TownNews provides digital transformation solutions for local media companies, serving over 2,000 newspaper, broadcast, magazine, and web-native publications. Newspapers and broadcast use TownNews’ integrated content management system (CMS) to publish multimedia news content. TownNews also offers over 100 ancillary products to help media companies boost subscription purchases and ad sales.
“We’re very heavy into smart analytics that can help our customers make data-driven decisions,” explains Chris Murley, Director of Product & Infrastructure. “Several of our current and upcoming product offerings revolve around large data silos where we crunch data for customers and give them high-level dashboards where they can perform A/B testing and determine the best ways to maximize revenue by attracting new subscribers.”
The challenge: Replace a complex, costly DDoS service
Media outlets have long been prime targets for DDoS attacks. Concerned about the potential of these attacks to degrade its CMS’ performance, TownNews partnered with a cloud-based DDoS defense service.
Unfortunately, TownNews rarely used the service because of its complexity.
“We don’t get hit with very large attacks often, but when they do happen, we need to be able to mitigate them quickly,” Murley says. “Every time we had an attack, we ended up dealing with it ourselves because our vendor made us call them to turn it on, and then, it would take them over 45 minutes to do it. We’d end up isolating the attack source before they did. There were also lots of issues with their traffic flows, filtering, and logic rules. It was so painful, we became accustomed to absorbing the attack on-prem.”
Cost was also an issue. “At the time, five to six years ago, no DDoS vendors had a good offering. They all charged exorbitant monthly fees for something we only wanted to use on-demand, with tons of surcharges on top of that. Then, contracts gave them an option to cancel the service if the attack was too large.,” Murley explains.
The solution: Magic Transit gives TownNews a flexible, affordable option for on-prem DDoS protection
TownNews signed up for Cloudflare’s Magic Transit service, which extends DDoS protection to on-prem infrastructure. The company had already been using the Cloudflare CDN for some time. “When Cloudflare approached us about being part of a Magic Transit beta test, it sounded like a perfect match,” Murley says. “We already had a lot of trust in Cloudflare, so trying Magic Transit was a no-brainer.”
Murley was delighted at how easy the contract negotiation process was and appreciated Cloudflare’s predictable pricing model. “We’re used to dealing with DDoS vendors with complex contracts full of ‘gotcha ’s,’ like bandwidth overage fees and charging us $4,000 every time we want to turn the DDoS protection on. Cloudflare charges us a flat monthly rate, with no bandwidth overage fees and no fees for turning Magic Transit on. Their no-nonsense, no-hassle approach is unique and refreshing.”
Using Magic Transit, Murley found, was just as easy. “Since Magic Transit is completely software-defined with capabilities for global mitigation, our traffic does not have to be rerouted to a distant scrubbing center, it is so much better than other vendors out there,” he says. “We love that it’s controllable via an API. It’s so much faster and easier than the DDoS solution we were using before. We were happy to send a cancellation notice to our previous vendor.”
By utilizing Magic Transit, TownNews saves money on additional hardware while ensuring that a large DDoS attack won’t impact site performance. “Because of Magic Transit, TownNews doesn’t have to make huge investments in routing infrastructure and circuits to re-route traffic during DDoS attacks. We also don’t have to worry about performance degradation. Once you come under attack and turn on additional rules, you reduce the capacity that device can process real-time. It’s not feasible for a company like ours to have 100 terabytes of network capacity.”
Using Cloudflare CDN to provide world-class performance in a challenging scenario
Fast page loads and low latency are critical to convincing news consumers to buy subscriptions and keeping them around long enough to click on ads, so scalability is key to TownNews’ offerings.
“Part of our promise is that even during heavy traffic spikes, our customers enjoy world-class infrastructure, with page load times under three seconds,” Murley says. “If a tiny news site suddenly gets a huge amount of traffic, we scale up to meet it instantly. If a large news site gets record traffic, they’ll have consistently fast page loads.”
While the ability to offload traffic through Cloudflare CDN has always helped TownNews’ offer its customers this robust performance at an affordable price; the COVID-19 pandemic has made Cloudflare CDN even more valuable. Since the pandemic began, the company’s customers are seeing up to a 50% increase in daily traffic.
“A tiny newspaper with a staff of two people might post a video that goes viral, and suddenly, they go from maybe 1000 viewers a day to millions a day,” Murley explains. “On a daily basis, we’re offloading a huge amount of traffic. If we tried to handle all of that traffic on-prem, we’d be spending about an additional $15,000 each month on hardware and circuits.” Cloudflare saves TownNews money and hassle
Murley enjoys working with Cloudflare’s sales team. “I used to dread annual contract renewals,” he admits, “but I haven’t had any negative experiences with Cloudflare. Right now, during COVID-19, it’s insane what some other companies are doing. It’s refreshing to see a company like Cloudflare doing what they can to help their customers.”
Cloudflare saves TownNews more than $15,000 a month by offloading traffic from their origin servers and avoiding downtime by blocking DDoS attacks on their on-prem network infrastructure.
Cloudflare Magic Transit is more robust, faster and easier to use than their previous vendor.
Helped TownNews avoid spending millions of dollars in hardware to fend off DDoS attacks and improve performance.
“I was delighted at how easy the contract negotiation process was and appreciated Cloudflare’s predictable pricing model. We’re used to dealing with DDoS vendors with complex contracts full of ‘gotcha’s.’ Cloudflare charges us a flat monthly rate, with no bandwidth overage fees and no fees for turning Magic Transit on. Their no-nonsense, no-hassle approach is unique and refreshing.”