9GAG, Inc. is the Hong Kong-based company responsible for 9gag.com, an entertainment website where users can post content that they find amusing and share it across social media networks. According to the company, 9gag.com generates millions of Facebook shares and likes per month, has more 850,000 Twitter followers, 78 million global unique visitors and receives more than 1 billion page views per month. 9GAG has a small team of nine people, including three engineers to support the business.

9GAG’s website is popular with a large and growing audience, and the company wanted the site to be highly available. After the website had three outages in quick succession, 9GAG began to look for a new service provider. “We also wanted to improve our ability to back up our information online and be able to easily support increases in the number of uploads and traffic volume,” says Derek Chan, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer.

After evaluating service providers for stability, reliability, innovation, and cost, 9GAG chose Amazon Web Services (AWS). “We like the AWS pay-as-you-go, low cost model combined with a reliable and scalable infrastructure,” says Chan. “From a technology perspective, we were impressed with AWS products and solutions.”

9GAG is using Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) to run its application servers and web servers, Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) for database hosting, and Amazon CloudFront to deliver website content. Chan explains that 9GAG is using Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) to store media and log files, Elastic Load Balancing to distribute incoming traffic, and Amazon Elastic MapReduce (Amazon EMR) to process website data. The 9GAG team used PHP to build the website, which runs on the Linux operating system with Nginx web servers. Figure 1 below illustrates 9gag.com running on the AWS Cloud.

9GAG architecture diagram

Figure 1: 9GAG Architecture

“We have reaped considerable and immediate rewards by switching to AWS,” says Chan. “We have greatly increased the reliability of 9gag.com, which improves user confidence in our site.” Overall, Chan estimates a 20% improvement in server response times for the website and 10-20% improvement in overall network activity. “The reduction in latency enables our users to consume more content in the same period of time, improving their experience with 9gag.com,” says Chan. “In addition, we configured AWS security features to control network access and created security credentials for our employees. Now we have greater control over the security of our environment.”

The engineering team is taking advantage of the reliability of AWS to spend less time on operations and focus more on innovation. “Since deploying AWS, we have been able to reduce our typical two-week cycle by one and one-half days and get products to market faster,” reports Chan. “Introducing new products faster boosts our value to our customers, which is a competitive advantage for us.”

The company is also using AWS for new products and services, such as its new mobile application. “With AWS, we can be much more flexible in terms of meeting demand,” says Chan. “Mobile app users can also access our site and we recently added 1.5 million unique users to 9gag.com over a two-month period without any issues. We’re forecasting a ten to twentyfold growth for our site and we’re comfortable that by using AWS we can handle the growth.”

“The performance, capacity, and availability benefits make us extremely satisfied with the Amazon Cloud. We believe that Amazon Web Services is worth every single cent, and the return on investment is definitely good for us,” says Chan.

To learn more about how AWS can help run your websites in the cloud, visit: http://aws.amazon.com/websites/.