Q&A: How One Customer Became A Developer Advocate
Feb 04, 2021

Meet David Finster, Technical Editor and Developer Advocate at Vultr. David is an IT industry veteran skilled in software design, hardware repair, technical support, documentation, and business consulting. At Vultr, David supports the Vultr Docs Programs and is a frequent contributor to Vultr’s GitHub Community.

With a buzzing consulting firm in Southwest Florida, David managed on-premise and cloud systems for a wide range of businesses, but his career path took a bend in the road when he found himself needing a new cloud infrastructure tool. He found Vultr and quickly became a fan, deploying cloud instances for many of his clients. Amazed by the simplicity of the platform, David felt inspired to be part of the Vultr Team. He applied and is now serving as Vultr’s Technical Editor and also supports Developer Relations.

We caught up with David in-between projects to learn more about why he chose Vultr for his clients and why he decided to become an employee. Below is a recap of our conversation:

Q: Tell us a little about yourself, why you chose to close your business and go back to corporate life?

A: For personal reasons, I scaled my business back and started traveling by RV. I did the digital nomad life for a few years, then decided to settle in Florida. I saw a job posting on my Vultr invoice one day, and it sounded interesting. I wanted to get more involved in cloud infrastructure, so I responded and agreed to join Vultr as the Technical Editor.

Q: How did cloud solutions help your clients?

A: I have many examples. I worked with a training company that needed custom student computers for each class. Previously they used a fleet of laptops and reset the disk images between classes. This process required manual steps and a large room to set up all the machines, and it happened every few weeks. Using cloud servers, they can set up and tear down a virtual classroom in minutes.

My horse ranch clients used custom software to track breeding, boarding, and veterinary records. They needed database access at the barn and the office. Sometimes the distance would require fiber optics. Often, it was a better solution to move the software to a remote desktop in the cloud.

Q: Did you host your own websites?

A: Yes, I standardized all my clients on WordPress. WordPress is a popular target for hackers, so backups and updates are critical. Because the Vultr One-Click WordPress app is updated frequently, it’s easy to launch a fresh instance and move the site content when there are major PHP or MySQL updates. Vultr has a simple guide: Upgrade One-Click WordPress.

It’s easy to schedule backups with WordPress to Vultr Block Storage, another instance in a different Vultr location, or even send those backups to your own office.

Q: How did you first learn about Vultr? Why did you move your infrastructure over to Vultr?

A: It all started with a failed power supply in a server at my office. It was a specialized server and the parts would cost the same as a new barebones model. Faced with the decision to either fix that aging server, or move the RAID array to new hardware, I chose a third option. I decided to move it to the cloud.

Q: How did you perform the migration?

A: The first server I moved was the FreePBX system. I had to decide if I would clone my existing system, or set up a new one. A PBX configuration isn’t trivial, and I had tweaked mine a lot over time. My phones were down, and I didn’t want to spend hours installing from scratch. So, I looked for someplace where I could upload a disk image. My research led me to Vultr. The documentation was easy to follow, and I had nothing to lose but a few hours and a couple bucks, so I created an account and started the upload.

Q: What were your concerns about moving the PBX to the cloud?

A: I was concerned about network latency and performance issues. I had experience running web servers on another provider that used to be an online bookstore (You may have heard of them ;). I struggled to get those web servers to score well on performance tests. Granted, I was running small instances because my business was cost-sensitive. While I could accept a three-second page load from the website, running a low-latency phone system was a concern. I saw good reports from other people about Vultr, so I decided to give it a try.

Q: How did it work out for you?

A: I was really surprised. It was faster than my local hardware. I did the math, and $10 a month at Vultr versus fixing my hardware was a no-brainer decision.

Q: Did you do anything else with Vultr?

A: After the success with the PBX, I moved my WordPress website. It was running with that other provider on a pre-built LEMP stack. I tuned and tweaked for months, but could never get page loads below three seconds. Once I saw how fast the PBX ran, I launched a Vultr One-Click WordPress app and restored the previous day’s backup. With no additional work, my page load time fell to one and-a-half seconds. It was twice as fast, no work involved.

Q: Were there any other benefits for your office?

A: Yes, the Vultr Firewall was a big benefit for my situation. I wanted a secure PBX. My office used a dynamic IP address, and I needed to give the phones PBX access without risking exposure. The Vultr Firewall was much easier to configure than the OS firewall. When my office IP changed, it was easy to adjust the firewall rules using the Vultr API and a scheduled task.

The automatic backups and snapshots saved me time. Previously I wrote some scripts to back up the machines on my local network. Anyone who has managed an on-premise backup system will appreciate automatic cloud backup. Snapshots make disaster recovery and migrating between Vultr locations easy.

I also like to experiment with different projects. Vultr allowed me to upload custom ISOs. It’s easier to boot an ISO at Vultr than write it to a flash drive and boot on physical hardware.

Q: What’s on the roadmap for you at Vultr?

A: Vultr is a great place to work. Technical writing forces me to learn new things every day, and I’m always challenged. Our management team really empowers us. It’s the perfect position for me. There are exciting things happening that I can’t talk about yet. The new version 2 API and the recent updates to GitHub will give careful observers a clue. I expect 2021 to be a huge year for Vultr.

Finster’s Favorites

These are a few of David’s favorite things:

  1. Magnet – Window manager for macOS
  2. Karabiner-Elements - Keyboard customizer for macOS
  3. s3cmd - Command line tool for Vultr Object Storage

Books on the desk

Here the list of reading materials currently on David’s desk:

Stay tuned for more from David Finster, coming soon!

Questions? Comments?

Connect with David Finster on GitHub or LinkedIn.