Hats, Prevention, and Your Business

June 17, 2014 Mike Rogers

Working for a startup requires one to wear many hats.  In an age of specialization, sometimes I feel like a pro football player from the 1930s–my current list of duties include sales engineering, customer support, project management, and technical writing among others (today for instance, blogging). My natural inclination amongst these duties lies closer to the pre-sales and implementation side of things and so I thought I would spend a little time writing about that—specifically, how you can help to make the most of your implementation of Distil.

We’ve all heard the quote “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”—but do you know who said it? More importantly, what does it really mean? Simply put, it’s easier to do the right thing now than scramble later. Doing just a few things up front will ensure a smooth experience, lower your operations and support costs, and further empower the business through understanding your bot traffic.

Pre-Implemenation and Testing

Customers large and small trust Distil Networks with their web traffic every day, from massive websites hosted in state of the art data centers to niche storefronts running on a VPS and a dream. In all cases we understand that every HTTP request is critically important to your business. We also understand that, like snowflakes, no two web infrastructures are alike. Even in the most cookie cutter, off the shelf, canned scenario—the difference will always be you! And getting to know you and your environment is paramount to our shared success.  To jump start the “get to know ya” process, we provide a pretty basic scoping questionnaire. Taking the time to answer these questions helps you in so many ways—not only do we get to see what makes your site or application work, but we also often get better visibility into how your organization works. Being as complete and as transparent as possible here really goes a long way toward a successful implementation—eliminating some of the basic gotchas and snafus before they have a chance to happen will get things going in the right direction from day one.

From time to time, the onboarding questionnaire reveals issues that must be addressed prior to moving your traffic to Distil. These are almost always very simple configuration changes that can be done in just a few minutes. The most common changes tend to be accounting for the X-Forwarded-For header that contains the requestor’s IP address. If you’re using a CDN, you likely already use the XFF header in lieu of remote_addr, but still making sure that there won’t be any issue with your firewall, load balancers, app servers, or logging applications is an important step toward success with Distil.

Once those details are squared away, it’s time to test. There are a few different ways to test your site on Distil without the potential of impacting your production traffic and exactly how can be decided on a case by case basis and largely depends on a combination of your processes, requirements, and infrastructure. Engaging with your trusty sales engineer to device the right plan for you is key here. Whatever the plan ends up being, the goal should be to prove that Distil Content Protection doesn’t adversely impact the way your site renders in the browser and that using Distil is 100% imperceptible to your end users.

Taking It to The Next Level

One of the greatest benefits of the Distil service is in the data we provide. Logging into the Distil portal you will find an array of prebuilt reports that give the business a great deal of visibility into how we have protected your sites. But what if you want more, perhaps real-time visibility into the Distil evaluation of each individual request? We make it incredibly easy to do!

For each request that Distil inspects and forwards to origin, we add an HTTP header containing the disposition of the request—effectively, which traps if any were failed and if the traffic is legitimate, whether it came from a search engine or not. This support article goes into the details, but the point is that this data comes in extremely handy when troubleshooting and can be useful in many other ways, including enhancing your own reporting and analytics.

The Upshot

It’s important to think of Distil as a part of your infrastructure. The customers that take ownership and do their part to make the projects successful invariably find the greatest value. Doing the little things along the way will put you ahead of the game.

About the Author

Mike Rogers

Mike Rogers, Senior Solutions Engineer, joined Distil in 2014 and brings nearly 20 years of experience, having held a variety of roles from technical sales to network operations and support . This breadth of experience serves Mike well in the fast paced startup life at Distil where his responsibilities include pre-sales technical consulting, implementation, and support. In his spare time, Mike is an avid runner, outdoorsman and volunteer.

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