We are a tight-knit group of ice hockey enthusiasts who support the professional hockey club Tappara of the Finnish Elite League. We aim to be a community project where the small core team is in active dialogue with the members. So our community is made for the fans by the fans.
Our history goes back to 2006 when the hockey club Tappara made the strategic decision to shut down the official fan forum, a decision that was criticized by the fans. A series of rapid actions took place and we launched the first version of the new community-driven forum literally in 30 minutes. Today we are one of the larger web communities in Finland, limited only by our tight focus to a specific niche audience.
As our operation is non-profit and based on volunteer effort, we host our services on a tight budget. Previously we used a budget server provided by a French ISP, but one day they suffered a major data storage cluster failure. This occurred in the middle of the hockey season, i.e. the active season for our community, and it took them way too long to recover. I began searching for alternatives, even reaching out to UpCloud’s executive management and to our surprise we quickly struck a deal with UpCloud.
Hosting on UpCloud
A few years ago we migrated to a relatively new and modern open source community platform in order to improve the overall UX, especially on mobile devices. The downside of our new software architecture is that it is very resource intensive. But the modernized UX quickly gained traction in the potential users, so suddenly our server resource requirements were 5-10x higher than before. For our architecture especially the single core CPU performance is essential, and this is something where UpCloud shines against the similarly priced competition. Believe me, I have benchmarked this.
Our server setup is simple – we run our forum platform on a single high capacity cloud server. 6 CPU cores and 16GB of RAM are just enough resources for our purposes. During the current hockey season, we have only ever seen our server capacity exceeded once, which resulted in about 2 minutes of 100% CPU load. Moments before, the referee had made a bad call disallowing a big goal for our team during the playoffs, which made the community activity spike. This case illustrates the challenges that we face, a seemingly tiny real-world event can lead to massive traffic/activity spikes in just a few seconds.
I’ve already covered the resource issues, where UpCloud’s good single core performance and fast mass storage come handy. Downtime is something that we tolerate poorly as everything that happens in the community is closely linked to real-world events. An unexpected downtime during a big game is something we really can’t tolerate. I can honestly say that UpCloud’s uptime for us has been a solid 100% or very close to it. I can’t recall a single case of downtime when it mattered.
The high performance also reduces the length of our service breaks and one thing I greatly appreciate as the sysadmin is the speed of snapshot backups of our server. A complete snapshot of our server is executed in just a few seconds, which again is a LOT faster than what we have experienced with our previous service providers.
As we have not had any major technical issues I have not had to rely on UpCloud’s support. I believe I have only made a couple of tickets to ask some expert advice or additional information which they promptly provided. The 24/7 support with snappy reaction times is yet another benefit for UpCloud users, as many providers in this price range only offer support during local office hours and the ticket lead times can be lengthy. For the record, web servers never break during office hours.
To be honest, we don’t have any major plans right now. We are covering our target niche very well and we do not have any aspirations to grow further. Making this operation any bigger than it currently is would make it rather challenging to operate on volunteer efforts. Our software platform is still in rapid development so we follow that and try to cherry pick improvements and new features that we believe to be useful to us. You could say that our focus is now more on the content rather than the platform.
Personally I still dream of working professionally on online communities and I always encourage all business people to consider hosting their own communities, rather than relying on Facebook and other third parties. There is great value in social online networking as you can read straight from the NASDAQ stock charts. Do you want to waste it or embrace it?