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We are sponsoring Drupal Dev Camp Barcelona 2012

The Drupal Developer Days conference in Barcelona started today, and our Drupal architect Markus is there to give a talk about “ Staging with Git and Drush”.

Just in time for this big meeting of Drupal developers, we’ve got a new offer: free development instances !

Every development instance comes with its own Git repository, database, and Apache Solr core. They’re hosted on a shared DrupalCONCEPT PRO cluster, so these development instances offer great availability – no more worries that your dev server might die right before the project deadline! Since the only limitation for development instances is that they can’t be assigned an official domain name, they are an ideal solution for developing and testing your Drupal website.

How do you get your free DrupalCONCEPT development instance? It’s easy:

*Go to our order form,

*choose “PRO-DEV”,

*get started and have fun!

The Drupal Developer Days will be a great opportunity to exchange ideas and practices with Drupal devs from all over the world and we at freistil IT are happy to be a sponsor of the event! We wish all participants a successful conference and great days in sunny Catalonia!

15 Jun 2012

I’m writing this post on my flight back to Germany from DrupalCamp Scotland, which took place on 25 and 26 May in Edinburgh. I had been invited to take part in a panel with major Drupal hosting providers and had responded happily with “Challenge accepted!”

The Informatics Forum at the University of Edinburgh was an ideal venue for DrupalCamp Scotland. There was enough space for sessions and meet-ups, and with all those coffee shops, pubs and beer gardens in the vicinity catering for students, we could easily continue our talks over a latte or a beer. Speaking of catering: Nobody had to go home hungry thanks to tasty sandwiches for lunch, and tea, coffee and cake during all the breaks. The second conference day even concluded with an assortment of ales sponsored by the Williams Brewery!

The DrupalCamp programme was interesting and diverse. On the first day, titled “Drupal for Business”, people mainly learned about Drupal and its advantages. Jeremy “Jam” McGuire set the tone in his introductory note by describing how Drupal fits neatly into the successful open source ecosphere of projects and businesses. Other sessions were about e-commerce, project management and social media.

On Saturday was the official DrupalCamp and it got more technical with sessions like “Storage API”, “Symfony: An Introduction” and “Entities Everywhere”.

For a final session titled “Roast of the Hosts”, the Drupal Scotland team had put together a panel of three Drupal hosting specialists, namely Acquia, Pantheon and freistil IT. Jakub Suchy, Josh Koenig and myself each had 5 minutes to present our hosting platforms and then answered questions from the audience. I’m really, really proud that our DrupalCONCEPT platform was considered to be part of this panel and I had great fun – on the panel as during the whole DrupalCamp.

So, many thanks to all the organizers at Drupal Scotland for their efforts! And since Edinburgh is a great city, too, I’m sure that this won’t have been my last visit to Scotland!

27 May 2012

I just hopped on the train to Vienna where I’ll participate in the Drupal Business Days conference from Thursday to Saturday. I’m taking the night train, so I’ll reach Vienna in the early morning hours. Markus will follow tomorrow, because he’s still busy with client work. Additionally, that way, we make sure that there’s at all times someone on the team with decent internet connectivity should some server hiccup.

All previous Drupal business events I’ve visited so far this year were great successes, overall and for freistil IT in particular. Both in Amsterdam and in Rome, I’ve met great people, had inspiring talks and learned new things that helped us improve. In return, we decided to become Gold Sponsor of the European Drupal Business Days. I’m sure that the next three days will be worth a multiple of the sponsorship fee.

We’re IT guys, so we’ll be more than happy for everyone who would like to talk to us. ;-) Especially if it’s about running small, medium or huge Drupal websites and in how many ways your website could benefit from running on our DrupalCONCEPT hosting platform. If you do want to meet us, drop us a line at info@freistil.it or send us a direct message on Twitter @freistil! Alternatively, simply look out for our green DrupalCONCEPT shirts!

The CxO Meetup on the first of the three conference days will be another Drupal event that benefits from Microsoft’s hospitality. To many, this may still sound odd, but I have experienced twice now how their representatives manage to blend in and even add useful insight to the discussion. So, kudos to Microsoft for doing another kind of great hosting!

Thanks also to the nice folks at ProPeople for organizing the conference!

It seems that the weather will be nice in Vienna, so that’s one more reason to look forward to the Drupal Business Days. See you there?

02 May 2012

Last year, I’ve given a talk at the Open Source Datacenter Conference about how we use Chef to automate our system administration. For us, Chef is the key to efficient IT infrastructure management. Since last year, we have more than doubled the number of our servers while the number of sysadmins still is the same.

But having powerful tools is just half of the equation. Over the recent months, we have learned (sometimes the hard way…) that having mature processes in place is at least equally important.

I'm speaking at OSDC 2012!

That’s why my talk at this year’s OSDC 2012 will be about “ Operations and Kanban”. Kanban is an agile task and project management method. There are other well-known agile methods like Scrum, but for IT operations teams, Kanban oftentimes fits the bill better.

In my talk, I will explain the history and basics of the Kanban method and elaborate on how IT teams can implement and use it in their daily practice.

At freistil IT, we’ve been using the Kanban method to organize our work for some time now. We’ve started with simple day-to-day tasks and then gradually extended its use to bigger projects. Kanban can be implemented with a simple whiteboard, but since we are a distributed team, we prefer web-based tools. In this context, we have found Trello an ideal solution. Its design is clearly inspired by the staged Kanban approach, it’s easy to use, there’s an iOS app and it’s free. I’ll give a few examples how we implemented Kanban with Trello in my talk as well.

