CommuniG8 puts Strawberry in control with Advanced Server Monitoring
COMMUNIG8 PUTS STRAWBERRY IN CONTROL WITH ADVANCED SERVER MONITORING
“KC’s monitoring facilities only satisfied part of our brief. We turned to Richard Gate, Managing Director of CommuniG8, who we had known for many years and had become our trusted ‘go-to’ guy for anything infrastructure, network or hardware related, and he came up with the goods."
James Greenwood, New Media Director, Strawberry
Strawberry, established in 1993, has grown to become one of Yorkshire’s leading full service marketing and e-commerce, web design agencies. Recently named as one of the UK’s top 100 marketing ‘powerhouses’ outside London on the RAR (Recommended Agency Register) Strawberry has built up an enviable reputation over the last decade for delivering powerful, reliable, websites to a wide variety of businesses that trade online.
CommuniG8 Limited, founded by Richard Gate in 2009, specialises in infrastructure, IT related project management and technical consultancy. With over 30 years experience of IT systems management, facilities management and hosting, CommuniG8 offers solid expertise for both open-source projects and more traditional, proprietary projects in environments ranging from Mainframe to servers to desktop.
In 2009 Strawberry launched a brand new, enterprise-level, e-commerce platform ‘Strawberry Advantage’ to fill a gap in the market for growing online retailers who wanted enterprise-level power, i.e. to process thousands of transactions per second, but without the enterprise-level price tag. The Strawberry Advantage e-commerce solution does just that and comes with a bespoke front end so that Strawberry’s graphic designers can embrace the individual branding and messaging that is unique to each client. In order for Strawberry to ensure adequate levels of robustness for Strawberry Advantage, they wanted to put a Server Monitoring solution in place that would keep track of their clients’ online performance around the clock.
James Greenwood, New Media Director at Strawberry explained, “The Strawberry Advantage team comes from a background of delivering large-scale IT projects for a broad range of household names – such as IKEA, JJB Sport and Powerhouse Retail. We understand the seriousness of uptime and responsiveness. If a brochure site goes down, it’s embarrassing. If an e-commerce site goes down it is serious – it’s the equivalent of nailing the shop door shut.”
As the popularity of Strawberry Advantage grew, with 14 new e-commerce sites coming on line in the first 12 months, Strawberry wanted to have the added confidence that the platform would remain powerful enough for the job, particularly during the busiest times such as the run up to Christmas. They wanted more visibility and more information so they could be assured that their clients’ sites were at optimum performance at all times. This was especially important to them as they anticipated other challenging times such as when experiencing extreme, adverse weather conditions, which affect the smooth running of the supply chain, causing many extra online customer service enquiries.
James Greenwood, New Media Director at Strawberry said, “We have always found the KC, team to be totally on the ball and highly responsive when a problem does occur, but with the success of Strawberry Advantage we had progressed and had reached a point where we wanted to pre-empt problems. We approached KC, who rent space to us across 5 servers where we host many of our e-commerce sites for clients. However, their monitoring facilities only satisfied part of our brief.”
KC take care of the health of the server, it’s CPU, it’s hard disk – in terms of making sure it has electricity, it is available to the internet etc. However, Strawberry wanted to go beyond that. They need to know their sites are up and performing effectively, and if not why not. They also need to know the software integrated to their e-commerce sites is working as it should be in harmony with the site. Most importantly, they need to know about any problems before their clients do.
James Greenwood continued, “We turned to Richard Gate, Managing Director of CommuniG8, who we had known for many years and had become our trusted ‘go-to’ guy for anything infrastructure, network or hardware related and he came up with the goods.”
Richard Gate is highly regarded by many for his work with open-source technology. Zabbix is an enterprise-class, open-source, distributed monitoring solution that he has implemented for a number of his clients during the last 12 months. Richard expertly tailored Zabbix to meet Strawberry’s needs providing advanced monitoring covering the 5 KC servers. As part of this solution for Strawberry, CommuniG8 also provides a robust alerting service and functionality that provides an on-screen map showing all sites hosted across the 5 KC servers, showing:
Richard Gate, Managing Director of CommuniG8 said, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure. The online world is dynamic. A tiny software change made innocently to one small area of a retail system can affect the entire e-commerce set up and even bring it down temporarily. That’s why it is so important to have comprehensive monitoring 24/7. “
Strawberry has a secure login to CommuniG8 where they can see all of their websites across all of their KC servers. There is a lot of information they can interrogate from live up-to-the-second data to historic data on uptime, response times and site traffic. All of this is displayed visually as network map and is very easy to understand.
