Headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, Hostelworld is the leading glboal hostel-focused accommodation platform. Launched in 1999, when a hostel owner and IT entrepreneur identified a gap in the market, it is the flagship brand within Hostelworld Group. The site’s main focus falls on hostels, boasting over 33,000 properties in more than 170 countries. In addition, the Hostelworld platform powers Lonelyplanet.com, Tripadvisor.com, Travellerspoint.com, and thousands more websites. As Hostelworld’s global footprint rapidly grew in terms of its customers and properties, especially in the Asia Pacific region (see Japan booking site below), it found that the performance of its website outside of Western Europe was becoming increasingly important. It soon became clear that users outside of Western Europe were often experiencing a lag effect when viewing the content online.
With Hostelworld’s main website being hosted in its primary data centres in Dublin and London, customers situated further afield were not experiencing the same level of site performance. In order to deliver the best possible experience for its global customers, Hostelworld needed to ensure that its website performed equally as fast across the various continents and devices.
Barry Noonan, Head of IT Systems and Engineering at Hostelworld explained: “To cater for a global audience we provided multiple localised language websites but soon realised that our customers in Asia-Pacific, Russia and the Americas were experiencing longer page load times than those in the UK and Western Europe. Millennials make up a key part of our customer base and having been brought up in the internet generation, they have little time for websites that take what they would consider ‘an age’ to load. Prior to CDNetworks, we tried everything short of opening new data centres in different regions in order to improve the website performance. That wasn’t an option we could entertain due to the extremely high cost of not only investing in the necessary IT infrastructure, but also acquiring the technical knowledge. Ultimately we decided the most cost-effective and efficient option would be to work with a content delivery provider.”
After carrying out extensive research, Hostelworld chose CDNetworks’ Content Acceleration and SSL to deliver its website globally. Once deployed, 93% of the traffic was easily offloaded to CDNetworks, to ensure the smooth delivery of website pages in countries such as India, Australia, Brazil and Russia. CDNetworks accelerates everything from graphics, java scripts and style sheets through to payment processes. CDNetworks SSL ensures that the overhead of establishing a SSL session does not affect Hostelworld’s website performance. By establishing SSL sessions closer to the customer, the multiple round trip communications that need to occur between the customer and server happen quicker without any perceivable delays. As a result, the most significant benefit of implementing CDNetworks is the dramatic reduction in website download times to 2.6 seconds per page, which equates to a 43% decrease in waiting times for the end-user.
“CDNetworks plays a huge role in the running of our online booking service. I have yet to come across another content delivery network provider who can offer the same type of performance at such a cost-effective price,” concluded Noonan.
Another important element is the requirement for high availability and that any downtime is kept to a minimum. Each minute that a content delivery network service is down, Hostelworld experiences a loss in potential sales opportunities. Website performance degrades and as a result, customers choose to make bookings elsewhere. Such a scenario recently occurred when an Internet service provider in Brazil experienced a peering problem with a local point of presence (PoP). However, Noonan was impressed by CDNetworks’ technical staff, who were on hand to quickly divert the traffic through a different PoP whilst they worked to resolve the issue on Hostelworld’s behalf.
Hostelworld is also currently in the process of deploying CDNetworks’ China Acceleration solution and tapping into the content distribution infrastructure across 30 PoPs in mainland China. The company also benefits from CDNetworks’ vast experience and strong knowledge of the challenges specific to China and how to address them, including getting through the ‘Great Firewall’.
Hostelworld supports 19 languages and along with a newly developed responsive website launched in 2015, it has invested significantly in mobile app technology. Over the course of 2014, Hostelworld embarked on an ambitious program to redevelop all of its apps on both the Android and iOS platforms. This move to fully native technology was designed to elevate the user experience and future proof further development on which to build new capabilities. The new apps also took an image driven approach to product design, to fully immerse the customers in a destination and present the hostels in the most engaging way possible. This image driven approach required a very strong partner to deliver content to our app customers all over the world from the US, to Australia, China and beyond.
Hostelworld partnered with CDNetworks to deliver this content. Image delivery speed and content are critical to the customer user experience and working with CDNetworks assured its new native apps would not only be highly performant on the user’s device, but that the content served to those devices would be fast.