Upwork improves engineering efficiency using Cloudflare Workers

Upwork ($UPWK) is the leading online talent solution transforming professional staffing. Upwork empowers businesses with more flexible access to quality talent on demand. Through Upwork’s matching technology and services, companies have access to a global pool of proven professionals so they can scale their teams dynamically to meet business needs. Upwork also provides professionals access to more opportunities.

Upwork’s mission is to create economic opportunities so people have better lives. The community of independent professionals working via Upwork spans many categories including software development, creative and design, finance and accounting, consulting, operations and customer support — over 8,000 skills are represented.

Upwork’s challenge: Configure 150,000 URL redirects efficiently and accurately

Upwork is the “child” of two separate freelance platforms: oDesk, founded in 2003, and Elance, founded in 1998. In 2013, the companies merged to create Elance-oDesk, then later rebranded as Upwork.

The rebranding coincided with a major platform upgrade that presented technical challenges. Among the most vexing was the task of redirecting approximately 150,000 URLs from the oDesk and Elance domains. “Many of these URLs weren’t being redirected, resulting in some visitors receiving errors,” recalls Wilson Chong, Sr. Director of Reliability Engineering.

This situation was completely unacceptable from an SEO perspective and, more importantly, a user experience standpoint.

The job had to be done. Unfortunately, there was no easy way to implement such big changes to meet the deadline. It would have required hundreds of hours of manual work. Upwork knew they’d need to find some help.

“We were thinking we’d have to redirect all 150,000 URLs manually, one by one, which would have been nearly impossible,” says Chong.

Upwork’s solution: Use serverless to perform bulk redirects at scale

Turning to Cloudflare for help was a natural step; Upwork’s partnership with Cloudflare had begun early on for both companies. “We were one of Cloudflare’s early partners,” recalls Chong. “When I first joined Upwork 3.5 years ago, we were already using their CDN and DDoS protection, along with other products to speed up site performance. Given our long history of success with Cloudflare, we felt confident that they could provide us with a solution to our bulk redirect problem.”

The answer to Upwork’s dilemma was Cloudflare’s serverless platform, Cloudflare Workers — which empowered Upwork to complete its massive bulk redirect project quickly, efficiently, and accurately. Workers allows developers to deploy custom code to Cloudflare’s network edge, using the programming languages they’re already familiar with.

“It was so much better to be able to use JavaScript to do the work; it’s much quicker,” explains Chong. “We would set up a test domain and set the rules, and once we verified them, we simply set up the same thing in Upwork’s production domain. Having the ability to test the different domains and see errors before deploying things was very valuable.”

Using Cloudflare Workers, the bulk redirect project was completed in about one-fifth of the time Chong estimates it would have taken for the team to do the work manually.

In addition to using Cloudflare Workers, Upwork utilizes a wide array of Cloudflare solutions to bolster reliability, performance, and security, including Load Balancing, WAF and Rate Limiting. Upwork can automate its configuration changes across these products via Cloudflare’s robust API with Terraform support, further improving operational efficiency.

Chong was impressed with Cloudflare’s full suite of integrated, easy-to-use solutions.

“Cloudflare is easier to configure and puts everything in one place. We just go into the portal, and it’s all right there,” says Chong. “For example, we have a public-facing DNS that points to two distinct IPs. We just set it up in Cloudflare, and we don’t have to worry about it. It’s the same with the DDoS protection. I log into the portal, initiate the protection, and that’s it.”

Upwork also benefits from the analytics tools provided by Cloudflare. "The Firewall analytics dashboard enables us to see requests that trigger security events. This helps us to review our security posture regularly and ensure we’re best protected against evolving threats. The GraphQL Analytics API is another really useful tool that we can use to query and retrieve exactly the data we need to build our own custom dashboards." says Chong

“Cloudflare isn’t a typical partner,” adds Chong. “When I first joined Upwork, a lot of the features that Cloudflare has now didn’t exist. As I provided feedback, Cloudflare implemented those features. I really appreciate that type of partnership.”

Upwork improves engineering efficiency using Cloudflare Workers
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Key Results
  • With Cloudflare Workers, Upwork configured 150,000 URL redirects in one-fifth the time it would have taken to do manually.

  • Up to 1 million requests per day rate-limited, challenged, or blocked to prevent anomalous and malicious traffic.

  • Cloudflare’s robust API & Terraform support empower Upwork to automate tasks, improving efficiency and lowering costs.

Using Cloudflare Workers, we were able to configure 150,000 URL redirects in a fraction of the time, and with far more accuracy than it would have taken to configure each URL manually. Thanks to Workers, we easily saved hundreds of hours of painstaking labor with minimum stability risk.

Wilson Chong
Sr. Director, Reliability Engineering, Upwork