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Case Study: Qatar Living

Acquia Cloud Takes the Pain out of Web Hosting and Frees Up Resources for Qatar Living

Case Study: Qatar Living

We live in a world reliant on the web. Consumers use it to find jobs, properties, vehicles, clothing and much more. They also research and shop anytime and anywhere, meaning

One organisation that faces meeting such consumer demands is Qatar Living, an online community of people living in, interested in, and/or doing business in Qatar. Launched in 2005, Qatar Living has grown from a website used to share tips about living in Qatar to a one-stop information portal on everything related to Qatar. The website has 800,000 registered members and close to one million page views each day, making it the country’s largest online brand.

Hosting challenges

The Qatar Living that consumers navigate today has undergone a number of changes behind the scenes in addition to multiple design updates. Previously, it faced the following challenges:

  • The performance of the site didn’t match customer expectations. Due to the rapid growth in visitors, Qatar Living was plagued by periods of downtime which frustrated visitors who found themselves unable to access the site on a regular basis.
  • In the early days, Qatar Living was vulnerable to cyber threats. The site was hosted on a platform that didn’t provide automatic security patches nor did the staff have access to an expert to advise on the best practices for site security.
  • The site was resource intensive and costly to run and maintain. The site’s platform required so much time from the limited staff that the Managing Director often had to get personally involved to resolve business critical issues. At one point, the problem escalated to a level that required the MD to spend 20% of his time managing hosting and devOps issues. Using a software house to outsource development and devOps was time consuming to manage and only increased the cost of running the Qatar Living site as it grew.

Ash Bashir, Product Manager at Qatar Living, said: “We had been left in difficult situations where we were low on technical resources and therefore unable to react quickly when our website was down or had been running slowly. We wanted greater control and predictability, but we couldn’t do this alone in a cost-effective manner. This could only be achieved by working with a leading cloud hosting provider that could deliver reliability and experience at a price point that it made feasible.”

Above all else, Qatar Living wanted expertise in hosting so that it could free up its staff to focus on other areas of the business. Since the Qatar Living site is built on Drupal, it made sense to select Acquia Cloud which provides a robust managed solution for mission-critical Drupal applications.

A solution that is unmatched

“When we first looked at Acquia Cloud, we were surprised at how much it actually offers. It has been keeping Qatar Living online for four years now and, each year upon renewal, we find that Acquia’s solution is unmatched.

“Our website has been stabilised and there is more uptime than ever before. The fact that Qatar Living now rarely has any downtime means that our visitors can spend more time on the site and are more likely to return. In addition, our site is more secure. Acquia gives the website an extra layer of security and handles all of the updates and patching as well as flagging and fixing any issues – often before we know about them.”

Furthermore, Qatar Living is able to access Acquia’s team of Drupal experts which has freed up internal resources allowing Qatar Living time to create new digitally driven revenue streams. For example, promoted ads, that charge customers who want their classified adverts to appear more prominently on Qatar Living, have recently been introduced. The staff at Qatar Living are also now able to focus on boosting the quality of the editorial content on the website while exploring new business opportunities including developing mobile applications and premium memberships.

Qatar Living’s overall strategy is to continuously enhance the functionality of the site in order to improve the digital customer experience. In April 2015, Qatar Living embarked on a major site overhaul and was able to benefit from Acquia’s ongoing face-to-face and online support during this challenging time. Traditionally, a new site would have instantly replaced the old one. However, with Acquia Cloud, Qatar Living was able to run both sites simultaneously on Acquia for two months to allow beta testing with select users and make performance updates ahead of the official launch.

“We underestimated the amount of work required to launch the new website. The integration between the front end and back end was challenging due to legacy architectural decisions. However, the least painful process was going live and this was because of Acquia. Without Acquia, our project would have taken months’ longer. Fortunately, we didn’t have to worry about the hosting side at all.”

This is just one example of the excellent support that Qatar Living receives. Summarising the benefits of Acquia Cloud, Bilal Randeree, Qatar Living Managing Director said: “Acquia gives us peace of mind. Because we don’t need to worry about maintenance, upgrades and patches, the team can focus working on enhancing website functionality and the rest of the team can get on with doing the business side of things. Furthermore, when we come to launch new offerings, we are confident that Acquia will be there to support us.”

Results

  • Qatar Living has gained an unmatched web hosting solution for its business needs
  • The site has more uptime than ever before and its security has significantly improved
  • Qatar Living has been able to free up valuable resources to explore new revenue streams and enhance their product offerings
  • Acquia Cloud has increased Qatar Living’s speed to market, especially during the new website launch
The least painful part of the process was going live and this was because of Acquia. Without Acquia, our project would have taken months longer. Fortunately, we didn’t have to worry about the hosting side at all.
Ash Bashir, Product Manager
Qatar Living

Company Information

Qatar Living is an online community of people living in, interested in and/or doing business in Qatar
Launched in 2005, Qatar Living has grown from a website for sharing tips about living in Qatar into the large and well-respected online brand
The site has nearly 800,000 registered members and over 26,000,000 pageviews each month
Thousands of expatriates across the world turn to Qatar Living to research moving to Qatar and to plan their arrival and set-up