24/7, round the clock, never-ending, continuous, and so on. These are the demands we place on our environment in this day and age. And this environment is increasingly relying on apps. We find ourselves in the midst of a digital transformation. The new possibilities offered by technology are continually growing. The current big trend of the Internet of Things (IoT) will add even more to the prevalence of apps. But we are already at the point where we only become aware of the significance of these technologies when they become unavailable to us.
nine.ch makes a small but very valuable contribution to making sure that these apps run smoothly without any outages. Whether it’s on an Internet browser, smartphone or as a cloud solution. It’s precisely with this 24/7 operation where nine.ch thrives.
To guarantee the smooth, uninterrupted operation that is taken for granted these days, we have to do three main things:
Firstly, the infrastructure is installed on a redundant basis for a high level of reliability. That means nine.ch has multiple Internet connections, multiple links which are completely independent of one another between the nine.ch data centres, and multiple server instances which allow an application to continue running smoothly.
Secondly, nine.ch is continually bringing in updates. This makes potential attacks at the system core more difficult. nine.ch also continuously monitors the discovery of possible security loopholes and patches them up. Even if no patch is available, at least a workaround is developed or the customer is actively informed so that they can introduce their own countermeasures if possible.
Thirdly, nine.ch constantly monitors the systems with over 20,000 checkpoints. If irregularities crop up, nine.ch reacts within minutes, checks the status and carries out corrective measures. To be ready for this eventuality, a 24/7 on-call service is indispensable. To meet the legal requirements of SECO in terms of rest periods, the team must consist of at least eight people. At nine.ch there are currently 16 staff available for the on-call service, and always three on call at any one time. In addition, nine.ch now has one person working in western Canada, which is of great support to our on-call team during the night in Switzerland. This person not only handles all alarm signals, but also ensures that we can always be reached by phone and answers email queries.
Why did we decide on Canada? It would also be useful to have someone working through the Swiss night in the East, for example in Indonesia. nine.ch has been intending to use the different time zones to its advantage for years. However, there are a few challenges which need to be overcome: Not only the infrastructure on location in terms of accommodation and office space with a secure broadband Internet connection, but the cultural environment as well should mean it is a pleasant place to work. One day I was explaining this challenge during lunch and came across the contact Toni Hossmann from the company Unico Data AG. Unico Data already has a corresponding presence with infrastructure in Canada. No sooner was it mentioned than it was settled, and a few months later nine.ch was able to pitch its tent in Canada, thanks to lots of hard work from Unico Data, and to share their infrastructure. The concrete challenges on site will be discussed by the first nine.ch employee there in another blog post.
It’s important to note that with our work in Canada, no customer data is stored there on location. Thanks to the use of secure connections and our daily working device – the shell – operations are always “remote”. In addition, for the time being we are going to continue to be contactable by telephone outside of our business opening hours with the on-call fee for this comprehensive on-call service.
In this way we use the time difference of -9h according to the ‘Follow the Sun’ concept. So far, our initial experiences have been very positive. We are delighted to have achieved even better availability, reaction times and service quality.