freistil News

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Long before the actual vote took place on September 16 2014, The Scottish Independece Referendum drew a lot of attention in all over Europe. So, when Paul Linney from madewithcustard got in touch with us a few weeks before the event, we were thrilled about the opportunity to host scotlandreferendum.info. Together with web agency Post Creative, Paul was in the process of building the website for the City of Edinburgh and scouting for a WordPress hosting solution that would be able to sustain stable operation even during the visitor peaks expected for voting night.

To prove the reliability of our platform, we did a performance test on a freistilbox cluster set up with two freistilbox M. Paul was surprised to find much better test results on freistilbox than what he had seen on similar setups with other well-known hosting providers. The freistilbox cluster delivered a peak performance of 1337 requests per second with 0.11% timeouts.

Website screenshot

Before we go into how freistilbox handled the traffic on voting day, a question: How can it deliver this kind of performance? One aspect is that we run our hosting platform on bare-metal infrastructure. Using dedicated hardware gives us full control over its resources. In comparison, public cloud infrastructure is designed as a black box for its users who can’t prevent “noisy neighbours” from eating up CPU capacity, disk I/O performance or network bandwidth. Another important aspect is network latency. Sometimes, website performance suffers simply because cloud machines are talking to each other over long network distances. For freistilbox, all important communication happens within a dedicated data center rack. In our experience, this setup is perfect for fast and reliable content delivery.

When referendum day came, our ops team started monitoring the site’s performance more closely. We were prepared to add additional boxes as soon as demand would require it. When the vote counting results started to come in after 10pm, visitor numbers climbed significantly, as expected. freistilbox handled all traffic peaks gracefully and we didn’t have to intervene at any time.

While the Referendum’s results surely were disappointing for many Scots, our customers were delighted by how freistilbox had performed. Shortly after the event, we got the following email from Post Creative’s Nova Stevenson:

“I’ve been really impressed with the speed of the Scottish Referendum website on your platform so I’ll be coming back to you to discuss moving our sites over to you in the next few weeks.”

We can’t be happier about this outcome. freistilbox proved once again to be a world-class hosting platform for Drupal and WordPress. This is our vision and every day (and on many nights, too), we put in all the necessary work to make it reality.

07 Jan 2015

On October 14th, the so-called POODLE vulnerability in SSLv3 was published. We remediated this security issue by disabling SSLv3 throughout the freistilbox infrastructure.

To further reduce risks, we’re deprecating SSL certificates using the SHA1 signature algorithm. After thorough review, we have concluded that this change should not affect the majority of freistilbox customers. As you can see on the Digicert Compatibility Chart, all recent web browsers already support the newer SHA256 standard.

If you’d like to check if the SSL certificate for your website still uses the weaker SHA1 algorithm, we recommend using the Qualys SSL server test. The test result should look similar to this:

ssltest

If your certificate still uses SHA1, simply send us a support request and we’ll take care of getting it reissued for you.

Thank you for your trust and continued business,
—your freistilbox Team

19 Dec 2014

Last month, Netways held their annual Open Source Monitoring Conference. System engineers from Germany and abroad came to Nuremberg to learn more about tools that help us better understand our IT infrastructure.

Netways was gracious enough to invite me as a speaker and the video of my talk just became available. I gave an introduction into Sensu, a great monitoring framework that we started to use when Nagios could not handle our steadily growing number of checks any more.

I had a lot of fun at OSMC. Netways not only did a good job in selecting interesting talks by competent speakers but also went to great lenghts with the catering during the day and an awesome conference dinner. For me, OSDC and OSMC also are welcome opportunities to meet former colleagues again, and OSMC 2014 didn’t disappoint in this regard either.

Next year, OSMC will have its 10th anniversary and I’m looking forward to both the conference and the party!

18 Dec 2014

The end of the year is approaching quickly and as always, we’re going to take it as an opportunity to recharge our batteries. This means that from 24 December 2014 to 4 January 2015 , we’ll provide emergency support only.

Of course, should incidents occur that impact the operation of your production websites, our 24/7 on-call will take care of them.

If you need some last-minute engineering support for anything else (launching the new reindeerrental.com, adding SSH access for additional elfs etc.), we recommend you send us your wishes as early as possible! Like Santa, we’ll handle each of your requests to our best ability, but we’ll close our workshop on Christmas Eve. (We’ll be back in far less than a year, though.)

From the whole freistil IT team, thank you for an awesome 2014, have a happy Christmas and a great start into the new year!

Happy Christmas!

08 Dec 2014

You may be wondering why we don’t have an “Enterprise” column in our pricing table. It looks like everyone has such an offer, after all.

The reason is: With freistilbox, we decided to not make Enterprise-grade hosting the highest(-paid) tier of our product. Instead, we’ve built the whole platform with Enterprise quality, from the smallest configuration upwards.

With other vendors, you get much less powerful Drupal and WordPress hosting if you choose one of their lower tiers:

  • no distributed hosting architecture where every service runs on its own redundant and diligently configured server infrastructure,
  • no SSL offloading,
  • no storage network with multiple file copies,
  • no SSD-based database clusters,
  • etc. etc.

