Since launching in 2008, GradConnection has grown to receiving over 10,000 visits every day from graduates, and nearly half of all university students in Australia use GradConnection to find their first job.
Success didn’t come overnight though, and not without help – Anchor worked closely with GradConnection to ensure the reliability and performance of their online business.
Mike Casey, one of GradConnection’s co-founders, came to Anchor with a plan just a few short years ago. GradConnection was going to grow, a lot, but it wasn’t going to happen overnight. The ambition was to target Australian students and graduates first, then expand to the regional market in Asia and beyond.
Being recent graduates themselves, GradConnection had plenty of ideas and know-how when it came to site-building, but needed someone they could trust to handle the challenges bringing it to fruition. That’s why GradConnection came to Anchor.
Steady growth built on rock solid support
GradConnection started as a Tomcat application on shared hosting, which was ideal for initial development and respectable amounts of traffic. As things grew it was evident that they’d need a greater level of support and a fair bit more capacity.
So they moved up to one of our VPS products, which served them well for over a year. Their database continued to grow, as did the footprint of their application. The inherent flexibility of their VPS meant they could pay for upgrades as they were needed, without onerous commitments.
We’re big fans of simplicity here at Anchor, and sticking with what works. That’s why we encouraged GradConnection to hold off paying for multiple servers when there were still gains to be had on the single VPS. To that end we helped them switch webservers from Apache to nginx, trading the unused features for better performance, and also migrated their database to Postgres which would perform better on complex queries over large amounts of data.
Pushing into international markets
By this time GradConnection had expanded to New Zealand and was ready to push into the Chinese-speaking market. Traffic was way up and it was clear that more capacity was needed. In addition, Mike told us he wanted a superb experience for the new market. Drawing on our expertise, we knew that the best way to do this would be a local presence in Hong Kong, and that a substantial upgrade of GradConnection’s existing hardware would be in order.
Anchor doesn’t have a presence in Hong Kong, but that didn’t stop us from offering our legendary service and support. We hooked GradConnection up with a local datacentre and took on management of the server as usual. We also setup streaming replication for their Postgres server so they could access a local copy of data. This helps keep site loading times down for visitors in the region, and insulates them from any possible problems back in Australia.
For their local services we recommended a move to dedicated servers, which allowed for mammoth amounts of storage and RAM, and even higher levels of performance. At this time, GradConnection was also undertaking a big rewrite of their application using the Django platform. This would allow them to integrate some external features that had so far been maintained independently, such as their blog and forum components.
A streamlined workflow for rapid development and flexible rollouts
With the rapid pace of development and multiple servers to take care of, GradConnection was feeling the pain of managing their codebase and deployments. The occasional need to perform a rollback was also causing difficulties, so they consulted Anchor for advice. We recommended that they migrate from Subversion to Git to make collaboration between developers easier, and helped them convert their repositories and get up to speed with the new tools.
For deployments we introduced GradConnection to Capistrano. Capistrano is written in Ruby and arose from the Rails community, but can actually be used with any language and makes deployments easy (just a single command), consistent and manageable. These changes made it much easier for Mike and his team to focus on their business and get things done.
Upwards and onwards
In the last couple of months GradConnection has been focused on scaling up operations in their existing markets. They’re brought another local webserver online, and one in our own US datacentre so they can test the waters.
On Anchor’s advice, the database has been spun off to a separate piece of hardware so we can optimise it for performance – a couple hundred gigabytes of live data is nothing to sneeze at!
We look forward to supporting and guiding GradConnection through further growth in years to come, confident that they’ll rise to meet new challenges.