Children International strives to end global poverty

Children International Fights Poverty with Help from Retrace

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Background

About a year ago, Kevin Altis, Director of Application Services for Children International, discovered a pattern. Like other bad habits – leaving towels on the floor, tapping our pens during meetings, texting while talking – Kevin’s app was doing something that at first seemed harmless. Every day at around 4pm CST, his production website reported a huge uptick in .NET errors. Before his team had begun using Retrace, this behavior hadn’t seemed significant enough to cause any harm. If someone happened to see these errors, there was no reason to think it was a recurring issue. But that day, as he stared at the comprehensive dashboard and saw what was now an obvious pattern, Kevin decided to investigate.

Challenges

After digging more into the problem with his team, it became clear that hackers were using bots to walk through the site. This launched a series of initiatives to improve firewalling and excluding certain IP addresses and ranges that appeared suspicious. CI decided to look at operations and infrastructures in new ways to get ahead of future hacking attempts.

All of this change started with Kevin’s mission to solve Children International’s core application problems.


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  1. Errors were slipping into production.
  2. His teams had poor visibility to application performance in production.
  3. He didn’t want to juggle numerous tools to see improvement.

Finding a Solution

Before choosing Retrace – and discovering those bots – Kevin and his peers bounced from service to service to find the right fit. “Everything from New Relic to PRTG and even custom solutions,” he recalls. It was an exhausting effort and Kevin was anxious to move forward.

When a decision still hadn’t been made, he decided to take a chance with Stackify’s Retrace. “I said, ‘We’ll figure out from a DevOps IDE what other tools we want to use, but for now to get things improved and to be more proactive, I’m going to start to use [Retrace].” Initiating a free 14-day trial paid off quickly. Within a day of installation, Kevin had discovered the hacking attempt.

Development Team Relies On Retrace To Manage App Performance

After choosing Retrace as their primary tool for app performance metrics, errors, logs, and monitoring, developers on Kevin’s team have been able to utilize it according to their own work and needs. Justin Greene, lead developer, uses Retrace on a daily basis to check logs and monitor performance. Thanks to routine usage of Stackify’s platform, he noticed the site performing poorly after a deployment. “I removed a unique constraint without replacing it with a non-unique index,” he remembers.

“Retrace made it easy to identify which query was causing problems.”
The solution was simple: re-add an index. After that, performance returned to normal.

Sam Gaulding, a senior developer, prefers to use Retrace to review production bugs and to occasionally check up on performance. When he does work on an issue, he doesn’t have to deal with lengthy emails, bogged down with screenshots and regurgitated information. Instead, he can quickly collaborate with his team members on problems by just sending links to a log or exception.

When they are not checking production, both Sam and Justin are able to review their code locally with Prefix, a lightweight profiler. With Prefix and Retrace at their disposal, they can review performance at any phase. They have a 360-degree view of their code, from staging to production.

Multiple team levels at CI have been able to work faster, communicate more easily, and – most importantly – be more proactive.

“I can absolutely tell you that once we started using [Retrace], our ability to more proactively monitor our production environments and react to issues before the customer even knows it has greatly improved over what we were doing before.”

Kevin has been managing all of Children International’s full .NET stack software development for almost two years. Headquartered in Missouri with agencies in ten countries, Children International is dedicated to ending poverty. This organization helps approximately 260,000 kids worldwide break out of the cycle that they are trapped in by raising funds and managing programs that improve a child’s educational opportunities, healthcare, employment prospects, living situation and overall self-empowerment. With Retrace in their toolbox, CI keeps their code free of bad habits so their applications and the infrastructure that they manage can continue helping kids worldwide.

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