What technical site information do you need to diagnose an issue or help with performance?

Q: Our site has an issue/performance problem/needs consulting. What technical information do you need to help us with that?

A: We can do a performance assessment in two ways, which can be combined in some cases.

Directly monitoring a live site

The fastest way to diagnose an issue, help with performance problems, or do other consultation, we need the following:

  • Your server(s) must be running Linux, or a flavor of BSD.
  • Your server(s) must have ssh installed and running. In certain cases where ssh is not available, we can help if you have cPanel installed.
  • We can send you our ssh public key if required.
  • We will need to know the URL(s) that show the problem(s).
  • We will need the username for Drupal's user 1, and its password. If we have ssh access, we can change user 1's password ourselves temporarily and change it back when we are done.
  • phpinfo. Create a file with the phpinfo() function in it, and we will check it remotely.
  • Topology of your system, including how many servers, and what each does [web, db, reverse proxy, ...etc.]

We understand that in some cases, the above "direct access" to a live site is not feasible due to corporate policies on security, change control and the like. In this case, the method below will be used.

Assessing a copy of the site in our lab

We have a lab of two quad core 4GB servers interconnected with a 1000Mbps LAN. We also have a third traffic generator server. We can put your web site under stress and test various scenarios, find bottlenecks with the code or configuration, and recommend ways solve those problems.

To do this, you can create a copy of the site (a dump of the MySQL database, and a .tar.gz or .zip archive of all the Drupal files), put it on a server accessible over the internet, and give us the FTP/download information. We will then install it on our test server and diagnose/fix the problem(s) for you.

Note that this method will diagnose only the Drupal parts of the web site, and not the hosting environment (hardware, configuration, ...etc.), so additional observation on the live servers may be needed, depending on what we find in our lab.

Notes:

  • For security reasons, you can change your regular passwords temporarily (e.g. Linux root, and Drupal user 1), before we get access, and then you can change them back when we are done with the consulting engagement. This is not needed if you go with our ssh public key method.
  • We can login to your VPN if it runs Cisco VPN concentrator. We cannot login using proprietary VPNs that require custom Windows or Mac OS X software. If your site requires such a non-standard setup, we will not be able to remotely access your system.
  • If your server has Plesk, it may stand in the way of making changes to Apache, PHP and MySQL. So if these changes are needed to solve problems, we can recommend the changes, and you have your host implement them.
  • We are sorry, but we prefer not to get involved with sites running on Windows servers for the time being.

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