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Meet us at the Drupal Business & Community Days

From April 8 to 10, the beautiful city of Heidelberg will be the location for the first Drupal Business and Community Days in Germany.

With a different format from usual DrupalCamps, this event aims at kick-starting Drupal business in Germany and building on both the German-speaking and international Drupal community, literally at the same time: there will be a business track and a community track running in parallel.

The Business Days part will be an opportunity for Drupal businesses to get together and work on strategies for growing Drupal within the DACH region. While Drupal has an amazing developer community here, it is not as well-known as a viable option for businesses as it is in other countries around the globe. This lack of professional reputation is what this track is going to improve.

Under the track’s motto From acquisition to maintenance, Drupal experts will share their experience on business topics such as lead marketing, hosting, infrastructure, quality assurance and support. One of these talks will be Keine Angst vor dem eigenen Erfolg (Don’t be afraid of your own success) in which our CTO Jochen Lillich will shed some light on how to tackle the daily challenges of running a business-critical Drupal website.

Taking place at the same weekend, the Community Days are going to be quite international with attendees coming from all over Europe. Based on the Sprint format common at DrupalCamps and DrupalCons, the Community Days are going to focus on improving Drupal core, translations and D8 User Guides. For participants who have not yet contributed code or documentation to Drupal or feel just a little bit rusty, there will be mentors to help them get started.

The freistilbox team is going to attend in force; this’ll be one of the rare opportunities to meet Markus, Philipp and Jochen at the same physical location. And since we know what actually drives DevOps practicioners around the world, we’re sponsoring one of the coffee breaks.

If you’re part of a Drupal business in Germany, Austria or Switzerland, you don’t want to miss this event. See you in Heidelberg!

I <3 DrupalCamp London

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the fourth instalment of DrupalCamp London. It’s grown from humble beginnings in 2013 to one of Europe’s most important Drupal gatherings. This year, more than 500 Drupal fans met at London City University to attend the CxO Day on Friday and/or the community talks on Saturday and Sunday.

The CxO Day was a good opportunity for leaders of Drupal-based businesses to meet and exchange experiences. I especially enjoyed Vesa Palmu’s talk Growing your agency: Organic, mergers and acquisitions about the different ways to grow a business; lots of good advice!

Over the weekend, the wider Drupal community came together to listen to talks, work on Drupal 8 and enjoy the Hallway Track (consuming more than 100l of coffee and 400 pastries in the process). Clifton Cunningham’s enthusiastic keynote was a great start, although I’m afraid that his insights into building a big web application developed in-house doesn’t 100% apply to Drupal; for example, you can’t just split up Drupal into microservices maintained by separate teams. The following sessions held by community members were much more Drupal-centric, of course, and most of them touched on the upcoming Drupal release 8 in some fashion. Since I’m not a developer, I chose quite often to engage in hallway conversations instead of attending presentations. From the few I did attend, I took away these points:

  • After learning about Bigpipe in Drupal 8 with Cache and Bigpipe and about AuthCache in Don’t Varnish over the cracks, I just can’t wait to see our customers flip the afterburner switch for their authenticated website visitors!
  • It was interesting to see a more modular approach to what we do with our laptop script in Provision your Mac with Ansible.

In parallel to the sessions, some developers (a whopping 70% of which were female) gathered for the Sprints, group coding sessions that resulted in 2 solutions to Drupal 8 issues being Reviewed & Tested by the Community. Well done!

For me, the highlight of every DrupalCamp is always the people. I met lots of familiar faces and again managed to confuse a few new acquaintances with my peculiar mix of German and Irish accents. I thoroughly enjoyed DrupalCamp London and will make sure to register early as soon as DrupalCamp London 2017 is announced. Thanks and congratulations to the #dclondon team for another great Drupal community event!

Launching the freistilbox Dashboard

It has been a planned feature right from the start. But many months went by and it sort of became the Duke Nukem of the web hosting world. I’m talking about the freistilbox self-service web user interface, of course. Often requested, often promised, never delivered. Now the time has finally come to prove this mythical creature actually exists!

When we started freistilbox as a two-founder team, we didn’t have the capacity to both build an enterprise-class web hosting platform and run a serious software development project at the same time. So we decided to focus on the hosting platform first and do the customer dashboard “a tiny bit later”. Little did we know that our growing number of customers would keep us busy building new platform features and improving the existing ones for quite a while…

At first, we didn’t worry too much because being in close contact with our customers has been and will continue to be a central aspect of our strategy. In fact, each support request asking for a new website instance was an opportunity to learn what our customers were doing and to help them get started quickly. But with every new customer, it became clearer that this approach could never scale. Not having a self-service interface caused confusion and frustration for our customers and an ever increasing amount of support tickets for our tech team. There was no way around it — we had to make a change.

The name of this change is “freistilbox Dashboard” and we’re launching it today! Simply go to dashboard.freistilbox.com and sign up for a user account.

