Over the past month we’ve been working with Her Campus (HerCampus.com) to help them with issues they were having. When we started talking with Her Campus, we learned that they had different types of issues ranging from some Drupal based ones to actual server level problems. They were having some trouble keeping up to traffic demands, and if a traffic spike occurred their current infrastructure wasn’t sufficient.

After looking at their setup, we noted quite a few areas in which we could improve performance. The old setup was a fairly standard setup, a frontend server using Apache to handle HTTP requests and then a second server which was their MySQL database server. The servers were a 4 gig and 8 gig server respectively.

It was clear Apache was adding unneeded overhead, and wasn’t the best solution for them. We revamped their setup significantly. We switched them to Nginx + PHP-FPM. We immediately saw great improvement on from this change alone. However we wanted to get them to a single server, and to be able to handle traffic spikes with a single server.

We ended up doing the following:

  • Switch from Apache -> Nginx+PHP-FPM
  • Update all MyISAM tables to INNODB tables, and upgrade their MySQL to 5.1
  • Tune MySQL settings to fit their requirements
  • Update several tables adding indexes, reducing query time from in one case 34 seconds to 0.02 seconds.
  • Add the Boost Module to their setup
  • Update several of the view queries to be better written, added caching to each query.
  • Use ImageCache and sub-domains to load assets

After these updates we were able to move them from their two servers (8 gig and 4 gig) to a single server(4 gig). We have also reduced load times significantly. Their server loads dropped from 4-5 on average to 0.25. Recently they had an article on the Huffington Post and didn’t have any problems handling the 4x traffic spike they saw. At points we were seeing according to ChartBeat over 600 people on the site at once. The single server handled this without problems.

The updated infrastructure will give them a savings of about 75% from their previous setup. It also gives the users on the site a much faster and reliable experience.

We look forward to helping Her Campus with their continuing expansion of their site and user base!

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