freistilbox Blog

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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.

Dropped SSLv3 support, moving to SHA256 certificates

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

Happy holidays! (with limited support)

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!

Enterprise hosting from the start

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.

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