If you’re already using freistilbox, don’t worry about the fact that when you log in for the first time, you won’t see much. That’s because your new account is not yet associated with your freistilbox resources. So, as soon as you’ve signed up, simply use the support chat button in the lower right to let us know, and we’ll connect your account with your existing hosting resources.

By the way: We plan to add this live chat to our official support channels and we’re using the Dashboard beta phase as an opportunity to put it through its paces.

Beta phase? Yes, the freistilbox Dashboard will be a work in progress for some time. It currently offers only a view of your basic hosting details and you can’t make any changes yourself yet. But we’re already testing its self-service features internally and will make them publicly available in January.

We’re very excited to finally be able to provide you with a customer-friendly web interface that spares you the effort of keeping your own list of website details and sending support requests for every little change. We admit that it’s taken us a long time to get this far, and we apologize for all the inconveniences.

We’re determined to keep our current momentum and will continue adding new features on a regular basis. If you’re curious what we’re working on at any given time, simply visit the public freistilbox Dashboard roadmap [Update 2016-02-22] issue queue and development milestones. We’ll happily consider all your feature requests, so please don’t hesitate to give us feedback and let us know what you’d like to see next!

Do you have any thoughts about the launch of the freistilbox Dashboard? Let us know on Twitter!

Happy days with limited tech support

Dear freistilbox customers, the end is near. The end of the year, to be precise. And just as many of you, the freistilbox team is taking the holidays as an opportunity to wind down, relax and recharge.

From Thursday, 24 December, we’ll be off and our technical support will be limited to real emergencies. So, should incidents occur that impact the operation of your production websites, our 24/7 on-call will get them resolved quickly.

Support requests that aren’t related to such incidents, though, will have to wait until we’re back on Monday, 4 January 2016.

There’s still a week left to get things sorted, so we recommend you get in touch as soon as possible if you need our support for a last-minute project or for work you’re planning for the time between the years.

From the whole freistil IT team, thank you for another awesome year, have a happy Christmas and a great start into 2016!

Have a great start with Drupal 8 on freistilbox

Drupal 8 RC 1

Yesterday, the Drupal core team made Drupal 8 Release Candidate 1 available. We won’t have to wait much longer for the final release of the best Drupal ever!

Holly Ross from the Drupal Association highlights the improvements in the upcoming release:

“With Drupal 8, the world’s best content management framework just got better. Every built-in theme is responsive. Every single component is translatable out of the box. More elements have configurable fields and there are new field types for better content modeling.

It’s built people-first. The authoring experience is better, with features like in-context editing and enhanced previews. It’s easier to add people-friendly meaning via native schema.org markup. There’s extensive support for accessibility standards.

Drupal 8 also has all the geekery you can Git. All-new configuration management (full exports, easier transitions between environments) means safer, faster site development and maintenance. REST-first native web services enable 3rd-party integrations. And adding Twig is the most complete transformation of Drupal theming in a decade. It allows friendlier syntax, better security, and a separate presentation layer.”

Drupal founder Dries Buytaert is excited as well:

“Historically, the adoption of Drupal has roughly doubled with each new release. We expect no different from Drupal 8, a release I believe positions Drupal most strongly for the future. We’ve undergone some big architectural changes to get more people using Drupal, and to prepare ourselves for the future. I can’t wait to see what the community does with Drupal 8. It’s time to start building!”

Yes, it’s time! Our engineering team has been busy over the last weeks, and we’re happy to say that freistilbox is ready for Drupal 8!

To prepare freistilbox for the requirements of Drupal 8, we’ve made a bunch of changes to modernise our web server setup. All our new freistilbox clusters make use of new software versions to make your website fly.

First of all, your application will enjoy the improvements in functionality, performance and stability that come with PHP 5.5.29. For example, we’ve replaced the APC opcode cache extension with the more efficient Opcache built into the PHP interpreter.

With the switch to PHP 5.5, we’ve also upgraded Apache from version 2.2 to 2.4. Its lower memory footprint leaves more memory to your web application. The Apache team also did a tremendous job at performance tuning. While Apache had a reputation for not being as fast as other web servers such as nginx, the new Apache version definitely measures up with its competition. Many of the new features and options in Apache 2.4 open up opportunities that we’ll use to make freistilbox even better over the coming months.

Due to changes in its configuration syntax, Apache 2.4 may make it necessary to modify your .htaccess files. See the freistilbox documentation for details.

For a quick and easy application setup, you can avail of Drupal 8 versions of our pre-fab configuration snippets. Simply use “d8” in your require_once statements.

Of course, our new and improved Drupal 8 setup is available not only to new customers. So if you’d like your existing cluster upgraded for Drupal 8, just send us a support request!

Until the final Drupal 8.0.0 is released, there might still be slight changes necessary. Rest assured that we’ll be quick to adapt freistilbox so you can launch your shiny new Drupal 8 website on release day!

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