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Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks are a serious threat to the availability of websites and web applications. Malicious parties use these attacks to overload the bandwidth and capacity of a website’s hosting infrastructure with data packets. Most often, this traffic originates from lots of compromised computers, so-called “bot nets”. The result is that reaching the target website becomes very slow or even impossible. For all practical purposes, the website will be offline for the duration of the attack.

With bot nets being offered for lease commercially at extremely low prices, DDoS attacks have become more prevalent recently. They’ve almost become a fun sport.

Unfortunately, things aren’t as trivial on the receiving end. Since it does not originate from a single address but from an always changing set of machines, separating malicious traffic from valid requests requires sophisticated network technology and lots of bandwidth.

We’re happy to announce that Drupal and WordPress websites hosted on freistilbox are now protected by an Anti-DDoS system based on specialised hardware from Arbor und Juniper. This system mitigates attacks effectively in multiple stages:

  1. Automatic detection and classification of attacks — By measuring traffic volume and packet flow, first the type of attack is identified precisely. This allows the DDoS protection system to choose the most effective measures to mitigate the attack. For example, while a UDP flood with 500,000 packets per second is quite harmless, 500,000 TCP packets could cause problems. That’s why classification is an important first step.
  2. Traffic filtering based on known attack patterns — In this stage, common attack patterns are filtered efficiently by dropping packets early in an upstream filtering network. This mitigates attacks like DNS reflection, NTP reflection or UDP floods on port 80.
  3. Challenge/response authentication and dynamic traffic filtering — This stage mitigates attacks such as SYN floods, DNS floods and invalid packets.

This DDoS protection technology allows a flexible and reliable response to each type of attack as well as a high degree of automation. By refining the filter algorithms with each attack, the effectiveness of the DDoS protection system is improved continually. The new DDoS protection system is active all the time; in case an attack is detected, the filter kicks in within seconds and starts to mitigate the attack. Thanks to a dynamic adaptation algorithm, legitimate website traffic will normally not be affected by the protection system.

Keeping your website available and secure is our top priority. That’s why we make this DDoS protection available to all freistilbox customers free of charge. It’s just another element in our service mantra:

Work efficiently. Sleep peacefully.

Interested in what freistilbox offers you beyond high availability?

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(Picture by Ian Clark under CreativeCommons)


05 Sep 2016

You’re coming to DrupalCon, right? We’d love to see you at the Irish Community Welcome Party on Tuesday night! It’ll be right outside the Convention Centre — on the MV Cill Airne Boat Bar!

Although we had already maxed out our modest conference budget to represent freistilbox at DrupalCon with a booth and our Happy Hour on Wednesday, when the local community team called and asked if we’d like to support the Irish Community Welcome Party, we immediately searched the couch cushions for some cash and joined our customers Annertech and iterate as well as fabulous Dublin Drupal Meetup host dara creative as sponsors.

Come and party with your fellow Drupalistas to celebrate the start of a fantastic DrupalCon week in Dublin! (If you meet Jochen, ask him about the secret venue of the freistilbox DrupalCon Party!)



31 Aug 2016

It’s what we at freistilbox call “Suffering from your own success”: the debacle when your web application can’t cope anymore with the number of motivated visitors flooding in. Sometimes, you create this traffic artificially with a promotion; sometimes it’s due to a mention by an influential source (the classic “Slashdot effect”). And in the best of all cases, it’s because your offering simply hits the nerve of your audience. That’s what happened to Niantic, the creators of Pokémon Go, who are urgently looking for somebody to help them fix the servers:

Niantic can use the help — as the company scrambles to keep up with the continuing influx of demand, the game’s servers have been unreliable since launch, and certain features flat-out aren’t working.

Just when you’re generating peak interest is unquestionably the worst time for your hosting infrastructure to give in under the load.

The effects of not being able to deliver your content to your visitors even go beyond image and financial damage. It can also prevent you from building upon your current success:

At the San Diego Comic Con, Niantic CEO John Hanke announced that the company wouldn’t be adding any new features to the game until the server situation stabilizes.

Now, building a scalable IT infrastructure is not trivial. The kind of person Niantic is looking for should be familiar with “real-time indexing, querying and aggregation problems at massive scales of hundreds of millions of events per day, all on a single, coherent world-wide instance shared by millions of users”. Building a scalable web hosting platform requires expertise in topics such as web protocols, distributed computing, caching technologies, database optimisation, and many more.

It’s exactly what we at freistilbox specialise in. Our team members have experience in operating web portals with millions of users, oversaw the backup service for a data centre with 50,000 servers, and ran the billing infrastructure of an international ISP. We know what it means to suffer from website downtime and how to prevent it. That’s why we’ve built the freistilbox hosting architecture with scalability in mind from the start.

Does website downtime hurt your business?

Talk to us!


22 Aug 2016

DrupalCon Dublin is only a few weeks ahead and boy, are we busy with preparations: We’re about to launch our new hosting plans, Jochen is going to give a talk at DevOps Summit, we’ll have our own booth, and there’ll even be a freistilbox party!

With DrupalCon coming right to our front door, we’re going to make as much of this opportunity as possible with a small team.

First of all, we’re going to launch new hosting plans in September. We’ve been working hard to make freistilbox a great hosting platform for all kinds of projects (as long as they’re based on Drupal or WordPress, of course). The feedback we get from prospects and customers tells us that one size doesn’t fit all, though. Young startups and brochure websites have low demands; global brands require massive infrastructure and services. So, where there is today only one kind of freistilbox, there will soon be three!