Judging from the line-up of presenters and topics, OSDC 2012 will again be a great experience and I’d like to thank the awesome folks at Netways for letting me be a part of it!

You’re going to be at OSDC, too? Drop me a line at jochen@freistil.it and let’s talk over a few drinks!

22 Apr 2012

For the recent weeks, we’ve been making a great effort to minimize our reaction times to support requests. And we’re proud of the positive feedback we get from our customers every day!

With this improvement in mind, we’d like to inform you that over the Easter days, we’re going to shift down support capacity a few gears. And with “Easter days”, we mean the week from 6th April (Good Friday) to Friday, 13th April.

During that time, support will be limited mostly to emergency cases and we’ll take the liberty of postponing tasks that aren’t related to service problems by a few days.

We’re going to use (or even utilize) this off-time to regroup, spend some quality time with our loved ones and tackle some of those “when I’ve got the time” projects.

Of course, if there’s an emergency, you’ll always be able to reach a qualified member of our team.

We wish you a happy Easter weekend and some joyful spring days! Your freistil team

03 Apr 2012

We’d like to notify our DrupalCONCEPT customers about two important changes in our hosting infrastructure:

*Platform-wide upgrade to PHP 5.3

*Improved deployment process

Both changes are explained in detail below.

They will take place during the time from Thursday, 2012–03–22 23:00, to Friday, 2012–03–23 05:00 (CET) .

This information will also be distributed via our Tech Info newsletter. If you are the technical contact (webmaster, developer, etc.) for your organization’s website(s) hosted on DrupalCONCEPT, please subscribe!

###PHP upgrade

This change affects the DrupalCONCEPT clusters “pro07” to “pro25” as well as “elite5” and “elite6”.

While our newer DrupalCONCEPT servers already run PHP 5.3, mainly the ones we built in 2010 still have PHP 5.2 installed. The PHP project stopped its support for PHP 5.2 in August 2011 and we’ve decided, for obvious maintenance and security reasons, to upgrade all older servers from PHP 5.2.10 to PHP 5.3.2 (original Ubuntu 10.04 LTS packages).

We had already announced this upgrade for 2012–03–03, but decided to cancel it on short notice. We figure that doing the upgrade during the week is a better choice because it gives us and our customers a better opportunity to quickly spot and eliminate problems caused by the upgrade.

If you have any questions regarding this upgrade, please let us know!

###Deployment improvements

This change affects the DrupalCONCEPT clusters “pro07” to “pro19”.

On our newer DrupalCONCEPT servers, we already have an improved website deployment concept in place that reflects our learnings from the first months of operation. Now it’s time to roll out these improvements also onto those servers that have been running since early on.

Mainly, the following advantages come with the improved deployment concept:

*A different approach to updating the Drupal installation after a Git repository change prevents failing merge processes that block further updates.

*A modified set of permissions removes Drupal’s write access to the directories controlled by Git. This eliminates problems where file changes made by Drupal cause merge conflicts.

Please be aware that the second change will limit write access to the asset directories under sites/…/files/. We advise you to change your configuration if your Drupal installation still does file modifications somewhere outside of these asset directories. Please let us know if you need help correcting this behaviour.

###Questions?

If you have any questions regarding these changes, please get in touch with our tech support. We’ll do our best to find a quick solution.

17 Mar 2012

freistil IT supports the Drupal booth at CeBit

The world’s biggest trade fair for the ICT industry — CeBIT - will take place in Hannover starting this Tuesday, March 6, until Friday, March 10.

The german Drupal-Initiative will be representing Drupal there with their own booth in Hall 2, Booth D58-166.

We are sponsoring and actively supporting the Drupal booth and I’d be very happy to meet you! I’ll be there from Tuesday to Thursday; just drop me a line when you’d like to get together.

PS: We’ve still got some free tickets left, so let me know if you need one!

05 Mar 2012

Yesterday morning, my work day started with 7 SMS alerts. They did not originate from an IT infrastructure outage, though. They were escalated support tickets from the weekend.

But let’s take one step back. We regularly ask our customers what we can improve to make their lives easier. Recently, the most common answer was “Shorter waiting times on support requests”. We analyzed our ticket resolution times and found that we needed not only to resolve support requests much faster but also to keep our customers better in the loop about the state of their issue. The latter gets especially important if a support requests needs extensive research or the involvement of a third party. And much too often, even small tasks took longer to resolve than necessary, mostly because the bigger ones drew all our attention.

So we went to work and built a ticket escalation process.

We created the role of the Ticket Dispatcher, whose responsibility it is that new tickets get assigned to a team member quickly. This role is assumed by our Sysadmin of the Day, the current on-call engineer. If a ticket doesn’t get assigned within an hour, it’s fed into our alerting system which means that its assignment is now handled as an operations incident, with SMS and phone alerts and all.

From now on, open tickets must be updated at least once in 24 hours. If this isn’t the case, the agent the ticket is assigned to gets notified. If they fail to update the ticket for another 24 hours, the ticket’s assignment is removed so another agent can take care of it.

In case we need customer feedback, the requester gets reminded twice that they need to provide additional information to get their issue resolved. If there’s no update after 7 days, the support agent is prompted to contact the customer directly and ask for the information needed.

We’ve introduced this new ticket escalation process a week ago and already, our ticket queue is shrinking rapidly. We still need to get used to the ticket alarms, but they’re proof that the process is working.

Providing great customer service is our main concern. We’d like to apologize for any unnecessary waiting times we’ve caused in the past and are optimistic that the new escalation process will help us eliminate them. Ticket by ticket.

What do you think? What else can we do to improve your support experience? Feel free to give us some feedback in the comments!

07 Feb 2012

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