James Greenwood concluded, “I can look at any time frame - the last hour, the last week, the last six weeks for any of our client sites. Also the system checks uptime every 2 minutes. If a site goes down, or reaches a threshold we have set, I get an email or an SMS text message alerting me. This is extremely important to us. If there is a problem, we want to be the first to know about it, so that we can quickly investigate and put it right for our client before they even notice. Information = control and that’s what we get from CommuniG8. We simply pay Richard a competitive monthly fee and he provides us with comprehensive information about the status and performance of our e-commerce sites. We now have a much heightened level of control than was ever possible before.”
CommuniG8's Open Source Expertise & Infrastructure Knowledge a winning combination for CommunityUK
COMMUNIG8’S OPEN-SOURCE EXPERTISE AND VAST INFRASTRUCTURE KNOWLEDGE A WINNING COMBINATION FOR COMMUNITYUK
“CommuniG8’s expertise has been fundamental, enabling us to successfully implement a number of the very latest and very best open-source tools available. As a result we are now in a position to take our ground-breaking concept ‘community networking’ to other areas of Britain as a proven and viable option.”
Steve Gaskin, Operations Director, CommunityUK
CommunityUK established in 2009, is a new, innovative, social enterprise working with Central and Local Government to raise educational attainment and bring communities together online. CommunityUK is pioneering a brand new concept – known as ‘community networking’, a powerful, localised spin-off from social networking, but one that focuses on bringing people - who live, learn and work in close proximity to each other - together as a united, online community. It’s primary aim is to make the tools of the modern world accessible and affordable to all, in order to improve learning, job creation and community spirit, for neighbourhoods regardless of their location or financial means.
The Leigh Park CommunityUK Project is a great example of this. Leigh Park in Havant, Hampshire is one of the largest council estates in Europe and falls within the top 30% of the most deprived areas of England. The project is a collaboration between a number of local community based organisations and businesses and offers free WiFi Broadband and email to the 27,000+ Leigh Park residents. The project also offers further paid-for telecommunications services as well as marketing opportunities, through online advertising, to businesses wishing to promote their products and services in the region. All of this comes together via it’s Web Portal www.communityuk.net.
CommuniG8 Limited, founded by Richard Gate in 2009, specialises in infrastructure, IT related project management and technical consultancy. With over 30 years experience of IT systems management, facilities management and hosting, CommuniG8 offers solid expertise for both open-source projects and more traditional proprietary projects in environments ranging from Mainframes to servers to desktops.
CommunityUK’s Board of Directors collectively have a strong networking and telecoms business background, so had a good idea at the outset what was needed technically to get Leigh Park up and running. They put a team in place to build a cost effective, robust wireless network to provide free broadband internet access for 12,000 homes on the Leigh Park council estate plus a number of paid-for services for the wider community. The structure was pretty complex and involved a number of backhauls (ADSL lines coming in at certain points – e.g. schools) as well as transmitters receiving and repeating signals across the neighbourhood’s 6 zones. For each zone they created a mini network with 2-3 backhauls in each.
The topography of Leigh Park presented a number of challenges for the team, with it’s many tall buildings and trees. It was this, combined with the complexity of the network structure that led CommunityUK to recognise they needed a means of monitoring all aspects of the network 24/7. They were also keen to take advantage of the very best Open-Source applications available as cost effectiveness was paramount.
CommunityUK found Managing Director of CommuniG8 Ltd, Richard Gate through the power of Google. Richard is portrayed widely on the web as an open-source solutions expert and with his vast experience of networking and infrastructure, a powerful combination. He was just what CommunityUK needed.
Richard Gate, Managing Director of CommuniG8, said, “The open-source movement is the most exciting thing to have happened in the technological world for a long time. All the major success stories of the last 5 years have all been open-source, e.g. Facebook, Twitter and even the more traditional IT giants like Oracle are getting in on the act. They recently bought MySQL, the defacto-standard database server for the open-source world! The growing acceptance of Open-Source technology is bringing enterprise-class systems to the masses but at a fraction of the cost. This means growing SME’s, like CommunityUK, get the kind of quality and resilience that was traditionally only available to the very large corporate organisations with huge IT budgets.”
