Fast Company is the world’s leading progressive business media brand, with a unique editorial focus on innovation in technology, ethical economics, leadership, and design. Recently named “Magazine of the Year”, Fast Company and FastCompany.com inspire readers to think beyond traditional boundaries, lead conversations, and create the future of business. FastCompany.com spans four properties: Co Design, Co.Exist, Co.Create, and Co.Labs, each of which covers a range of topics relevant to their expanding audience.
FastCompany.com provides readers with the most relevant editorial content as it happens, staying as innovative as the stories they cover. Fast Company needed a content delivery network that would keep pace with their rapid and iterative development process, integrating seamlessly with their existing infrastructure. With Fastly, the team can make and instantly deploy changes through Fastly’s API or developer-friendly UI, allowing them to control their CDN as an extension of their stack.
“The ability to update in real time should be a standard for all media sites — nowadays, everything is so fast, and readers need content to be delivered in real time. No one wants to wait. If you’re a media company and not using a modern CDN, you’re not providing the best experience for your readers. Fastly definitely gives us that competitive edge.” Harry Guillermo, Senior Developer
“Fastly ensures visitors to our site have a good experience. Before Fastly, we had a lot of downtime — even an hour can cost a lot in terms of advertising. Now we can serve information to our readers in real time, and it’s great.”
Fast Company also needed the ability to update outdated content in real time. Fastly’s Instant Purge clears outdated assets from the cache instantly, ensuring Fast Company readers always see the freshest editorial content. Using Fastly’s real-time analytics, Fast Company gains valuable insight into their site, allowing them to fine-tune for performance and monitor any issues. With Fastly as their CDN, FastCompany.com offers an informed and personalized media experience while reducing page load times by 60%.
Fast Company required a flexible content delivery solution that would act as an extension of their site. Fastly is built on Varnish, a state-of-the-art web accelerator for dynamic content caching, which allows the Fast Company team to write and instantly deploy Custom Varnish Configuration Language (VCL) through either the Fastly UI or API. Custom VCL gives Fast Company the ability to adjust how they serve content from FastCompany.com.
“Because of Fastly, we’ve been able to reduce our number of origin servers. Now I can run with a very small instance to serve all my assets. I see almost no traffic at all, aside from new assets as they’re uploaded to our CDN. It’s been really stable — I haven’t seen any issues over the past several months, and I’m quite happy with that.”
Using stale-if-error, Fast Company ensures that outages or other issues won’t cause their readers to see error pages. By adding Custom VCL to their service, Fast Company serves stale content on a cache miss when the origin server is unavailable.This feature gives readers access to a slightly outdated version of the site while giving Fast Company an opportunity to resolve issues causing their origin to be unavailable.
“We started with an initial caching template to serve all of our static assets, which worked great. We then started developing new APIs on our side and doing more fine-tuning in the VCL to serve our assets in a better way, including caching dynamic content. We’re now seeing cache hit rates of 98-99% in our static assets.”
With very high cache hit ratios of 98-99%, Fast Company was able to scale their infrastructure without investing in additional origin servers. High cache hit ratios also mean that the majority of their editorial content is served from network edge, improving performance for their readers.
“Serving stale content before was so complicated. When we came to Fastly, I worked with the support team and they helped me write VCL to serve stale content. Now we have peace of mind knowing that even if we go down, the site will still be served. We had some problem where we were down for about an hour, and the site was still okay. Nobody noticed anything except us, which is wonderful.”
As a media site that’s over 75% images (which are changing constantly), providing Fast Company readers with a quick and responsive experience is key. Images are tied to the most recent posts, so Fast Company needed the ability to purge old images and serve fresh content immediately. Fastly’s Instant Purge and ability to cache APIs means that Fast Company can give readers the right editorial content in real time.
“Our website is very heavy in terms of images — and those images are a part of our brand — so it’s critical that we serve content in a matter of seconds. The images are changing constantly and are related to the most recent articles, so we wrote our own API as part of our deployment process for posts. When the editors send new images, we call the API from Fastly and immediately push the new content — it updates our servers immediately. We couldn’t do that before, and we love that.”
Fast Company uses Fastly to offer a more personalized user experience while maintaining security. Fast Company enables Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption through Fastly to provide readers with a custom experience while protecting their private information.
Fast Company plans to further personalize the user experience by letting readers log in to receive customized recommendations based on past articles they’ve enjoyed and their behavior on FastCompany.com. They can offer this level of personalization without sacrificing performance by using Edge Side Includes (ESI), which will allow them to serve both cacheable and uncacheable content (such as user-specific information) at the edge.
“At Fast Company, we want to offer a more personalized experience for our readers — users can sign in to the application to receive personalized content recommendations based on past reading. This means protecting users’ secure information — that’s why we need to offer the additional layer of security TLS provides. That, paired with a CDN that lets us cache closer to the user, gives us the competitive edge we need to offer readers content in real time while protecting their personal information.”
“The reports from Fastly are awesome — we can see what’s going on very easily. We have a whole stack of applications and tools for recording everything that happens between our servers and Fastly, so at any time we know how many requests per second or what kind of responses are being served. It’s a very nice architecture, and helps us understand what’s happening on our side. It also gives us the opportunity to quickly write changes in the VCL as necessary to further improve our site.”
Fastly’s streaming logs feature lets Fast Company monitor their site’s performance and troubleshoot issues as they occur, including making quick changes to Custom VCL to further fine-tune FastCompany.com. Fastly logs can be streamed to almost any major logging endpoint, including logging-as-a-service providers, S3 buckets, and analytics tools.
“With Fastly, we [the developers] feel protected. When something bad happens, we can rely on Fastly support to quickly address and resolve the issue.”
Before moving to Fastly, Fast Company had to contact their previous CDN’s support every time they needed to make a change to their configuration — even small changes were complicated and slow to take effect. On Fastly, they’re able to make changes to their CDN service themselves. Their team finds Fastly support responsive and knowledgeable, available to assist Fast Company whenever they need it.
“Support is important for us — on top of all the features that Fastly offers, their support is really fantastic. They even offered us a private channel to discuss our issues. Last year, I had an issue and went to my Fastly channel — their support team was in there, happy to help us. They quickly solved our problem, and were extremely knowledgeable. I would recommend Fastly to anybody.”