New Statesman Aces Massive Traffic Spikes with Pantheon’s Scalable Web Hosting

Summary

Progressive Media is a leading UK digital media company, operating across a wide range of sectors. They operate a number of high-profile consumer-facing sites including the New Statesman, one of the UK’s top political news sites. Progressive Media trusts Pantheon for reliable, scalable web hosting under the heaviest of traffic loads.

In early 2014, Progressive Media needed to integrate their various media sites into the rest of their business operations. Without systematic organization, these sites lacked the infrastructure to perform reliably, even under normal traffic conditions.

Progressive Media’s political news site, the New Statesman, was a top priority. The New Statesman began as a newspaper in 1912, and in one form or another has been a trusted advisor in UK politics for over a hundred years. Progressive Media knew that in the runup to the 2015 UK general election, the New Statesman would see a massive surge in traffic. Their companion electoral analysis site, May2015.com, was also rising in popularity. But both sites were already experiencing performance issues, over a month before the election.

With Pantheon, Progressive Media found a high-performance website management platform that seamlessly handled 10x normal traffic on election night with elastic hosting.

I’m not interested in managing servers. I want to do my job of building great web products.

—Toby White, CTO, Progressive Media

Before Pantheon: Scattershot Hosting Meant Poor Performance

Progressive’s consumer media sites were a valuable but underappreciated asset before Pantheon. Sites were hosted across a variety of platforms, causing operational headaches in managing them consistently. Their flagship political site, the New Statesman, ran on a cloud service provider, but still experienced performance issues on a monthly basis.

Progressive CTO Toby White investigated hosting solutions, but found many so-called “WordPress specialists” provided little more than empty server space. With the pending UK elections, White expected an influx of traffic to the New Statesman and political analysis site May2015.com.

When White asked their current host if it could handle the load, they replied, “how much capacity do you need?” That solution—buy extra space up front and hope you estimated correctly—was really no solution at all. Progressive had no way of knowing how much capacity they would need, and didn’t want to pay for more than they would use.

Progressive needed a platform that could provide reliable, scalable-as-needed hosting. To fully realize their media assets’ full potential, they also needed a development environment that enabled collaboration and innovation between developers in India and the UK.

And the clock was ticking.

Choosing Pantheon: A Speedy Migration

White had heard from colleagues that Pantheon might be the solution Progressive needed. In December 2014, he began research to see if Pantheon was the right fit—while election day drew ever closer and traffic continued to rise, frequently straining both sites to the breaking point.

Ultimately, White and his team concluded that Pantheon’s elastic hosting was the best solution for their unique situation. With Pantheon, there would be no need to estimate capacity or pay in advance for anticipated traffic. Most importantly, they could be confident the sites would stay up as pageviews soared.

Migration began for the New Statesman and May2015.com just three weeks before the election. Pantheon worked round-the-clock with Progressive Media to make sure the sites would be fully migrated and functional as quickly as possible.

Scaling with Pantheon: Flawless Performance as the World Watches

On election day, Pantheon’s tech team was on full alert, ready to jump in and fix any glitches. But both the New Statesman and May2015.com stayed up and responsive as traffic flooded in. 400,000 visitors came to the New Statesman throughout the day—three times the normal volume of traffic.

With May2015.com, the numbers were unprecedented. In the week before the election, it averaged 250,000 visits per day. On election day, it got over 2 million pageviews. 300,000 of those views were in the hour that the polls closed.

In other words, May2015.com saw more traffic in one hour than it usually did in an entire day. All told, election day saw a 10x increase in pageviews. On the site’s previous host, that would have meant a crash at the most critical moment, even if Progressive Media had bought extra capacity ahead of time.

With Pantheon, both sites scaled to handle the additional capacity, then scaled back down after the rush was over. Progressive Media saw amazing performance when they needed it the most—without having to pay for extra capacity when they didn’t.

The New Normal on Pantheon: Efficiency and Innovation

Before making the switch, White’s development team was maxed out running just five sites. Now the same group manages over 20. Progressive Media is currently migrating their few remaining sites not on Drupal or WordPress, specifically so they can take advantage of the Pantheon platform by standardizing for all of their sites.

Pantheon’s Multidev environment makes it easy to coordinate efforts between the India and UK teams. The teams can work independently on separate branches, then easily merge the changes and push to the live sites. White estimates their development team is working 2-3 times faster with Pantheon than before.

Progressive Media is using their newfound freedom to experiment and innovate. They can now quickly spin up test sites and temporary sites, continually pushing the envelope of what their team can deliver, consistently capturing new audiences.

Progressive Media’s Favorite Features

  • Multidev environment for collaboration and faster deployment

  • The Pantheon dashboard puts all 20+ sites in a single view, making it easy to see where updates are needed

  • Smart scaling means they only pay for the capacity they’re using, but never worry about spikes

  • Highlighted site status makes it easy to see where errors have occurred and correct them

Progressive Media switched to Pantheon for scalable web hosting service they could rely on. They found a comprehensive website management platform that dramatically accelerates their development process.

To see for yourself why Progressive Media trusts Pantheon to build, launch and run websites, sign up for a free account today. Or learn more about the fastest hosting platform on the planet.

Benefits

Thanks to Pantheon, Progressive Media has seen great gains in reliability and productivity:

  • May2015.com handled 10x normal traffic without downtime

  • The New Statesman handled 4x normal traffic without downtime

  • The team can now manage nearly 4x more websites than before

  • The team can develop sites an estimated 2-3x faster than before