Kevin Henrikson is Co-founder & VP Engineering at Acompli, a mobile email app that empowers professionals to be responsive and get more done from anywhere.
“HONEY, I LOST THE DATABASE.”
When we woke up the morning before our App Store launch, our website read, “Welcome to WordPress.” Turns out our WordPress hosting company had botched the database. It was gone. “We need to move somewhere,” I said to our team. “Today!” Our app was about to go public with the App Store, and we already had tons of press lined up. It was either switch over now, or suffer on launch day.
11 MINUTES WE’LL NEVER GET BACK.
We’d been debugging performance problems like slow response times for weeks, but this outage was the last straw. A few months earlier, our website had gone down right when we were scheduled to go live at 6am. It didn’t come back up until 6:11am. On one hand, it’s only 11 minutes. On the other hand, you don’t know that when it’s happening. Our managed hosting company fixed it, but performance was never what we’d hoped.
WHY WE STILL DIDN’T WANT TO MOVE TO PANTHEON
Even though we had problems with our WordPress managed hosting company, we really didn’t want to move. Better the devil you know…
Here were our doubts:
1. WILL IT REALLY WORK? When you have limited time for testing, you just want to know itworks. That was, in the back of our minds, the biggest risk. We didn’t even know Pantheon for WordPress was ready. But Zack Rosen assured us it was ready to roll out of beta and save the day.
2. WILL IT BE RESTRICTIVE? Honestly, too many of these all-in-one environments get too smart for their own good. When you need to get something done quickly, things don’t work as expected. Pantheon integrates best-practice workflows like source control, automated build and deployment, and testing. But it doesn’t take away all your flexibility. You still get the power to do stuff like an engineer.
3. WILL IT SCALE? The last objection was: Will this thing actually scale, or will it run into some problem we just didn’t see with permissions (or something else)? My team set up our website on three other WordPress managed hosts for testing. Our website response time was fastest on Pantheon. We concluded that Pantheon seemed like the best long-term solution.
WE SWITCHED OVER IN A FEW HOURS
We made zero code changes from our old host to Pantheon. No new pages, either. The website was up and running in a few hours. We had all kinds of crazy press for our App Store launch—including the Wall Street Journal. The website worked great.
OUTCOME: 10X FASTER RESPONSE TIMES, ZERO CODE CHANGES
We ran a load test to hammer the site with a bunch of traffic, and Pantheon was 10x faster than the managed hosting company we were on, which bills themselves as the smarter “tech version” of WordPress hosting. You always expect to see some difference, but 10x faster is pretty insane. The other test capped out at 30 seconds with 12K+ errors. Pantheon had 1.
With most of these hosts, you have to do lots of configuration to get the performance you want. With Pantheon, we literally did nothing. We just forklifted our pages and the database. Our website scaled just fine.
ADVICE TO OTHER FOUNDERS: SHOULD YOU MOVE YOUR SITE TO PANTHEON?
If your hosting company has a $3 GoDaddy-style hosting plan, they’re getting distracted by bottom feeders who expect platinum service for their $3-a-month websites. That’s not what you want to bet your business on. If you run a reasonable-sized business, you want your website to live in the best neighborhood.
PANTHEON IS BEST-PRACTICE. In the old days, we used FTP to manage our websites. Then managed WordPress hosting came along, and you had your own source control and continuous integration auto-deployment. Now Pantheon integrates all that. The integrated environment makes it simple to move changes from dev to test to production. That insulates your site from stupid, unrecoverable mistakes. It’s the equivalent of building your own computer vs. just going to the Apple store and buying something you know works.
IF I COULD DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN…
I would have moved to Pantheon sooner. Knowing Pantheon could be switched over in an hour or two was encouraging. But actually trying to do it in a couple hours before launch day was not fun.Topics: Education