Daily Maverick: Web hosting with AWS cloud

The Challenge

Provide better performance at lower cost by migrating Daily Maverick’s website and support systems to AWS-powered cloud infrastructure

The Result

75% reduction in hosting costs, improved server performance and increased scalability

Daily Maverick have been an integral member of South Africa’s media landscape since 2009, providing the South African public with high-quality political journalism, business and cultural news, and more.

Our initial relationship with Daily Maverick took the form of an advisory role, leveraging our WordPress and AWS (Amazon Web Services) expertise to help resolve issues being experienced with their website hosting and architecture.

“It became apparent that Daily Maverick’s arrangement with their hosting provider was not sustainable,” says John Miles, Publisher’s Toolbox product director. “Costs were escalating and the web development team were not being offered much support to get more out of their hosting infrastructure. We started investigating the best way to host their WordPress website and supporting systems on AWS.”

Costs were escalating and the web development team were not being offered much support to get more out of their hosting infrastructure

– John Miles, Publisher’s Toolbox product director

Our aim was to provide better hosting performance at a lower cost. Specifically, we were tasked with leveraging our knowledge of AWS and WordPress to provide a highly-available and scalable alternative to their hosting solution.

We were also tasked with being more hands on – monitoring activity in their production environment and flagging any bottlenecks or problematic code with their development team, to ensure stability and avoid unnecessary use of server resources.

Our Strategy

AWS technology

We moved the Daily Maverick website and its supporting components into AWS. We held off this process for the production environment until the AWS South Africa Region became available – since the majority of the website’s visitors are in this country. Hosting within this ‘local’ region means we get all the benefits of the AWS cloud, but with less latency than the traditionally available regions in other parts of the world.

Hosting within the ‘local’ region means we get all the benefits of the AWS cloud, but with less latency

While moving from the existing website hosting provider into AWS, we split up the database and
the web server onto separate compute components. This decoupling allowed us to optimise and
scale these out separately as required. We further optimised the database by caching common
DB queries using AWS ElastiCache, reducing the overall load on the database. This allows the
web server to better cope with fluctuating website traffic demands, with the use of caching in the
form of CloudFlare.

THE CHALLENGES

There were a number of performance and memory related issues when we took over the hosting of the Daily Maverick website. “We realised it was not just a case of blindly coping with whatever was implemented on the web server,” Miles continues. “In order to achieve our goal of better performance at lower cost we needed to actively monitor the logs for any errors or unusual spikes in activity.”

We leveraged a combination of AWS CloudWatch, NewRelic and sent server logs to Graylog for active monitoring of server activity. This led us to identify several problematic code components that we fed back to the development team to address.

Identifying and resolving issues, and monitoring the impact, was an iterative process. We started with the items that had the biggest impact on performance and worked our way down until we had a deep understanding of the environment. Ultimately, this led to provisioning the cloud resources required for the site to run optimally for Daily Maverick editors and visitors alike.

VIEW THE DAILY MAVERICK WEBSITE

The Outcome

Daily Maverick’s hosting/infrastructure costs are now significantly lower than before and performance far exceeds the previous hosting solution. Hosting costs are now 75% less while responses from the server have improved drastically to average less than half a second, while serving over 1,000 requests per minute.

1.1-million

Average server requests per day

Publisher’s Toolbox will continue to work with Daily Maverick and their development partner in an advisory capacity to help facilitate further digital optimisation.

We get it. These are trying times for news media across the world and we’re here to help. Book a free consultation with us and one of our account managers will be in touch to discuss how we can reduce your web hosting fees via AWS serverless technology.
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