Founded in 2004, GiftCard.com came from the idea that a gift card could be as unique as the individual receiving it. Today, it’s the largest online store focused solely on gift cards, with hundreds of brands and thousands of designs available for its customers.
Record Growth Presents Serious Challenges
The company has experienced 100% year-over-year growth from 2011 to 2012 and things show no signs of slowing down. “I’m the last person to complain about our exponential growth,” says Brian Winfield, CTO and Co-Founder of GiftCard.com. “But growth obviously presents a serious challenge from an IT perspective. And when you consider that we do a large percentage of our business during the year-end holidays, we were concerned about scaling to meet anticipated demand during the final quarter of 2012.”
There were a few key performance issues that concerned Winfield and his team. GiftCard.com’s customers often call 1-800-GIFT CARD® to make orders, and the speed of the admin website was having an impact on the overall customer experience. “Having slow admin systems means that customers need to stay on the phone longer,” he explains. “For years, the IT team had heard complaints about the speed of admin screens — the average load time was around eight seconds — but we couldn’t identify the source of the problem.”
Benefitting from End-to-End Performance Monitoring
Before using New Relic, Winfield and his team relied on Microsoft Systems Center Operations Manager to monitor server performance and memory usage. However, they weren’t able to monitor system performance at the application level. This meant the team counted on customer support to inform them of performance issues. I appreciated the efforts of our customer support team to tell us when the site wasn’t performing well, but we often had difficulty prioritizing their alerts,” says Winfield. “Most of them don’t have technical backgrounds and most of our customers don’t have technical backgrounds, either. So the problems were often described in a way that was vague or incomplete. If we were able to understand the problem well enough to prioritize it, we relied on guesswork to identify the real source of the issue. Consequently, problems identified by the customer support team would often take weeks or months to fix, if they were fixed at all.”
Winfield looked at the available options and New Relic quickly emerged as the best possible choice. “New Relic was the only solution we found that monitored web browser performance, error monitoring, server monitoring and app performance with proofing in one easy-to-use service,” he says. “Nothing else even came close.”
GiftCard.com installed New Relic in October 2012. The company now runs New Relic on all public-facing and private internal machines to monitor admin sites, Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) service-layer sites, and external APIs used by third-party developers.
“I’m using New Relic all day long,” Winfield says. “This software is uniquely helpful because it gives us stats and historical information at the individual machine level. We get performance-related data to make sure that customers are having a great experience on the eCommerce side, but we also get server data to know when a machine is running out of disk space, or when the CPU spikes. With AWS, we can add machines quickly to support our traffic, and with New Relic on each of those machines, we can ensure that we’re making the most of all available compute resources.”
Focusing on Emerging Performance Issues
Now Winfield and his team can isolate problem areas in minutes and execute code fixes in hours. “I don’t have to guess anymore,” he says. “I can focus on real performance issues as they emerge. Once I’ve done my troubleshooting, I can give specific instructions to the programmers, complete with detailed screenshots, substantially shortening the amount of time required to upgrade the code. The contextual details I get from New Relic are instrumental in helping me communicate more clearly and more effectively with my IT team.”
Winfield’s team is delighted to have New Relic on hand, as are the company’s customer service reps. And most importantly, GiftCard.com’s customers enjoy a faster, more reliable experience, whether on the website or on the phone.
Winfield sums it up this way: “New Relic has changed the way we operate,” says Winfield. “We’re not relying on customers to report problems to us. We’re more proactive, and we have more time to be truly customer-focused. We can take more orders. We can handle those orders more efficiently. And when customers call us — whether they’re purchasing a card, asking about the status of an order, or calling us to activate a card — we’re giving them better service across the board. It’s a big win for everyone involved.”
Read the Full Case Study
To find out how GiftCard.com reduced infrastructure costs and customer check out time, read the full case study.