Rightmove.co.uk is the UK’s leading property website; it is the number-one place where UK home-movers go when looking for properties to buy or rent. With more than 90 percent of homes for sale and rent on the UK market listed on the site, and over 20,000 agents and developers advertising on the site, Rightmove provides users with an unrivalled and outstanding choice of property.
As well as offering the widest range of properties to home-hunters, the company has created the most convenient and effective way for them to find their next home. The website is far more complete, in terms of number of properties and depth of detail on each property, than any other traditional advertising media. It provides up-to-date property information for free that is accessible 24 hours a day to anyone with web access. It is therefore mission-critical to Rightmove that its website content is delivered without downtime or glitches, even during peak traffic times, to ensure consistently enjoyable user experience.
Keeping Customers and Members Happy
Rightmove’s business model is membership-based, online classified advertising. Estate agency and new homes developers pay a monthly membership subscription, typically based on their number of branches. Growth therefore comes from increasing the number of member advertisers and the value that Rightmove delivers to them. Luke West is Head of Service Delivery at Rightmove.co.uk. His role is to deliver every service that Rightmove provides to all customers, external and internal, covering data centres, databases, operational support, corporate IT, application and data management. With 17 years’ website delivery experience and 25 years’ IT experience gained from multinationals to start ups, Luke identified a two-tier need for the improvement of the company’s content delivery. “The speed and efficiency of the content delivered to our website is crucial to our business,” said Luke. “If the website content delivery were not fast and reliable, we wouldn’t be able to maintain the reputation upon which our success is built. Any degradation of performance
“We identified two goals: to reduce the cost of network bandwidth and to protect our image platform. We had experienced problems with our image platform suffering at peak times and recognized that a good content delivery provider would serve to protect this and allow us to improve our costs,” said Luke.
Rightmove’s website has two traffic profiles: week day and weekend traffic. Standard week-day traffic has three peaks in a day: lunchtime, 4:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Weekend and bank holiday traffic has a single peak at about 7:00 p.m. Luke explains how different times of the day reveal different habits and therefore spikes in traffic that need to be managed.
“At lunchtime, people are generally browsing for a home and compiling lists. Traffic is usually the same around 4:00 p.m. In the evenings and weekends the habits change: home hunters go through their lists – not just the details but the photos. They may take the URL and send it to a friend or partner, they look through their URLs and this time they don’t just skim, they look at maps and the majority of images. The evenings therefore see a huge peak in data to the images for content delivery, and this applies to a greater degree at weekends.“
Rightmove started talking to CDNetworks when scanning content delivery suppliers to find a way of offloading some of its liability for its network usage.
“Our business model is to have three data centres, two of which must work to allow us to deliver our peak traffic; this means that if we were to lose the use of one data centre for whatever reason the effect on the performance of the website would be minor. In line with this approach, we also believe it makes good business sense to have an extra content delivery provider too,” explained Luke. “We looked at several service providers and chose CDNetworks. We also engaged the services of one other provider through a third party. The load balance was to be 2/3 to CDNetworks and 1/3 to the other provider.”
CDNetworks provides Rightmove with “Content Acceleration” for the entire site. It is an extremely busy website and CDNetworks delivers and handles all image traffic to provide a high-quality user experience for customers.
“CDNetworks provides us with a robust, cost-effective performance mechanism for delivery to our customers, and to this end greatly improves our customers’ experience.”
“After only one year of trial, it became apparent to us that the second provider could not perform to the same high standard as CDNetworks, despite being more expensive, and we made the decision to transfer 100 percent of the load to CDNetworks, assuring ongoing high performance content delivery. Now, along with the improvements we have made to our architecture, our image platform can face the full traffic.”
Rightmove delivers over 850 million pages a month, equaling 60 percent of the property market in terms of page views (according to Hitwise, internet measurement data provider), and it serves 2.5 million pages to iPhone apps at the weekends. Regardless of this amount of heavy traffic, Rightmove has managed to deliver a staggering 99.999 percent uptime in the past year (as measured by Alertsite, website performance monitor). It attributes its reputation for reliability to CDNetworks’ geographic coverage that manages its data locally and therefore efficiently.
Rightmove believes that intrinsic to its success as the number one UK property website is its user-friendly and reliable website, allowing home-hunters to find details that meet their property criteria perfectly and quickly. The support that CDNetworks gives ensures the website continues to deliver these standards.
“On the rare occasions that we’ve experienced any issues with our content delivery CDNetworks has been very supportive and responsive, resolving issues in a way that ensures they will never happen again,” said Luke.
“We have no complaints. CDNetworks has a very human face -- when the CTO from Korea was in the country, he popped in to see us; that’s the kind of personal attention you get. The bigger providers are not as human and that’s where CDNetworks has the edge.”