How DevOps enabled The Draft Network’s meteoric growth

by: | Jul 27, 2020

We’ve seen it many times: Designers and developers become so completely focused on a new software user experience that they neglect the infrastructure to power it. To grow it. To be secure. To be agile enough to adapt to the many unknowns in the future. Without this infrastructure, new apps and websites start to feel old almost as soon as they are released — especially in dynamic industries.

And that’s a big reason why we’re proud to share the story of our recent (and ongoing) work with The Draft Network (TDN). Millions of American football fans use the TDN website for the latest player news and to create their own mock draft for their favorite NFL teams.

TDN launched in 2018 and is growing fast, largely because of the popularity of the annual NFL Draft. The media startup reached out to ArcTouch in 2019 for help with the next stage of the company’s growth.

Specifically, TDN wanted site enhancements to create revenue streams from their growing audience and lay the financial foundation for a viable long-term business. And the company needed an all-new web infrastructure to support its rapid growth for years to come. And that’s where our DevOps engineering services came into play.


The Draft Network website with football player and ball

A user experience to drive engagement — and revenue

In late 2019, ArcTouch and TDN started building the company’s second-generation website. The goal was to launch in advance of the 2020 NFL Draft, held in April.

“ArcTouch’s ability to deliver a premium product while helping us to build a secure, stable, and scalable infrastructure to support it was paramount to our success during the 2020 NFL Draft.”

— Paige Dimakos, TDN chief operating officer

The new site also added advertising, providing a second source of revenue for the business. And during the course of development, we made many other incremental improvements to offer football fans a richer experience.

We’re proud of the new features — and feedback from TDN’s user community has been positive. However, perhaps the most important work was with the infrastructure that enabled these improvements, as the site continues to grow.

An infrastructure that scales — and is secure

In our recent blog post about why DevOps is essential in app development, we explained how software development teams and infrastructure operation teams must work as a single cohesive unit.

TDN is a perfect example of why DevOps is crucial. TDN is in an ultra-dynamic industry where “breaking news” is the norm and fans demand that information be current. The web development team needed the ability to continuously improve and update the site without downtime. The back-end needed to support the growth of new accounts and surges in website traffic. And given the site’s growing popularity, it needed more robust security than ever. Even during our project, the site experienced a cyber-attack. Fortunately, we had many safeguards already in place. And as a result of the attack, we added additional safety measures leading up to the April NFL Draft.

Here’s an overview of the infrastructure work we completed:

  • Migrated site to Amazon Web Services (AWS) — The previous hosting solution was unstable and lacked the flexibility needed to manage the site over its lifecycle.
  • Improved log monitoring — This new capability allows the team to quickly identify and address performance issues.
  • Established a continuous delivery process — We defined and implemented an automated process to continuously deliver new features and improve existing ones.
  • Increased front-end and back-end server capacity — We optimized performance by monitoring data usage and defined capacity for expected growth. Much of our focus here was ensuring the necessary capacity for the NFL Draft event, the site’s busiest three days of the year.
  • Configured Web Application Firewall (WAF) — This prevents common types of cyber-attack and denies access to IPs with malicious intents.
  • Created incident response plan — We created a mitigation plan for how to reduce risks of cyber-attacks — including how to respond if they occur.
  • Implemented virtual private cloud (VPC) — We enabled private front-end and back-end communication, ensuring our application exists in an environment that is fully controlled by us.
  • Established cloud redundancy — We set up a standby environment in another AWS Region so we had a copy of our application ready in case of an outage.
  • Enabled Google Shield — Google Shield offers news sites protection from malicious traffic using Google’s infrastructure and DDoS tools.

DevOps FTW!

TDN’s growth this year has been meteoric. And we can’t help but feel proud of how the site’s new features and infrastructure have helped support this growth.

Here’s just a snapshot of what’s happened:

  • TDN’s typical daily traffic more than doubled during the three-day NFL Draft in April 2020.
  • Monthly page views in April were up 211% year-over-year — while the site infrastructure easily handled the surge.
  • The company’s newfound ad and subscription revenue have seen steady growth since the new features were first launched in January.
  • The continuous delivery process is enabling rapid releases — without site interruption.

When we evaluate the return on investment (ROI) of any project, we naturally look at metrics like these above. But there’s one other immeasurable and invaluable metric that matters most: client satisfaction. (As we like to say, our goal with every project is to help turn our clients into superheroes.)

The fact that we continue to work with TDN’s internal team to continuously improve the website says it all. We have a healthy backlog of exciting new features we’re working to implement — and a foundation that makes updates seamless.

And of course, it doesn’t hurt to get gushing endorsements from our clients, like this one: TDN’s COO Paige Dimakos said, “ArcTouch’s ability to deliver a premium product while helping us to build a secure, stable, and scalable infrastructure to support it was paramount to our success during the 2020 NFL Draft.”

Need help with your DevOps?

Want to scale your app development or web projects with DevOps engineering? We offer a full range of DevOps services. Contact us to set up a time to talk — no strings attached.