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How does TechCrunch handle the TechCrunch effect?

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Any technology enthusiast knows that if you want to find out about the latest up and coming start up or what new product a tech company is releasing, you go to TechCrunch.com. Rackspace employees and customers alike are big fans of TechCrunch and know it’s the place to go for tech news. So when TechCrunch moved to The Rackspace Cloud for their backend IT infrastructure, we were thrilled!

Robert Scoble had the opportunity to interview Nik Cubrilovic, CTO of TechCrunch for building43,  but before I get to that, Emil Sayegh, our GM, wanted to welcome TechCrunch with this statement:

“Rackers are big fans of TechCrunch. We also had many of our own customers launch at their recent conference, TechCrunch50. So, on behalf of Rackspace employees and customers, I welcome TechCrunch to The Rackspace Cloud.  I am excited to hear that the reasons Nik cited for this move are all part of this movement to cloud computing that we believe in and are working hard for.   Cloud Computing, and The Rackspace Cloud specifically are all about a faster, easier, less expensive alternative to traditional computing.  We couldn’t be more thrilled to host such a cool, fast paced website on The Rackspace Cloud.”

Founded by Michael Arrington in 2005, TechCrunch is ranked number 2 on Technorati’s top 100 blogs and has over 3,337,000 RSS feed subscribers (measured by FeedBurner as of July 2009). So how is TechCrunch able to serve that amount of traffic? Well, it hasn’t always been easy and Nik explains in his interview with Scoble. Nik takes you behind the scenes of TechCrunch’s infrastructure, explains why they made the major move to cloud computing, and what it’s like working for TechCrunch.

Although I highly encourage you to watch the video for yourself, I have highlighted key topics of discussion below the video.

Ability to Scale TechCrunch Traffic
“The entire company depends on the website being up – it’s the entire business model.”

In addition to their Blogs, TechCrunch holds over a dozen website properties including CrunchBase (database driven) and popular tech conference, TechCrunch50. The level of maintenance had become very high and they were utilizing one full time person to administer their servers. Trying to handle traffic spikes among various dedicated servers was not a task they wanted to deal with anymore and it was time to look for another option. They also quickly reached bandwidth and computing resource limitations in their old set up, and consequently performance decreased proportionally.

“When we made the switch to The Rackspace Cloud, we had a 10-20% traffic increase almost overnight.”

When TechCrunch made the switch over to The Rackspace Cloud, the pages loaded faster which encourages more page views and overall more traffic. They no longer have to deal with the historical technical problem of scaling a site beyond a single server. Nic explains that their performance now is almost as if 1 person were hitting the site and viewing 1 page. Having an infrastructure that is elastic is a key benefit for TechCrunch.

Wow! This is a prime example of elasticity. You don’t realize how far you can go if you have limits. For TechCrunch to be able to receive more traffic than they were already receiving is an amazing testament to cloud computing.

Easy to Set Up in the Cloud
“We were able to test things before switching over.”

The control panel allowed TechCrunch to set sites up and test them out with a few clicks of a button. As Nic explains, they were able to set up a more methodical development and staging environment.  They could afford to bring servers up, do some load testing and take them down when done. In a real world application, it would take 20 times longer to accomplish this.

This is really important for start-ups trying to get their businesses off the ground or for established businesses that want to run a test project. The point is that we want to make it easy for customers to get started without having to invest a lot of time upfront.

The Real Difference is in the Support
“When looking for a solution, you want to partner with a company that truly understands and cares for your business. They try to become part of your company and understand how things work.”

If anyone knows who are the right tech partners to have, it would be TechCrunch – they have seen almost everything in tech. With their network of experts, they are able to make very informed decisions. When it was time to search for a new hosting option, they were able to take information from what they see everyday and from people they know.  They were certainly not looking for a “freebie.”

This is where Fanatical Support made the difference and really won out against less expensive or even “free” options.  TechCrunch realizes the value in speaking to a human, especially when things go wrong.  Often times, providers will not be responsive when “xhit hits the fan” and we actually make it a point to step up to the plate to ensure every customer receive a human contact.

Outsourcing IT
“Solution of outsourcing is what the Cloud is all about.”

With the click of a button, you can fire up a web site and then not have to worry about it. One interesting thing that Nic mentions is not having shell access for an ingrained Unix guy is a psychological barrier that you have to overcome. Actually, “removing the need for shell access is 100 times better,” Nic explains. Although they have been used to doing it themselves, they love having competent talent being centralized on the other end. The proactive side and dealing with people that actually care is another huge benefit for TechCrunch.

Since the beginning of Rackspace, we wanted to take the stress of managing an IT infrastructure and allow businesses to focus on the important stuff. At The Rackspace Cloud, we have taken it a step further and provide a platform where you don’t need to be a sys admin to get started. On Cloud Sites, we take of it for you.

An Exciting Time for TechCrunch

TechCrunch is growing a media company, or “an empire,” as Nic mentions in his interview. It is true that new media is talked about endlessly so it’s no doubt an exciting time for TechCrunch. “The things we’re working on are all cutting edge – things that have never been done before,” says Nic. Building new media is a lot easier from the TechCrunch perspective than being a news corporation.  They have the opportunity to try out new things such as a new advertising model, different layout of the site, how they distribute their content, what they choose to write about, etc. The flexibility of a small company is certainly an attractive feature of working for TechCrunch.  They are able to leverage their brand and audience and have built an incubator of mini start-ups doing interesting things.

Thank you Nic and TechCrunch for a great video interview with Robert Scoble. You covered some great reasons on why businesses should make the switch to outsourcing their cloud computing resources.

About the Author

This is a post written and contributed by Angela Bartels.

Angela runs integrated marketing campaigns for Rackspace. She started at Rackspace in 2003 and has done everything from Linux support, account management, sales, product marketing and now lives in marketing. She left Rackspace in 2005 to work for PEER 1 Hosting but returned in 2009 because she was interested in the cloud computing movement (and has always been a Racker at heart). Angela is a strong believer in the power of storytelling.


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  • http://www.bretpiatt.com Bret Piatt

    I’m really glad to have the support of TechCrunch helping us get the message out that cloud computing is ready to handle large scale web applications. Thanks guys for participating in the interview and we appreciate your business.

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