January 17th, 2014

tsr-splash

Problem

GT.net first provided The Student Room (TSR), a student-centered forum, dedicated hosting during their early days – great for development and initial traffic. When they were steadily growing, GT.net moved them to a clustered setup for more power and resources.

Then something great happened – TSR’s popularity started exploding at an exponential rate. They experienced surges in traffic during “clearing” season (when students finishing highschool actively research colleges/universities), and as a result, faced inconsistent load times, inability to scale effectively on their own, and as a result – large variations in costs each month.

In other words, TSR outgrew their clustered server and were looking for more control.

Solution

We moved The Student Room from their clustered environment to a private cloud environment. Having most of their traffic stemming in the UK, we set up 10 high-performance servers in our London, UK data center to drive their cloud platform. This gave TSR complete control of their resources, reallocating them as needed.

One of TSR’s unique problems was during “clearing” season. During this time, TSR forums experience a massive influx of user activity as students discuss and engage in conversations on which university best suits them. Now that TSR has full control of their hosting platform, they’re able to bring down idle staging or testing servers and spin up additional web or production servers in to handle the expecting traffic.

Hard drives in TSR’s database servers were swapped out with solid-state drives for faster I/O and pack 96GB of RAM per server for added performance. Disaster recovery ensured that in the event the main production servers went down, users would be re-routed to backup servers in Vancouver, BC.

In addition, as part of our role as technical partners, GT.net did complex stress testing for TSR to ensure that the site could handle an extreme load of users AND in the event of failure, switch over to the disaster recovery servers.

Read more on what we did for stress testing TSR here.

Results

The Student Room is the UK’s largest student-focused network with 1.2 million active members, 6 million unique visits per month, and boasts 42 million posts (and growing!) It is ranked the 42nd largest forum on the web, and is the largest student forum in the UK.

Despite being so heavily trafficked, The Student Room is snappy and responsive with even its most popular threads and landing pages loading only in mere seconds.

Costs were now also under control, as TSR now had the ability to reallocate resources on their own, spinning up and bringing down VMs as they required – yet only paying a fixed cost for their private cloud platform.

What they had to say

GT’s been an invaluable partner and a perfect fit for The Student Room. The combination of development and hands-on hosting services means we spend our time helping our site grow instead of chasing bugs and technical issues.

Learn more about our private cloud solution here.