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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

About two weeks ago, we held our periodic strategy days where we thought about and discussed where we can improve in order to make the lives of our customers and of ourselves better. One central point became very clear from the beginning: We have to improve our support processes. So what you will see over the coming weeks will be changes to the way we work and how we handle support.

The first step in this process is to be more transparent about problems and incidents with our Drupal Hosting platform.

Until now, we used to announce incidents like power outages, network problems or urgent maintenance work in a forum on our Help Center website. But it was hard to find there and not the easiest way for us to publish urgent information.

That is why we built a status blog for freistil IT .

There, we will keep you up-to-date on all the incidents our operations team is currently working on. You can subscribe to it using its RSS feed or follow @freistilops on Twitter. Very soon, we will add email notifications as well. So, simply pick the method that fits your needs best.

If you can think of any way to improve this, please tell us by leaving a comment below or send us an email!

27 Jan 2012

Yesterday, Eugen Mayer of KontextWork told me on IRC that the download archive for the QTip2 JQuery plugin had been compromised and that there are now QTip2 versions with exploit code in the wild. As discussed on Github, someone hacked the QTip2 website and added malicious code.

This can also affect Drupal users because QTip2 is a popular JQuery plugin and can be easily integrated in Drupal projects, for example with the QTip module.

So, if you’re using QTip2, especially if you downloaded the plugin between December 8th 2011 and January 10th 2012, we recommend you get a clean current version as soon as possible.

25 Jan 2012

While our newer DrupalCONCEPT clusters 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 our clusters to PHP 5.3 .

Affected by this upgrade are all DrupalCONCEPT clusters from pro07 to pro25 and elite4 to elite6 .

We’ll upgrade those clusters from PHP version 5.2.10 to 5.3.2 (using the original Ubuntu 10.04 LTS packages).

All upgrades will take place over night from Saturday, 2012–03–03 23:00 CET , to Sunday, 2012–03–04 05:00 CET.

To prevent problems and outages, we urge all customers that are using the clusters mentioned above to test their websites with PHP 5.3 and to install necessary Drupal and module upgrades in good time before the upgrade deadline. We recommend to run those tests in a local test environment, better yet on a staging website instance on the DrupalCONCEPT hosting platform.

If you have any questions regarding this upgrade, please let us know! We’ll be more than happy to help you make the change.

24 Jan 2012

Looking back

Last year, we started offering DrupalCONCEPT hosting in our domestic german market. Building upon that, 2011 was the year of our expansion onto Europe and beyond. Today, we provide high-performance Drupal hosting solutions to customers in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italia, England, and even in Uganda! (This success certainly gives us sufficient opportunity to polish up our spoken English.)

Our rapidly growing customer base also shows us where we still need to improve our teamwork, our infrastructure, processes and tools.

Teamwork in a virtual company like freistil IT is different from working in a shared office, and we invested a lot of time and thought into finding the collaboration tools that work most effectively for us. (Drop us a line in the comments if you’d like to exchange experiences!)

Every new customer comes with their own workflow, tools and site building philosophy. Sizes range from solo website owners to big development teams, expectations from “I simply want to upload my site.” to “We need a multi-stage Continuous Integration process.” Obviously, it’s not easy to balance all those needs while trying to keep our products and infrastructure as homogenous as possible. We’ll continue doing our best to build practical solutions for all your Drupal hosting needs.

Also, dealing with an increasing amount of support requests is a challenge we still haven’t yet fully mastered. This year, we received a lot of positive feedback but also constructive criticism. Both drive us to further increase our customer care efforts.

It’s been a year of hard work. And it’s been a year of a lot of fun! We’ve learned a lot about building a great IT infrastructure and a business around it. We’ve learned a lot from our customers – in telephone calls, at Drupal user meetings and in London pubs. We’re happy to be part of the amazing Drupal community.

Looking forward

Well, 2012 certainly has a lot in store for us!

Improving customer support is our Number One priority. We’ve gone over the feedback we got and found many recurring topics. Based on that feedback, we’re making plans how to improve our efficiency (make better use of our time), transparency (communicate more often and more clearly) and our product documentation.

One of the most requested features is a self-service website that enables our hosting customers to configure domains, email addresses etc. themselves. We’re already working heavily on our Hosting Dashboard and plan to start beta-testing it early next year.

In 2012, we’ll need a bigger team to keep up with our growing customer base. There’ll certainly be new names on our team page. With added skills and manpower, there also will be new services and products we’re going to offer. (We’re as excited about what exactly they’ll be as you!)

Thank you so much!

We would not be where we are today without our customers. It’s you who we serve, who we learn from, with whom we always have a great time at conferences and other meetings, and who, above all, make our business work. We are more thankful to you than we can express.

So, to all our customers and partners, and to all our website visitors, we simply say:

Have a very merry christmas! Enjoy the holidays and have a great start into the new year 2012!

20 Dec 2011

From this Saturday (Christmas Eve, 2011-12-24) on, our team will be off recharging.

During the holiday time, we’ll only do emergency support. That means we’ll only handle outages and other incidents that impact the delivery of existing websites.

We’ll resume working on tasks that aren’t connected to such incidents on Monday, January 9th 2012.

So, if you plan to launch a new website over the holidays or need other kinds of assistance, please let us know immediately!

20 Dec 2011

Many Drupal users that have been running a website for a while have made the painful experience that a) usual shared hosting plans don’t offer enough resources and b) more powerful dedicated servers cause a heap of maintenance headaches.

That’s why we built a new Drupal hosting product line: A fully managed Drupal VPS called DrupalCONCEPT POWER.

Like our existing hosting platforms DrupalCONCEPT PRO and DrupalCONCEPT ELITE, the DrupalCONCEPT POWER VPS is a turnkey Drupal web hosting solution that has everything you need to run a high performance Drupal website:

  • You get a pre-configured hosting infrastructure including Varnish, APC, Memcache and Apache Solr.
  • Thanks to our Git-based deployment mechanism, you can easily integrate the hosting of your website into your development process.
  • When your website and its requirements grow, we can in many cases simply assign your VPS more resources with a simple reboot.
  • Our operations team takes care of the complete management of the hosting infrastructure.

So, if you want guaranteed capacity but don’t need the high availability features of DrupalCONCEPT PRO or the horizontal scalability of DrupalCONCEPT ELITE, our new DrupalCONCEPT POWER VPS is the most cost-effective solution for hosting your Drupal website.

Find details and prices on our DrupalCONCEPT POWER page!

22 Nov 2011

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