Scary Stats: How we handle the traffic demands for ScaryMommy.com

We hear nightmare stories from clients who are gouged by hosting providers that charge exorbitant fees for bandwidth overages. Often these hosting plans include a small amount of bandwidth per month and charge an additional fee per terabyte leading to hosting bills that exceed $1500 per month. That is outrageous.

 

Scary Mommy

ScaryMommy.com is an insanely popular parenting website. When we took over maintenance on the site it was hosted on a service that was locked-down and only allowed us to view traffic through Google Analytics. This is fine for a small site but there were issues such as slow performance and downtime. Unfortunately, we had few resources to help us as we did not have access to the server.

As developers we like a wide field of play and by that I mean full access to the entire server. After doing some research and working with our partners at Cari.net we determined that a VPS (Virtual Private Server) would be sufficient to handle ScaryMommy.com’s demands.

You may have heard from our marketing spiel or read on our site that our VPS servers are private cloud servers (we know where they are based) with static (physical) RAM, solid state hard drives and powerful virtual processors. One thing that we can offer that others cannot: our VPS and dedicated servers come with unlimited bandwidth.

When you’re dealing with 2 million unexpected visitors, unlimited bandwidth is a good thing.

ScaryMommy BandwidthFull disclosure: Jill (the mommy behind Scary Mommy) has agreed to allow us to share information about her site’s traffic. This is information we keep close to the vest and only discuss it with our clients’ permission.

Within three days of moving the site to our servers we noticed a surge in traffic; a video posted on the site went viral. Average daily traffic shot from around 400,000 visitors, 11 million hits and 400GB of bandwidth to 900,000 visits, 50 million hits and 1.3 Terabytes of bandwidth over two days.

We were astonished. A single virtual private server was humming right along handling what was around 10 visitors and 578 hits per second. But there was a problem. During the initial configuration the entire hard drive was not fully sized properly and was only 80GB.

We thought, “80GB of storage? That’s a bit excessive for a single site – it will be fine.” Then we saw the log files.

As it turns out 11 million hits consumes about 50 gigabytes of log files. Each day. We needed more drive space ASAP. Fortunately with this VPS technology the downtime was only about 60 seconds. On a dedicated server it would have taken hours to make that change as every file was copied and the drives were rebuilt and replaced.

A hit is defined as any request to the server. A hit can be a JavaScript file, a CSS file or an image.

A hit is defined as any request to the server. A hit can be a JavaScript file, a CSS file or an image.

Then on June 22nd, things went nuts. We refer to this as “the Grape Spike”. (Here’s the video if you want to see it). The Grape Spike lasted for 5 days and served 5,940,144 visitors, 31,641,638 pages consisting of 232,294,097 hits and consumed 3,191.25 GB of bandwidth.

During July our technicians updated a few of the internet switches since they went down a couple of times earlier in the month. The downtime was not optimal but it led to getting better better switch technology in place and there have been no more drop-outs.

In July we also got our first full look at traffic for a full month (since we took over site hosting on June 2nd, we did not feel that represented a typical month.) June’s traffic was not insignificant:

16,539,053 – unique visitors to the site

90,846,462 pages – any single web page

744,343,862 hits (single requests for information from within the web pages)

14,871.37 GB (14 TB) of bandwidth

ScaryMommy VisitorsIn August the McGillicuddys and their adorable Coke video took off. Like crazy. Guess where 2 million people watched it?

It started the morning of August 5th around 10AM when our uptime reporting service had trouble connecting. We adjusted its testing interval which helped but the traffic kept coming. Our four vCore chips were running at 1000% capacity but thanks to the server configuration RAM stayed solid at 80% use. Pages were delivered – a little slower than normal (about a 20% load time decrease) but the site stayed up.

August 6th was a repeat of the previous day with all 4 vCores running at capacity. The traffic onslaught continued until the next morning when it began to wane around midday.

During this 3-day period we served 17,647,530 pages to 2,206,022 visitors which consisted of 159,990,008 hits over 3,649.94 Gigabytes (nearly 4 Terabytes) of bandwidth.

Needless to say, we have been blown away by the popularity of ScaryMommy.com. We are proud to have them as a client and to provide hosting and development services for them.

We could not provide these services without the help of our hosting partners at Cari.net. Cari.net‘s staff is hands-down the best, most professional and innovative team with whom we have ever had the pleasure to work. Sononaco and Cari.net have been hosting partners since 2007 and will continue to offer top notch services to our clients.

And as for the next big viral video hit? Bring it on. We’ll be ready.

 

Leave a Comment