Pink ribbon tower, by A Healthier Michigan, released under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.

Keeping the lights on

Breast Cancer Care is a charity wholly focused on supporting people dealing with breast cancer. A huge part of that support is providing information. That's why their website is so important to them.

And as their Drupal hosting and support providers, it falls to Code Enigma to ensure when someone comes to the Breast Cancer Care website looking for information and support, they get it. No matter when, whether it's 3 o'clock on a Sunday morning or just after lunch on Christmas Day. We're here to make sure that website is working.

We do this a number of ways. Firstly, there's our VMware private cloud, which provides 100% uptime guarantees on both virtual hardware and network. This is thanks to a number of factors. Our infrastructure partners, Rackspace, have multiple backbone providers and a dedicated 24/7/365 networking team keeping things going. We have doubled up on all cabling and switching, we have a pair of highly available Cisco ASA security appliances in front of everything and we have VMware DRS, which means even if a physical server fails, your virtual servers will keep on working.

At a virtual machine level we have a multiple server layout to ensure there is no single point of failure anywhere in Breast Cancer Care's system. This is important, because while we can effectively guarantee an individual server won't stop performing, we cannot offer the same assurance an application won't crash. For example, if your web server software crashes your server might still be up, but it won't be serving your website. By having multiple web servers, we ensure things keep running if one of them gets into difficulties.

And of course there's our rigorous monitoring. We use a system called Nagios, with multiple endpoints both at AWS and within our own datacenter, to monitor everything imaginable! Server clock, website pages, database response times, Drupal update status, number of connections, DNS capability, disk space, etc. etc. etc. all monitored 24/7/365 with realtime alerts going out to our engineers the moment there's a problem, by chat, SMS, email and smartphone push notifications. We also use a service called Pingdom to keep an eye on things for us, as it is outside of our networks and checks customer websites continuously from different endpoints around the world.

So who responds to these alerts? Code Enigma has a dedicated support and hosting team, deliberately spread across three timezones (UTC, EST and AEDT) to give us around the clock "working day" cover. No one is scrambling, bleary-eyed, for the phone beside their bed at some ungodly hour. That is why you can rest assured we'll be on it right away. We work in shifts and pair up for continuous cover.

But it's more than just the servers. We also look after Drupal, providing the developers at New Digital Partnership, the team who built the Breast Cancer Care website, with devops support (automated deployment tools, server access, and so on), help with Drupal updates, configuration challenges, and so on. In fact, because we're hosting experts and Drupal experts, supporting other Drupal agencies is a pretty common situation for us to find ourselves in. We also operate our "ask us anything" support service, so people at NDP or Breast Cancer Care themselves can just raise a ticket with us, any time, with any question about servers or website, and we'll help them as best we can. 

We also support some of their legacy applications, including websites built with other PHP-based content management systems, so they can reduce their costs and keep everything in one place.

All in all, we are able to provide Breast Cancer Care with a comprehensive support package that keeps their website always on, as it needs to be, but also provides much more besides, supporting them while they in turn support and educate others.