IT Science Case Study: Automating IT Infrastructure to Go with the Flow

As a digital marketplace where businesses can find and hire talented writers to produce content, Crowd Content needed cloud infrastructure to meet its needs during the constant ebbs and flows of its clients’ content projects. It eventually found DigitalOcean.

Here is the latest article in an eWEEK feature series called IT Science, in which we look at what actually happens at the intersection of new-gen IT and legacy systems.

Unless it’s brand new and right off various assembly lines, servers, storage and networking inside every IT system can be considered “legacy.” This is because the iteration of both hardware and software products is speeding up all the time. It’s not unusual for an app-maker, for example, to update and/or patch for security purposes an application a few times a month, or even a week. Some apps are updated daily! Hardware moves a little slower, but manufacturing cycles are also speeding up.

These articles describe new-gen industry solutions. The idea is to look at real-world examples of how new-gen IT products and services are making a difference in production each day. Most of them are success stories, but there will also be others about projects that blew up. We’ll have IT integrators, system consultants, analysts and other experts helping us with these as needed.

Today’s Topic: Automating Cloud Infrastructure to Go with the Flow

Name the problem to be solved: As a digital marketplace where businesses can find and hire talented writers to produce content, Crowd Content needed cloud infrastructure to meet its needs during the constant ebbs and flows of its clients’ content projects. Fluctuating traffic meant whatever infrastructure it selected needed to be incredibly flexible and scalable.

Describe the strategy that went into finding the solution: In mid-2013 , Crowd Content was looking for a new cloud provider and assessed several different services, including Rackspace, AWS, IBM and Google Cloud. They found DigitalOcean through an ad on Facebook and started researching it as well. This led Crowd Content to find out how simple it was to quickly, easily and affordably spin up new servers as necessary. They ultimately decided to move their infrastructure to DigitalOcean for that reason, in addition to the fact that it significantly reduced their server costs.

List the key components in the solution: Crowd Content decided to host its website on servers from cloud provider DigitalOcean and now uses several of the company’s services, including Droplets for compute, block storage, and spaces for object storage. 

When it first started using DigitalOcean, Crowd Content did everything inside of the Droplets. As DigitalOcean added features, Crowd Content assessed them and evaluated if they would benefit their current infrastructure. If the answer was yes, the firm implemented the new features, which have included private networks, new data centers (NYC3), teams, block storage, tagging, cloud monitoring, firewalls, and high CPU/optimized Droplets.

Describe how the deployment went, perhaps how long it took, and if it came off as planned: Crowd Content started out small, running tests to see how DigitalOcean’s cloud would perform, looking at new services and how they would fit into the DigitalOcean infrastructure as well as their own.

After running tests and making decisions, Crowd Content began the process of migrating all its data over and switching on the system. Since their original setup, DigitalOcean has changed significantly; however, it has actually made it easier for Crowd Content to use features such as Firewalls and tagging, simplifying security and management.

Describe the result, new efficiencies gained, and what was learned from the project: Today, 95 percent of Crowd Content’s infrastructure is hosted on DigitalOcean. The firm recently upgraded from Standard to Optimized Droplets earlier this year and has seen a 20 percent increase in page-loading speeds since doing so. In 2017, the company’s revenue grew 56 percent from the prior year.

Describe ROI, carbon footprint savings, and staff time savings, if any: Since launching its first Droplet, Crowd Content has seen a 240 percent customer increase, and its pool of writers has increased more than tenfold.

DigitalOcean’s infrastructure has been much easier to manage compared to other services. For example, AWS can do the same, but the interface to set it up can be very confusing, costly and complicated to use. Crowd Content went from having five large servers at its previous provider to 16 distributed servers at DigitalOcean, when it first migrated. The company has since to expanded to more than 25 servers, using a mix of Standard and Optimized Droplets.

Other references:

How Crowd Content Uses DigitalOcean

How Crowd Content serves large Enterprise clients

How Crowd Content creates eCommerce content at scale

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Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...