Having a fast and reliable online presence is important for Distilled to showcase their consulting and product businesses to existing and potential clients. Slow or unreliable websites harm credibility, particularly for an online marketing agency, and time is much better spent working with clients rather than trying to troubleshoot complex server and website outages. The Distilled team often found issues would occur during the night or were transient in nature, so they had resolved themselves before someone could take a look. This meant it was difficult to figure out what was causing the problems and a lot of time was wasted trying to diagnose issues.
Ensuring high website uptime and fast page load times are essential to search ranking and without a tool to understand the underlying reasons for poor performance or outages, online marketing efforts are wasted because of the penalties search engines like Google apply for downtime and slow sites. There was also no visibility into whether server resources were being effectively utilised because it was impossible to know if servers were overloaded or even if they were overspending for unneeded infrastructure. In a fast growing company, controlling spending is important and Distilled could not predict whether to reduce or increase capacity.
- Constant monitoring: Distilled need a system which monitors systems in real time so the data is available to understand what was happening leading up to an incident. This means someone doesn’t need to be logged into a server at all times and speeds up the resolution of the problem because all the necessary data is available, right away. The Server Density agent is continually monitoring the system and recording historical data, which is available going back forever so Distilled can always trace problems even if someone isn’t immediately available.
- Ease of use: Having a tool with a great web UI was very important to the decision to use Server Density. When there are problems, it’s essential to get to the information you need as quickly as possible without getting caught up in a poor UI. It’s not just about having shiny graphics - the Server Density UI has been thought through and tested so it’s fast, responsive and all the key functions are obvious. It just gets out the way.
- Fast deployment: Installing Server Density is a single command which takes seconds to complete, and because it uses system packages it ties into the existing Distilled server update and security policies without any extra work. This makes it incredibly easy to deploy across new and existing servers so monitoring can begin with minimal effort, saving valuable time.
- Low overhead: Monitoring tools which use up significant server resources defeat the point of using the data to optimise performance and resource utilisation. The Server Density agent is very lightweight and is unnoticeable once installed. This means Distilled do not need to buy extra resources just to deal with monitoring.
- Low cost: Server Density is provided as a service, charged monthly, which means Distilled can easily budget for a known cost of monitoring without variables of running their own monitoring infrastructure - dealing with large amounts of historical data, e-mail and SMS delivery and monitoring their monitoring.
- Historical graphing: The Server Density graphs are well designed to help you highlight problems as quickly as possible. This has helped Distilled significantly improve on the time it takes to track down and fix problems, saving time for their technical team to work on client projects. Faster time to resolution and improving website performance and uptime has also helped with SEO efforts because these are important metrics for search rankings.
- Alerting: It’s important to be notified as soon as problems occur - Server Density allows the Distilled team to be informed before issues affect their clients and the public perception of their servers. This means Distilled can avoid outages and catch performance issues before they start to affect customer projects or incur search ranking penalties.
What they've learnt
Distilled now know the average utilisation for all or servers as well as how they are growing, allowing them to consolidate and divide servers before resources are used up or wasted.
- 14 virtualized Linux servers hosted on Linode (now being consolidated to 8 due to the utilization data provided by Server Density).
- Open source software stack including Linux, Apache, Nginx, MySQL, PHP and Python.
- Development tools including Git and Jenkins for continuous integration.
- 8 members of the technical team with user accounts for Server Density.