– High Performance, Scalable WordPress Website Powered by AWS

Thorn Technologies utilizes FastCGI Cache, Aurora, S3, and CloudFront to stabilize and enhance Columbia, Maryland’s community website.

The Problem

A community of 100,000 residents, Columbia, MD depends on for access to extensive content about their town, its services, and local programs. Residents use the site to register and pay for classes, camps, and other activities, access real-time updates on closings associated with inclement weather and emergencies, reserve facility space, and much more. was a WordPress site hosted on a single web server with various performance optimizations and caching plugins. Despite the optimizations, the site would often become unresponsive under heavy load, such as when users visit the site after a large email campaign has been sent. The site’s instability was due to having the content management system, database, images, and network throughput all running on the single web server.

Columbia Association needed an improved website that was reliable and fast so its 100,000 residents can access the information they needed with no delay.

The Solution

Thorn Technologies designed and built a new WordPress site and leveraged AWS to optimize its performance.

Thousands of pages and features, including calendars, linkable brochures, forms, live chat, and more, were migrated from the previous version of the site. Custom WordPress plugins were developed so the new site seamlessly and efficiently integrates with Columbia Association’s point of sale system.

More importantly, Thorn Technologies developed an AWS infrastructure stack that improved throughput and increased stability. This was done by leveraging AWS services and using more robust caching methods. Components implemented include:

  • FastCGI Cache: Rather than relying on a WordPress plugin for caching, the FastCGI Cache module, which is built into Nginx, was used. This allows for caching of dynamic pages at the web server level.
  • Amazon Aurora: The database was migrated to the Aurora managed database service. This improved the security posture because the database is in a private subnet. Also, Aurora’s point-in-time restore feature provides better data recovery options. The reliability and uptime of the entire site was improved by Aurora’s automatic replication across multiple availability zones.
  • Amazon S3 and CloudFront: Offloading the images to S3 and serving them through CloudFront alleviates load from the server. An email campaign can hotlink an image without affecting the performance of the web server.

The Results

Since the migration to the new AWS architecture, the stability and performance of has improved significantly.

  • Server uptime has increased to 99.99%
  • 40% of all website requests are now being offloaded to CloudFront
  • Page load time has been reduced by 80%

Columbia, MD residents and visitors now have a reliable, fast website to take advantage of all their town association has to offer. Thorn Technologies delivered this site on time and on budget and maintains it cost effectively.

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