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Hey DrupalCon, drinks are on us!

Alright, we’ve booked the party venue, got the drink vouchers printed — now all that’s left is for you to show up!

If you are attending DrupalCon Dublin, we’d love to meet you at the freistilbox Happy Hour on Wednesday night! And where else would we celebrate DrupalCon in Ireland and the launch of our new Drupal hosting plans than at one of Dublin’s finest pubs? Join us for some great craic — first few rounds will be on us!

There’s limited space, so we’re keeping the venue a secret until right before the party. Make sure to sign up early to get our invitation email!

It might also be worth a try to chat with Jochen at the freistilbox booth on Tuesday (only!). Maybe you’ll be able to tease something out of him ahead of time?

(Image ‘Alluring glow’ by Brendan Atkins)

Speed up asset delivery with the freistilbox CDN

A recent unrepresentative study among our customers revealed that there is no such thing as too much performance for Drupal and WordPress websites. 😄 So we did a bit of brainstorming about what we could do to enhance website performance on our managed hosting platform even more. The feature we found is: boosting your website’s asset delivery.

Our Varnish-based Content Cache is already increasing content delivery speed for Drupal and WordPress websites significantly. But especially with asset-heavy websites, its limited RAM capacity can lead to low cache efficiency. For example, if visitor traffic is distributed over lots of pages containing high-res photos, the cache reuse ratio will not reach the same impressive levels that we see with websites that have only a few hot spots at any time (e.g. start page and the latest blog post). Increasing Varnish cache size might help for a while but because of diminishing returns increasing cache memory will not be a cost-effective solution in the long term.

That’s why we’re adding a new optional feature to freistilbox: the freistilbox CDN.

To be honest, at the moment it’s not so much a Content Delivery Network but a few Content Delivery Nodes. We’re launching this feature on a limited number of servers in our European data centres. Later, we’re going to expand this service to a real CDN by adding content delivery nodes at key locations all over the globe.

Before we enter the global stage, we’d like to give this new feature a thorough burn-in test. That’s why we decided to run a free beta for a limited time. If you’d like to see how your Drupal or WordPress website can benefit from the freistilbox CDN, get in touch! We’ll let you test drive the freistilbox CDN option for eight weeks at no additional cost. Simply send us a support request from the Dashboard page of your website!

(Image ‘courier’ by Sean Jackson)

freistilbox now with free DDoS protection

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?

Get our white paper!

(Picture by Ian Clark under CreativeCommons)

Welcome to DrupalCon Dublin!

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!)

And yes, THIS BOAT IS REAL.

When scalability becomes business-critical

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!
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