High traffic crafting destination gains performance boost on Acquia Cloud
Red Heart, a yarn brand that’s part of the worldwide family of Coats & Clark, had achieved the online marketer’s dream. Their website, with hundreds of free patterns, how-to videos, and other resources that delight thousands of visitors, is an overwhelming success in the United States. It was time to move into other markets, to expand their reach into the U.K. and Germany.
However, problems with the website developers hindered progress; so management undertook a search for a new development company. Through referrals backed up by research, discussions, and case studies, Mediacurrent was chosen to expand the site. This choice, along with a move from Rackspace to Acquia Cloud, has led to some incredible unexpected benefits.
“After Mediacurrent and Acquia optimized the site, we were elated to discover how much better it could run,” said Tracy Williams, senior web designer at Red Heart.
The original developers of redheart.com configured the Rackspace server to handle the initial load, but as redheart.com expanded with more users and content, the server began to fail on a regular basis. Mediacurrent turned to Acquia for insight on the best solution for Red Heart.
Code reviews by Mediacurrent and Acquia uncovered problems in the site itself and in the server configurations. Andy Thornton, senior Drupal consultant with Mediacurrent and lead developer on the Red Heart project, said, “Redheart.com couldn’t have down time because it was close to Christmas, its busiest season. The site at times was so unresponsive that we couldn’t get our work done. So we made the move to Acquia before completing the changes we needed based our own code review.”
The Rackspace server configuration was wrong for Drupal, so moving to the Drupal-tuned Acquia servers automatically solved numerous problems.
“Just the basic move to Acquia put the site on a stable platform, which gave us the breathing space we needed to go in and fix problems in the site itself,” Thornton said. “One of Acquia’s site audits identified custom scripting that was slowing the site, negating the software that was intended to speed things up. We wouldn’t have spotted that issue without the results and insights from Acquia.”
Perhaps the most valuable service that Acquia provided was performance testing.
“We knew the site’s volume of traffic and needed to ensure that it could survive those numbers. As we took bugs out, we did rounds of performance testing with Acquia. Acquia was able to tell us exactly at what number of users performance would drop off. Before moving to Acquia, we couldn’t profile redheart.com or even get 10 users running. After the move, we were able to get thousands of concurrent users on the site before we started to see degradation in performance.
“Another thing we gained on the Acquia platform was a great staging and development environment. It allowed us to work quickly, important with our tight deadline, and to work in separate teams. While we were dealing with the main architecture, the country localization teams could get their work done, too. We had little delay in getting right to the international expansions for Germany and the UK.
“This was a very smooth transition. We are very familiar with the Acquia platform, which made the move easier, but the people at Acquia were very good at helping us get it right. The move was very much a collaboration between Acquia and Mediacurrent.”
The site runs well with excellent performance even under heavy traffic—unexpected benefits that have impressed the Red Heart team. What’s more, admins at Red Heart have seen a striking improvement in their ability to edit the site. With the previous configurations, the site would crash with only two or three admins logged in. Now they can easily get their work finished.
Thornton adds, “Before the move, we were concerned that redheart.com’s existing servers had hit capacity, with two additional sites coming online soon. As it turned out, between the optimizations we put in place and the Drupal benefits of the Acquia platform, we actually ended up saving resources. With those savings, we don’t have to worry too much about server expansion over the next couple of years. It also provides space for the new sites once they go live.”
Red Heart’s U.K. and German sites are online, spreading the Red Heart resources to new markets. Acquia Cloud easily scales to accommodate all those new, enthusiastic users. With changes from Acquia and Mediacurrent, the Red Heart sites can more effectively keep all the fans happy and engaged with the Red Heart brand.
- More than 8,000 unique visitors per month
- 5,508,500 page views per month (average)