Pantheon in Layman’s Terms

As a marketer who has just discovered Pantheon and now swears by it (and recently joined Pantheon as a Content Strategist), I thought it would be helpful to explain Pantheon to other marketers who manage their company’s website but might not completely understand all of the technical lingo that goes along with website hosting. Why? Because your hosting matters! Big time.

Pantheon in Layman's Terms

If you are an agile digital marketer, you need to be able to easily and quickly make changes to your company’s website without having to rely on your developers. It is crucial that everyone who visits your website has a great experience, otherwise they won’t come back or purchase your product or service. That means your site needs to load quickly and your visitors need to feel safe while they are on your site. You also need the peace of mind that when one of your marketing initiatives takes off your website will be able to handle the traffic spike.

In order to understand Pantheon and why it is revolutionary in the way websites are hosted, it is helpful to first understand how website hosting has changed over the years.

Website Hosting Through the Ages

The old way of running websites was to host them from a single computer, like your home PC. However powerful your computer was—how much memory and storage it had, how fast the processor was—that’s how quick and responsive your site could be. If you wanted more processing power or memory, you would have to buy a physical component and install it in the computer.

It was like having one box to store your gumballs in. You could buy a bigger box, but you only had the one box.


The next evolution of web hosting was to host on servers, which were computers many times more powerful than a home PC. On the server, you would have a “virtual machine”—a piece of software that emulated a computer. This setup allowed for some flexibility. If you needed more power or memory, you could create a new virtual machine and transfer over.

Virtual machines on servers were better than physical hardware, but they still had limitations. If your site experienced a traffic spike, the virtual machine would crash, just like a physical machine would. Even though it was on a server with massive amounts of RAM, the virtual machine could only use the resources that were allocated to it.

It was like renting a box in a warehouse to store your gumballs. If you needed more gumball storage, you could buy extra space, but it was limited to what you planned and provisioned for in advance. And you had to manually pour the gumballs into a bigger box. Even though there were lots of boxes in the warehouse, you only could use the one you were paying for.


The Pantheon Difference

And then came Pantheon. Here’s how we’re different: we don’t host your site on a single physical PC, or as a virtual machine on a server. Instead, your site lives in one or more “containers,” a kind of lightweight, flexible architecture. When traffic spikes for your site, Pantheon can automatically assign more containers to handle the extra demand. When demand goes back to normal levels, the software automatically scales down again.

For our gumball analogy, imagine a grid of open boxes. If you get a surprise shipment of gumballs and they won’t fit in one box, they can automatically overflow to the boxes nearby. Once you’re back down to your usual gumball inventory, you can store them in fewer boxes.

Grid of Open Boxes
In this analogy, the kittens represent the software that automatically moves the gumballs around.

In other words, you always have the capacity your site needs to provide a good experience for your customers. You don’t have to anticipate demand and build the right size box in advance. And you don’t pay for capacity you’re not using. Most importantly, it all works automatically.

And you’re not buying a set amount of processing power. You’re paying to have your site up and running at a consistently optimal level regardless of what resources it needs.

A Web Development Workflow Both Developers & Marketers Love

Pantheon’s container-based architecture makes it possible to have a new type of workflow for web development. We give you an exact copy of your existing site in a private container that allows you to work on your site without touching the live site. If your site works properly in the test environment, it will work in live—because unlike physical or virtual machines, the test environment is 100% identical to the live one. 

This makes it possible for marketing departments to take on a larger role in modifying the website on their own. You can quickly make time-sensitive changes to the site in the Dev environment, ensure everything is working properly in the Test environment, and then push the changes to Live without waiting for IT to make the changes. You can be more proactive in maintaining the site and pushing changes, because you won’t be risking breaking something on the live site while you’re working.

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Tableau Finds Faster Iteration Leads to Faster Innovation on Pantheon
See how Pantheon enabled Tableau’s marketing team to iterate faster in this case study.

A Great Website Experience Every Time

Sites on Pantheon are consistently lightning-fast out-of-the-box. This is possible because a network of over 40 locations across the globe store the content of your website. When your visitor accesses your website, the network recognizes where they are located and then chooses the nearest location in the network to deliver the page’s content. This system follows the same rule of the shorter the distance, the quicker you receive the information you request. This means your website visitors will consistently experience fast load times no matter where they are in the world.

Another common concern for any company is website security. This is also something that comes out-of-the-box with Pantheon because we believe it is no longer optional. Every website automatically comes with a free HTTPS certificate. HTTPS is the thing that creates a secure connection between your browser and a website. If your site doesn’t have HTTPS, it is penalized with poor SEO results in Google and your visitors may experience a warning that your site is not secure, which creates a bad experience for your visitors. 

To sum up, sites hosted on Pantheon:

  • Scale to meet demand

  • Are lightning-fast

  • Automatically stay fast & responsive during traffic spikes

  • Are easier for multiple teams to develop

  • Don’t require IT micromanaging

  • Are easier and safer for content creators to manage & update

  • Are secure out-of-the-box 

I’m excited to share more information related to how marketers are using Pantheon in future blog posts. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to ask us any questions related to how marketers are using Pantheon with the hashtag #Pantheon4Marketers on Twitter.

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Topics Website Technology

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