Would you like to be the first to try our new plans for free?

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We’re also trying our hands at (deep breath…) marketing. Since we’re a company run by techies, we’ve decided to take baby steps onto the DrupalCon business floor. Instead of choosing one of the big sponsor packages that would require us to build and staff a booth for the whole conference, we’ve decided on a “Drupal Love” sponsorship. This way, we can both support the community and have a freistilbox booth on September 27. Let’s have a chat over in the Drupal Village; you really should not miss it!

At the freistilbox booth, you can ask us anything you’d like to know, and we’ll tell you more about the freistilbox Happy Hour! In Ireland, getting together for some savage craic is par for the course. That’s why we’ve booked one of the best pubs in Dublin for 28 September. Sign up and we’ll let you in on the secret location!

Want to arrive early and grab one of our free drink vouchers?

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It’s great to see that DevOps practices have become important enough that DrupalCon now has its own DevOps Summit. And we’re proud to announce that Jochen will give a DevOps Summit presentation on “Developing resiliency under relentless pressure.” While this is a non-technical topic, it’s an enormously important one. In today’s IT organisations with their long backlogs and rapid pace, mental health is an issue we just can’t ignore.

Wow. It’s great fun to announce all these news. But making them happen is going to be a real challenge for our small team. There’s so much stuff we need to get done with only a handful of people. For the new hosting plans, our ops team is working on improvements that will enable us to scale the freistilbox infrastructure faster than ever. At the same time our back office team is getting all the preparations on the sales and marketing side sorted, for example booking the pub, getting drink vouchers printed and preparing gear for the freistilbox booth. We’re many things, but bored isn’t one of them!

Fortunately, the huge efforts we put into systems automation, project management and customer self-service over the last year are finally paying off. Focusing on the important things for us has never been easier than today. And our most important goal is defined in our business vision:

Providing world-class hosting services to customers who mean the world to us.

We’re terribly excited to be a part of DrupalCon, and we hope to meet you in Dublin!

Are you going to be at DrupalCon?

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12 Aug 2016

Today Drupal security advisory SA-CORE-2016-003 was published, announcing a highly critical security vulnerability affecting Drupal 8:

Drupal 8 uses the third-party PHP library Guzzle for making server-side HTTP requests. An attacker can provide a proxy server that Guzzle will use. The details of this are explained at

In order to mitigate this vulnerability, we have applied specific changes to our freistilbox infrastructure. Our Edge Routers will now remove any malicious HTTP header trying to inject external proxy server addresses.

Despite these security improvements in our hosting platform, we recommend that customers upgrade their Drupal 8 web applications as soon as possible. Drupal 8.1.7 is already available and fixes the vulnerable library.


18 Jul 2016

The Drupal Security Team has released Drupal Security Advisory PSA-2016-001 today. They urge Drupal users to update a number of 3rd party Drupal 7 modules immediately when new versions are released on Wednesday, 13 July. Because of possible remote code execution, the advisory classifies the risk level as “Highly Critical”.

There will be multiple releases of Drupal contributed modules on Wednesday July 13th 2016 16:00 UTC that will fix highly critical remote code execution vulnerabilities (risk scores up to 22/25). These contributed modules are used on between 1,000 and 10,000 sites. The Drupal Security Team urges you to reserve time for module updates at that time because exploits are expected to be developed within hours/days. Release announcements will appear at the standard announcement locations.

We highly recommend freistilbox users to check their websites for the affected contrib modules and to update them as quickly as possible.


12 Jul 2016

Many things change over the years. Others don’t.


07 Jul 2016

This week, we’ve relaunched our website with a refreshed design courtesy of our friends at the Palasthotel. When I launched freistil IT back in 2010, I hired Markus (who later joined me as my business partner) to build me a Drupal website. Later, we switched to WordPress. This latest incarnation now is based on Middleman, a static website generator. All the pages are generated locally, uploaded to the web server and delivered as-is. Why did we make this radical change?

There’s a single reason: content creation workflow.

We’re DevOps experts and we’re used to efficient tools and clear worflows. We use our favourite text editors to write code and documentation. We use Git to put everything under version control, to propose changes as pull requests, and to review code before it is released. We use testing frameworks like RSpec and a Continuous Integration process to make sure our work meets our quality standards.

When we encountered Middleman, we asked ourselves: What if we applied the same tools and workflows to our work on web content?

This is the result of this thought process. Our website with all its content is now in a Git repository and every change is reviewed in a pull request before it goes live. This applies to all kinds of changes:

  • a new blog post in form of a Markdown file,
  • a modification of a HTML layout,
  • changes in CSS styling, or
  • added Javascript code.

Merging a pull request automatically triggers a CI run which runs RSpec tests on the website source code. These tests make sure we adhere to basic rules and quality standards like “Do all important pages have meta descriptions and keywords?” and “Do all Markdown documents adhere to our style guide?” Only if these “integration tests” are successful, the static site content is deployed to the web for public consumption.

Being able to use the same basic workflow we’ve been using for years in DevOps now also for content generation makes us much more efficient. No more pasting HTML code into web forms; just a simple git push. In a tiny team with heavy time constraints such as ours, improved efficiency means a lot. Enough to ditch the powerful dynamic content management systems for something lean and nimble.

We’ve put a lot of work into this relaunch and we’re so happy with the design support we got from Palasthotel (separation of concerns FTW!). The new website will be the platform for many product campaigns, some of which are already in the works. And now that we’ve reduced friction to a minimum, we are determined to crank up the helpful-articles machine. So make sure to watch this space!


04 Jul 2016

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