Steve Gaskin, Operations Director for CommunityUK, said “Of course, we were very impressed with Richard’s networking experience, his overall knowledge and his client testimonials. But what struck a chord with us from day one was that he totally got what we were doing. Not only from a social networking point of view, but he totally got what was required from a technical perspective to make all of this work.”
CommunityUK invited Richard Gate to work with them, in a consultancy role, as a member of their technical project team, to provide network monitoring and advice on the design of the core network for Leigh Park. They also asked him to provide a dedicated webmail service for the people of Leigh Park as part of the project.
Steve Gaskin added “Richard’s enthusiasm was clear from the outset. He was immediately interested in what we were trying to achieve and felt he could contribute. He went out of his way to help us.”
THE COMMUNIG8 MONITORING SERVICE
With a complex infrastructure such as the CommunityUK set up, every component has to be configured and the data within the system needs to be recorded and stored so the infrastructure can be adjusted for optimum performance. Richard Gate specialises in Zabbix – an enterprise-class, open-source, distributed monitoring solution. For CommunityUK he expertly tailored Zabbix to meet their needs providing advanced monitoring covering every aspect of the Leigh Park network, including a robust alerting service and functionality that provides an on-screen map of the entire network around the clock.
Steve Gaskin explained, “We can see our network and all the individual boxes, feed components, repeaters visually now and how they are all joined up. If there is a problem we are alerted. The system shows what has gone down, when and records when it comes back up again. It monitors the whole network and gives us a network map so we can make adjustments remotely as and when necessary. We have people in Yorkshire, Gloucestershire and Hampshire who can see what needs to be done and make tweaks, even if it is a matter of simply sending someone out, on the ground, to reboot a piece of hardware.”
In addition, the CommuniG8 Monitoring System provides statistical data that can be used to track the trends of network use. It shows issues with bottle necks and which access points or repeaters are being used more than others. These statistics allow CommunityUK to run the network efficiently, but they also provide powerful decision-making data for potential advertisers wishing to promote their goods and services to the Leigh Park community.
CommunityUK wanted to provide the people of Leigh Park with free email too as part of their broadband package. CommuniG8 integrated a Zimbra based webmail application to provide an open-source email server for the CommunityUK portal site.
CONTENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
CommuniG8 has also been able to help CommunityUK with leading-edge, open-source tools for the internal design of their community portal site. Prior to meeting Richard Gate, CommunityUK had been working with an Indian code shop utilising Joomla!, which is a powerful, open-source content management system (CMS) for publishing content on websites and intranets. Written in PHP, Joomla! stores data in a MYSQL database and includes features such as page caching, blogs and search functionality.
The work the code shop had produced in Joomla! for CommunityUK had gone horribly wrong. It was not in line with the architecture of the product and Richard Gate stepped in to fix the errors and to streamline the structure to make it workable for CommunityUK’s purposes. This allowed them to reclaim in-house control and they are now successfully using Joomla! to run, develop and maintain the entire CommunityUK portal site with great results.
The first zone of Leigh Park is now up and running with the remaining 5 zones on schedule to roll out within 6 weeks. CommunityUK have peace of mind in that they can see the status of every element of their network around the clock and are alerted to issues immediately as they arise. Steve Gaskin concludes, “Prior to Richard Gate coming on board we were spending a huge amount of time troubleshooting as we worked to get this project off the ground. Now we are facing technical challenges logically in a controlled manner and resolving them quickly. “Although we originally approached Richard for network monitoring, the breadth of his knowledge and experience soon became apparent. His help has been fundamental in implementing a number of the very latest and very best open-source tools available. As a result of Richard’s expertise we are now in a position to take ‘community networking’ to other areas of Britain as a proven and viable option for bridging the ‘digital gap’ that exists in today’s society. CommunityUK can now successfully deliver ‘community networking’ to any neighbourhood, regardless of it’s location or financial means.”
LEIGH PARK COMMUNITYUK PROJECT PARTNERSLeigh Park Community Improvement Partnership
Park Community Schools
Staunton Community Sport College
Havant Borough Council
Hampshire Borough Council
Portsmouth City Council
Langstone Technology Park
The E-Learning Foundation