In other words, you don’t get much more than a managed VPS. If your website needs real performance and availability, your only option is their offering with that impressive “Enterprise” label (and price tag).

With freistilbox, things are different — and simpler! The only decision you have to make is what capacity you’d like to start with. It doesn’t matter if you choose a single freistilbox S or a 4xM power cluster; you’ll always get the full benefits of our hosting platform. Regardless of its size, every customer setup is based on the same high performance hosting architecture with SSL offloading, load balancing, redundancy and bare-metal performance.

freistilbox is Enterprise hosting from the start.

04 Dec 2014

Working as a remote team has many advantages and we’re very happy to have the freedom and flexibility it gives us. We can not deny, though, that it has a significant downside: our personalities and therefore our interactions have a lot more aspects than we can ever convey sitting in front of a webcam. You can’t really learn to know a person fully without experiencing how they think and act in different situations.

That’s why we decided to have regular events where the whole team comes together at a common location for a few days. During these events — we’ve named them “freistil Days” — we share an apartment, we eat, talk, work and play together. The idea of a company meetup is not new and we’ve looked at how other distributed companies like Automattic, Buffer, Sqwiggle and Zapier have done theirs.

And finally, freistil Days are about to happen for the first time: On Monday, we’ll fly to Barcelona where Markus, Philipp and I are going to enjoy working as a co-located team for 8 days. If you’re interested in what’s happening there, be sure to follow our Twitter account!

03 Oct 2014

freistilbox is a fully managed hosting platform. That means that we do everything that’s necessary to run a reliable hosting service.

Last week, a new software security threat with a catching name raised its ugly head: Shellshock is a security flaw in the widely used command-line shell “bash”. This security flaw can be exploited to issue an arbitrary command to a server to be executed. Troy Hunt has the technical details.

After this security weakness became widely known on Wednesday and security fixes were made available soon after, we immediately tested and installed them. Since then, we got two follow-up bash updates with additional fixes that we rolled out in the same swift fashion.

If you prefer to sleep peacefully, knowing that we take care of hosting security, why don’t you check out all the other advantages of freistilbox?

29 Sep 2014

August has been a bit more quiet due to vacations. Unfortunately, my own vacations came in the way of finishing and publishing my sum-up for July. That’s why I’ll compare our numbers for August to those I published in my sum-up for June.

In August, our DevOps support took center stage. We spent a significant amount of time working with customers on launching new websites and optimising existing ones. Performance tuning is one of the main concerns here. freistilbox certainly offers everything a high-traffic website needs to master traffic peaks without hiccups. Achieving reliable performance, though, requires optimising the web application so it can fully take advantage of our hosting platform. That’s where our engineering support shines with deep expertise in Drupal and WordPress tuning. We collaborate with our customers via phone, email or web chat as soon as any question or issue arises until it is solved.

freistilbox

We’re continuously expanding our infrastructure. Over the recent weeks, the number of websites we run on freistilbox increased by 22% to 394. With the number of websites, our web traffic also made a jump of 24% to 15.09 TB. Although a growing infrastructure means more points of failure, our monthly uptime stayed at an excellent value of 99.87% (+0.01%).

Help Center

As I’ve mentioned above, delivering DevOps support is taking up a growing portion of our time. The August numbers for support requests reflects that. That month, we received 29% more tickets (193) than in June. Nonetheless, we’ve kept our ticket backlog at 39 because we were able to resolve 161 tickets, a whopping 50% improvement!

reaction_time_1408

Unfortunately, our average reaction time went up significantly by 144%. As the chart shows, we slightly improved in the area of quick responses but much higher percentage of customers had to wait for more than a business day, compared to June. We’ll investigate if that’s due to the nature of the actual support requests or if we need to tweak our Help Center processes. Since satisfaction feedback remained at a perfect 100% “good”, we’re confident that we’re still doing a great job.

Operations

With more websites a growth in IT infrastructure is to be expected, and the number of servers our ops team has to maintain actually increased by 24%. 373 hosts means that our server:sysadmin ratio is 187:1.

The number of metrics we collect even grew by 26%. We’re now collecting 124,642 metrics every 10s. In order to achieve the necessary I/O performance, we built a new metrics storage on SSD drives.

Causing us a bit of concern is the fact that the amount of on-call alerts went up by 20% in August (1378 alerts total). So it’s exactly at the right time that PagerDuty published “ Let’s talk about Alert Fatigue”. We’ll especially have to dig deeper on the aspect “Cut alerts that aren’t actionable & adjust thresholds”. Another important improvement will be eliminating alerts that only get triggered as a consequence of previous alerts (for example, identical shared storage space warnings from all the boxes of a freistilbox cluster).

Community events

While our web hosting platform only runs PHP-based applications, we use Ruby for a lot of internal applications and tools. That’s why Markus spent the first August weekend attending eurucamp at the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam. It was amazing to see the inspiration he brought back. This can only be good for our latest Ruby-based project, the freistilbox Hosting API. We’ll let you know more on this important undertaking later. So stay tuned!

16 Sep 2014

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