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Coming soon: freistilbox for single-website hosting

Looking at its pricing, it’s not obvious that freistilbox is an enterprise-class hosting platform; it’s no secret that we’ve made running Drupal and WordPress websites on a multi-server infrastructure affordable. Our customers, web agencies and development shops, are amazed how quickly they reach ROI.

Many of them start with a small cluster setup, for example with a pair of freistilbox S. Combined with the content cache, its 20 PU (Processing Units, basically PHP worker processes) deliver enough processing power for a few small and medium websites, and thanks to the redundancy we build into every hosting component, they enjoy great uptime. Scaling up is easily done by adding or replacing boxes, so the agency has full control over capacity and hosting cost at any time.

But sometimes, this model doesn’t work out as well, and that’s when the customer needs separate hosting for only a single website. There can be several valid reasons to do this:

  • customers that would like to test the waters called freistilbox
  • customers that want us to bill every website individually
  • customers that want the website to run as isolated from others as possible

In these cases, the power of a full freistilbox cluster is just overkill. While freistilbox is the most cost-effective Enterprise Hosting Platform for Drupal and WordPress, there is actually still a gap between conventional hosting and the entry-level freistilbox setup.

It’s about time that we close this gap.

In April, we’re going to launch freistilbox Solo [1], a single-website hosting solution that has the power of freistilbox, only at a much lower price point.


[1] Yes, we’ve stolen the name from the development VM that we’ve published in 2012 and which we’re going to relaunch later this year under a new name.

freistilbox gets excellent rating for SSL security

The risk that unencrypted web communication creates for both website owners and individual website users can be significant. That’s why encrypting traffic via SSL (Secure Socket Layer) and TLS (Transport Layer Security) has become indispensable for both B2C and B2B websites. If you are transmitting sensitive private data over the internet, SSL is an important additional security layer.

But simply enabling SSL in a web server configuration file isn’t enough any more. Over time, the SSL/TLS protocol suite has become more complex and, unfortunately, a popular target. BEAST, Heartbleed, POODLE and now FREAK - these are only the better publicised exploits that threatened encrypted communication on the web over the recent years.

Additional to performance and availability, security is also a key factor that defines the quality of our Managed Hosting Platform. That’s why we’re putting significant effort into continuously optimising the setup of our dedicated SSL offloaders. These machines run at the edge of our infrastructure and take the compute load that decrypting traffic to and encrypting traffic from our customers’ websites creates off your Drupal and WordPress boxes.

The result of our efforts is that Qualys SSL Labs gives freistilbox an excellent A rating:

With the Qualys SSL Server Test, you can see for yourself how well other hosting providers secure their customers’ web traffic:

Acquia: The ELB engineers at Amazon obviously have done their homework.

Pantheon: Solid but room for improvement

WPEngine: Very good with only a tiny flaw

Your customers trust that you take their security seriously, and losing this trust can break your business. That’s why running your Drupal and WordPress websites on our managed hosting platform is the right thing to do. Our engineering team has only one goal: to let you work efficiently and — just as important — sleep peacefully.

No more file permissions hassle

In the past, trouble with asset file permissions caused us a lot of support requests. The emphasis here lies on in the past because we’ve finally sorted that issue out once and for all.We’ve simplified the file permissions on the shared storage system so that all asset files have a single owner regardless of how they’ve been created, be it by the web application itself or by a developer logging in via SSH. This change finally puts an end to file access problems and, we hope, makes asset file maintenance much less annoying.If you have any questions about this change, we’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Getting the most out of Varnish

Every freistilbox customer gets their own dual-node Varnish cluster, so we have a lot of experience in tuning the cache configuration for Drupal or WordPress websites. I’ve distilled some of our most important best practice tips into a talk called “Getting the most out of Varnish”.

Here’s a recording from DrupalCamp Galway in November 2014:

And here are my slides:

If you have any questions about Varnish tuning, just leave me a comment!

Scots say "No" to independence but "Yes" to freistilbox

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.

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