Category Archives: sitecore

Zero downtime deployments with Sitecore on Azure

From a business perspective, downtime is not desirable, ever. And if possible, you want to deploy as often as possible, even multiple times a day Maybe even 50 times a day for complex multi-instance  environments. And if there would be any downtime, that should be during nights, as most visitors would be asleep at that time. From a technical perspective, deployments should occur during business hours: all the developers and administrators are working during these hours, thus issues (if any) could be resolved as every engineer would be available.

We all know about this story, but how many organizations really implement this scenario? This blogpost will show what challenges exist when deploying web applications and how easy it is to implement zero downtime for Sitecore on Azure. The move to Azure not only opens up opportunities for automatic scaling (please make sure to watch his video as well!), but also offers possibilities for enhanced continuity! This blog post does not show off how to integrate with Visual Studio Team Services and Microsoft Release Manager, that will probably be a future topic. Don’t want to read? Watch this video!

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Use the Sitecore Azure toolkit to deploy your on premises environment

Let’s face it: a lot of customers won’t deploy to Azure immediately, but will have a migration to Azure on their roadmap for the next year. It’s wise prepare as much as possible to make the transition smooth. This blogpost shows off how what the differences between the current Azure and classic on-premises are and how to create custom web deploy packages for your on premise environments, to be in line with a possible future upgrade to Azure. It will make your local deployments repeatable while making use of Microsoft standards. Additional advantage: Your (initial) deployments may happen faster!

See the video below where I explained what I did

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Sitecore on Azure: Create custom web deploy packages using the Sitecore Azure Toolkit

In my previous blogpost I described how the Sitecore Azure Toolkit works and how to create web deploy packages. In this this blogpost I’ll explain how to create your own web deploy package configurations which can be used on Azure and on-premises, even with Sitecore versions older than Sitecore 8.2 update 1. You can apply role specific configurations, or add custom modules like Coveo, PowerShell Extensions, Unicorn, or even one you package up. Using these techniques will help you establish a repeatable process with standard tooling leading to decreased deployment time. How cool would it be to have Continuous Delivery and Deployment all the way to production?! I’ll demonstrate in an example, Sitecore PowerShell Extensions, how to work towards a continuous delivery process. As a bonus I’ll package Unicorn as well – future posts will depend on this example so why not tackle them now.

special thanks to Rob Habraken, Michael West and Kam Figy who reviewed this post!

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Sitecore 8.2 update 1: Azure deployments, ARM, Web Deploy and the Sitecore Azure Toolkit

With the release of 8.2 Update 1, Sitecore also introduced support for Azure Web Apps. This release is, in my opinion, a major step for Sitecore as this update makes it very convenient to deploy to Azure using the Azure Marketplace or the provided PowerShell scripts, that’s why I think that this release is even bigger than Sitecore 8.2 initial. This deployment pattern is an interesting pattern to use on premise as well, although not all of the services can or should be used on premise. This blogpost describes how the Sitecore Azure Toolkit works. My next blogpost will describe how to use this toolkit to create your own custom web deployment packages, both for Azure and your on premise installation, with even older versions than Sitecore 8.2

Note: be careful when deploying to your own Azure subscription: when managed incorrectly, a Sitecore deployment on Azure can cause Azure to provision an extensively scaled environment, which generates many resources. Be careful as the cost of this could be high.

Update: modified the blogpost slightly thanks to excellent feedback from Rob Habraken, Steve McGill and Michael West. Thanks guys!

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Getting started with sitecore: The 101-guide to the community

A few years back, back in the Sitecore 7.x days, I started to work with Sitecore. I originated from the SharePoint community (take note of the capital “P”!), where there are SO many active bloggers. I think this was caused by a bit of the history. “Back in the SharePoint 2007 days” all the SharePoint info we got, came from google, or from reflector, as the documentation wasn’t always “that well written”. It appeared that there were a few persons actively blogging about their findings and through the years, the amount of people actively blogging, writing cool code or helping each other out, exploded, but you had (and still have) to find your ways to find all the information.

I see the same pattern happening in Sitecore. A lot of great functionality, a great product, but not every feature is always documented. As everyone tries to get the most out of the platform, people are seeking the boundaries of the product and finding out how stuff works. A lot of people are looking for help, a lot of people are blogging, but it’s not always that evident to find the sources that you need. “Where is the community?” you might ask. And that’s exactly why I decided to write this blogpost.

A first free lesson: First lesson: SiteCore is written as Sitecore. Please take 
care of this, as most Sitecore community members are a bit sensitive to it ;).

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Sitecore Security #4: Serve your site securely over https with Let’s Encrypt

In a previous blogpost about the Http Strict Transport Security I explained how to force connections to make use of https to encrypt connections. A lot of people think it’s expensive, hard to implement and slow. This blogpost shows off how you can get a free, secure certificate, get your Sitecore site up-and-running in no more than 5 minutes, just by using the Let’s Encrypt service. Source-code can be found here on Github.

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Sitecore Security #3: Prevent XSS using Content Security Policy

Clientside code is being used more and more on modern websites. Any kind of resources, for example Javascript, css, fonts, complete pages can be loaded dynamically into websites, from the current website or from an external domain. Attackers might be able to pull off an XSS attack by loading different kinds of data or scripts into your site which will run on your client’s browsers. These injections might happen on your own site, or in external services that you make use of (for example, disquss, or ads you are displaying). Applying a content security policy is one of the defenses against this kind of attack. This blogpost shows of scenarios that might happen (some of them tailored to Sitecore) and how the content security policy can help to prevent a successful attack from happening. As regular solutions provided on the internet do not supply the flexibility that a Sitecore solution (and CMS’ses in general) needs I decided to create a content manageable module and added that one to my SitecoreSecurity module.

This is not a write-up on the complete CSP specification, there are other great sources for that on the web, I included them at the end of the article.

The module will be available on the marketplace when it has passed quality control.
Sourcecode is available on: https://github.com/BasLijten/SitecoreSecurity

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Sitecore Security #2: Secure connections and how to force the browser to use the secure connection

Secure connections? Why would I even bother? It’s expensive, slow, complex and I’ve got a firewall anyway? On the SUGCON in Copenhagen I showed off how easy it is to intercept, modify and redirect unencrypted traffic and what can be done against this threat. This blogpost is all about why you should serve your website always and fully over HTTPS and how the browser can be forced to use this HTTPS connection. This blogpost will not show off how to configure HTTPS and will not tell about all the benefits of https. The technique to achieve this is bu adding a HSTS header for your domain, google recently announced that they will introduce this for the complete www.google.com domain as well!

 

Note: Some other great articles have been written about this subject, but I intentionally wrote this article to reach out the Sitecore (and SharePoint) community!

The configuration is included in the blogpost below, it will also be released as a XDT as part of a bigger security project

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Realtime personalization monitoring with Sitecore and google analytics

Some of our bigger sites, which don’t run on Sitecore yet, use google analytics to realtime monitor events that happen on a website, think about forms that are submitted and personalizations that are shown to a specific user. Most of the time, external (javascript) tooling is used to inject those personalizations and an event needs to be implemented which will be send to google analytics to register that event. In Sitecore, we can implement those google analytics events by including a javascript in our razor views, but, how can we tell whether or not the component that was shown was part of a personalization flow? Was a custom datasource selected, was the completed component rendered as a personalization? This blogpost series learns you on how to determine what kind of personalizations where exposed to a user and how to tell external systems about those events. It turned out that a (beautiful) pattern can be used that Sitecore itself already introduced themselves a while ago.

All sourcecode can be found here on github

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