In today’s blog post we will be taking a closer look at the topic of managed service. We want to give you an idea of what nine.ch means by managed service and what benefits this has for you as a valued customer of nine.ch.
Structure of our products
First, we need to define how our products are structured.
A server has various layers. This idea is derived from the classic OSI layer model, which is particularly relevant to information technology and is roughly composed of the following elements:
|7||Application||input and output of data (browser, email, HTTP/SMTP, etc.)|
|6||Presentation||controls the display of data (ASCII, etc.)|
|5||Session||communications between systems/services (managing the connections between various applications such as RPC)|
|4||Transport||connection to other networks (standardisation and consistency check of accessibility based on protocols such as TCP, UDP, etc.)|
|3||Network||networking layer (transfer protocols such as IP)|
|2||Data link||data transfer and error correction from layer 1 (uniform link standards between various layer 2 connections – e.g. switches)|
|1||Physical||physical connection (e.g. effective network cables, fibre optic cables, wireless connection, etc.)|
|0||Mechanical||mechanical components (server hardware)|
As a webmaster, the layers that are particularly relevant to you are 7, 6 and 5. Layers 0 to 4 are managed directly by nine.ch. Specifically, the team at our data centre is responsible for these layers. They ensure that your server is mechanically functional, physically connected to the network and is able to communicate with other networks (e.g. the Internet). The data centre team of course is not concerned solely with setup and installation, but also acts pro-actively to quickly detect any failures and provide any possible solutions.
For the layers 5 to 7, that’s where our systems and operations team comes in. As webmaster, you basically take care of layer 7, where data is sent or received by the user, as is the case in a webshop, for example. nine.ch ensures that the communication between the applications and the display is uniform and stable. For layer 7, nine.ch coordinates with the webmaster to meet the specific requirements – only you can define which services you need for the products or services you are offering. That’s a highly technical explanation, so to give you a better idea let’s have a look at how it all works in real life.
What does nine.ch offer with its managed services?
When you choose a server from us – whether a VServer or hardware server – you receive a completely configured product that lets you start working with it straight away. You decide which services are installed based on the products we offer. And it is generally quick and easy to add a new product later. That covers the previously mentioned layers. So far, however, we have only looked at the supply side of managed services, but there’s a lot more to it.
As a server administrator you are normally obligated…
- … to stay informed and quickly respond to or patch any security gaps.
nine.ch handles all of this for you, e.g. http://status.nine.ch/en/messages/503
- … to create a backup and access it in an emergency to restore data.
nine.ch handles all of this for you. Your server is backed up daily, and the administration is handled by our management system.
- … to monitor your system.
nine.ch handles all of this for you. Our sophisticated monitoring system lets you sleep in peace.
- … to stand by in case of service outage.
nine.ch handles all of this for you, for example, using our monitoring system, which automatically alerts our stand-by service so they can actively intervene. This is included in all of our managed services.
- … to be available at all times.
nine.ch handles all of this for you, e.g. through our stand-by hotline on +41 44 637 40 00.
- … to monitor your application and to escalate it to the right level in an emergency.
nine.ch handles all of this for you. Under an SLA, you can specify individual emergency measures as well as a sequence of contacts to be directly notified by nine.ch.
How does it work in real life?
Let’s take the following real-life example:
Say that you are running several websites with WordPress. To better protect and monitor your system, you decide to run your websites with separate users. PHP-FPM makes this possible.
For the website, you need a database (MySQL), a scripting language for creating dynamic content (PHP), a web server (Apache) as well as PHP-FPM as just mentioned. For the encryption of your connections, we also recommend that you order an SSL certificate. To make uploading the data as simple as possible, an FTP service can also be installed on request (free service).
nine.ch provides all of the necessary services. For you, this means that you can upload your own data directly to configure your websites. To keep implementation as simple as possible, you have the right tools such as nine-managed vhosts or nine-managed databases. nine.ch takes care of the basic configuration, backup, monitoring and necessary intervention – day and night. It’s all included in the service.
What does ‘intervene’ mean?
Our monitoring system allows us to check whether the following services are responsive, i.e. that they are up and running:
- HTTPS (in the case of an active SSL certificate)
- SSH (so that you always have access via the console)
- remaining storage on the hard drive (to handle the event of a memory ‘overflow’)
In the event that the web server, FTP service, MySQL database or SSH crash (meaning they no longer respond, are no longer active), we first try restarting the affected service using Monit.
If this doesn’t work, our monitoring system issues an alarm that notifies the stand-by technician on duty. The technician quickly logs onto the server to check why the service is no longer functioning. The problem is analysed and resolved if possible or escalated until a solution is found. Our aim is that you can rely on us completely, with no trouble at all.
It’s important to note: if there is a problem with the application (in this case, WordPress, e.g. with an ‘internal error 500’), our monitoring system will be unable to detect this because the web server is still shown as responsive.
If you also require monitoring of your application, nine.ch offers a SLA that includes a definition for a string check. A string check is a simple string of characters that is activated for the status page of your choice. You define this string of characters, which could simply be ‘OK’, for example. If the status changes or the application no longer returns the ‘OK’ message, the SLA alarm will also notify us. This means that multiple websites can be monitored, and generally there is no need for a separate SLA for each. For example, a simple PHP script can be used to query the status of all websites. These collectively result in the output of the string ‘OK’; should one site goes down, the string changes accordingly.
The monitoring and intervention of the stand-by service gives you the peace of mind that the server is always available on levels 1 to 7 and that the right specialists have everything under control. And that means you can sleep soundly and know that nine.ch is looking after your web services.
Tajno Schönenberger is Linux Operations Engineer in our Operations team. Together with his the team colleagues, he is responsible for the seamless operations of all our systems as well as technical support for our customers.