NorthStar Managed Hosting, which will give SMBs the opportunity to outsource their entire IT infrastructure or a smaller portion thereof. According to Urvish Vashi, The Planet's director of product management, the change grew out of customer demand.

"Our customer needs ran the gamut. Some wanted a bit more help maintaining their infrastructure," Vashi said. "Others were content to manage that process on their own, and still others wanted to off-load the day-to-day responsibilities lock, stock and barrel."

Option One: Planet Alpha

Planet Alpha maintains The Planet's traditional business model with an added twist. It provides dedicated, self-managed servers for the do-it-yourself crowd, but it also offers Advanced Services ‑ a la carte – that compliment the customer's IT skill and capabilities.

The services include server monitoring, server security and server administration. "These services," Vashi said, help customers save on operational costs while adding to or improving the security and uptime of their hosted environment."

Alpha Server Monitoring ‑ $25 per server per month
Provides 24-by-7-by-365 server and service monitoring for up to 15 services, including rapid reactive response with customized escalation procedures. If a server goes down, the company said that someone is waiting and ready to get the server back online immediately.  Customers also receive both weekly and monthly uptime reporting.  During July, August and September, the company is offering a promotional price of $12.50 per server for the first month.

Alpha Server Security ‑ $40 per server per month
Provides ongoing server security management to ensure servers are securely deployed, and remain patched and secure throughout their lifecycle. This includes server hardening, security patch management and weekly vulnerability reports, with unlimited access to a team that can resolve security incidents. During July, August and September, the company is offering a promotional price of $20 per server for the first month.

Alpha Server Administration ‑ $75 per half hour
Provides on-demand administration, general system administration services, migration and custom-issue resolution. Customers can use services as required or as part of a bundled package. During July, August and September, the company is offering a promotional price of $37.50 per half-hour for the first month.

Option Two: Planet NorthStar

The Planet designed NorthStar for customers that want to outsource the management of their entire IT infrastructure. It's based on what the company calls its Anticipation Advantage Methodology, which Vashi described as a thorough process with well-defined deliverables.

"Each customer gets a team of highly skilled individuals who work directly with the customer to establish the company's business and technical goals are in line with each other, said Vashi.

Each team consists of a lead engineer, a security and network engineer, a lead database administrator and a technical account manager. "These people are involved with the day-to-day operation of your infrastructure," said Vashi. "When you need help, you won't have to explain what your business is or what your infrastructure contains, because they'll have been with you from the start."

After the planning phase, Vashi said the team custom-designs a technical infrastructure that combines the right mix of database hardware and software to fits your current needs while providing the ability to scale as your company grows and its needs change.

Your team also manages and maintains your company's IT performance.  For example, the company said that the ground-up design lets the team "anticipate and mitigate risks and prevent breaches, outages or compliance violations."

Vashi pointed out that their customers have very different needs, and that NorthStar lets them customize the team's response to fit those exact needs. For example, two companies facing the same type of incident, say a server goes down, may want their respective teams to take very different action.

If the first customer's main concern is availability, and the focus is to get that server back online ASAP. A second customer in the same situation may have very different priorities.

"They might want a full forensic analysis of what happened," said Vashi. "In that case, the team leaves the resource offline until they know exactly what happened. We ask customers that question upfront so the team knows the customers' priorities from the beginning."

Because Planet NorthStar offers such detailed customization, pricing quotes are based on a case-by-case basis. "Each customer fills out a very involved questionnaire," said Vashi. "Our pricing is very competitive. Typically costs run between 50 percent to 100 percent higher than one of our self-managed solutions."

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com

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