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TBFA : Scale a WordPress Site for 5M+ Pageviews... Once a Year

Thanksgivingblackfridayads.com (TBFA) specializes in publishing leaked Black Friday Ads weeks before they’re printed in newspapers. Starting every year at the end of October, traffic spikes as people flood the site hoping to get an early peak of what deals they have to look forward to. For the rest of the year, the site sits basically idle.

Problem Why pay for 11 months of hosting when traffic peaks only in October and November?
Solution Scale incrementally as traffic peaks, then back to $0 using a simple slider. Changes happen live without downtime.
What they used
Sudden Annual Surges in Traffic

Over the past three years, TBFA has consistently seen between 500%-1000% year-over-year growth. With 921,740 pageviews in November 2010, they were gearing up for around 5,000,000 pageviews in the month of November 2011. In the last week of October this year, TBFA began experiencing degraded site performance due to increased traffic. This was before their November rush had even started. They immediately began seeking possible solutions that would handle the impending surge.

According to Scott Offord, the site owner, “We were exploring the option of using Amazon EC2, but decided we wanted another layer above that. We wanted something more managed than just going straight to the raw source.” Pagoda Box provided the simple server management, granular pricing and control they were looking for.

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"Now, having been through the fire, I’m happy to say that I made the right choice in giving my website a new home at Pagoda Box."

Scott Offord - Site Owner
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High Traffic WordPress

TBFA runs on a WordPress install that utilizes optimization tools like WP Super Cache. Combined with the distributed scaling model of Pagoda Box, TBFA handily served 5.9 million pages to 413,458 visitors between November 1st and November 30th, 2011. At the height of their traffic spike, they served approximately 600 concurrent users up to 900 pages per minute.

"The week of Black Friday, I scaled comfortably to 15 [web] instances at 600MB RAM each and a 1GB RAM DB. Since the traffic has all but disappeared, I'm back down to 1 Instance @ 200mb RAM and 200MB DB, which we'll most likely remain at for the next 10 months."

Scott Offord - Site Owner
Summing it Up:

Pagoda Box’s granular scaling model allowed TBFA to scale to meet their demand without overbuilding their infrastructure. Instead of purchasing and/or beefing up servers and crossing their fingers, hoping it was enough, they were able to scale to match the ebbs and flows of their traffic, drastically reducing the cost of their infrastructure overhead.

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