Primedia Delivers Good News Thanks to AWS

Executive Summary

Primedia’s co-hosting provider wasn’t performing as needed, with multiple outages impeding its mission to provide reliable coverage of breaking news. With the help of AWS Advanced Partner, Silicon Overdrive, the South Africa-based media and advertising group migrated to the AWS Cloud, and gained a secure, highly available, scalable and cost-optimized environment.

Primedia Delivers Good News Thanks to AWS

Safe, reliable, and trustworthy. That’s what Primedia’s customers expected from it. Unfortunately, Primedia discovered its co-hosting provider wasn’t up to the task. Repeated outages were impeding its mission to provide reliable coverage of breaking news. Primedia is a South Africa-based media and advertising group founded in 1994. The company had invested in building a strong web presence for its multiple radio stations and its Eyewitness News brand. Whether it was networking, server failure, power outages, or just indifferent customer service, the company wasn’t getting value for its money. “The knock-on effects were felt by everyone from senior executives to ad sales because it affects the sales, the reputation of the brand, being first with the breaking news, and available for when the story breaks and those types of thing,” recalls Ryan Pead, IT Team Lead at Primedia. “That poor service delivery and the resulting frustrations were voiced repeatedly within meetings and along the corridors of the building as well.” With Primedia’s relationship with its provider going “from bad to worse,” Pead knew it was time for a change.

“The difference in value for the money that we’re spending is so different… It’s nice to finally be getting what we pay for.”

- Ryan Pead, IT Team Lead, Primedia

A New Way of Working

Downtime was sporadic and often flapping—meaning resources going down for a time, coming back up then going down again, in an unpredictable cycle. This would continue for hours at a time with no identifiable cause. Furthermore, Primedia’s provider wouldn’t acknowledge the problem, refusing to admit it had failed to deliver on the SLA. Primedia needed a reliable predictable alternative. Its development teams—both software developers and digital developers—had begun experimenting with Amazon Web Services (AWS), getting their feet wet in the AWS ecosystem by spinning up a free account and trying out the available options. Given the problems with the co-host, they were looking for something that could give them stability, combined with the breadth of services they felt would let them deliver the stability and reliability that Primedia needed. “They spun up a couple of test workloads and it worked well for them,” says Pead. The developers approached the IT team to propose shifting Primedia’s workloads to AWS. However, despite the company’s in-house talent, Pead thought they needed help.

“We didn't really have the luxury of time and experimenting ourselves. So we looked to someone who'd already walked the road and could give us that practical experience of what works and what doesn't because the only thing that we knew at that point was the theory,” he says. That’s when AWS Advanced Partner offering consulting services Silicon Overdrive entered the picture. After initial consultations, reviewing customer references, and completing due diligence, Silicon Overdrive came on board to help create a secure, highly available, scalable, and cost-optimized AWS environment, with federated access to the on-premises environment. Primedia and Silicon Overdrive worked together to manage the migration. Ross Davie, Business Development Director for Silicon Overdrive, said that, thanks to the existing talent in Primedia, they were able to work closely together. “It was a matter of the technical teams discussing their application stack, their requirements, their outcomes, deliverables, and then generating our architecture together. It was a very collaborative process,” he explains.

Making the News Move Smoothly

In addition to the migration, Silicon Overdrive was able to help Primedia in other ways. It approached AWS to assist with some funding to help Primedia carry the costs of paying current providers to offset the duplicate costs during the period of migration. But that period didn’t take long. The migration took about four months at the end of 2019, going live in the beginning of 2020. Since then, there have been no outages or incidents like the ones Primedia experienced previously. In addition to the improved quality of service, there have also been real financial savings. Current savings are about 15 percent lower than Primedia’s previous spend, even during the economic uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Primedia is currently using multiple services on AWS. Pead considers Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) the foundation of everything the company does with AWS and a big improvement over what he’d previously been using. “Amazon VPC is leaps and bounds better than what we had, just because it's in AWS. Just because it exists in AWS is why it's better. The availability, the ease of management that it provides, the full feature rich experience—without all the complexity.” Similarly, he says Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) delivers the kind of reliability and confidence that just wasn’t there before, saying that, in the past, machines would become unresponsive. That kind of reliability was something Primedia “sorely needed” but wasn’t getting from its previous provider.

“Amazon VPC is leaps and bounds better than what we had, just because it's in AWS. Just because it exists in AWS is why it's better. The availability, the ease of management that it provides, the full feature rich experience—without all the complexity.”

- Ryan Pead, IT Team Lead, Primedia

Primedia also saw noticeable benefits when it started to use Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS). Previously, running databases was an administrative burden as it required spinning up an instance on another machine and networking it back to the services that needed it. Pead loves the self-serve nature of Amazon RDS, giving him and his team the availability and performance to keep up with any quick-moving news story that breaks. Given the unpredictability of Primedia’s previous provider, the most galling failure was its haphazard backup services. “A lot of the workloads were not able to be backed up. The ones that were backed up, were backed up to a very minimal degree. And sometimes when you did call on those backups, they were just not available. Or they were there, but they were missing vital parts of what was required to actually get the service up and running,” says Pead. In contrast, AWS Backup “just works.” And while backups are needed far less frequently now, they are complete and reliable.

An Undeniable Difference

Eliminating downtime for its customer-facing web properties has been a huge win for Primedia. With no unscheduled downtime on its sites since the migration, it’s been a huge reputational success. The company is also able to deliver workloads to the business in a shorter timeframe using more mature and robust DevOps methodology. It’s currently looking for further ways to benefit from other AWS services. Best of all, the benefits of reliability and ease of use carry no cost premium. While it’s difficult to measure, due to the business disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic that began shortly after the migration completed, there appeared to be a savings of about 15 percent in expenditure. However, while any cost saving is welcome, Pead doesn’t see that as the main business benefit of the shift to AWS. “The difference in value for the money that we’re spending is so different. A saving of 15 percent is already good, but even better is what we’re getting. Reliability and a partner who is responsive and easy to work with—both AWS and Silicon Overdrive—that’s something we really appreciate based on our previous experience. It’s nice to finally be getting what we pay for.”


About Primedia

Primedia, established in 1994, is an African-focused media and advertising group with a broad portfolio of assets. The company specializes in news coverage, operating multiple radio stations, and the Eyewitness News brand.

About Silicon Overdrive

Silicon Overdrive offers extensive AWS program knowledge and experience in driving customers' environments, with a focus on achieving and maintaining data security safeguards and compliance. Silicon Overdrive is a registered channel reseller, accredited as an AWS Advanced Partner offering consulting services and an AWS Public Sector Partner and is able to assist with AWS funding and benefits.

Published September 2021